Filed under: Interviews | Tags: Before The City Wakes, Ben Beiny, interview
Ben Beiny is a composer who lives and works in London, writing music for film and documentary. At age 4 he took his first violin lesson, before going on to study piano, percussion and guitar. He even admits to the odd bit of choir-boy singing.
Now 24, and influenced by modern composers like Cliff Martinez and Craig Armstrong, he produces an atmospheric mix of instrumentals, making use of subtle rhythms and the delicate vocals of his collaborators.
So Ben tell us a little about the man behind the artist?
Hahaha! No one particularly interesting. I was born and raised in London. I have a degree in physics believe it or not. When people ask me what I like doing, I never know quite how to answer… I like making music, writing music to films, writing films, making obscure sounds which have a musical quality…these are the things I spend most of my time doing.
Was there musical influences growing up that have helped you on your journey as a musician?
Many…classical music and instruments when I was a little kid, a bit of cheesy pop after that, then when I was 15 I discovered DJ Shadow. After that, labels like Ninja Tune, Tru Thoughts etc – I went through their entire catalogues. And film composers too: Cliff Martinez, Craig Armstrong, Hans Zimmer, Mark Isham, Gustavo Santaolalla. I have to mention my favourite track at the moment: ‘Escent’ by Maitreya…it’s on the mix I did for Fluid.
When did you actually start creating music Ben and can you remember when you started performing?
With a computer…at 17. With instruments…I guess 11 or 12.
I was about 6 years old when I played the violin in a school concert. I dropped my bow in the first minute. Other than that it was pretty good. The first proper gig was when I was 17. At that time I was obsessed with the drums. Before playing I laid out pots and pans across music stands between the drum kit and in a breakdown in our track went off on a 45s solo: a mixture of drumming and kitchen mayhem. I think they enjoyed it.
What equipment do you use when playing live?
Nowadays I don’t play live much…I usually used piano / guitar / laptop. Over the last few years I DJ’d a lot instead, playing chillout and trip hop. I used a pair of Technics SLDZ1200 CD turntables and a pair of Technics SL1210s for vinyls, set up with a Pioneer scratch mixer. The CD turntables were impressive – they felt pretty close to vinyl. I didn’t buy all this DJ equipment though, just borrowed it from my uni. It would’ve cost about £3000 otherwise.
Describe how you feel when you play live to an audience..
There’s only one time I’ve had the feeling of being ‘in the moment’, and that was a while ago. There’s a mixture of feelings: nervousness of cocking up, excitement at performing, enjoyment of playing together in a group, the pleasure of creating something unexpected and one-off.
Musical bio from 1st production up until most recent?
I’ve released one EP to date – ‘Before The City Wakes’. There’s another one in the pipeline with Somnia Records later this year.
I’ve written for quite a few short films here in the UK and also in the US.
I’m currently writing for a feature film in the US (see below) and a documentary in London.
I’ve also produced music for a few commercials.
What kind of studio equipment do you use at the moment?
Hardware: Edirol UA-5, Yamaha Clavinova CLP-170, flamenco, classical, electric guitars, laptop, Rode NT2000, an M-Audio Microtrack II with a Sony ECMms957 for wild tracks, and a Numark TT200 turntable with a Stanton scratch mixer.
Software: Ableton Live, NI Reaktor, Sonar, Sibelius and Reason with every refill known to mankind, I think.
Did it take a long time to build up your studio kit?
About 6 years. The Edirol UA-5 was one of the most expensive bits at the beginning, and also the biggest pain in the neck to get working. Maybe it’s because I’m not using a Mac.
Fav piece of hardware?
The Yamaha – it actually sounds and plays like a piano.
Do you have a process that you like to stick to when working on new material in the studio/djing?
It’s not so much a process I like to stick to as a process that sticks to me. I often tinker around on the piano or guitar and put something into the laptop. Then it usually ends up in Live being twisted out of recognition alongside elements from Reaktor and Reason…at the end I sometimes go back to real instruments and live playing. I don’t have a grand plan when I’m starting new material – it’s done on inspiration without much initial thought, then refined and arranged later. Every track is something like another experiment for me.
How does visual/visionary art fit in to what you do and why?
Visuals are another form of expression I think, and they can complement or be complemented by music. A film without music can be brilliant, and music without film also… But when the two are combined you can make something which has more impact and more depth than the sum of its parts.
What genre does your music fit into?
Hopefully I’ll be able to let Amazon decide that 🙂
Plans for the future/Upcoming releases/gigs/events???
I’m working on an album for Somnia Records, which I hope I’ll have ready by late this year…it’ll be a mixture of ambient / downtempo and ‘technical+glitch’ chillout…whatever that may be!
I’m also writing the music for a movie in the US called Sunday Rain, which has just started filming…so should be out sometime next year I guess. It’s a pensive drama about the relationship between a young couple and the struggle of the woman to reveal her private fears.
Another project I’m working on is the music for a documentary on prostitution in the Far East, expected to come out in the UK sometime later this year.
Why is music important to you…………… 🙂
It’s not that it is important to me like politics, poverty or corruption – a grand issue. It’s something that I just do. Like taking a piss or eating a meal or waking up in the morning. It’s more a compulsion or an obsession than a choice. Perhaps it is my best way of expressing myself. Maybe it lets me escape the everyday.
What words can you give to new artists wanting to make music…….
If at first you don’t succeed…don’t worry, no one does!
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