[MEET THE DJ] Finding equilibrium with Ben Balance
I haven’t yet started to figure out why I love doing story-interviews. It is perhaps because of my need to discover the person beyond the artist. Now, with Ben Balance it was no difference. I just had the feeling it’s going to be one interview I will surely enjoy writing, but it helped me understand what a natural approach means to an artist nowadays. It is about equilibrium. A perfect balance between who you really are and what kind of music you choose to make. Reflecting your story, your emotions, your personality into it.
I e-met Ben through his BE9 brothers, Benni and Fabe, and it was fun to talk about sneakers and have a chit chat about the music scene in Romania. Then one night I thought “why not have an interview?”.
I asked him to imagine he is in the same room with himself, picking one song from his playlist. “Bermont – Pogba, the next NCSS record. Funky stuff from Argentina. The country that never disappoints in case of style”.
Funky, just like his style. Whether we are talking about colorful shirts or crazy sneakers, this guy definitely knows how to express his vision through both image and music. “I’m looking from the bottom to the top and can spot New Balance 990, classics. Some dark green joggers and a plain white oversized shirt. It seems like he came fresh from the hairdresser, a cut sharp like a knife” he described himself.
I personally love his Tough Light track. It’s my kind of groove. And while listening to it, I read his short summary about his journey:
First of all, no Fabe no music. He moved into my flat in Berlin and I had the chance to play a bit on his gear. I kind of freaked out. I was already used to most of the machines through our Ho Do Ri project, but it was surely important to create some groove fully by myself. Back in 2016, I presented my first solo tracks to the crew. 2 of them got released, this was very important to me, as it has been my start as a “solo artist” – the track was Funk Tower (NCSS001) and I Saw The Light (Valioso Rec.).
After the summer of 2016, Fabe moved back to Mannheim. The whole BE9 thing was in the pipeline and I was in need of a reset in order to know what I really want. I quit my job at Philipp Morris, booked a flight to Bali alongside my best friend Rachid, who is currently my roommate, and Gino who has Indonesian roots but has never seen the place where he is actually coming from. We had the best time traveling through Asia. Then in Tokyo, I realized that I need to be in Mannheim to create and boot camp myself spinning records. I was never able to do this in Berlin. Neighbors were complaining all the time. Neuköln became Prenzlauer Berg, arguments over arguments.
After 6 months of no music, I arrived in Mannheim in early 2017. I asked Dominik and the rest, next to Sedee, if I can join in. They accepted. This changed everything. I stayed in Mannheim ever since. I invested a lot of time in getting where I wanna be, having the labels and crew on my side and even a full-time job to keep things alive. Bought mixers, sold mixers, bought interfaces, sold interfaces, changed rooms. I was driving my other studio partners totally crazy. But it’s always super nice to hear that the changes improved their sound as well. That our own idea of gear or even just the groove and mixdown got better. I don’t even wanna tell the story how long it took to get the bass back into the room. Fuck it! It’s back! ☺
So as I’ve said, I know for myself how things have to sound like, but I’m still trying to get there. To get to my own vision of room and depth, even the groove.
That’s the short story, I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoy the past years.
And I did. I actually felt as if I was there, traveling along with the sound, the moments and the emotions. I was never quite fully aware of how music can connect people, but here you are. An example of perseverance and passion. Volume up, keep on going.
Let’s say you are meeting yourself for the first time. Ben is quite shy, just at the beginning of his career and he wants to ask for your advice. He plays one track he had made. (just go back in time and pick one track from the beginning of your career). What do you think of it?
Funny, you can really spot a big difference between “yesterday” and now, but there is one thing that I might realize straight away. It has this optimistic touch!
You have to make a track together or with anyone else. Any kind, genre. What would you like to approach?
I just spoke to “MDA Analog” yesterday, Nathan Coles and Pure Science. I would love to beam myself into their times of being at the peak of their own productions. Getting to know how hard it must have been doing 100 takes to bring things on a cassette for a demo (MDA). It would be cool to do music with people like Tame Impala, but in the end, I wanna have some beers next to gear or my house heroes. It seems like their music is more popular than ever, this would be my thang, Doing a coop. with all of them.
Ben asks you about your biggest achievement till now:
My biggest achievement might be small for some, but big for me. Great promoters realizing that after a short time I’m being able to bring good vibes and selection to the party. I play for the people, not for myself. I want to see them smile and close their eyes at the same time. Tough Light was another step bringing myself on a map, the vinyl market. The track means a lot to me and I enjoy seeing people playing it.
And your biggest fear:
A flop of SOI009, my first solo Ep. Thank God it didn’t happen. Fabe was like “drop it nowww mannnn”
He asks you about BE9. How would you describe it to him?
We are a bunch of Passionists, music addicts, art lovers, sprayers and dancers that love the groove, that are in love with the club. In love with life and the way, we chose to live it. No regrets!
How about your spare time?
I’m trying to get more of this back. I’m happy to say that I have a lot of comforts if I don’t have to travel for the company. I’m able to meet friends for lunch and for some sports in the evening. If I don’t play, you will find me at another club or Parker Lewis. I love the rave, I love to go out. Staying home is really hard for me. I prefer to catch some laughs with my crew. Ohh and I love to cook – It puts me in the ZEN zone.
What’s the most important thing to you, he asks, to be as successful as you can be, or just rather keep on doing what you love and want?
I’m not a minimalist. It’s a mix out of both. There are some buttons you can push to help yourself – to help the career while doing what you love. I’m very happy at the moment, maybe happier than ever before. It’s all just starting, great projects are about to come. I hope we will all meet on this journey!
Play your favorite track from your own, he says:
Ben Balance – Tough Light
Ben Balance & Gypsea – Shirgeva
Now play a track you like a lot, from another artist:
Currently, Sakro A1 on Half Baked.
As the night comes by, you guys are heading to his first gig (picture your first gig). How is he doing – in terms of mixing, posture, tracks choices?
Finca Stuttgart, next to the infamous Toby T. Nearly no space in the both and Toby is a mountain of muscles. They are arranging each other, they are playing a great back to back. The sound in the both is great, it’s not hard to focus on mixing in her. A good set went down in Stuttgart from the BE9 crew, he was prepared. He didn’t go to the club without having the needed skills.
The comparison with our past person is most likely to bring us to the point where we consider whether we should’ve done something different or not. Would you have done anything different or would you like to change something in the artist right now?
Not at all, I’m very thankful for all the opportunities in such a short period of time. I could quit my job and even invest more time into music, but it’s just perfect how it is right now. The trust I’m getting from people like Benni who is taking care of my bookings. Also, from Fabe who is a perfectionist, staying next to me in Paris trusting my selection and skills, performing as brothers. It’s also his name under the Ho Do Ri brand. I have to deliver!
What keeps you focused?
Good feedback and a deep talk with my best ones.
I am, for example, quite focused on listening to fewer electronic music tracks so that I can be a fair critique when listening to the tracks of the DJs I am managing. What about you? How’s your relationship with electronic music outside producing and mixing?
During the week I’m rarely listening to it at all. I listen to demos before a gig, request some stuff from my family and Berlin groove dealers.
I work for Apple Music, the app helps me to explore a very huge range of ambient and experimental music I just let flow to my living room while working on new concepts.
And speaking of the relationship with electronic music, what was Ben the kid wanted to be when he grew up?
Being my own boss since ever. I think it was a burger shop at first! 😀
Have you ever thought about trying something else besides music one day?
I’m doing so many different things besides music still and since ever, that it is hard for me to think about music like only, only. Ideas are crashing in my mind every minute sometimes. “How to help the planet” “How to help my crew” “How to help myself” – I will always do what comes into my mind. I know it’s important to do ONE THING JUST GOOD, but I have always been the multi kind of person. Let’s see what’s next!
Finally, can you name 3 artists, dead or alive, that you would like to spend one-weekend exchanging tips and have a chat, make some music?
Nathan Coles, Pure Science, Alex & Digby
And as the perfect ending to the story of this guy, the one who is definitely all about a badass equilibrium, check out these two tracks (Ben Balance x Gypsea) that are definitely uplifting his thoughts to the surface: