INTERVIEW: Benjamin Belinska | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The North East wind is famous across Europe; it’s said to bring wisdom and fortune to whomever it blows through,” muses Benjamin Belinska, describing the lure of his adopted home. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, it’s an affiliation he’s felt since moving to Newcastle at the age of 17 – yet it would be some years before the budding songwriter elected to settle and establish roots in the region.

Instead, the intervening years saw Belinska embark on a nomadic odyssey across western Europe, skipping through a succession of humdrum jobs during spells in Glasgow, Berlin and Paris. “Drifting is not a bad thing – it allows you to let go of many illusions, but still, they are very attractive. I wanted to grab hold of one again – namely, that I am the master of my own direction. I also wanted to conduct an experiment – to see if I could transform myself into a plant and be rooted to a spot.”

That newfound focus culminates this month in the release of debut album, Lost Illusions – yet it took twin blows upon his return to England for Belinska’s creative gaze to truly sharpen. The first of these setbacks was self-inflicted. Rushing to catch a connecting train, Belinska lost a suitcase at York station, and with it much of the material gathered during his travels – songs written on borrowed guitars; lyrics scribbled in stolen notebooks. Worse was to come a few months down the line when he fell victim to a random assault, sustaining serious eye and throat injuries from a gang of four whilst walking home from work.

it only has one theme – the extraordinary sadness and wretchedness of human life, and my amazement at the fact that this wretched life can nevertheless be so beautiful and precious

“I was bashed on the head,” he says, recalling the latter incident. “The assault was a metaphorical, as well as a literal, kick up the arse. Being bed-ridden, where I had no choice but to do nothing, was an affront somehow. Never mind that I would be doing nothing anyway – now it was being forced upon me! It made me rebel a bit. It seems romantic and wistful, but it felt like fate was using me in a careless game.”

Conceived during his recovery, recorded with a full band and mixed and mastered at London’s Soup Studio by Giles Barrett and Simon Trought, Lost Illusions offers a brisk yet mightily effective showcase of Belinska’s talents. Inspired as much by the poetry of Hermann Hesse, Wang Wei and Li Po as the music of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Buzzcocks, its succinct two-and-a-half minute nuggets constitute “not only an escape from death, but a joyous, tender acknowledgement of it”; a bittersweet outlook channelled through hook-laden gems such as the golden Americana-tinged standout Disappearing and synth-soaked sunshine pop single Young in Baltimore.

“The title Lost Illusions is a reference to the childish disappointment that we all go through when discovering that ‘the world’ is just a lot of silliness,” he elaborates. “The record is a little collage of time – maybe 10 years? 100? But despite this it only has one theme – the extraordinary sadness and wretchedness of human life, and my amazement at the fact that this wretched life can nevertheless be so beautiful and precious.”

Benjamin Belinska’s debut album, Lost Illusions, is released on 28th August


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