The Hellblinki Sextet
Musician orbits new world
By Steven Uhles
Staff Writer

Andrew Benjamin doesn't want to create music - enough people are doing that already. But he does have a band.

Likewise, Mr. Benjamin has no wish to open a performance space, although he has recently taken over the old Orwell's storefront on Eighth Street.

Nor does Mr. Benjamin long to be an artist, capturing images and saving them behind panes of glass, but he has produced countless memorable images.

What Mr. Benjamin longs to do, what his creative energies are focused on, is creating a new world.

Through his music with the Hellblinki Sextet (which, incidentally, is a sextet in name only) and through his planned Hangnail Gallery, Mr. Benjamin wants to create a sometimes-dark, always-interesting world, born from his own imagination, that people can dip into, visiting small pieces of a larger whole.

At the core of his imagined world's genesis is the Hellblinki Sextet, a loose collective of musicians that Mr. Benjamin has gathered to produce a dense, experimental brand of music that seems at once alien and familiar. Recalling Tom Waites, Nine Inch Nails and musical constructionists Psychic TV, it is a music built in layers. Separately, elements are recognizable - tin pan alley songwriting, experimental discordant jazz and pop-culture samples are all thrown into the mix. Together, however, they produce something altogether new.

The Augustan has recorded a Hellblinki album and is making sporadic live appearances. He said the most important part of the Hellblinki aesthetic is change, changes in style, in tone, even in lineup.

``I think it's important when creating a diverse musical project to have as many styles, ideas and as many different people's contributions as possible,'' he said. ``In some ways I want to keep a similar feel and sound. But then again, I want to be able to change it radically. I want to be able to hit on every sound I can think of. The same goes for the performances. I want them to be different every time we do one. When someone comes to see us I want them to know that they are going to see something wholly new.''

Like any world, Mr. Benjamin's requires citizens in order to succeed. To those ends, he is working toward opening the Hangnail Gallery next door to Infernal Racket Records on Eighth Street. Envisioned as an art gallery/performance space/arts community center, the gallery will play host to painters and performance artists, musicians and theater groups. The only criterion is that the work involve a new and unusual slant on the creative process.

``I really want to see some avant garde and experimental art in Augusta,'' Mr. Benjamin said. ``I know that there are a lot of people, buried deep in the woodwork, that are interested in that kind of thing, and I think if there is someplace that can happen people will support it.''

Painted a moody black with lush red curtains, the space will be prepared for an official opening after Mr. Benjamin jumps through a couple of important hoops. Some, such as a business license and some required electrical work, will be easy. Others have Mr. Benjamin a bit more worried and perplexed.

``A big problem is going to be putting heating and air in here,'' he said. ``I've been told that it is going to cost between five and seven grand. That means we are going to have to figure out a way of getting some funding, whether it's from grants or patronage or whatever. The problem is, I don't really know how to go about finding such things.''

Despite the hurdles that stand before him, Mr. Benjamin feels confident that Hangnail, like the Hellblinki Sextet before it, will soon be up and running, a new attraction in his carefully constructed reality.

``That's what we are trying to do, create that new world,'' he said. ``And if people who go into it leave feeling transported to somewhere that is somewhat coherent, then we have succeeded. That's what I want to try and do. I think it's something people have been seeking for a long time.'