"Melodic, dramatic, melancholic but happy; between deep house and melodic techno," replied German super-producer Ben Böhmer when asked to describe his sound in conversation with EDM.com.
Catapulting him from everyday piano teacher to renowned electronic musician, his sound propelled a trajectory that eventually culminated in a jaw-dropping livestreamed performance in a hot-air balloon over Cappadocia’s honeycombed hills (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Turkey) two weeks ago. "In the beginning, I didn’t realize what was happening," Böhmer gleefully recounts of the milestone hot-air balloon performance. "Actually, I still don’t realize what happened! An unbelievable feeling, definitely the most beautiful experience of my life."
With live events at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what better way to entertain electronic music fans than livestreaming in a hot-air balloon 3,000 feet above the ground at the crack of dawn?
It's no surprise that Cercle organized the event. With their prime goal "to showcase cultural heritage and landmarks throughout the prism of electronic music and video," the small team of French organizers have previously hosted ZHU at Hakuba Iwatake in Japan and Hot Since 82 at the Culture Club Revelin terrace in Croatia (the filming location for Kings Landing in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones), among other events at carefully selected cultural locations.
Though Böhmer's performance was broadcasted without a glitch, it had its fair share of challenges. "Firstly, I’m a bit afraid of heights, so the performance was super challenging for me. Especially the first 15 minutes in the air because my equipment wasn’t fixed, it was just lying on a table," he elaborated. "The balloon was moving left and right until we got higher up and stable. I was a bit panicked about some cables, my keyboard, or my computer falling off! Plus, with all the media and cameras, I was super nervous.”
Beyond the natural tension that one would expect with playing live in a hot-air balloon, the event also presented a particular set of technical obstacles. "In terms of electronics, we had to set everything up with a battery, and do the soundcheck very quickly within a few minutes before taking off," Böhmer said. "Also, to stream the show, the Cercle guys arranged a car which was driving underneath the balloon. This car was connected to the internet, and in turn, provided connectivity to the balloon. But, the car always had to be under the balloon, driving through the mountains! It was insanely difficult to deal with all the technical challenges and we’re very happy everything worked out.”
Given the unique setting, Böhmer curated his live music selection differently from a typical club or festival set. An empty hot-air balloon is a far cry from a packed dance floor, after all. "I was able to do something with my music I’m not able to on stage: playing very slow and moody tracks, with very long transitions,” he explained. “There were beatless sections for almost 2 minutes. And, I ended with an ambient version of my track ‘Little Lights,’ which I’ve never played before. It’s great to let sounds start slowly and evolve—rather than huge, fast-changing tracks—to have a proper listening session.”
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Böhmer has always approached music with a keen focus on live performance. “I like the thought of making something in the moment and just being a musician on stage,” he said. It’s a natural extension of his upbringing in classical instrumentation. "Usually, people start to DJ and then they start to produce tracks. For me, it was the opposite. I was always doing music and played keys when I was six, then the trumpet, then the guitar."
Though Böhmer was mastering musical instruments in his childhood, electronic music didn’t come into the fold until his late teen years. "When I was 16-years-old, my older brother was already in the electronic music scene in Berlin. He introduced me to that world and took me to my first raves," he explained. "I was pretty hyped about that music and began wanting to produce it too. Also, after watching the movie Berlin Calling with Paul Kalkbrenner, I saw the ability to make music with a computer instead of a big setup of outboard and gear. So these 2 things opened the world of electronic music and electronic music production for me.”
Signing with Above and Beyond’s influential deep house label Anjunadeep effectively put Böhmer on the map, providing a platform for him to reach legions of deep and melodic house aficionados. It's a relationship born of fortuity and unexpected help from an established melodic house producer.
"It was Lane 8 who got me into Anjunadeep,” Böhmer revealed. ”He found my music somewhere—I think it was my track ‘Give Me’— I don’t know how, and he started to play it out. Then he went to James Grant, the head of Anjunadeep, and said, ‘Why not keep an eye on him?’ So the label asked me if I have demos for them. I sent them ‘Morning Falls’ and ‘After Earth,’ which they signed directly. A great relationship started.”
Böhmer has since released a breadth of music with Anjunadeep, an undeniable factor of his rising popularity in the melodic house world. The label billed Böhmer for a host of massive shows as well, including Above and Beyond’s 2018 Group Therapy festival in Hong Kong and Anjunadeep’s label showcase at London’s famed Printworks venue last year.
Having released his debut album Breathing last year, his Phases EP last month, and now captivating fans with his hot-air balloon performance, Böhmer still isn’t looking to slow down. Over the past six months, he’s been busy working on his next album. While he has yet to decide a release date or share specific track details, fans can rest assured the upcoming album will contain the scope of sounds Böhmer’s known for. “I like to do every kind of music. I can produce very slow tracks like ‘Morning Falls,’ dramatic, sad ones like ‘In Memoriam’, uplifting songs like ‘After Earth,’ or techno tracks like ‘Wall of Strings,’” Böhmer said. “I just write them as they come.”
Stream Ben Böhmer's hot-air balloon performance below.