A man who’s been involved in more musical pies than he has fingers to put them in, Howard ‘Howie B’ Bernstein has had an interesting career to say the least. Born in Glasgow, he later moved down to London to work as a tea boy in legendary film composer Hans Zimmer’s Lillie Yard studios – staying in a squat in Limehouse at the same time to save money. He’d graduate from these humble beginnings to work with the likes of Soul II Soul, Bjork and U2 – whilst also releasing seven albums of solo material that explore various strains of mood and ambience, working for film and playing a pivotal role in the birth of Trip Hop. A genuine musical polymath, he’s more than made his mark during a quarter century in music.
Due to play Rich Mix tonight alongside Addictive TV, we caught up with Howie to chat about his storied career…
Hi Howie, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How are you and what are you up to today?
I am rehearsing today as I have been for the last few days for my live show at Rich Mix tonight.
You don’t often perform live these days – what was it about your forthcoming gig at Rich Mix that tempted you out, and what can people expect from the performance?
I play live about once a year. I like it like that, it makes more unique for me when I do so. I will be using a combo set up of analogoue sequencers with a digital Maschine from Native Instruments. The sound will be Dub/Tech .
You got your break through working as a tea boy at Hans Zimmer’s Lillie Yard studios – what was it like working there and what kind of opportunities did it give you?
It was a three year apprenticeship that coloured my whole working life. I learnt how to use microphones, how to work with people, how to create a soundscape with an orchestra so many things .
At what point did you move into creating your own music and what gave you the impetus and confidence to do so?
I started writing music when I was about 11. My major inspiration then was Soul, Folk and Hymns.
You toggled between producing for others such as U2 and Tricky and producing your own music – what gave you the most satisfaction, and what role do you think suits you best?
Being involved with music in anyway is a turn on for me. I would say the role of destroyer suits me best.
Did the opportunity to work near the spotlight but not be fully in it (to the extent that U2 were for instance) attract you?
Yes, being in the background suits me and lets the foreground be strong.
You recently worked on the soundtrack for The Wolf of Wall Street – how do you approach that kind of work, and what is it about a particular film or piece of media that will get your attention and make you want to work on it?
I always approach music projects with an open mind, and that way anything can happen. What attracts me to film is that there are no rules. You’re not writing a song! You’re creating a piece of music. That really challenges me and suits me very well
The FABRICLIVE series is about to reach its 80th edition – you were responsible for the 5th. How prestigious was that oppportunity at the time and do you still feel connected with the ethos of the club or clubbing in general for that matter?
It was a great honour to do be asked to do the fabric CD, that club and the people who work there has inspired me for the last 15 years and it continues to do so. Clubbing and the life that goes with that life I love, it gives me life a sort of handshake.
With such a diverse body of work behind you – is there anything in particular that you’d like to be remembered by?
For me all the music I have been involved with has a place and time in my life, it is my diary so all of it is worth something to me. Whether its worth anything to anyone else that I don’t know.
What new music have you been listening to recently?
I have been listening to new electronic music from China, its fresh and just on the up and up .
Production methods and technology have developed hugely since you started out – what’s been the biggest change for you and how have you embraced new developments?
Nothing has changed the digital stuff does the same that analogue stuff does just the kit is smaller if anything its got worse so bum steer there.
Howie plays Rich Mix tomorrow 26th February with Addictive TV and Kizzy Crawford. Buy tickets here. The next album out on his label HB Recordings will be Ela Orleans’ ‘Upper Hell’ out in April.