Interview - Ben Arp (crunchpod, C/A/T, Captive Six, Solo Project, and many more!)

Your departure from record labels as well as the untimely demise of Crunchpod Records has been a very public, and insightful thing. Do you believe that your experience with the recording industry and your participation in the dirtier side of it has prepared you for making music on your own, without the backing of a label, and do you believe it is as necessary as it was 5 years ago?

Definitely. The things I learned while running Crunch Pod were invaluable for someone who is now going to self-release their music. The ending of Crunch Pod was bittersweet because it was something I poured my heart, soul and money into for over a decade, but I knew it was time to end it when I did so I could completely focus on my own music.

I’m really only interested in working with a label that can either align me with a pro-level booking or press agency and/or introduce my music to an audience that is not already aware of me. If no such offer were to ever come, I’m fine self-releasing my music.

I can’t really speak on the neccessity of label in 2012 since until last year I’ve been on the same label I ran so it’s hard to say what other indies would be able to do for an artist just starting out. I do know that many artists who are just starting out either don’t want to or don’t have the experience to successfully get their name out there. So associating with an established label in their scene is still probably a good move in those cases even if only for the name recognition that would come with that.

How many different projects do you have active right now, and what is your primary focus?

I only have two projects right now which are “Ben Arp” and “Captive Six”. I don’t have any plans to do anything else besides those two. I’d say, overall, Ben Arp is my main focus and Captive Six is more my side project to play around with a bunch of different styles.

Do you believe it is important to separate projects based on the difference in sound within your own creation (the opposite would be a blanket project releasing all of the different sounding songs.)?

I think if the music isn’t very similar it’s a good idea to have a second or “side” project. I know many artists will disagree with me and bounce around with sounds under the same name and that’s cool - there is no hard and fast rule in my opinion. I used to run anywhere from three to five side projects at any given time. Many of those were either collaborations with other artists or just me not being that focused yet as a producer.

When C/A/T was still active, C/A/T was my “industrial / EBM / noise” project and Captive Six was my more “mainstream electronica” side project for songs I liked but didn’t mesh well with the C/A/T material I was writing. Now it’s more a situation where I experiment with new styles as Captive Six over the course of an album or EP and Ben Arp is more strictly focused on downtempo and glitch music.

What influences, musically or in life, did you have for your recent solo release, Ben Arp -Luminous, which has a much more ambient layout?

The Ben Arp material is music I’ve wanted to write since at least 2007 or so but never had the time to write due to my obligations to the label and C/A/T. My influences musically for “Luminous” would be artists like Autechre, Emancipator, Blockhead and edIT to name a few.

Thematically, “Luminous” is the soundtrack to about March - October of last year in my life. 2011 was a crazy year for me, from finally getting to play a gig outside of North America to end the ride for C/A/T, to deciding to close Crunch Pod and having to deal with negative fallout in relation to that. I learned a great deal about what I wanted to do with my time here musically and who my friends really were. A rough year, but with a light at the end of tunnel.

What are your plans for the full length release later this year?

I’m hoping to have an album out by the end of 2012. Beyond that, I’ve only just started the outlines for a few songs so I’m not entirely sure where it’s going to end up. It’s kind of a blank slate for me both musically and thematically so I’m really excited to take my time and craft this album.

Do you have any plans to ever play Luminous material live?

Yeah, I’m planning on it. Besides that EP I already have some older tracks and some unreleased stuff that will be exclusive to live sets.

If so, who would be your ideal supporting act? (If not, who in your new genre would you want to see play live?)

I think at this point I’d be happy being the supporting act! :) Though I’d love to share a stage someday with acts like Pretty Lights, The Glitch Mob and Amon Tobin - they all really put on an incredible multimedia live show and it’d be amazing to be part of any event that included them.

You are a supporter of music sharing, and the digital age, so to speak ‚ what are your projections, business wise, that the primary market for music will be (downloads, free music universe, trade, torrent, physical CD, etc.)

I support authorized music sharing. If an artist really doesn’t want their music shared then I’d respect their wishes. I’m more interested in people hearing my music than making money from it. That is just me though.

I’m a big fan of Spotify since I’m able to check out a ton of music and then track down and buy the songs or albums I want to own. I have a paid Spotify membership and then I’ll go to band or label site to see where I can buy, direct if possible, and I’ll use Amazon or iTunes as a last resort.

I haven’t bought a CD in about 5 years but spend hundreds of dollars a year on digital music. I’m kind of a minimalist in my daily life, so having my entire music collection on a few hard drives is far more appealing to me than a rack of physical media. Back when I was a full-time club DJ I used to buy CDs, sometimes only to be able to play one song, and it became a real pain having to dedicate an entire room of my house to music and forget about moving… half of the moving truck was just boxes of CDs!!! :)

I don’t know where things are going to go because if I did I’d be doing it already! I think CDs will remain as the “collector’s item” kind of thing that vinyl became in the late 90s / early 00s so I don’t think that format is as dead as some people like to say it is though.

In the studio, are you working with more hardware, or software synthesizers?

These days I’m entirely software based. When I started out in the late 90s I was using entirely hardware; from the synths to the midi sequencers and samplers with floppy discs and all that. I didn’t even start using a computer for my music until 2001 or so and it was all over after that and I was sold on producing with a computer. As I said, I’m kind of a minimalist in my life so I like having a “minimal” studio, with my computer and VSTs doing the majority of the work and only a few pieces of gear (mainly just a sound interface and midi controller) at my workstation.

If you could get any hardware synth, from any time period, without financial obligation, which would it be?

I actually own it! Roland’s Juno 106. That was my first synth and even when I switched to recording entirely on the computer, I hung on to that synth since I really liked the sounds I could get out of it. I like having it on reserve just in case I ever need to employ it in the studio again.

If you could rewrite the soundtrack to any movie, which would you do? (The Crow doesn’t count as a movie!)

Hmm. Well, I think I’d go with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I first started writing music I’d practice by running that movie and then improvising over it. That film has a really sparse soundtrack, mainly only screeching sounds, so it worked really well to practice playing over. I think the power of the movie is that is has such a bare soundtrack but it’d be fun to write one for it nonetheless.

What has been the most influential CD(s) you have ever bought?

I can think of two: DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing….” and El-P’s “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead”. Shadow was a local celebrity at the radio station I got my start DJing at and “Endtroducing” was always a favorite since it’s a record made entirely by sampling.

El-P’s last album found me at a really rough time in my life a few years back and the lyrics really resonated with me on many of the songs. It’s one of the few records out there that when I decide to play it I have to listen start to finish.

What are you most looking forward to in 2012 (musically or non musically)?

Musically, I’m really looking forward to the new Stray album. I’ve been a fan of Erica’s work for years and I know she spent a lot of time writing her new album.

I’m also looking forward to getting out and playing live again at some point this year. I ended C/A/T in 2011 after our gig at the Resistanz Festival and then had to cancel some pending gigs for Captive Six due to a back injury I was dealing with. It’s nearly been a full year since I’ve been on stage and that’s the longest I’ve ever gone between live gigs.

As far as non-musically, it will be nice to just relax and spend more time with my wife since I finally have a bit of freedom again.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview for A Dark Figure Music Blog! We are looking forward to your upcoming full length release!

Thank you! And keep up the great work with A Dark Figure!