Tonight we have a special guest mix from Benjamin Muñoz. Formerly the guitarist in Hamilton synth/pop weirdos New Hands, and now resident in Montréal, he’s released on HAVN and Push & Run, with a very distinctive sound influenced by jazz, garage, house, and video game soundtracks. He graciously answered some questions I sent over about his sound and influences, check-ça:
Interview with Benjamin Muñoz
What can we expect on tonight’s mix?
Mostly leftfield techno and house, ambient tracks and a couple oddballs, this mix is a summary of what I’ve been listening to recently. It’s also a summary of my musical headspace at the moment. I’ve been trying to make music that is gestural, sparse and deconstructed. I’ve also been into sneaky, dark moods. So that’s what to expect here. No date on the next release yet but aiming for this autumn.
What got you to start producing?
I started producing very slowly. I’d always written music, for bands, for myself… producing was just the technical aspect of capturing and sharing that music with others. But the more I did it the more I realized it as an art form in itself. Then, slowly it became my primary interest within music.
What were your earliest influences and exposure?
My first exposure to producing was through a local Hamilton producer named Michael Keire who runs Threshold recording studio. My band at the time, New Hands, was recording an album with him. The process spanned over two years and in that time Mike and I became good friends. He taught me everything I know about recording, mixing and producing. At the time I was also getting into artists making music in their bedrooms on laptops, like James Blake and Mount Kimble. I realized I could take what Mike had taught me and apply it to my own music even without professional equipment.
Listening to your tracks it sounds like they’re about to fall apart or shatter at any second – it’s a very distinct sound, how did you develop it?
I don’t think I ever deliberately tried to develop that sound. I like to use light sounds and movement with an agile quality – which could be perceived as fragile. I never use sequencers and often push my drums off grid or work without a grid altogether. I can’t stand the way things sound when everything’s on grid. I think those two things paired together give the tracks a really unsteady sound. So it’s more a result of my tastes I guess and less a calculated sound.
What is your take on the scene in Montreal?
To be honest I feel I haven’t spent enough time there yet to have an informed opinion. For sure there’s tons going on and I’ve met a lot of great artists but I feel I haven’t found my niche or artists I fit in with yet. I’m sure they’re there though, Montréal is very diverse.
You’ve moved about a lot, spending time between here and parts of the UK. How has this displacement affected your music?
Good question, probably more than I’m aware of. Now anyone can find music from any part of the world through the internet. But living in those different places I experienced the context for a lot of music and the way in which people gather around that music. I feel that’s been invaluable to me and informs how and what I take to use in my own music.
Do you feel one place over another influenced your sound? How did each place you lived in affect you creatively?
Somewhat. As far as dance music goes, Canada doesn’t have its own genres, we replicate or put our own twist on genres that have been established elsewhere. The UK definitely has its own sound and history of dance music. Spending time in Leeds and Bristol I’d go out on nights and always be drawn to the creative rhythms of garage, dubstep and jungle. I was particularly into 2-step as a sort of intersecting genre. I decided to use it as a jumping of point for the weird dreamy music I’d always had in my head. So the UK definitely influenced me in terms of rhythm. But everything else I feel is a soupy mix of influences and art I’ve always been into – wherever that might be. And even now I’m trying to depart from such structured rhythm.
Photo credit: Lee Skinner