Simon Green–maker of subtly-textured electronic beats under the moniker Bonobo–sat down with Okayfuture for a track-by-track breakdown of his highly-rated new album The North Borders. In the process we get some tidbits about his work with the incomparable Erykah Badu, who cameos on “Heaven For The Sinner” (stream below). Scroll down to read what Green had to say about the collaboration and get more on the input of UKplayer Szjerdene on the album, plus studio tips on how to make drum sounds from coins dropped into water via the full track-by-track.
On “Heaven For The Sinner” f/ Erykah Badu:
“I had this beat for a little while, and it was very simple. The point where I made it, it was just an 8-bar loop. I met Erykah– last year, 2012 we were on the same bill for a few festivals, one was Decibel in Seattle, she had a show on one night and I played the same place on the next night–so we had met earlier. I met her as well because I had done a remix for this project that she was involved in, this “Re:Generation” film where her and Mark Ronson were in New Orleans, Zigaboo Modaliste was down there, Mos Def was on it, Trombone Shorty as well. It was a real old-style New Orleans shuffle kind of track – and I got to remix it. I kind of remixed it as a way of getting Erykah’s attention I think, that was the objective. It did work, eventually. The next thing, I was invited down when they were doing that track on Letterman; Zigaboo, Mark Ronson and everyone else. That’s where I met her, and it was cool. We immediately realized that there was a connection, musically – we knew a lot of the same people, we were into a lot of the same stuff, the conversation just seemed to be very easy in that respect. I don’t know how familiar she was with my stuff, but she liked what I was doing, I think. She’s a fan of music first, she wanted to hear the tracks. She wasn’t going to agree to do something unless she was feeling the track. The track I sent her, this one, it was very basic at the time – I extended the loop out a little, but I just really liked the way it swung. One of my favorite tracks of hers is “The Healer,” which is the Madlib beat, and I felt this kind of had a little bit of a nod to that.
I just felt like it would fit really well. So you know, it wasn’t an overblown – you know, working with Erykah I could’ve gone this route of really grandiose, kind of track. But I felt this was more personal, a more human sounding loop, more of an old fashioned way of working – you know, 4-bar loop. And I have Kirsten Agresta, a harpist on Erykah’s last record, a track called “Incense” – and I had her play at the top of this track, and it just gave it the movement it needed, and Erykah was into it. And from there on we just chatted a little bit, and she was bouncing ideas backwards and forwards. She’d put a very basic idea down and send it across, and we’d just get talking and kept sending bits and pieces over. I took what she did in the studio and arranged it in a way that I felt worked structurally, and she went back in the booth and re-recorded it. We had about 5 or 6 exchanges, and we were on the phone just talking about how we wanted to figure out the arrangements and stuff. And that’s how it came about. It was just a case of finishing things in London with the string arrangements…there were some woodwinds in there as well. But the basics of it were just this loop.”