I don’t believe in fatality, nothing is written. Everyone can change.
Wave Cave Admin, co-founder of WAVE-TV and indie musician, Caleb Welch (KAEBL), had a chat with French Electronica producer, singer-songwriter and pioneer of Spacetronic Music Ben Until (unTIL BEN). They covered topics like personality based psychology, the dangerous allure of video games, the terrorist attacks in Europe and balancing family, work and music This is the third interview hosted by WAVE TV in a series of artist to artist interviews with talented, undiscovered artists.
Hey Ben– IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME – How’s it going?
Hi Caleb, I’m fine and really glad to talk to you today. Ben is actually short for Benoit but many people just call me Ben.
So, let’s get to know you, man! How old are you, or rather how young are you?
I’m 36, probably much older than most of the readers of your blog but I try to stay young in the head and creative.
Do you own any pets?
My goldfish disappeared in the toilet not so long ago, a tragedy.
Oh no! 😦 So sorry for your loss, man… Moving on: What kind of music do you like to listen to? Who are your favorite artists?
I like many kinds of music. I used to listen to a lot of metal and industrial music. Then I went through several phases; listening to pop, trip-hop, electronica, post rock, garage rock and jazz at various levels. Actually, I’m really interested in the “synthwave” scene which exhibits emotions and darkness I appreciate. Things you usually don’t find in EDM.
There are too many artists to mention there, so here are the first few names that comes to my mind: Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Underworld, Slayer, Turbonegro, Mastodon, Herbie Hancock…
Where do you live? How long have you lived there?
For work reasons, I had to move to Bayonne, in the south west of France about 8 years ago. That’s definitely a nice place to live, near the sea and the mountain.
Where did you grow up? What was it like to grow up there?
I grew up in Rochefort, a small French town near Bordeaux and luckily, I had the chance to grow with friends who were interested in music too: everything we did together was music related. There was nothing special in this town, so we tried to set apart from the other teens by playing Death Metal in a cave.
So– the terrorist attacks last November and more recently… what are your feelings about that? It must’ve been incredibly scary.
The attacks in November, earlier in January and of course recently in Belgium were a shock. Everyone I know felt deeply affected by the events and sad for the victims. Paradoxically, I never felt as much solidarity and cohesion between people. That doesn’t remove any atrocity in the events.
What was it like to live after that?
I live far from Paris so I’m less prone to fear going to a concert or simply driving my kids to school… but knowing that anything can happen…. is always somewhere in our minds. Being against terrorism (And who’s for it, anyway?) doesn’t solve any problems. Authorities should of course find the culprits but that’s not enough, things have to be done about the rise of radicalism, not only by our governments, by everybody, especially regarding education. But that’s easier said than done…
Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal recently made a public apology for suggesting some Bataclan theater security guards may have known in advance about the Paris venue being attacked last year… He was quoted as saying “I haven’t been myself [since the attack].” Do you think that’s a warranted excuse?
Nobody can go through this without sequels. Trying to know what exactly happened, finding answers and possible scapegoats are natural reactions. I was not there; I haven’t seen what Jesse Hughes saw. What I believe is that most guards in quite small venue like the Bataclan are not prepared to deal with massacres perpetrated by kamikaze terrorists.
Change of subject– If you had to move away from France, where would you live and why?
I’d really like to see the world. There are many countries I’d like to (re) discover especially in Asia and America. I went to USA several times and always appreciated how kind people are and how easy life seems to be there. If it’s not just a tourist superficial feeling, I’d be happy to stay a few years, with the condition to be near the sea. I’ve always lived near the sea; I miss it quickly.
What are your hobbies other than music?
One of my worst hobbies is playing videogames. I had great experiences with Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Far Cry, to name a few but now, I try to stay away from Steam as much as I can. It’s like a drug! Playing videogames kills my creativity, my productivity, my social life, my will… not to mention the lack of sleep and the awful mood that comes along with that.
I don’t do it often but one of my favorite hobbies is diving. Being under the sea is a fantastic experience, a hostile environment with no air, a lack of gravity, reliefs and species you don’t usually meet, exactly like a trip into space.
Have you ever taken the MBTI Personality test? What personality type are you?
I tried it not so long ago with a friend of mine. The test classifies me as an Executive. A personality that I definitely was not a few years ago. I guess getting older, having kids and responsibilities at work, forced me to change.
Music production has a lot to do with that too. Creativity is just a small part of the iceberg when you produce a track from the first notes to the release.
What do you think of personality based psychology?
The danger is that, just like with astrology, it can influence your actions and emotions once you’ve read and/believe what it says about you. I don’t believe in fatality, nothing is written. Everyone can change.
So, a while back you did an awesome stripped down cover of a Pertubator song that was a contender for winning his contest…
What was it like to get feedback from one of the scene’s most popular artists?
I felt very honored by the personal message Perturbator sent me. I like his music very much, from agressivity to pure beauty, he’s a real master with a fantastic aura. Have you seen his last video? It’s awesome.
Feedback from other people who watched the video was also very stimulating for me, especially from Greta Link (singer of the original track) who was very nice.
You also had a pretty sweet cover of Tainted Love,
What was it like to produce that?
Well, that one was quite a little personal delirium. It all started with the video idea where I should put my face into the cover, then the music followed. I did the vocal takes in a rush and was not completely satisfied with the results because I don’t recognize me. But it was really fun to make, and again I had great feedback from the people who follow me.
So, when I listen to your music I hear some influence from Depeche Mode– is that fair to assume? Where do you draw most of your influence from?
Curiously, I never listened a lot to them even if I really appreciated albums like Violator and Ultra. I won’t say that they are one of my main influences. But you know, as one of the biggest all-time synthpop band, their influence is recognized by so many artists from EDM to metal that indirectly, it is hearable in my previous work
What’s your Favorite Depeche Mode Song?
I started to listen to them a lot more, last year, when a really good friend of mine told me I sounded like Depeche Mode. I’m now particularly fascinated by their use of really complex electronic music to support “human” songs with dark and melancholic emotional prints.
“The Policy of truth” is lately one of my favorite song and I may make a cover later this year.
Have you ever studied music theory?
I taught myself how to play guitar by reading tablature, then from time to time I dug deeper into music books.
Music theory often became a need for me after feeling stagnation in my work. I studied strict music theory all by myself but learned a lot playing guitar, drums and bass guitar in several bands with really different styles.
If I had to give some advice to people who want to start music production, theory is not the most important thing. We have today fantastic tools, notably for electronic music that can help making music without any theory background. I encourage people to improve their ears, by listening to a lot of music and especially playing with other people.
What is Spacetronic Music?
That’s a catchy name for the music I’m trying to develop : sci-fi songs with electronic sounds evocating space landscape. We all know there is no sound in space but that’s not the case in movies and sci-fi videogames. Synthesizers are the most useful tools for that, synthetic pad sounds are deeply anchored in the collective imagination about space, even if Star Wars and 2001 Space Odyssey scores are classical music.
Do you mind giving us a rundown of your setup/equipment?
I mostly work “in the box” for productivity reasons. Most of my tracks were composed in Ableton live with a bunch of Synth plugins like Fabfilter’s Twin2, u-he’s Hive or Arturia’s collection. I owned a few hardware synthesizers but never found the time to use them properly to craft a good song. I have several electric guitars I like to play with. The one you’ll see in my videos is a Line6 Tyler Variax. That’s probably a heresy for purists but it’s a pleasure to play.
When you write music, what’s the most important to you, the feeling or the message?
With unTIL BEN, I’m trying to push forward my electronic production skills with the purpose to magnify the melody and the whole song. The word “song” means a lot to me, which is quite a pop or rock point of view contrary to many electronic styles. Most of my work has a melancholic or dark background. That may change a bit in the future but I admit it’s quite constant until now.
What’s the hardest part about live performance in an electronic genre?
What I find the hardest is showing something different from a guy behind a case that turns buttons. With my rock’n’roll and metal background, I really enjoy a show where I see a singer or an instrumentalist like a drummer or a guitarist. That’s where I’ll head to if I have to set up a live show. I’m not a DJ.
Are you making any moves in your local music scene?
With really young kids at home, I unfortunately can’t find the time to go out but I have some contact with people I used to play with before, so , when the time comes… we’ll see.
I feel like in the Synth scene there’s not a lot of artists that use their own voice– there’s so many instrumentals out there that it’s impossible to sift through. Do you think more artists need to start singing?
I love to sing but I must admit that’s quite a handicap in a production mindset. You need to write lyrics, find melodies, record, mix… So I perfectly understand that there is not that much people in the scene who sing, especially when you’re a bedroom producer who works with headphones. If you can afford that, then I would definitely recommend adding your vocals to your tracks, not only it’s a good way to add human emotion but also it will help you define your own style and musical identity.
When did you start singing?
I think that it’s when I discovered Radiohead with their Bends album. I loved the songs so much, I needed to play them with my guitar, and sing. Singing is almost always associated to guitar when I play, especially for the songwriting process.
What advice do you have to give to those who want to make their voice heard in a sea of unrelenting noise?
Don’t play videogames! LOL
Work a lot.
What is most important to you in life?
Finding an equilibrium between my family, my work and my music. I had to put music aside for a while when my kids were born, and it was hard. I quickly noticed that music was a needed and required part of me.
How does that fit into your music?
I know that I don’t have much time to make music so I have to stay deeply focused and it keeps me motivated. Curiously I never produced as much music before as I do now. I’m really happy with that.
What’s your favorite movie?
I haven’t seen it recently but I think it’s Apocalypse Now, a fascinating mystical and initiatory quest.
Have you ever looked at the stars and thought about how small we are in the grand scheme of things?
Sure, it helps to relativize our actions and mistakes, but that’s not a reason to think that you’re nothing. Everybody has its own unique existence to handle. Even if you’re “small”, you can make great things.
What’s next for unTIL BEN?
I’m releasing tomorrow a brand new track called “The Impossible Return”. You’ll be able to listen to it on most streaming and downloading platforms (Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify and so on). It will be featured on an upcoming EP as the closing track.
Talk to us about your upcoming EP; I understand it’s a concept album of sorts.
The basic music skeleton of the EP was made in a week, with one new track each day. That unity of time can be felt along the tracks because composition process and instruments are similar. Listening to that material, I came to the idea of linking the tracks with a story. Because of the use of synthesizer pads and drones, a sci-fi scenario naturally came to me : the tale of a man who has to leave planet earth after a ray came to destroy Humanity. Most of the lyrics are told at the first person. So like a movie, the EP is a sequence of scenes with different purposes, alternating phases of tension, suspense, thinking and action. I feel really excited to know what kind of reactions it will produce among listeners.
The EP is called “The Ray” and is planed to be released in a few weeks.
Anything else you’d like to add/plug?
I encourage people to pay a visit to my website (http://untilben.com) and sign-up to my newsletter to be kept informed about my new releases and soon get a few deals for the release of the EP.
Thanks for doing this interview man! It was a lot of fun and super-informative. I felt like I got into your brain for a little bit.
I can confirm, my brain is not completely unscathed 🙂
Thanks a lot for the wonderful work you’re doing with the blog and of course with the Wave Cave group on Facebook. I feel like I’m a part of a great community with wonderful talents and kind people worldwide, fun to talk to.
I understand you wanted to provide an exclusive vid of a live performance here on the WAVE-TV blog, anything you’d like to say to introduce it?
That’s my way to thank you for inviting me for this interview.
The track is called Computer Decadence, it’s one of the first single I’ve released to announce the EP. I made special arrangements for you with a dedicated “acoustic” beginning. Hope you like it.
Thanks for reading and supporting WAVE-TV and indie artists like Ben! Check out unTIL BEN’s live performance of “Computer Decadence” below!