Juno Reactor & The Mutant Theatre – Interview
Juno Reactor is one of the most important acts in electronic music in general and in Goa and Psychedelic Trance in particular. With 7 albums since the first one in 1993, 3 remix albums and countless EPs and compilation releases, Juno Reactor and the man behind the project, Ben Watkins, have made a huge impact on this culture and way beyond it.
Juno Reactor always managed to sound like no one else, constantly evolve and yet retain that special unmistakable raw Juno sound. And Watkins just keeps innovating, pushing boundaries and venturing into new territories. You can’t really classify the music into any specific genre, and while Watkins’ music has infiltrated the mainstream, especially after being part of The Matrix’ soundtrack, he always went on doing his own thing and stayed a part of psychedelic dance music culture.
I love performing to the Psytrance audience, like any culture it is changing as it becomes more popular… yet at its core it is empowering, artistic and amazing to be a part of.
Juno Reactor just released a new first single from the upcoming album in HOMmega: “Juno Reactor & The Mutant Theatre – Mutant Land”, which marks a new phase in the long Juno story, with a real extravagant out of this world live show on stage – The Mutant Theatre. Definitely a good enough excuse to hook up with Ben Watkins via email in full fan mode and pry some information from him. We’ll of course flood you with music all through it. It’s all music we really think you should know. So in case you missed it, fix that up while you read and afterwards!
Listen to the new EP:
Q: You have been releasing under the name Juno Reactor for almost a quarter of a century. What is the fuel that make your creative motor run?
A: At the moment it is Mutant juice that runs though my veins, the feeling of this show within the band & Mutants is a special one, doesn’t get much better than this for me.
Q: Some music ages well, some doesn’t. Listening to your first album (and I do it often) – Transmissions – it still sounds as fresh, relevant and moving as when I first got it from a records shop in 1993, why do you think it survived the time? Do you still listen to your old music at times? How does it make you feel?
A: I don’t listen to old tracks, I am not interested in my museum, I prefer to look to what is coming, what is possible now, what can I learn or steal, who can I work with to make something special. Transmissions was a brilliant time for collaborations, Juno Reactor was built to create under one flag with no fixed line up, in those days I could make a track in few days, fill up the tape machine and mix, now I have too much choice and a labyrinth of ideas to pick through… Still, my aim is true, to create something new…
Listen to the first Juno Reactor album – Transmissions. Released on NovaMute in 1993 and still sounding great!
Q: It is also very clear that a piece of music is a Juno Reactor piece the minute you start listening, whether it was made in 93, 97, 2004 or 2017 – can you put your sound into words? Explain in musical terms why is it like that?
A: I realize I have my own way of doing things, my own set of parameters, at the core is a story, something to focus on, without these stories I can’t finish a track, for me it is electronic soul music to feel beneath the skin and take the listener on a journey, not always successfully, but hey that is the intention.
Photo by Leandro Quartermeister.
Q: You have reached beyond psychedelic electronic music all the way into the mainstream with writing music to The Matrix and huge shows world wide to totally different crowds. But yet, you stay as part of this culture. What is it you like about the Psytrance culture, what makes it special for you, and you part of it?
A: I love performing to the Psytrance audience, like any culture it is changing as it becomes more popular, the crowds are transforming the music, in some cases it is a good thing, in others I don’t see it that way, yet at its core it is empowering, artistic and amazing to be a part of. So many great new producers coming along bringing new life constantly.
I see Juno Reactor as a satellite, as the music can be extremely diverse. It is our home, a good place to be, and 90% of the people I like, even though I might look brain dead after being in the studio, if I give you a blank stare, one, I might not be seeing you and two, my brain is dissolving…
I have my own way of doing things, my own set of parameters, at the core is a story, something to focus on, without these stories I can’t finish a track, for me it is electronic soul music to feel beneath the skin and take the listener on a journey
Q: You have a new single just released in HOMmega preceding an upcoming album. Can you tell us a bit about it?
A: “Our World” is the first release from “Mutant Land”, an album to accompany the Mutant Theatre experience, it is our real world through this fantasy prism, like “Pans Labyrinth” “Barbarella” and other great films that turn me on…
Q: We had the chance to watch the Juno Reactor & The Mutant Theatre live at Ozora last year. We defined it as Mad Max on Acid. Is that a good description? 🙂
Tell us a bit about this amazing show and the people behind it.
A: Great description, I loved that one… I have wanted to put on a big show for years, after Ozora 2015 Wegha said please come back, but with something different, took me all of 5 seconds to say I have an idea…
I had worked with Agnivo, a Russian performing group in Moscow, and likewise The Stigma show in St. Petersburg. I had been looking for an opportunity to bring us all together under the flag of Juno Reactor & The Mutant Theatre, (one of my ambitions as a kid was always to build a circus). I presented it to Wegha and he loved the idea, this idea is now flying by its own life, so many, many thanks to Ozora for this.
Juno Reactor & the Mutant Theatre live @ Ozora Festival 2016:
Q: That annoying question again, you probably will say to yourself, but we can’t curb our curiosity. From all the tons of amazing music you released over the years- which track is most dear/special/connected to you?
A: Oh well, “Navras” is the one. It will be forever be a sign post of how great it can be, to be alive, given the right climate to create, the collaboration with Don, all my session musicians, and total belief from the Wachowski’s, who were stunning to work for, nothing can top this experience, unless I am one lucky fucker and the gods decide I am worthy of another playtime in the land of the Gods and Goddess.
Q: What does the future holds for Juno Reactor and followers of Juno’s music as far as you can tell?
A: Mutant Theatre a go go, I want to travel the world with this show, turn it into a theatre production, write more scores to films and maybe one day make another album, not sure if it will be Juno Reactor by then, but who can tell what tomorrow brings, I just want to feel my heart in what I do.
Listen to more essential Juno Reactor albums:
Juno Reactor – Beyond the Infinite (1995)
Juno Reactor – Bible of Dreams (1997)
Juno Reactor – Labyrinth (2004)
Juno Reactor – Gods & Monsters (2008)
Juno Reactor – The Golden Sun Of The Great East (2013)
[Cover photo credit: Juno Reactor & The Mutant Theatre at Ozora Festival 2016 by Sanja Karin Music]