bex burch: colectivo futurecast 090

We reach edition #90 of our futurecast from the hands and ears of extraordinarily gifted and hardworking composer, improver, percussionist, and gyil player, Bex Burch. Her Vula Viel project has been on constant rotation on our turntables for some time, but last year we were amazed by her collaborative album with influential electronic musician, Leafcutter John. Stunning music aside, Bex was also kind enough to answer a few questions for our series below.

CF: How and where was the mix recorded?

At home in Berlin using Reaper, an audio production application. I tried to do it intuitively without much thinking. So I guess these tunes were just where my ears were going. I’m looking forward to hearing it again, and I’m grateful to Colectivo Futuro for choosing to share and lift up not only the music in this mix but all the work you do for this scene / mad mix of scenes.

CF: How did you first get involved with music and who or what inspired you to become a musician?

Probably a million things.. Music was around as a child, singing / bit of percussion in church and Beatles / Bach at home via my Dad. But it was never a serious thing. I’m grateful for that. Making music remains a very relaxing and relaxed state.

CF: Your instrument, the gyil, is incredibly unique and we know you built it yourself. Can you tell us more about it and how you came to build and play it?

The gyil is the powerful Dagaare xylophone from Upper West Ghana. Thomas Sekgura, who was my teacher for a few years when I lived in Ghana, was an incredible musician and generous mentor in making and playing alike. I made this particular instrument in 2012/13 and I’ve been developing and adapting it to work for me in practical (size / amplification even next to drums / rolls up in a flight case) and creative ways. I’m developing my own musical voice alongside the instruments I play. And as my voice changes over time, the instruments I want to make and play do too.

I’m just now making a new wooden idiophone (with mentorship from incredible maker, Jamie Linwood) that’s really quite a different voice to the gyil. I need to explore a new way of listening and my interest in vibration that’s come about from being grounded and making music in my home studio these last couple of years.

CF: We first came across you as you led the incredible Vula Viel. Can you tell us about this project and what inspired you to form the group?

Vula Viel was the name Thomas’ family elders gave me when I finished my apprenticeship with him. It means Good is Good. When I started the band I wanted to share that ethos – trying to leave something good in the world. I made Vula Viel because it’s what I needed to do at that moment and I’ve worked for 9 years on VV. It’s amazing to look back now as I feel a new chapter is beginning. VV has brought me to where I am today and 10-years -ago-me wouldn’t believe what I’ve achieved and who I’m becoming.

CF: Last year Vula Viel became a record label, launching with the incredible debut solo album from Ruth Goller. What led you to start your own label and how is it going so far?

I actually started VV Records in 2015 to release Good is Good. And have been developing, growing my understanding and team since then. There’s loads of people to credit with support along the way, notably Quinton Scott who’s basically been a label mentor since 2016, Vula Viel bandmates, Matt Calvert who produced the first two records, Francesco Soragna, Oli Brunetti, Nicole McKenzie, Arts Council England, PRS Foundation, Help Musicians UK, Sound and Music all helped teach me what was important in a release.

Now after 7 years of learning little by little, it’s massively fulfilling to find that I can help elevate the releases for incredible artists like Ruth Goller and Leafcutter John from last year. As with my own releases, my ethos is that the energy for all the business side is to share the core – the music – with as many people as possible so that the ears that need it are more likely to find it.

I have albums that the artists didn’t know they made for me. So it’s those people we need to reach.

CF: You recently recorded an album over Zoom with experimental electronic artist Leafcutter John. How did it come about and what was it like recording this way?

John and I were in touch and were going to meet when Covid hit. I suggested we do some duo plays over Zoom and it was like therapy that spring / summer. We’d chat for a while and then play. Each recording locally from Belfast and Sheffield. Did that every week for 10 weeks and actually liked the music so much we made the album, but that wasn’t the intention. I love the music for that. It kinda held me in those months and listening now has the same effect.

CF: What do you normally listen to at home? What are 3 of your favourite albums past or present?

One of the albums that I described as being “made for me” is ‘Big Science’ by Laurie Anderson – my friend Brendan Beales gave me that album in 1999 and it properly changed my whole brain. Brendan too was a massive supporter of me as an artist before I knew I was one.

I love ‘Undone: Live from the Crypt’ by Tom Skinner, Dave Okumu and Tom Herbert. I really enjoy putting that on at home. All three musicians too have weaved magic / music into my life at different times.

‘Held on the Tips of Fingers’ by Polar Bear has got to be here too. Polar Bear are the shoulders we all stand on in this community.

CF: What’s your favourite thing about living in Berlin? What would you recommend to someone visiting for 24h?

The walks and the music. If you come visit me, we’re going for a walk in Tegeler Forest, maybe have a swim in the lake, then go to KM28, Soweiso or Au Topsi Pohl for a gig.

CF: Where can people see you performing with Leafcutter John?

20th Feb – The Hot Tin, Faversham

21st Feb – Servant Jazz Quarters, London

23rd Feb – The Prince Albert, Stroud

24th Feb – South Street Arts, Reading

10th April – BRDCST Festival, Brussels

CF: Are there any other projects in the pipeline you’d like to share with us?

Also premiering at BRDCST in April is a new project, Flock. Just watch this/a/the space for announcements for Flock to take flight. It’s magical.