Interview: Blanck Mass, composer for Calm With Horses

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Benjamin John Power (Blanck Mass) — (blanckmass.bandcamp.com)

Benjamin John Power has had an impressive career spanning over sixteen years — both with his band Fuck Buttons and a solo career under the pseudonym ‘Blanck Mass’. Nick Rowland’s Calm With Horses marks Power’s first venture into feature film scoring, with his skill and talent combining to offer a refreshing and exciting new venture for the electronic music composer.

We sat down to talk with Power to discuss the incredible score he produced for Calm With Horses and the things he’s learnt from this promising new collaboration.

Given your musical background and this being your debut in scoring for film, how did you come to be involved with Calm With Horses?

I was actually approached by Nick, who was already a fan of my other work with Fuck Buttons and as Blanck Mass. He sent me a couple of scenes from an early cut of the film to work with. I then sent the demo cue over to him. Nick, actually, recently told me that when he received the demo cue, he waited for three days before listening to it because he really wanted it to work. As you know there is nothing worse than asking someone whose music you have admired for a long time and then realising it’s not going to work for the project. However, as it happened, I got kind of lucky as from the conversations we’d had, I thought I knew the direction we wanted to go in and from there on in the decision was made that I was going to score the whole thing.

And what an achievement that was, the soundtrack really complements the dark mood and tense atmosphere of the film. We couldn’t imagine it any other way. Was this a factor in you taking on the project?

I actually think it was more to do with the fact it’s very character-driven and that is something I had never really utilised in my own practice before. I was trying to inhabit these characters, as opposed to my usual approach where I throw as much as I can at the wall and then work in a subtractive sense. When I’m working on my own music, it’s completely freeform, completely experimental — there are no limitations, it’s a blank canvas. But, with this, I had to put myself into the positions of these characters and try to elevate their consciousness. I feel like I learned a lot during this process, it encouraged me to be very sympathetic to their moods and that was good practice for me. It’s not a Blanck Mass showcase, it’s a collaboration.

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Calm With Horses (Original Score) — Album Art (2020)

Given the nature of your process and the experience of inhabiting these characters, did you find yourself connecting with any of the characters in Calm With Horses?

Well, that’s an interesting one. I feel like I understood Ursula to a certain degree in the fact that she obviously feels like she has a job to do. But it’s often made very difficult by people she surrounds herself. That’s not to say I think this about anybody that I’ve worked with, it’s really just a reflection of modern living and existing in the world we live in nowadays — there are always hurdles around you. I definitely see how she grows more impatient but I feel like she still sees hope around her, which is a little bit different to Arm’s character. His character obviously deals with a lot throughout the movie and is easily manipulated, acting as a contrast to Ursula. So I would say Ursula I can definitely understand her thought process throughout, I can definitely feel her frustration.

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Calm With Horses (2019)

Do you have a favourite scene or piece of music that you are particularly interested in seeing the audience’s reaction to?

The scene in the club. There are actually seven or eight different components within that scene as the club music isn’t just used as the music in the club, it also had to directly relate to Arm’s state of mind in that moment. There are just so many different kinds of emotional arcs within that scene. So I’m interested in seeing if people pick up on this when they watch the film.

Having had such a successful run with Calm With Horses, would you be open to scoring more films?

Oh yes. I definitely want to be doing a lot more of this.

If you were to score another film, is there a particular genre you would like to pursue?

I mean Calm With Horses kinda threw everything out of the window for me really. I’d always pictured myself doing something like a horror movie but now I’m not too sure. I feel like this has really opened up other possibilities for me. I don’t really like to pigeonhole what I do in terms of genres. I feel like one you start boxing yourself in you can’t really see the wider picture so I’m going to say as long as the film is good, if it’s honest and makes sense to me, I wouldn’t restrict myself to any particular genre. However, saying that, I would still really like to do a horror film.

Thanks for taking the time to talk about this, it’s been really interesting to hear about the process. Given that this is your first venture into film scoring — do you have any tips for future composers?

Don’t be too precious about what you think would work for a scene because obviously everyone has different ideas. Put your case forward, but also don’t be afraid of flipping everything on its head and starting from scratch or working back through something you have already done, because it might open up new possibilities or new perspectives.

Blanck Mass’ score is available to pre-order here: www.invada.co.uk/

Calm With Horses is out now across all major digital platforms. Find your stream here: www.calmwithhorses.com/

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