Updated: Dec 17, 2019
BEN RAMA (CA)
“At the forefront of the progressive techno movement[...]”
...Cut To The Chase is starting off with Ben Rama, a friend of mine and client of my studio since a long time, who is an incredible music producer and he is also running the music label Techgnosis Records. The latter of which is almost a phenomenon to me, regarding how quickly it actually went to the “forefront of progressive techno” and how quickly it gathered a pool of amazingly talented artists. I will even claim that Techgnosis has become a spring of innovation and inspiration for music artists of that genre.
Ben has been active as a professional DJ and producer/performer since 2010 and has been awarded Electronic Artist of the Year in 2015 for Music NB.
Let’s get stuck in...
1. Ben, how are you so down to earth? What is the secret? :)
*laughs* Well thank you for the compliment, Rob. I'll do my best to be objective here - it's probably due to where I grew up and currently live. I was born and raised in a semi-rural town called Hampton in New Brunswick, Canada - the pace of life is slow compared to most places and it's a running joke about how overly 'friendly' people here can be. And with respect to music - I also consider myself a dancer, or a 'fan', first and foremost. Anyone that has gone to parties I've played know I'm on the dance floor before and/or after my set!
2. Which are the first memories that you have of music?
Growing up my parents had this vinyl of really upbeat French Canadian music, and apparently I loved that shit because I have really early memories of rocking out that in my diapers in front of the speakers (my mom has video evidence of this, apparently)
3. How did you develop an interest in the music you’re making today?
Hm, where to start? Although I was initially passionate about psytrance and goa, I was quickly made aware of the more progressive and techno-leaning sounds through my regular attendance of Eclipse Festival in Quebec. Specific 'a-ha!' moments include hearing Bodzin for the first time in 2007 and seeing D-Nox play a 4 hour set in 2008, as well as a very memorable Perfect Stranger DJ set at a loft party in Montreal in 2009 that was also thrown by the Eclipse festival promoters, Tech Safari.
4. What led you to music production?
When passion exceeds mere interest, what else to do but create?
5. Which is your favorite studio tool?
This is going to be a boring-ass answer, but the built-in Ableton EQs. Like I said - boring.
6. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you stand on the seemingly eternal battle of “analog vs digital”.
To me, it's a complete non-argument. I know of artists that get more out of a single software synth than many a hardware enthusiast gets out of a room full of gear (when they finally do get around to actually producing something, that is). It comes down to what you do with what you have.
7. Considering your life’s circumstances and also my personal insight into the amount of projects that you have to take care of, I would like to ask you this: Are you super dedicated to consecutive hours of production time or do you split it up into little bits and pieces?
These days it's difficult for me to find a big block of time for production, so it usually ends up being in hour chunks in between getting everything else done.
8. Would you like it any different?
Yea, I'd love to not have to work a part-time job, and devote my entire 'work time' to music and music related shenanigans. I actually did that for a few years while I was starting the label, but quickly found myself way too broke so things had to change, alas.
9. On that note, I’m interested in your opinion on the topic of: artists getting help to organize or to further their career, with the intention to focus purely on being creative instead of dealing with bookings or book keeping or things like that.
Well, I think artists should have at least a basic understanding of that stuff, but at the same time, you have to play to your strengths. If artists aren't having to stress about gigs, career planning and tour logistics, they are able to focus more wholly on their craft. So if someone feels as if they are struggling with one of those aspects, there are options out there for artist, tour and social media management.
10. Talk about your work-life-balance. Do you have a balance?
I wouldn't call it a 'balance' per se - a feeling of being slightly overwhelmed is my baseline these days. Definitely trying to work on that!
11. Who are your favorite producer(s) and/or personalities of the industry?
Perfect Stranger and Sensient are two names that immediately come to mind - both have had their part in helping shape the musical direction of the scene over the past decade(+) and are now just as relevant as ever, running 2 of the most influential labels in addition to their respective music careers. In more recent years, the likes of MYDA, Luis M, Ken Zo and Trilingo are definitely among my favorite artists for pushing progressive techno forward, with MNGRM and Triforce being up there for favorite psychedelic artists.
12. Are you striving for anything in particular in your music career? On what achievements would you like to look back in your later years?
I absolutely love Australian electronic music, so naturally I'd love to play there some day. And there are a couple of big European festivals that are a pipe dream for me. At this point in my life, I've little to no desire to embark on a lengthy, worldwide tour - I'm quite content to get a solid booking here and there to help maintain my relevance! If I were to look back on my career, I think that I'd be happy with what I've accomplished, already having checked a couple of big ones off my list. In general though, I would want to look back at how I was able to achieve a good work/life balance - having lots of quality family time while still being able to accomplish career goals.
13. And for the label?
In 5 years time, I would want Techgnosis Records to be synonymous with 'high quality progressive and psychedelic techno', much in the same way that other top-shelf labels have established themselves as the gold standard in thier particular style(s). I think we've already shown we have what it takes to make this happen - and 2020 is really going to be a big year in pushing the momentum forward for the next half-decade.
14. Looking back at how you got here, do you have one piece of advice for young Ben Rama from 10 years ago?
'Your ideas are smarter than you - don't overthink them into oblivion'.
15. What do you think was your main struggle when you were starting out making music?
My main struggle came from an overwhelming sense of having too many options - I never knew where to start, what to do next, what was needed, what wasn't etc. Just because you have tools at your disposal, doesn't mean you have to use them. These days I relegate myself to 2 or 3 software synths and a small handful of 'utility' plugs - it helps with workflow in addition to becoming more adept at using them.
16. Do you have a few words of advice for people who are coming up or will be coming up in the electronic music industry?
While listening to the advice of those who came before is always a good idea to a certain extent, don't underestimate the power of your own intuition.
17. Do you wish you had a skill that you currently don’t possess?
I have an aversion to self-promo, which isn't ideal considering my chosen profession, so... I wish I had the promo skills of The Rock circa 1999. That guy could cut a promo!
18. Would you say that you are an organized person and what is your favorite organizational tool?
I'm definitely not an organized person, but I try to be! I use an app called Trello - I use it for all of my collaborative projects including Techgnosis Records releases and overall business operations. It's a pinboard style group work thing - super handy.
19 What are you most proud of?
While I'm definitely proud of some of my musical accomplishments, I'd say my relationship with my wife of 11 years.
20. Do any of your projects (production/label) have anything lined up for us to keep an eye out?
Not many people know this but I have a side project called Executive Producer with my good friend Jeremy Reid. It's taken us well over a year (our schedules being what they are), but we finally have our debut EP in it's home stretch. We will be releasing on a fairly well established electronic music label, so look our for news on that soon. On the Techgnosis side of things, we will be expanding our SoundCloud channel with yet even more original content - I don't want to give too much away there. The release schedule for Q4 2019 and Q1 2020 is absolutely stacked, with equally exciting stuff coming up from new signees as well as from established label artists.
At last, I'm wondering when are you coming to Berlin to hang out? :)
I'm hoping to wrangle a gig in your neck of the woods by summer 2020 - we'll see!
Until next time.
Author: Robert Hundt // Date: October 6th, 2019