How were you introduced to music and what keeps your love for it going now?
Beni Giles (BG): My Dad was a musician so growing up I was always surrounded by music and people who were passionate about it. I don’t think I ever seriously considered doing anything else. It’s the thing that feels most natural to me and I never get tired of exploring all of its possibilities.
Colin Alexander (CA): Most of my family are musicians and my grandmother suggested I start playing cello at a very early age because I had the right hands for it! I’m constantly hearing pieces unknown to me that are just extraordinary and I don’t think that will ever stop. Performing alongside fantastic musicians also keeps the love burning strong as well as the endless battle to keep improving one’s own skills.

 

 

Tell us about your musical study…
BG: I became a chorister at St John’s College, Cambridge at the age of 7 which gave me an amazing foundation on which to build. I went on to study jazz bass for several years but I knew that, ultimately, I wanted to be composing. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I plucked up the courage to pursue it properly. I started studying with Giles Swayne who gave me the confidence to access my weirder side and get creative. I then did an MA in composition at the Royal Academy of Music where I studied with Philip Cashian.
CA: I was fortunate to study composition and cello at the Purcell School of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Music. These opportunities must be available for everyone in order for the UK’s incredible music scene to continue to flourish.

 

 

How did you first meet each other and what made you decide to write music together?
CA: We first met in some house in the country where Beni was recording his first EP. My wife and I were recruited to play on it by a mutual friend and a few wild nights later we were all close friends! After a solo improv show in 2016 he suggested we develop the ideas further in his studio. The process was immediately rewarding and our album came together with a passionate excitement.
BG: Colin and I had worked together in the past but not necessarily in a collaborative setting. I went to see Colin do an improvised solo set a few of years back and was reminded of his amazing abilities as an improvisor. We’re both driven to experiment and find new techniques so it seemed like a natural thing to work together on something. 

 

 

Would you say your style and the way in which you write as composers is quite different to each other?
BG: A bit, but our goal is the same. As regards this project, whilst we’re both composing, Colin is writing as a cellist and I’m thinking more as a producer so we’re coming at it from different angles but I think that’s what gives it its edge.
CA: Not particularly but enough to keep things interesting. I certainly feel that writing together has resulted in a way of creating music that I hadn’t found before.

 

 

Does this difference or similarity help or hinder your creative process together?
CA: It definitely helps to have similar tastes and I think this translates in us quickly finding the particular sound we want for any given track. 
BG: Agreed. We also push each other in new directions and pursue ideas we might not normally go with when writing alone. It’s an exciting process.

 

 

Congratulations on the release of Addelam, which was recorded in multiple locations. Could you tell us more about this process and the meaning behind the album
BG: Initially, we recorded rough sketches at Colin’s place in Deal. We then recorded it properly in a studio, but it seemed to lose the ambience that made the original recordings so characterful. We realised that the creaky old house was integral to the album’s aesthetic, as was the crackling fire, howling wind, and crashing sea in the distance.  We recorded in various environments, studio or otherwise, and then set about recreating that sound-world. It was a very natural and instinctive process.
CA: We wanted to produce an album that takes the listener from the expansive and wild nature of the coastline to the warm but rustic interiors of the small houses in Deal, Kent. The whole album is a reflection on the aspects of life in the area.

 

 

Is there a track you particularly enjoyed performing and recording?
CA: I think the first track, down-up-up, was particularly enjoyable. It was the first one we recorded and we were quite surprised with how striking it sounded straight away. I think this gave us the encouragement to get straight on with more ideas.
BG: The album is about living by, and with, the sea. And ‘ingress’ is the moment of stepping back in, of entering the home. That feeling of flushed red cheeks and warm fatigue; lighting a fire and allowing that lovely soporific sensation to take over. It can be quite surreal but always with an undertone of comfort and safety. In Colin’s front room in Deal, there is a huge bell-tree of wind chymes and tubular bells which sing out upon entering the house. ’ingress’ is a beautiful description of that. We recorded those bells, lighting the fire etc. and then built upon the curious harmonic qualities that arose.

 

 

What is next for you both in terms of your music?
BG: I have a new EP of my music coming out soon and I’m in the process of making an album. I also have some exciting collaborative projects coming up. And, of course, working on the next Addelam record!
CA: I’ve got a commission to finish for a wonderful concert in the house that Friedrich Durrenmatt lived in, overlooking the lake at Neuchatel, whilst we’re already working on our next studio album whilst preparing to release an ‘Addelam Live’ record.

 

 

Finally, what is the meaning of music for you?
CA: A combination of organised sound and empathy!
BG: There’s a quote from sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, about capturing reality through abstract art that equally describes the power of music as an art form: “When you see a fish you don’t think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through the water… If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality. I want just the flash of its spirit.”