Downtempo electronic maestro Bonobo is very clear about where his music comes from: life – and all its twists and turns.

“Life has highs, lows, loud and quiet moments, beautiful ones and ugly ones,” he says. “Music is a reflection of life.”

Producer, DJ and composer Simon Green has been performing under his simian alias since 2000 when he released influential debut Animal Magic, followed three years later by Dial ‘M’ for Monkey for Ninja Tune – redefining in the process that genre which sits between electronica and ‘nu jazz’

Third album Days to Come was the big breakthrough, however, was voted album of 2006 by listeners to Gilles Peterson’s show on BBC Radio 6.

The Brighton-born but Los Angeles-based artist is now on his sixth long player –Migration – and stepping out from the shadows with a full band – featuring vocals, keyboards, guitar, saxophone, string section and drums – yet still essentially electronic and borrowing from samples.

It is lush, beautiful and melancholic but also, joyful, manic and packed with both emotion – all capturing what he considers the very textures of human existence. And it has a very personal theme, following the death of a close family member.

“My family and I are all disbanded and spread to far corners of the earth,” he says, “In the end we did the funeral in Brighton. My own personal idea of identity, where I am from, and what home is, has played into this record and its migratory themes. Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?”

Simon grew up in rural Hampshire in a musical home – his dad heavily involved in the British folk scene and a keen banjo player.

“We would have endless folk jams in the house,” he recalls. “There would be random banjo and violin players crashing in the garage for the weekend.

“I was a grubby little skater back then, listening to alt-rock, hardcore and hip hop.”

While no folk-lover, he did throw himself into music, learning to play guitar, piano, and playing around with effects. He was also influenced by modern classical music – the broad soundscapes of Bernard Herman and Ennio Morricone influencing his orchestral sound.

Moving to Brighton he immersed himself in the big beat sound and began DJing and producing. Those skills are very much in evidence on fourth album, the Top 30 hit Black Sands –remixes of which hit dancefloors around the world and follow up The North Borders, which featured vocals from American ‘neo soul’ singer-songwriter Erykah Badu, Grey Reverend – aka L.D. Brown (also known through his work with Cinematic Orchestra), and Portico Quartet’s Cornelia.

he has also worked with south Londoner Andreya Triana - who we saw gracing the Great Court at Blenheim Palace earlier this summer, and the hyper-talented Szjerdene – who joins Simon at Cornbury Park this weekend for Wilderness festival.

The show follows high profile gigs around the planet – not least the Sydney Opera House, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, New York, London’s Roundhouse and Alexandra Palace, a huge event at Tobacco Dock and, last month’s acclaimed set at Wilderness’s sister event Citadel in London’s Victoria Park.

And, doe all his modesty and lack of bravado, he has also shifted well over half a million albums and 150 million streams on Spotify

His move to LA followed three years out on the road with no fixed home. he first tried New York, but found it a “noisy, stressful environment” and decided to try the other coast.

LA, he discovered, is the ideal juxtaposition to balance out the “hypersocial” world of touring.

And, he says, there is a respect in LA which allows him to retreat when he wants. As always, his home studio set-up, where he records, mixes and masters, is “100 per cent DIY.”

He even recorded the string quartet you can hear on Figures in the living room of his house with particularly good acoustics.

The landscape in California also influences the artwork of the record, designed by Neil Krug (best known for his work with Boards of Canada and Lana Del Rey).

All the desert locations pictured “are close to where I now live,” he explains.

“Part of the writing process was to drive up to these places and live with the tracks as I was making them. This was a new part of the world to me, where the landscape is quite alien and Martian.”

Drawing on both a new interest in found-sound and the “euphoric, spiritual moments” he experienced when playing his all-night DJ sets at his Output residency in New York, Migration is a portrait of where Simon is right now.

“Migration is the study of people and spaces,” he says.

“It’s interesting how one person will take an influence from one part of the world and move with that influence and effect another part of the world.

“Over time, the identities of places evolve.”

And, he says, so will the people.

  • Bonobo plays Wilderness festival, Cornbury Park, Charlbury. It runs from tonight to Sunday.
  • Ticketshave sold out.

Wilderness highlights


  • Main stage: Two Door Cinema Club
  • First Aid Kit
  • Aurora
  • The Turbans
  • Sigrid
  • Tender Central
  • Lisa Marini
  • Folk Barn: Alice Phoebe Lou
  • The Love Hotel: Anchor Song


  • Main stage: Bonobo
  • Toots and the Maytals
  • Ray BLK
  • The Correspondents
  • Brian Deady
  • Isaac Gracie
  • Folk Barn: The Langan Band
  • The Love Hotel: Fifi Rong


  • Main stage: Grace Jones
  • Michael Kiwanuka
  • Hudson Taylor
  • Louis Berry
  • Ten Fe
  • Catherine McGrath
  • Cosmic Strip
  • Folk Barn: Black Peaches
  • The Love Hotel: Liam Bailey