Sunday, July 20, 2008

An Interview with Jeff Bennett

Jeff Bennett, the Swedish producer behind dozens of tech-house singles has a chillout side – his dub and lounge aliases, Don Imuze and Eddie Silverton. Downbeatscape and Slackline Radio have been in touch with Jeff to learn about his chillout vibe, and listen to his recent dub release, “Great Illusions.” Beyond offering readers a copy of “Great Illusions” (keep reading to find out how to get a copy), Jeff told us a bit more about his forthcoming lounge album to be released at the end of summer, Eddie Silverton’s “Loungez & Couches.” After reading the interview, visit Jeff’s artist and label sites to sample music and hear his latest mixes. His music can also be purchased at Beatport and iTunes. Happy lounging!

Slackline Radio (SR): With all your alter egos, you get to explore many sounds. Tell us about some of your recent projects and how you express your musical moods…

Jeff Bennett (Jeff): At the moment I’m mostly recording lounge music under Eddie Silverton. I’ve always loved lounge music so when I decided to produce it, it felt natural immediately. Same goes for reggae/dub where I use the alias Don Imuze. My Tech-house side will always be a part of me as it’s how I started. Actually, I started out doing Detroit/techno that transformed into what I do now. All these styles represent music that I personally listen to.

SR: Why do you release material under so many aliases (such as Eddie Silverton, Don Imuze and Jeff Bennett)?

Jeff: When I started as Jeff Bennett, producing was great, but when I released my first lounge album as Jeff Bennett’s Lounge Experience, there was a lot of confusion. People, magazines and promoters thought I had given up on techno. This led me to take on different aliases for my projects. And it can be fun for somebody digging into a producer’s various aliases, finding out he does different types of music.

Downbeatscape (DBS): Do you have a favourite alias? How do you transition when you move from one project to the next, or are you constantly creating music in all genres?

Jeff: I have a favourite alias for the day. When arriving to the studio, I get a subtle feeling pointing me in the direction of the day. I have a hard time forcing music, so I try to be on top off on all my aliases by having songs finished on forehand. That being said, sometimes I have to do remixes and releases in a certain order – then I have to leave the natural flow [of making music] for “work”.

DBS: You just released “Great Illusions” under your dub alias, Don Imuze. What dub and reggae songs or artists inspired this album?

Jeff: There are so many!! Eeka Mouze, Mad Professor, The Gladiators, Peter Tosh, Alpha & Omega, Augustus Pablo, Black Uhuru, Ini Kamoze, Linton Kwesi Johnson, King Tubby, The Congos, Prince Far I, Bob Marley of course, plus many more.

DBS: When you create an album, do you have an idea of what you want it to sound like when you begin? How do you approach the creative process?

Jeff: I have tried different approaches to my projects, and the best for me is to have a clear goal like “finish the album before the end of the month,” but with an open-minded approach. There is a saying I like: “If you can’t do it, you must!” I use that for all I do, I never thought I would be able to finish that whole album in just one month but I did, I had to! My first thoughts towards finishing this album started many years ago, so the basics were already there and I had most things sorted before starting the actual production. Normally, the finished result doesn’t sound like the original idea.

DBS: “Great Illusions” is a minimalist approach to dub – the tracks are a stripped down, straight forward take on reggae. Why did you choose this direction?

Jeff: I didn’t choose it, it came to me. I actually thought it would sound a bit different before I made it. But I like it a lot. Sometimes I get surprised by some of the sounds that I choose.

SR: On “Great Illusions,” it seems you have an affinity for the letter "z". Almost every track has the letter "z" in the title. Is there a reason for your love of "z" on this terrific dub release or do you just enjoy the way it rolls off the tongue?

Jeff: There is actually a strategy behind this, I won’t give it up here, but if you send a mail with the correct answer ill send you a copy of the album. [Note from Downbeatscape: visit Phunctional Loungin’ to contact Jeff. If you can figure out why he has an affinity for the letter “Z,” send him an email with your answer and he’ll send you a copy of “Great Illusions”)

DBS: What do you prefer to perform live - your house, dub or lounge tracks?

Jeff: I haven’t actually performed my lounge/dub music live yet, but it feels great to be able to have a bit of diversity style-wise as this is something I’m in the process of building. When that time comes, I guess it could become difficult to choose! I hope not.

SR: From your early days of owning a record store, a lot has changed in music from production to promotion to distribution. How have changes in the music digital age transformed your sound and your audience?

Jeff: Indeed many things have changed, I think for the better without a doubt. Before the digital age you would hear about new artists/labels in the record store talking to a friend or the guy behind the counter, now you read it at a forum or similar. This makes it easier to directly reach your listeners as a label.

When I first heard there was a shop selling music digitally only I immediately restarted my labels without blinking. It just felt so natural that this [digital distribution] would be the thing of the future. As an artist you have more competition now that before fighting for the same amount of space in the main magazines, etc.

On the production side, when I installed Cubase VST and tried the first VSTi’s out, within a couple of months I had sold almost all my physical gear. According to my friends, I was a just a computer nerd thinking you could do complete productions and mixdowns inside a computer only. I guess I proved them wrong. Now it’s common as a fish in the water.

The flexibility offered by the digital age is endless. The hard thing is to be able to use it without abusing it and drowning in the loads of opportunities and programs available. In the end it’s the result that is important. I tend to have less synths/effects and use them in a wider way instead.

DBS: You mention your labels, such as Phunctional Loungin', which releases Don Imuze and Eddie Silverton. How do you manage your labels while creating your music?

Jeff: It's a delicate balance. I don’t publish other artists for the simple reason that I don’t want to end up doing label work all day long. That being said, I’m always looking outside for possible collaborations. I have optimized the workflow of my labels so I do as little work as possible when scheduling a new release. This took time to do but it’s worth every minute invested many times over in the end.

DBS: You have a new lounge album coming out at the end of summer under your Eddie Silverton alias. What will this album sound like?

Jeff: Since I enjoy many sub genres of lounge music, I end up producing all of them as well. It’s electronic lounge, chillout, dub, lo-fi, downbeat. The overall vibe is positive lounge.

SR: Tell us a little about your process of writing electronic music - maybe you can use your upcoming album as an example. Do you rely on vinyl, tapes (i.e. analog) or lean more towards sophisticated software production like Albeton's Live (i.e. digital)?

Jeff: My foundation is Cubase SX, and the rest of my set up is based around that, software only though. I use a lot of sampled sounds from various sample CDs I have collected over the years. It’s funny how an old sample CD can sound different after not being heard for some time.

I tend to start at different points all the time, sometimes it’s a sample that kicks it, sometimes I play around on some keys, usually though the result doesn’t sound even near the starting point. There is always a strong sound leaving an impression that triggers the starting point of each track. That can be a sample, loop or lead that I play, that sound usually remains throughout the song.

SR: Do you have other passions in life other than music that motivates you?

Jeff: Besides music……Most of my private time I spend with my family, they are also my biggest source of inspiration. Besides that I workout every second day and play Squash once a week. Renovating the house also takes a lot of time, after that, there’s no more time left!

SR: We're always interested in learning about the finer things in music and life. Tell us what favorite meal you might serve with “Great Illusions”?

Jeff: That would be a pepper steak, potatoes, green pepper sauce, a couple of Red Stripe and rounding it up with a fine aged Rum like Zacapa Centenario. Listening to “Great Illusions” of course!

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