Hit play and vibe out to some of Ben Yang's music as you read through the interview.
SF: Thank you for taking time to answer some of these questions. I'm really excited to share with others about the work you're doing. So let's get started and let the people know who you are.
How long have you been producing and making music? How did you get started?
Ben Yang: I've been producing for about 5 years now. My music background stems from my family. Both of my parents are professional musicians. My brother is a musician. All of my aunts and uncles are musicians. My grandparents too. Everyone in my immediate family plays an instrument. I grew up in the greenroom of the former Florida Philharmonic Hall listening to classical music while building pillow forts. From there I was classically trained in piano during grade school. I also taught myself how to play guitar. When I got to college, I learned how to DJ, which eventually lead to the conclusion that my ultimate goal is to produce and DJ my own music.
SF: What are some of your musical influences? Do you think they come out in the music you create? Why or why not?
Ben Yang: I am heavily influenced by Ethnikids, Cashmere Cat, and Flume. I am in love with those styles. I find so much inspiration from their unique production styles. And yes. In my recent productions, I always find myself using a lot of future bass chords and pads (flume), interesting percussion and vocal chop sequences (Ethnikids), and pretty, otherworldly sequences (Cashmere Cat). However, I think it is important to retain your own personal identity as an artist. You don't want to be another artist who already exists in that space. But rather the goal is to borrow creative ideas and build upon them in order to forge a new sound completely.
SF: When it comes to creating music, do you have a routine as far as writing and crafting your songs? Or is it different every time you sit down to create?
BY: I've changed up my methodology recently. Personally, sitting down and thinking "Okay time to make a whole song!" puts too much stress on my creative process. So usually I'll start with a 16 bar loop and see where it goes from there. Also, I love using Ableton templates. Whenever I open a blank slate project, I already have audio and MIDI track channels labeled and ready to go. I also have locators that separate the different sections of a song. Every 16 bars a new section is labeled, where it be the build or drop or verse, etc.
SF: What are you into right now musically? Favorite band or artist that you've got in heavy rotation?
BY: Oh man. It changes every month or so. Right now I've been listening to a whole lot of Thundercat, A Tribe Called Quest, Polyenso, and Japanese House. And Ethnikids of course. Their new mix is insane. Anything Sade made, Oh Wonder gets played at least once a day typically. I'll go on a early 2000's pop punk binge every now and then too.
SF: Musically, Is there someone that you think is underrated or underappreciated, but you love and think should get more love? Why do you think they're underappreciated? Or Why do you think they're below the radar for most folks.
BY: I'm a huge proponent of the hidden gems on Soundcloud and Spotify. Those kids who are cranking out absolutely incredible music with less than 1,000 followers. Those artists where you listen to them and your first reaction is "Oh my god! How does nobody know about this?! I must show the world!" I love those moments. It inspires the listener to spread the good word, and I believe there is power in that. If you make good music, it is only a matter of time until word spreads.
SF: If you can and are willing to share, what's cooking for Ben Yang in the next, say, 4–6 months?
BY: Within that time frame, I'm going be putting out another project called Water — the second installation of this series I am working on. I also have a few songs with Jenny Reynolds coming out in the near future. She's incredible. She was the vocalist for most of the tracks on the Earth EP. There are also a few remixes waiting in the wings as well. Its going to be a great year, I'm really excited about it all!
SF: For some of the gearheads out there, what are you working on to create your music? DAW, and physical equipment. Maybe certain plugins and whatnot.
BY: I use Ableton. In my opinion, it has the most fluid workflow. Everything is very easy and user-friendly to me. My setup is relatively simple. I have a pair of KRK 6's running through a presonus audio box. My computer is a 15 inch iMac. I also have a USB MIDI keyboard and a pair of Senheiser mixing headphones. As far as plugins go, I abuse Omnisphere. It's worth every penny. I cannot say enough good things about it. Serum and Valhalla Shimmer have been in heavy use lately as well. I also run a lot of sub-mixes through Slate Digital compressor chains too. On my master chain I'll typically use the Izotone multiband compressors, Izotope EQ, and a Slate Digital Compressor/Limiter.
SF: We've obviously worked together recently. Do you have a favorite photo from our session together? If so, what do you like about that particular image over the rest of them?
BY: Yes we have! I love this one. It really captured the woodsy and dark aesthetic I envisioned for the Earth EP.
SF: It's your last day on Earth, and you have an opportunity to leave the world with one final message. What would it be?
BY: I hope you live a life doing the thing that you absolutely love. The thing that sparks a fire in you. The thing you would keep on doing even if you don't make a single penny from it. Because that's the only thing that matters. Nothing else is real. Whatever it is you love doing, take the leap of faith and go for it.
SF: Thank you for your time! What social media sites are you most active in, or where can people link up with you to keep up and learn more about what's going on with Ben Yang?
BY: I'm most active on Twitter (@benyangsounds), and Instagram (@benyangofficial). I post content to my Facebook page as well. If you have a demo or are interested in working together my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out some of the images from our session with Ben Yang below. Excited for more work we've got planned down the pipeline. Keep your eyes peeled. Check out the Earth EP on Ben Yang's website: http://benyangmusic.com.