Interview by Arnold van der Walt
Some of the best works are created when people work together. Humans as social animals have known this for years and electronic music is no exception. Relative newcomer BLANSH teamed up with Ben Dragon to create a stellar track in the form of ‘Whoa Got Damn’ which was premiered via The Playground recently. The track is available on all platforms as of today and we managed to have a chat to the producers about this club-filler.
Ben Dragon has seen success with his blend of techno, house and bass movements as fans adore each release he pumps out. He’s lived and travelled all over the world from Los Angeles to London to Chicago, finding new sources of inspiration at each destination. By the end of 2015 he started his own imprint in Fire To My Ears and it might be the best way to describe his thumping style. Ben Dragon has played on festivals across the globe sharing stages with the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Pink (amongst others). This has caused him to grab the attention of several tastemaker institutions such as EDM Magazine, Magnetic Magazine, Dash Radio and Subliminal Radio. It’s clear the world sees the potential of Ben Dragon and one listen to his tracks and it’s clear why.
Blansh is no exception either. Hailing from Thunder Bay, Canada, BLANSH has been producing bass-influenced music inspired by greats like Tommy Trash, Kill The Noise, Bassnectar and Deadmau5. Currently working in Niagara Falls, his music hits your ears like a big wave of water as you become engulfed in his stylistic layered production. His music has been released on imprints such as EDM.com, That Bass Life, Prescribed and many more, garnering him further support from artists like Jacob Plant, Dombresky, Jace Mek and Bijou. If you like your music dark and intense, then BLANSH is the producer you’ve been looking for.
BLANSH and Ben Dragon shared their track ‘Whoa Got Damn’ with The Playground recently and it’s a sure fire hit. If not just for the 3 cats reacting on the artwork, the track feels old-school, yet fresh at the same time. It’s groovy, it’s bouncy, it will definitely make you say ‘Whoa Got Damn’.
We spoke to Ben Dragon and BLANSH and spoke about their latest single, how your brand seems more important than the music and lighting someone else’s candle.
Listen to ‘Whoa Got Damn’, BLANSH & Ben Dragon’s single that was premiered via The Playground. Free Download available.
Hey there BLANSH and Ben Dragon! Before we get into it, the two of you come from different sides of the electronic music spectrum. For someone who doesn’t know what each of your sound entails, how would you describe it?
Blansh: I would describe it as a dark and gritty with pretty unique sound design, almost always in the minor key. Definitely house and it moves around from one sub-genre to the next.
Ben Dragon: Being a dancer first and foremost I love things that inspire me to move. A lot of my sound comes from my influences growing up in Chicago, London, and LA. I grew up on a wide range of electronic music and heavy hip-hop, funk, and of course house music. I’m all about that fun, sexy, groovy, dirty vibe and I love me a good vocal.
You premiered the explosive ‘Whoa Got Damn’ on The Playground. How did you end up working together?
B: I had been sending Ben music for a while since he was into the first few I sent. Eventually, I sent an idea for a collab where he liked a lot of the elements and turned it into a more groove tech-house idea, we built it out from there.
BD: BLANSH had reached out to me and sent me some of his music. I get loads of people sending me music every day but the large majority of what I hear I’m not interested in. He sent over one of his remixes and I thought it was a banger. I could tell he had a unique sound and had good production skills so when he sent over an idea for a collab I agreed and we started sending ideas back and forth.
How did you manage to balance the more bass-heavy BLANSH sound with the house-vibes of Ben Dragon?
B: Once Ben took my stems and established the groove it was easy. It was just a matter of experimenting with sounds and melodies that sounded like the both of us.
BD: The original idea was quite different actually from what I remember! I even came up with a totally different sketch while I was on the road and then we kinda started merging our ideas then sending stems to each other and taking it one revision at a time. It was cool to work with someone with a different sound and infuse a house groove under his bass music vibes.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together? How does this differ when working on a track with someone else?
B: For me, it’s different every time but I usually have an idea of what I’m looking to do before I sit down in the studio. Collabs are definitely a lot different as there is a lot more give and take since the stems move back and forth. There is definitely more discussion and compromise since both sides have to be happy with it. I think for the most part it works out for the better since if someone gets stuck with writer’s block or what not the other person can step in and give it a fresh look.
BD: For me, it usually starts with an interesting vocal concept, synth idea, or drums. Most of the time I prefer to start with the drums/bass and make sure everything is knocking right. That way everything else falls into place much easier.
From there, I decide if it needs vocals and start trying to create some kind of structure. Often I’ll bring in other artists to record at that point or just record myself on the mic. Once I have a vocal concept, I try to base the entire vibe of the song on that idea.
What I strive to do these days is to try and finish my ideas as quickly as possible. When you start working on a song too long, you start to lose objectivity and it’s hard to come back from that.
Working with someone else is much different cause you vibe off of each other and this can either be a match made in heaven or an absolute nightmare! I’ve had my fair share of the latter. You have to find a balance of compromise and also know when to be firm when you know something isn’t right and you can’t be afraid to try something crazy! The best part about it is creating something dope that you would never have been able to do on your own.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
B: Music creation over everything, but it is always awesome and important to see people enjoying something you created. It keeps you motivated.
BD: I love being in the studio writing/creating first and foremost but getting the chance to see it impact people on the dance floor is incredible.
Gary Numan is quoted as saying: “I have always been far more interested in sound than technique, and how sounds work together, how they can be layered. I think electronic music, (in its infancy anyway) allowed us to create music in a way that hadn’t really been possible before. It created a new kind of musician.” What are your thoughts on this statement?
B: I would agree with that entirely. For me, it was never about being a music theory wizard, but designing sounds and arranging them in ways that resonated with me or the people I was with. As I gained more experience I did learn how important it is to be a better “composer” and I think that’s where a lot of electronic producers fall flat in comparison to their counterparts.
BD: Being human means that we are creatures of habit but take delight in the unexpected when done just right. The beauty of electronic music is that the sonic possibilities are endless. The sounds that defined entire eras of music were often a product of the technology that was available at the time. House, techno, and hip-hop were defined by the drum machines and samplers that arose in the 80’s and we still rely heavily on those sounds today. The difference is now there are literally endless choices for synthesizers, virtual synths, instruments, effects, and it only keeps on getting crazier as the technology progresses.
Which three albums have influenced you the most creatively?
B: Linkin Park – Reanimation
Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon
Deadmau5 – For Lack of a Better Name
BD: Hmm from a creative standpoint, I’d have to say:
1. The Prodigy – Fat of the Land
– Wow when I first heard this album I was literally blown away at the sonic landscape and ingenuity of these records. It was like “how the f*#$ did they make those sounds…and make it sound so musical at the same time!??” The Prodigy was one of a kind and always got me hyped.
2. Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole
– This was one of the first albums I purchased when I lived in London. Along with The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers were my first real introduction to the more heavy electronic side of music. These guys are legends and were pushing musical boundaries long before all of the crazy technology that was available today.
3. Daft Punk – Discovery
– Can’t deny the incredible funk and brilliance behind this album. This is my favorite album from Daft Punk. So many hits came off this masterpiece. I loved how they were able to make these beautiful vocoder lines over crazy groovy beats that resonated with so many people.
Ben, you’ve been part of the music industry a bit longer than BLANSH, what is something about the electronic scene that you would like to see change?
BD: Although the music industry playing field has levelled out much more than in the past, one thing that hasn’t changed is how cut-throat some people can be trying to get ahead. Sometimes people are so closed off or shady because they’re afraid you will steal their shine. It’s like taking a candle and thinking if you light someone else’s candle that you won’t have your own flame. There’s plenty to go around. Literally, there’s only ONE of YOU in the entire world so nobody can do exactly what you do. Be yourself to the fullest and use your personal life experiences and influences to create and give to the world the things that only YOU can do. The more you give the more you get.
BLANSH, is there something about the electronic music scene that caught you off guard? Something that wasn’t the way you expected it to be?
B: I didn’t expect a lot of artists to have so much ‘help’ when creating their own music. I also didn’t expect the corporate side of things to have as much impact on an artist’s career than when I first started. Sometimes I feel that having a brand and a movement trumps the music itself, and I feel that some artists restrict themselves creatively because of it.
If each of you had to give a piece of advice to an aspiring producer, what would it be? What are some of the biggest mistakes you see newcomers make?
B: The biggest mistake I see is trying to copy your favourite artist so much so that you just become a lesser version of that artist, and that’s no way to get ahead. At the end of the day, I would suggest taking your favourite elements from artists that inspire you and making something new and fresh from it. You need to have your own sound otherwise you won’t stand out.
BD: Don’t only listen to what you’re hearing from the latest and greatest artists. All of this great music we have today was influenced by something before. Learn your musical history and the influences that created the music you love. Become a student for life and know what’s been done so you can either build on top of that or do something that has never been done before.
What has been your most memorable performance so far?
B: We are gearing up to start performing live in 2019 so that is when I will be able to answer that for you ;).
BD: I would have to say I was really surprised when I played in Berlin for the first time. My sound isn’t super dark and industrial techno which is the way of life out there. I was headlining an event and everyone before me was playing some super dark techno thumpers and people were going nuts.
I was afraid that when I changed the vibe up completely that they would hate me, haha! Also, I was mixing on these incredibly old CDJ’s and had trouble even keeping them beat-matched. It was nerve-racking for sure but once I got going, I set the place off!
After my set was getting a lot of praise from the people there. That was awesome to see that people are actually a lot more open-minded than you think especially in this day and age where there’s so much music available at our fingertips.
If you could collaborate with, or perform alongside any artist, who would it be? And why?
B: Most likely Skrillex because he’s the entire package, from audio engineering to composing to sound design. He is also one of the first artists I was exposed to in this scene and is likely one of the reasons why I make music.
BD: So hard to choose just one, but I would have to say I would love to be in the studio with KiNK. He’s an absolute monster and one of my favorite producers. I can’t get over how creative and skillful he is with his gear and I love his creative approaches to rhythm and melody that maintain a true house/techno feel but with a unique flair.
Are there any sub-genres you feel deserves more attention or will become ‘the next big thing’?
B: I feel like this new wave of tech house (Fisher, Chris Lake) is going to be the next big thing for the time being. Overall I think we will see more and more genres fuse together. Maybe someone will bring back Big Room or Trap in a new way, it’s up to someone to take it and run with it in my opinion.
BD: I’ve always thought UK 2-step garage was some of the best music ever as it combines influences of house/garage, jungle/D&B, 90’s R&B, and grime. I love to make it whenever I get a chance and I honestly can’t understand how it never blew up in America!
Any new artists on your radar? What are the current tracks that any self-respecting electronic music fan should listen to?
B: Sabroi and Bad Computer should be famous immediately. I still listen to and play ‘Wanted’ by Dillon Nathaniel all the time, so the fact that that track still is relevant to me speaks volumes.
BD: I’ve been loving the music that Peggy Gou has been putting out recently. I love that she injects her own unique personality into her music like speaking in Korean on ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ and her remix of Kerri Chandler ‘Kamar – I Need You’ was on point! I would have been scared to touch such a classic record!
Thank you so much for chatting with us BLANSH & Ben Dragon and especially for sharing ‘Woah Got Damn with The Playground. Before we say goodby,e, what does the future hold for each of you?
B: I got an EP and a track on a compilation that will be released early next year, and we’re gearing up to play shows in the new year as well. Stay tuned!
BD: Thank you for the opportunity, great questions! For me, I’m trying to make the best music I can and try to impact as many people as possible. I’ve been digging a lot deeper to make music that I’m proud of. Expect plenty more releases on my label, Fire To My Ears, and more cool shows in the coming year!
Famous last words…
B: Do you baby boo!
BD – There’s no better time than now.
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