Discover more from Flow State
Michel Banabila (Interview)
Today we’re listening to Michel Banabila, a Dutch sound artist and composer based in Rotterdam. Since 1983 Banabila has put out sui generis ambient / electronic music, lots of which have been featured in film and other media. We’re playing a new album and an old album. The new album, Echo Transformations from 2021, is a richly textured collection of tracks featuring field recordings and the occasional Koreless-style processed vocal sample. The old album, 1993 from 1993, is a New Age collaboration with multi-instrumental Yaşar Saka. Yesterday we interviewed Banabila, and you can find the transcript below just past the streaming links.
What are your favorite records to work to?
That changes all the time. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I don't want to hear anything, really. There are often some really nice birds singing in front of my balcony ;) But I am still exploring Naná Vasconcelos' discography, including his many collaborations. His music is the type of sound I feel you can hear anywhere, anytime. It feels so "open." Recently I was listening to some albums by Bobby McFerrin that I'd never heard before. And for the last couple of months I've been listening to Petra Haden's music a lot.
How do you get into the right headspace for creating music?
By just starting. For a while not much happens, and I feel nothing. And then suddenly there is a moment where I get inspired and then everything happens naturally.
What do you use to make music – instruments, software, etc.?
Field recordings (made during travels or just in my house), Logic Pro, Melodyne, phone apps, stomp boxes, Qu-bit Nebulae sampler, Ableton, guitar, percussion, sampling from improvisations by friends, making weird sounds with my voice, using software instruments, sampling from old tapes, experimenting with plugins, playing kalimba, piano, melodica...
I stopped a long time ago naming what I use on albums as the list would be too long. Often I do things that I wouldn't even know how to name. Sometimes when I get an idea, I work very fast and try a lot of things, and sometimes I don't even remember how I did something. I like things that can work fast, toys that work with you and nothing too complicated that might work against you.
What I love very much is to record sounds around me while I am outside and then see if I can sample tiny fragments from that, and see what would fit in a recording I am working on. So for example I was in Milan and I recorded voices I heard in the distance, then weeks later I used some of that at home in a recording in the background and it worked so very well. I love when two different moments from two different places "come together" – it can feel perfectly natural.
What music has inspired you recently?
Just last night a track called "Something You Can't Return To" by Jon Brion, because I heard it in a film I was watching: Synecdoche, New York. When I discover a recording I love, it goes on repeat, like this one now. Also Spectral, the new album by Madeleine Cocolas and Only Love From Now On by Carmen Villain. Oh and Fleeting Future by Akusmi was a great discovery for me (thanks to a post by Robin Rimbaud). Due to their recent singles I am very much looking forward to hearing the new albums by Oren Ambarchi & Brian Eno.
How did you decide to devote your life to music?
Not sure if it was such a conscious decision, but I guess I didn't know what else to do. Music was something that touched me the most. I'm glad it eventually turned out that choreographers and film directors like to use my music in their work.
What are you working on now?
Nothing in particular right now, though several plans and requests are waiting.