Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A conversation with the Engineer: Benamin

A lot of people are involved in the creation of a record. Of course the artist and his guests, the producers to a lesser extent, are the stars of the show. They are far from where the process ends however. On Monday I ran a review of Fresh Daily's latest offering Mothership/Land and on Friday we will be hearing from the man himself. Today I want to shed some light on the guy who rarely gets the exposure yet puts in just as much work on a record: the engineer.

Towards the end of the summer Parker of SOTA took a little vacay out east to visit NYC, catch up with friends from college and just relax. Benamin was a peer of Parkers in school and while blowing some dutches in the Zoo it became clear to P that their was some music being made he wanted to see exposed in Seattle. Upon his return he hipped e to Fresh Daily's album. The rest could be called history I suppose. I chatted with Ben via email about what he does, his involvement in the project and more.

Introduce yourself? What do you do? How long have you been at it?
I’m Benamin, a music producer/engineer/mixer. I was born and raised in New York City on the Upper West Side. My passion in life has always been creating and sharing my creations with people. It began with visual art, but I quickly realized (at some point in high school) that my passion is more fulfilled by music.

I have been making music for about 8 years now, and actively working fulltime as a producer/engineer for 2 and a half years.

Was production on your mind prior taking on the technical side of recording?
Yes. I definitely was more in the creative side of music before discovering how music was even made. Prior to attending NYU where I studied recorded music, I had no idea about the world of engineering, mixing etc.

I began making beats when I was about 14 using garageband and quickly realized I was meant to be a producer. Then I learned about all of the other aspects of music production, aside from beat making, and realized it could be a real profession.

How did you and Fresh meet?
I was working on my capstone, thesis project at The Clive Davis Dept. of Recorded Music and was having a really hard time locking down rappers for an album I was trying to create, which I was to be produce, record and mix.

Most of the rappers I was trying to work with flaked on the studio time I booked at the state of the art studios we had at the school, and it became evident that finding an artist who is easy to work with is half of the battle.

I contacted a friend, Alice “Wonderland” Grandoit, of Homebase, because I knew she worked with a lot of rappers.

At the time she was managing Fresh. So I went to a show he had at the Blender Theater to check him out. He smashed the show and I thought he had great stage presence, he could definitely rap, and his image, (fresh streetwear, colorful style and what not) was strong. So I approached him after the show and said I was going to set up a meeting with Alice.

We met at the studio at my school and immediately hit it off. He was looking for production that happened to be the exact direction I was going with my music. Spacey, laid back, synthy, hard drums etc…

I played him a bunch of beats but it wasn’t until our first session, when I played him the beat for "Apollo 13" did he really realize that he wanted to work with me. From there we recorded the whole project “The Times E.P.” at the school and that became my Capstone/Thesis.

Having recorded Mothership/Land, what was your roll if any in the creative process w/ him?
Fresh would bring me a beat, that he may or may not have written to yet, but he would always have the song planned out to the t, making my job a lot easier in that I only had to translate his ideas to a recording. We would play the beat so he could run through the song a couple times (if he hadn’t written anything) and then would record whatever he had. He usually laid the verses in one take, rarely I would give some input and help him arrange the verse.

My input into the creative process really came with mixing and arranging the songs. Because I was responsible for the way the entire project sounded, Fresh and I would talk about the song structure and figure out the type of song is was. Usually with a stereo track of the beat I would do drops here and there to accentuate different lines or to differentiate hooks from verses. In mixing every song I tried to allow his voice to sit in the beat, adding delays in gaps and attempting to fully recreate his vision for the song through the sound of his voice, blended with all the ill beats he had lined up.

Talk about "Space x Time" from you, the producer's, perspective...
I made the beat using logic, it was one of the first beats I made using the software. I used my own drum sounds and first had the drum pattern to which I made a different beat completely. The next day I came back to the drums and added the wider synth pad. I gave fresh the beat and the next time he brought it to the studio he already had the concept/verses written. He explained the Trezure the Empress was going to drop by The Zoo (the recording studio in the Bronx where we recorded the entire project) to sing the hook.

She arrived before Fresh and we had some time to build/brainstorm. She wrote the hook and by the time Fresh arrived she was already recording. The key was mixing the many layers she added. She has a super dope style of using non-traditional, funky harmonies, which made her fun to work with.

Fresh’s verses were recorded soon after and we had the first mix finished by the end of the session.

Will you and Fresh be working on music for the foreseeable future?
ALMIGHTY! Is the name that we take on when we come together as the entity that will be bringing you new music soon!

We are working on a project which I will produce, with Fresh co-producing some tracks.

For the first song we have “Supreme Imperial” Fresh brought me an ill drum loop, which I proceeded to slow down, chop, sequence and then flip. I recorded some epic strings/synths over it and Fresh’s verses came the week after. It’s a smash, but we’re holding off on releasing it until things are more solidified.

Are you employed by a studio? Interning? Is it your own space?
The Zoo recording studio in the Bronx has become my home for the past few months. I recorded, mixed and mastered the entire project, Mothership/Land, there. The environment at this studio was one of the crucial factors that allowed us to finish this in a timely, yet creative manner.

Are you living off music related endeavors? If not, what is your day job?
Im doing music full time. However I work for a marketing company part time where I do everything from street promo to events. I find ways to make money, and will never settle for working an unfulfilling job out of fear that I cannot do what I am passionate about.

You went to college with Parker from SOTA, he keeping you hip to some sounds from out here in Seattle?
Yeah, he sent me the SOTA mixtape, which was really dope.. Since Sophomore year at NYU people were telling me about his beats. It was only closer to the end of the college experience did we meet and realize our common interests.

What's the hip hop vibe like in NY today?
Theres a lot of fucking music going on in NYC right now.

It feels like everyone and their mothers are starting a band and trying to be more different and cutting edge than the rest. There’s even more rappers than bands, but most of them will never get any exposure or recognition, partially because the majority of them are wack. But many of the dope people are underrated also. There is always hip hop shows to go to and it seems as though people are becoming more open to new sounds and innovations rather than expecting a uniform style/sound.

However, it is a very small few right now in NYC that are considered well known throughout various circles and many aren’t even from NYC. New York has always been the breeding ground for millions of emcees daily.

Last words? Shout outs? Advice? Rants?
Mothership/Land will be released in its album form soon and hopefully everyone will cop it to hear the new joints Fresh has sprinkled on as well as the original remixes of songs that initially had unoriginal beats.

There are also some doooope Mothership/Land t-shirts and custom flash drives available to cop designed by the man Fresh To The Every Day himself.


I have been consistently working on my own personal project for the past year or two, in between projects and thangs. It will feature songs I have composed entirely on my own as well as many songs that feature lyrics and various collaborations with other artists.

To anyone in Seattle, or reading this anywhere in the world, follow me TWITTER.COM/BENAMINMUSIC in order to stay updated on my latest music.

I feel a rush of creativity, of songs that have been in my head for months, that need to come out; of beats, drums, chord progressions that will be translated into the first music you will hear that is entirely my vision.

Just stay tuned, promise you won’t be disappointed.


Thanks to Benamin for the time, peep Mothership/Land here! Stay tuned for the final piece of this weeks Bandcamp investigation - an interview with Fresh Daily!

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