Pulling back the curtain – A Q&A with Bunki

Bunki’s history as an artist is a new one, and yet it’s already fortified as something significant in electronic music, especially on the eve of the release of his sophomore EP, Turn. Turn finds Bunki solidifying the sound of his self-titled debut, with music that plays in the ether as much as it does on the tangible. Bunki, whose real name eludes us, creates sincere and incredibly rich orchestrations from his computer, breathing a new kind of life into this inanimate music we’ve come to know as electronic music. The reticent nature of Bunki hides a practiced personality, where harmonic movement and melodic progression play an integral role, bringing a new dimension to this loop orientated music. With Turn we find Bunki, not so much developing the ideas further, but rather ingraining their majesty in his listening audience. Four tracks express something of a hyper sensitive environment where melancholy and pleasure are separated by little more than a musical pitch. Bunki brings a palpable feeling to every track on the EP, which can go from the somber floating experience of opener Daniel to the more schizophrenic emotive movement of the title track. The South London artist appears to apply something of a formal musical training to his music where melody and harmony play a significant role in the progression of the music, and as such stands out amongst the grain of electronic music producers as an artist that brings a little more to the table than just a programmed beat. But whether this music actually has its origins in a formal musical education, and the role it plays in Bunki’s music is still unknown to us, so with that we sent a few questions over to the artist via email to pull back the curtain a little and get a better glimpse at the music and the man behind the music.

Tell us a bit about your earliest memory of an encounter with music.

I’m not really sure to be perfectly honest; music has been a big part of my life since before I can really remember. My older sister used to play a lot so the first encounter was probably just hearing her playing in the other room.

How and when did a fondness for listening to music lead to making music?

I think it happened pretty quickly, we had an old piano at the house and I used to spend quite a lot of time with it, first figuring out how to play, but soon after trying to make something of my own.

What made the Bunki Moniker spring to life and what in your opinion defines it?

Bunki developed as part of my final project when I studied at Goldsmiths. The main focus was to try and use the laptop and the software as the only musical tool, I worked with some self chosen limitations in order to push myself and explore further than what I’ve done before.

What musical inspirations did you draw on when you started your career in music and how have they influenced your work do you think?

As I said, working within limitations was a big part of my work in the beginning of Bunki. This Idea of self-restricting came from artists like Bjork and Matthew Herbert who applied this principle as part of their practice. In terms of purely sonic influences, I always find myself going back to Nicolas Jaar or James Holden.

How has your environment in and around London influenced your work?

I don’t know about London as a whole, but specifically South-East London where I’ve been living and working in the last few years has been a big part of my creative life. There is a real sense of community, and unbelievable amounts of great music that is coming from here.

Your music sounds like it comes from formal musical education. What was the first instrument you played and what role does it play in your music today?

Yes that’s true, I studied a few instruments over the years – I guess the main one would be the trumpet. I am not really touching it very often these days, but I guess many of my musical instincts were shaped playing classical orchestral works.

And there’s obviously a permanent electronic component to your music. What characteristics do you look to emphasise from the electronic music domain in your own music?

The thing that excites me most is the opportunity to invent unrealistic worlds and spaces of sound, to try and carve expressive quality from elements that are purely digital and synthetic in their nature.

Ah yes, ambience plays a distinct role in your music, but not in the way that it remains passive and static. Do you have any particular musical environments in mind when you approach music?

I’m always trying to strike an interesting balance of development and movement whilst still working on loop based music. I try to create a sense of organic growth through my tracks, and avoid working in blocks or sections. Many times the thing that would most excite me about a track would be a texture, or an atmosphere, and only after that a specific melodic idea.

Turn is only your second EP, but it demonstrates a confidence that suggest you’ve refined your sound already. How have you evolved on this EP, if at all?

My first EP was a collection of baby steps in my attempt to create something that is experimental, exciting and engaging, with a strong identity. This is why I worked with strict limitations. For this EP, it was a bit more free hand kind of work, I used a lot of the techniques and ideas that were developed writing ‘Bunki’, but was also making some decisions based on gut feeling only.

Is there anything that you were able to express on ‘Turn’ that you felt ‘Bunki’ didn’t?

I don’t think the EP necessarily expresses something the first one didn’t; it just represents a different period of my work. I tend to write a lot of music in a short time, and then not write at all for a few weeks, so I guess this EP represents my musical head a few months ago.

The melodic and harmonic movements mark much of the appeal of your music. Can you give us a little insight on how you approach those two aspects in your music?

Harmony is the basis of almost everything I do. I start writing by creating a harmonic progression, it is just because as a listener, harmony is the thing the moves me the most.

Again, I cant help but feel your formal musical education plays an important role here, and I find its something that you like downplay in your music, through making it quite easy on the ears, without dumbing it down. How do you think you achieve that?

I don’t think about it too much, it’s more about writing something that excites me, that moves me, a subtle groove that creeps in or an unexpected harmonic change. I can just hope that what excites me will excite other people as well.

Apart from Bunki, you also have a few production credits to your name for artists like VV Brown and Leiik. Are these experiences something you take into your own music and how do you see future collaborations influencing your music?

Yes I’ve been doing a lot of production and it is always a really inspiring thing to do. I was lucky enough to work with some truly talented musicians, like those that you mentioned and more, and a lot of the ideas that are starting as part of this work also find themselves later in some Bunki tracks, and vice versa.

It seems that Squareglass would also be the obvious choice as the vehicle for the next release. How has your relationship with the label influenced your work?

Squareglass is my home where I’m surrounded by people who inspire and push me, and at the same time are also my best friends.

It sounds like an album is inevitably on its way after listening to this last EP. Is that the next logical step, and how do you see it unfolding?

Yes a full length Bunki album is definitely on the cards, it’s something that I started working on towards and slowly starts taking shape, but before that there would be some smaller sized releases and some really exciting collaborations as well.