Juno Reactor - a wonderful band from Brighton!
Metropolis Records USA - Wakyo Records Japan - HOMmega Israel
O.Z.O.R.A. Opening 2015
This summer sees JUNO REACTOR, the genre-straddling, trail-blazing extravaganza started in the early 90s by Ben Watkins, traverse the world’s major festivals, celebrating 20 years as one of most idiosyncratic but globally popular names to come out of the electronic dance music revolution, sound tracking anything from massive Goa sunrise gatherings to Hollywood blockbusters, The live dates, including Hungary’s Ozora festival and headlining Russia’s Kabana event, will straddle the seven Juno Reactor albums, continuing its spectacular tradition of senses-blasting lights and projections drenching vibrant, ever-morphing ranks of musicians, singers, percussionists and dancers.
This year cast sees Watkins joined by new vocalists Hamsika Ilyer (Bollywood’s new rising star) and Maggie Hikri from Israel plus stage-commanding singer-toaster Ghetto Priest. Legendary Banshees-Creatures drummer Budgie remains at the helm of the beats [joined in Ozora by four Taiko drummers from Tokyo’s Gocoo].
With the stellar live juggernaut and eighth Juno Reactor album due in September, Watkins has cause to celebrate his achievements over the last two decades. While fusions of electronic dance, rock, world music and other disparate genres are common-place today, boosted by opportunist collaborations and the internet, music was much more compartmentalized in 1990 when Ben Watkins started Juno Reactor; initially as an experimental art project [having spent the 1980s causing electronic mischief with projects including the Flowerpot Men and Empty Quarter].
First sonic blast from Juno Reactor appeared on NovaMute in 1993 as the pulsing frenzy of ‘Laughing Gas’. At that post-rave time, electronic dance music was divided into different sub-genres, but Juno Reactor was already tapping into more expansive terrain, pioneering what soon became known as trance, and celebrated on Goa beaches, but still carrying Watkins’ innate cinematic sensibility, brushes with punk and previous knowledge of industrial-strength assaults. These wider visions were compounded on Juno Reactor’s ‘Transmissions’ debut set, now cited as trance’s first artist album; tracks including ’High Energy Protons’, ’’Contact’, ’Acid Moon’, ’Man To Ray’ and ’Landing’ [some written with former Magma-Brilliant bassist Stefan Holweck].
The original Juno Reactor concept marked the following year’s ‘Luciana‘, a 61-minute mood excursion released on collaborator Dr Alex ‘Orb’ Paterson’s Inter-Modo label. In 1995, Watkins took Juno Reactor to new imprint Blue Room, releasing the trouser-busting ‘Guardian Angel’ single, which marked the start of Juno Reactor’s expansion into the movie world, appearing in martial arts knees up ‘Drive’ ‘Showgirls’ and as opening theme in the ‘Texnolyze’ anime. Mothership album, ‘Beyond The Infinite‘ is hailed as one of the era’s definitive works with such outings as ‘Magnetic‘, ‘Feel The Universe‘, ‘Samurai‘, ‘Rotorblade‘ and ‘Mars‘. Around this time, the instrumental of his song ‘Control’ [the original sung by film icon Traci Lords] appeared in the massive ‘Mortal Kombat’ & ‘Virtuosity’ movies, heightening the Juno Reactor profile stateside.
After signing to Wax Trax! Records in 1997, ’Bible Of Dreams’ often replaced the omnipresent dance beats with tribal rhythms, garnished with exotic toppings on tracks including ‘Jardin De Cecile’, ‘God is God’, ‘Kaguya Hime’ and ‘Shark’. Watkins expanded the lineup with world music vocalists Natacha Atlas, plus South African percussionists Mabi Thobeiane and Amampondo. The single, ‘Conga Fury’ [which appeared in the ‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’ sequel] Together they toured the US in 1997, supporting Moby, repeating the exercise at Glastonbury in 1998.
2000 saw the ever-expanding sweep of the ‘Shango’ album signaling a move to Metropolis Records, Watkins now joined by Billy Idol guitar hero Steve Stevens on J.R. evergreen ‘Pistolero’ [featured in the movie, and inspired the director to make ‘Once Upon A Time In Mexico‘], Amampondo on ‘Hule Lam‘, while Mabi and singer Taz Alexander collaborated on ‘Song For Ancestors‘. Veteran pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole, Pandit Dinesh’s tablas and Dr Alex Paterson returning on ‘Nitrogen’, further widened the sound. In 2002, Juno Reactor released a new single called ‘Hotaka’, recorded with traditional Taiko drummers Gocoo in a studio overlooking Japan’s Mount Fuji…and Steve Stevens.
Along with the ‘Shango Tour 2001 Tokyo [Live In Tokyo]‘ set, the following year saw the ‘Odyssey 1992-2002’ retro-compilation, before Watkins embarked on his most exciting endeavor yet, collaborating with composer Don Davis on the Score for twin blockbuster sequels ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘The Matrix Revolutions’. 2004’s ‘Labyrinth’ featured different versions of two tracks from the Matrix, ’Mona Lisa Overdrive’ and ‘Navras’, whose orchestral and industrial onslaught is heard all over the world on commercials, TV programmes and other films. ‘Conquistador II’, with long-time percussionist Nick Burton, most resembled the first classic Juno Reactor sound, while stage mainstay Taz Alexander returned on ‘Angels And Men‘ [Scored in “Genius Party Beyond” ‘Dimension Bomb‘ animation, Watkins‘ personal favorite]. ‘War Dogs‘ marked the Budgie’s debut, one of the world’s most renowned powerhouse drummers, while the album also featured a battery of singers and percussionists, plus old Empty Quarter mucker Youth on bass.
With barely a moment to adjust his turbo-keks, Watkins scored Japanese anime box office-buster ‘Brave Story’ in 2006, recording the soundtrack at the Slovak Radio Concert Hall in Slovakia with the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008, he released the seventh Juno album, ‘Gods & Monsters’, The album boasted an even bigger cast, with more live musicians, including Stevens and legendary David Bowie pianist Mike Garson, vocalist Yasmin Levy and Ghetto Priest on songs including ‘Inca Steppa’, ‘Tokyo Dub’ and ‘Mind Of The Free’. By 2009, the live extravaganza had become an epic spectacle, instilling a mixture of rapt awe and emotional catharsis. 2012 is already shaping up to be the biggest yet, as Juno Reactor’s cross-cultural celebration continues to match Cecil B. DeMille vision with symphonic apocalypse.