Fusing together a blend of eclectic and genre-bending music with a cinematic expression that is one for the ages, the idiosyncratic group, Juno Reactor, has dabbled in a variety of artistic mediums and continue to create a world that is entirely of their own. Having composed music for one of the most thought-provoking box office hits, The Matrix, and curating works of art for video games such as Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 4, it is evident that a variety of Ben Watkins intentions and dreams have come true. I caught up with the man to discuss his influences over the years, the upcoming release of ‘Mutant Land’, tattoos, and more.
Congrats on the upcoming release of ‘Mutant Land’. Tell us about the creative direction that you took when bringing this album to life and the significant meaning behind this release.
‘Mutant Land’ is the world we inhabit seen through the prism of the Mutant Theatre, where fantasy is an alternative escape from this reality. I loved Pan's Labyrinth film, and how Guillermo del Toro interwove this. I met Agnivo and the Stigma show in Russia, both performance groups which I loved, and realized I could put on a big show and fulfill a dream to create more for my audience than a band or DJ show.
Tell us about the development of your creative mind as a child. Were you quite introverted or did you have a lot of engaging experiences that expanded your thought processes at a young age?
I am a dreamer. I dreamed constantly and as a child, and it got me into a lot of trouble with school. I think tangentially, and maybe very illogically, but I find it easy to bounce into the world of thoughts, stories, and dreams. My first band was when I was four years old. No instruments--just air guitars, air drums, we were the invisible Beatles…not much has changed. I still love performing.
What has been the most recent artistically captivating movie that you have seen?
“The Handmaiden” directed by Park Chan-wook, brilliant film. I loved his film ‘Oldboy’, and this is so different. The secret theatre of sex that plays out in the world of mistress and maidservant, go get it if you haven't seen it.
When it comes to digital art, how have you been able to express yourself further creatively with the advancements in technology that you have encountered over your years as professional musicians?
God this list is now endless if I was born 10 years before I might never have developed, or been able to. For a long time before the advancement of video, I dreamed of what we have now, so to be able to make video’s, edit them, release them, work with people all over the world instantly is beyond belief to my younger me. As a musician, though, it maybe has become more frustrating, as I like working with people in a studio, not sending files. It’s all pretty sterile for the imagination, so good and bad, we have it all.
Tell us about your influences (whether that be individuals, environments, experiences, etc) that have led you to fuse together and blend multiple genres so fluidly over the years.
I always believe that a person is brought into my world for a reason. I’m not a traditionalist, and so I don't care if someone is a jazz drummer or opera singer, to me they are a road to explore, to find my own journey with, and to shove them in the washing machine and see what comes out.
Let's talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your most personal and meaningful tattoos and the tattoo artists that brought them to life.
I only have one on my right arm, it is the Cross of Juno Lucina, the goddess of celestial light. For me, it has always been my greatest aim to bring light and imagination to others as well as to myself. I experienced it myself in Japan, with a very cool guy who I have forgotten his name (bet he will like that). Sugizo, our very famous Japanese guitarist, has almost managed to cover his whole body with his work; where mine is quite normal, Sugizo’s are so delicate, that you feel only a Japanese tattoo artist could do this sort of work.
You may have been asked this a time or two before. Red or blue pill? Why?
Both and see what happens.
Any upcoming tour or festival appearance plans that you can fill us in about?
We have just played at Lublin Festival, Emmaboda Festival and then Ozora Festival. We are looking to travel to Australia USA and Japan in 2018.
If you could have a drink with any musician either dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
David Bowie for sure, Maybe drink tea and I have so many questions I wouldn't ask. I’d just want to chew the fat on how it is living in heaven. Brilliant man, and in my road book in so many ways, he is my first love in rock music and remains so.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?!
Spread the word, the Mutant Theatre is coming for you, to suck out your brains and fill you with new life.