Any music lover who’s ever gone to the cinema has definitely at one point thought about listening to their favourite songs on a massive sound system while laying back in a comfy seat, with the lights down low, in an acoustically treated room, it’s basically the perfect listening environment.
Ben Gomori took that vision one step further, turning out the lights completely, and bringing exclusive premieres for some of the worlds biggest albums. His ‘Pitchblack Playback’ project has so far showcased records from elite artists such as Lorde, Daniel Avery, Jon Hopkins, Space Dimension Controller, and more.
We spoke with Ben for our first Behind The Brand interview of 2023, where we got to ask him about the initial inspiration for Pitchblack Playback, the difficulties of building the brand, which moments have made him feel the most proud, and what the future might bring.
You first launched in 2006, do you remember what inspired you to come up with the idea for Pitchblack Playback?
I went to a Ninja Tune press preview for Amon Tobin’s ‘ISAM’ at the Soho Hotel Screening Rooms in London (they had some on-screen visuals too) and thought it sounded incredible, and it made me want to hear some of my favourite music on a big cinema sound system like that. My initial idea was just to try and do pre-release album previews like this for the public.
I explained the idea to a friend (excellent wedding photographer, Ben Davis) and he said “I don’t really get it – are you going to do it in pitch-black darkness or something?”. That was the missing hook I needed to really make the concept solid, so I have him to thank! I need to take him for lunch again thinking about it, he actually only suggested it as he’d been to see the Samuel Beckett play ‘All The Fall’ recently, the first part of which is staged in the dark. So thank you, Mr. Beckett, for your genius inspiration.
And you’ve since held events in New York, Paris, London, and Berlin, but what were some of the main challenges you faced in the very beginning?
Getting labels to agree to give us exclusives was hard at first as we had no audience, so I said I’d pay for the venue hire and we’d give the tickets away free to fans to spread the word about the concept. Once I started doing sessions for classics, it quickly snowballed, and then that in turn made more labels become interested in working with us and giving us exclusives.
What are some of the main tasks involved in running Pitchblack Playback?
Choosing which albums to programme, getting clearance from the label and/or artist, marketing the events, running socials ads, soundtesting the albums / venues, finding new venues, finances, chasing payment! That sort of thing.
Do you have a singular past event which you’re most proud of?
Right now I’m proudest of the growing popularity of our Pitchblack Mixtapes events, where I DJ in the dark for an hour or create a pre-recorded eclectic mixtape (often themed). That and premiering Flume’s new album in 10 different cities across the world in one week, as it was a huge undertaking and was a big success.
Are there any albums you would love to one day plan an event around?
So many. Kate Bush’s discography is my biggest goal I would say though.
What do you have planned for 2023?
Working further ahead of time, working on more big anniversaries, more spatial audio events, launching Pitchblack Mixtapes in more of our locations around the world and finding more venues and cities to launch in.
Have you set yourself any personal goals for this year?
I never do that, feels like setting yourself up for a fall. I just try and do my best and keep myself fulfilled!
Before we go, tell us one tune you can’t seem to get enough of right now?
Nilüfer Yanyer – Chase Me (reflects). (Listen below)
Find more info on Pitchblack Playback here.