Volta bandleader Benjamin Harrison brings M83’s score to life

Cirque du Soleil knew that it needed something different as it designed its new Volta show, and it scored big when Anthony Gonzalez hopped on board as Volta’s musical director and composer. Gonzalez — better known as French-born, L.A.-livin’ producer M83 — was attracted to Volta’s storyline, which, to him, centered around a generation calling for change (CL’s own Scott Harrell thinks “Volta’s narrative is one of an individual unfulfilled by fame and fortune, turning his back on empty celebrity and in search of a more profound and meaningful life”).

“Compared to other Cirque productions, the music is like chalk and cheese,” Benjamin Harrison told CL. “Cirque wanted to walk away from its traditional music and create something fresh and new — they got it.”

Harrison, 30, is Volta’s bandleader. He’s explaining the feel of the music that propels the production that runs through March 18 under a big tent at the Tampa Greyhound Track between Bird Street and Waters Avenue. Harrison, 30, has been with Cirque for five years. He comes from a musical family and has a music degree from The University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium of Music, but he didn’t think that he’d be able to make a living in music, so he got a finance degree, too. Harrison sent an audition tape to Cirque explaining who he is, and surprisingly got a job offer from Cirque. He started with the company on the day after he got that finance degree. He’s lived out of his suitcase ever since thanks to his job with Cirque, which is a full-time touring gig that gets him back to his hotel at 11 p.m. six nights a week.

“Sometimes we’ll get a Tuesday off,” Harrison said after explaining that Mondays are for rest. “I don’t own a home or apartment. I have a some family memorabilia in a storage unit, but I’m on the road 12 months out of the year.”

He started as a musician on Quidam and then Koozå before becoming bandleader for Volta where he plays baritone sax and keys as part of a six-piece band that includes singers, fiddlers, guitarists and keyboarders from Finland, Austria the U.K. and even Adelaide. Harrison charted out some of Gonzalez’ Volta score, but the composer also provided him with some stems so he could write out parts for the Volta band. Fans will hear some tracked brass parts, but most of what fans will hear is created in house.

“This score isn’t Junk or Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” Harrison explained, referencing M83’s 2016 and 2011 albums. He says Gonzalez’ talent on synth still shines in the Volta score, but that it’s more like a soundtrack than a narrative.

“It’s definitely M83, as a fan coming to see it you’ll love the music, but it’s kind of a slight departure from his albums. It is something new. It’s an evolution of him as an artist.”

{ SOURCE: Creative Loafing | https://goo.gl/cmg54o }