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It’s been some time since we heard from Hummingbird by BPZ founder, Benjamin Philippe Zulauf, and with the news of his new alias, Fork-Tailed Woodnymph, and album release, we thought it is a great time to catch up and discover all things Hummingbird. His ‘Invasive Specie’ LP is an immersive body of work, crammed with intricate details and unique atmospheres, and certainly caught our ear from the word go. Early September the album lands, check out the snippets below whilst you read…
Hi Benjamin, thanks for chatting with us today. How has 2021 been so far for you?
Hi guys, not a problem and good to catch up with you. Yeah 2021…it has been a big test in patience on many fronts for me and it has more or less continued on from what was also a tough one in 2020. The pandemic has brought in many new challenges for me personally…my health, my label, my day job and even my creativity and motivation to write music. Things are maybe feeling easier now as I’m getting used to the cycle of lockdowns, isolation and threats of a deadly virus, but it’s still far from ‘the normal’ I used to know.
So your forthcoming LP as Fork-Tailed Woodnymph is the debut release as this alias, how did the project come about? Tell us about the ideas behind it?
This actually first came about a few years ago when I did a studio session experiment using only samples from old folders and audio banks on synths I owned but never had time to try yet. I had a play around and ran these through different samplers and different effect groups and just made a ton of random combinations and record it all down. It is from these recordings that I built up different banks of loops and noises helped make the first song that would become an LP. I didn’t really have a plan initially other than to record a load of ideas, but after the success of the first song I went and made a second and then a third, a common theme began to unfold and I realised I had a lot of material still to do a few more, so why not an album?
I was very free with myself in the making a tracks, I didn’t sit there with a pre-made plan or fixed desired style, I just went with the flow and the music drove itself. I don’t think I could have made this album in any other way. As for the alias, it just felt right to do something new and take on another persona, which was pretty fun actually and I felt less pressure about it and what I was supposed to be. Fun fact, the fork-tailed woodnymph (Thalurania furcata) is a species of hummingbird in the family Trochilidae…I had to Wiki that one for you
Your “Invasive Specie” album addresses several aspects we face as a generation, especially the artwork. What made you choose this route? How can our readers get behind your message?
It does indeed and I think what has become typical of our “Western” (for lack of a better word…) society is this general obnoxious tendency to take something serious, make it headline, front page news and then quickly make it vanish into nonexistence…as if it somehow resolved itself and it no longer maters. I ask myself when did serious issues get made redundant and evolve to become more like trends? It feels like the narrative is being pre-written for us, played out in short lumps for consumption and then neatly stored away in the infinite void of ignorance. Do we now not have the stomach to deal with real issues for more than a few weeks before we need to switch it off and pretend it never was…
This notion frightens me a bit, we have definitely become more and more desensitised to real issues and are at risk of loosing our empathic compass. I sound a bit dramatic here but it is currently 2021, poverty is rampant, racism is extensive, sexism and inequality standard practice, real environmental policy…pipe dreams. I felt at the completion of the album that I needed to do something with a little bit more focus and be more reflective, use it in a way that could convey a message and at least remind people that ‘hey, this shit is still going on and its very real, its not been replaced by COVID’.
For the artwork I wanted it to be about the ocean, which is important to us all and is yet another big issue we all need to face together as well. Small plastic particles that remain in the water affects the food chain directly, we consuming the tainted seafood and so consume the plastic particles, and whole marine life ecosystems are being changed permanently, poisoned by the plastics, it doesn’t get more real than that.
To capture this I needed to create a visual with a scene underwater showing some marine life and the problem of plastic waste. I used a wonderful image created by photographer Naja Bertold Jensen for the main element, and it is a vivid image of a sea turtle navigating under the waves surrounded by larger versions of the plastic menace, I think I have managed to create the message visually here. Oh and I do Graphic Design as my other work, so this is my own design.
Let’s talk tech – what kind of studio set up are you using? Is there any particular studio gear you have dreamed of owning?
I currently have a very digital focused studio, I got myself a new iMac with a few M1 chips which has been incredible to work with. I run my audio through a Focusrite sound card out of Dynaudio acoustics speakers. My DAW is Ableton Live 10, my main tools for music manipulation are Melda Production, Waves, Kontact, Newfangled Audio, Spectrasonics, Reaktor5, Slate + Ash, Output, Baby Audio…lot of brand names here but I have a lot of plug-ins and synths and ton of samples with many of my own banks of recorded audio.
I used to have more gear, more of an analog studio a good while back. So just owning those old toys again would be a dream, one day but for now what I have works very well for me.
From a production point of view, who inspires you? Anyone you have personally worked with who really stood out in the studio?
It is hard to pin down names as so many do influence and help shape my ideas over all these years doing music. I buy a lot of music still, I hate to do the stream thing, this is filling nobody’s pockets other than the platforms, but I am always finding new tracks that blow my mind and inspire my projects. I also like to spread my music radar as wide as possible, I love digging for new music this way, you will always something to surprise and educate yourself with.
Definitely, from my early days in my teens in 97 my close friend and mentor Paul took me out of my amateur loop making stage and into a proper studio where he showed me the technical side of using gear and making real songs, he got me serious about it and this is why I still do this thing today. Another I would need to mention is Andrés Bucci who is introduced me to making music in a live way, mass recording sessions and with lots of experimentation. This album is significantly shaped by my studio session with him, many audio tricks you hear in here are from my time learning off of him or just watching him create magic and chaos with analog machines and computers.
One other influence for me that stems from studio sessions as well as DJing together and talking shop about running labels is Georgios Papamanoglou. He is definitely my go to when I write a new piece of music or I have a question or issue with a track. He is just really someone good to talk to when I have something happening in my life. I think as a music maker it is vital to find someone who you look up to, who you respect and who’s opinion you acknowledge. It is very easy to get lost in your own ego when you think your new track is the best thing since ABBA, but Georgios is very quick to bring it all back down to Earth, back to reality and he will genuinely tell me when something is working or not. I am definitely humbled to have this, both for my work and my sanity.
What else do you have planned on the label front this year?
I haven’t thought that further ahead if I am being very honest here. I have some EP ideas for the label in semi finished states, but I am unsure if I will do a vinyl next, stick with a club focused release or do another more experimental project. I am staying conscious of what is going on in the scene and music industry at the moment, here in the UK clubs are back to full force now so this is the new ‘new’, but there are still delays with pressing plants so I think I will take my time at the moment and see where all this post lockdown momentum goes. Stay tuned.
Last of all, describe your “Invasive Specie” album to our readers in 3 words…