PEOPLE OF WATERBEAR: BEA HENKEL – ‘I REMEMBER WATCHING THE PRODIGY LIVE…’
I grew up in Munich in Bavaria. Music was always very special to me from a young age – I remember one Christmas at a ski resort, I went out and played Christmas songs on my balcony to spread the love on my recorder! I believed that when people get in touch with their emotions and feel their heart, there’s less room for aggression. I was also really into strict Catholicism and decided to become a nun. I was so strictly disciplined with myself for years, but when I was 17 and went to the convent they told me I couldn’t enter because I didn’t have an apprenticeship. From that point I moved away from my mother, started to question the church because of conflicting values and basically ran wild like Janis Joplin! I think for 10 years I was really struggling to live in this world, and went through lots of therapy and holistic healing.
When I was around 24, I was in France and someone tried to sexually assault me. I reacted with a cool head and thankfully I got away. With the money from the court case I decided to do something that I really wanted to do – dancing. I went to school back in Munich, and my teacher there encouraged me to do classical singing too. I was very busy during this time; learning the electric guitar, learning more about recording, and at one point I was also studying English Literature and Human Rights in Cologne.
In the year 2000 I headed to London, just me, my guitar and a sunflower. I just knew I had to be there and I started singing in rock bands. I loved heavy metal rock as it was an outlet for all my anger and frustrations. I’ll never forget when I went to see The Prodigy at Rock Am Ring festival and thinking “oh my god, how can they express all these feelings I have inside me”. What’s crazy is years later I lived with Keith Flint and The Prodigy where I met Kieron Pepper, the drummer, who introduced me to WaterBear! But back to the story. I worked with a guy who had a home studio but couldn’t hear well in one ear which encouraged me to learn how to operate the studio myself. I went on a sound engineering course through job seekers where I had to do an internship.
I rang up Mark “Spike” Stent (who’s worked with Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Coldplay… the list goes on!) at Olympic Studios in Barnes and asked if I could go help out. He had too many assistants at the time but said I could go and ask questions (I still have the paper with the questions on!). After that, as soon as a job became available as a runner, I applied for the job and I got it. That was one of the main chapters in my life. The first project I worked on was a recording session with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, still using tapes. Keith Flint also did a solo project at Olympic Studios and I lived with him and members of The Prodigy, who had bought the house next door to the studios. This was the first time in my life where I felt I belonged and didn’t feel weird. People accepted me.
In 2009 I moved to Switzerland as my father was getting older and I wanted be closer to him. After he passed away, I continued the work he’d done researching the story of his mother who was killed during the Nazi times. I got back in touch with the same people and wrote the story, and got it developed the story into a script with songs. Writing is also a big part of my life – I started documenting my life when I was 10 years old… I have about 45 diaries now! In total I spent 7 years living in that house on the Swiss mountain, developing my music and production. It was painful at times as my songs weren’t commonly structured and had no timing – I called it intuitive production! I felt like I was in exile, but that’s how I had to work which actually made it more original as there was no one around I could ask for help or their thoughts.
By 2016, I knew I had to find my people. I’d stayed in touch with Kieron Pepper, and he told me about studying at Metropolis Studios where I recorded all of my material professionally. It was mind blowing because I wasn’t the assistant anymore, I was now the artist who was being looked after! I remember being scared about what would happen after I’d finished, but that’s when Keiron mentioned WaterBear. As soon as he said the name, it was like a flash through my body, I knew this was the next door I had to go through. Plus I already knew Rasha, and she’s the only person who can get my brain to work in an academic fashion.
My initial focus of my MA was to get my project BeArte out into the world and build a fan base, but I kept hitting a brick wall. Especially with Facebook. I couldn’t do it for ethical reasons and I like to take time to build relationships with people – online it has to be so fast. WaterBear was fantastic because all my assessments were geared towards finding my own route to market but with ethical considerations. Now I’m checking out if I can do lectures to raise awareness about digital ethics and offer solutions on how to protect one’s privacy using alternative platforms.
Going forward I’d like to get into the routine of performing using projections and visuals and collaborating. I’d like to produce music for documentaries and spooky movies, which would work well as my music is atmospheric, conceptual, and a journey. When people watch BeArte, they claim after the show, to have been drawn in completely. What’s important to me is helping to connect with our feelings, especially the painful ones to transform them. BeArte takes people on a journey into their own inner landscapes. I just prepare the space and let them do their own thing. I am a storysinger and soundpainter.