Bonobo's Simon Green Cuts and Pastes Electronic Beats to Reflect on Migration

Bonobo Neil Krug

Simon Green, the brains behind Bonobo, grew up in Brighton, England, playing piano. He picked up guitar in his teens but soon ditched it for electronic music, preferring the portability of electronics and how they allowed him to create on his own schedule without having to rely on a full band.

He started Bonobo in 1999 as a solo electronics project rooted in hip-hop sampling and beatmaking. Following the release of his 2006 album, Days to Come, he began to incorporate live instrumentation in his recordings and live shows.

“The band has changed over the years,” says Green. “As the palette on the records change, I change the lineup of the band. However, the drummer, Jack Baker, has been there since the beginning.”

Now Bonobo is touring with a six-member crew that's bringing Green's latest album, Migration, to life in the most fully developed combination of textures and tones of the band's career. The current incarnation of Bonobo includes live drums, keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass, woodwinds and, of course, Green on a bank of electronics.The visually expansive light show, crafted by Los Angeles-based video-art group Strangeloop Studios, will leave concert-goers with plenty to stimulate their imaginations.

Migration reflects Green's lifelong interest in jazz ensembles in which various musicians come and go, depending on the vibe of a song or a set. To this day, he still writes his own music and plays most of the instruments on his records — using only what each song calls for. His goal is to create a unique aesthetic while operating within the logic of sample-based music.

“Techno is made from machines, and it's sounds that come from circuitry, whereas this music is more montage,” explains Green. “It's music that at one point traveled through the air into a microphone. It's a bit more cut-and-paste compared to certain electronic music – and I like to re-contextualize sounds.”

Green has lived in New York for much of his adult life, but he recently moved to Los Angeles. The transition from the 24-hour bustle of New York City to the West Coast's more leisurely pace of life was a gradual one. The contrasts between the two cities inspired the new album.

“It's about the movement of culture and the impact of people on their surroundings, their environment,” says Green. “New York is great in your twenties,” says Green. “[Now, I] spend time on the road and can come home to a place that's more peaceful.”

Bonobo, with Nick Murphy, Marcus Marr and Innov Gnawa, 6 p.m. Friday, May 12, Red Rocks, $39.95, 720-865-2494, all ages.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.