There are very few in the world of electronic music that have had such a sustained, varied and successful career as the wonderful, inimitable Sister Bliss, aka Ayalah Deborah Bentovim.
A founding member and primary composer of the influential dance pioneers Faithless, Sister Bliss has been at the forefront of the scene since joining forces with fellow Faithless member Rollo in 1993, before the official formation of the group two years later.
With Faithless going on to sell over 15 million records internationally and produce chart topping hits such as ‘God is a DJ’, ‘We Come 1’ and our favourite ‘Insomnia’, Sister Bliss established herself as one of the world’s premier electronic music producers. This status has been maintained through Bliss’ solo production work, which has also seen her create music for film, television and theatre projects.
Tireless in her efforts to find and release exciting new electronic music, Sister Bliss last year launched her own label, Junkdog Records, and has also recently been involved in the World Electronic Music Contest, aiming to find and launch the future stars of electronic music.
We were lucky enough to have a chat to the legendary Sister Bliss, who told us all about her time with Faithless and her many other amazing projects.
So it’s now been 20 years since Faithless formed, can you take us back to those early days; what drew you guys together at first?
We met through a mutual friend – Ben Langmaid, formerly of La Roux – who announced he had met a Buddhist rapper.
Rollo and I thought that sounded very interesting and we had a track that slowed down to hip hop in the middle – so we asked Maxi to lay down some lyrics over the hip hop section.
That track was ‘Salva Mea’ – our first ever Faithless record.
What was the feeling like within the group when you first started creating music together?
Very relaxed but also enlightening – as we were making the first album, it’s lyrical direction developed from conversations about Maxi’s Buddhist beliefs and practice, and we had philosophical arguments long into the night.
I still get chills whenever ‘Insomnia’ drops – and I know I’m not alone there – did you know you were onto something special when you were writing the track?
Not really – we thought ‘Salva Mea’ was very special, but so uncompromising you probably couldn’t dance to it – also it was the only dance track on the album, so we made ‘Insomnia’ as a balancing track for the B-side of the album Reverence. It was only after playing it in my DJ sets over a year I noticed it was getting quite a reaction.
Can you tell us a little bit about the feelings surrounding your last Faithless gig in 2011, which led to the brilliant live album Passing the Baton – Live From Brixton?
It was a fabulous way to end the tour, like a real homecoming gig, and felt like a good time to pause on a high.
You have written a lot of music for film, TV and theatre productions; what have been some of the most rewarding projects you’ve worked on in those fields?
It’s hard to say as they were all so rewarding in different ways – there’s nothing like hearing your music accompanying images on the big screen, and there’s nothing like knowing millions of people are hearing it in their homes tucked up on their sofa when its a primetime drama.
Theatre work was also very rewarding as it was more collaborative, so working with great directors was inspiring, and watching the intensity of live performances at close quarters with a live band playing my compositions was a massive buzz.
We know the list to choose from is incredible, but who are some of your favourite artists you have collaborated with (both in music and other art forms)?
Most recently I must say the Mercury-nominated artist Kate Tempest is utterly compelling, and it was incredible in those very early early days to work with Boy George on our second (also Mercury-nominated) album Sunday 8PM.
The tone of his voice is exquisite, and I remember my breath being taken away when he started to sing in the studio booth.
You launched your own label Junkdog Records back in 2012 and have been putting out some great new electronic sounds; what have been some of your proudest Junkdog releases?
I’m very proud of our most recent release from my signings I Said NO. Their new track ‘Come Close’ is as good as anything Disclosure have written in my opinion!
What are some of the greatest difficulties and most rewarding moments associated with running your own label?
Greatest difficulties would be how ever fast you want to move, everything always takes longer than you think!
Most rewarding: being excited about the artists we are releasing and that moment when a great piece of music lands in your inbox, and when people actually respond to DJ mail outs!
It seems you are always on the lookout for talented you producers – can you tell us a little bit about the World Electronic Music Contest?
There were lots of submissions in many genres so it was interesting to see so much variety in there. It started off as a platform for graduates of the School of Audio Engineering to share their work, and developed from there into an international competition.
I must say my original thought was that sometimes music competitions can be the kiss of death, but then I found out how many artists in the electronic scene have actually come through that route, and entered all sorts of DJ and music competitions – the likes of Madeon and Hanna Wants to name but two – so then I revised my opinion on the idea of the WEMC as it has definitely thrown up some credible talent, and shows how many artists are out there globally who are passionate about electronic music. There was even a finalist from Sri Lanka!
What can you tell us about the winners Noize Parade?
They seem very exuberant and full of life; their mix was well put together. Their winning track was more of an EDM style and sounded very finished with a properly catchy vocal, and you could imagine it in any big EDM DJ’s set.
I think the name is also strong – they had a nice logo, and felt like they would bring the party as there are 2 of them – especially for the prize gigs on offer for the competition (Vegas etc.) – and could possibly become a real act if their music develops. It will be very interesting to see how they grow, and use the competition as a way into the music business.
What is on the horizon for Sister Bliss?
Music music music!!! Watch this space!
Interviewed by Will Van de Pol