Tension inducing experimentations from Black Forest boy Benedikt Frey.
You should always expect the unexpected with the now Berlin-based producer and DJ, Benedikt Frey. His vast musical diversity has seen him release on labels from Live at Robert Johnson, Bahnsteig 23 to Hivern Discs, co-found his own labels in R-i-0 and Serious Trouble, form live act INIT with Dalo and push creative boundaries with a wide variety of different collaborations (such as at xJazzBerlin late last year with Sebastian Studnitzky and Sasha Mashin). A common thread with this musical output though, is a musical complexity in which harmonic motives intertwine with unique rhythmic structures and a level of quality that provides an almost cinematic feel.
We caught up with the creative behemoth to find out where he’s been focusing his attention on these past months and to enquire about his approach, vision and upcoming output.
You have a remarkably steady stream of new music including both original works and remixes, do you put much thought into the planning and how, where, when your music drips? Or does it just naturally flow the way it does? It would be also cool to hear what you have lined up in the coming months… you been working on anything exciting?
Thank you! Of course I’m trying to navigate my ship a little but I’m not putting too much thoughts in to- when and where it lands next. Hard to tell anyway, there are so many factors in a record production that can get delayed. What I tried over the last three years though was to cluster my „Benedikt Frey“ appearance. I did that a lot by collaborations or simply by using a slightly different names. Feeling afraid people would lose interest when there’s coming one record after another. For me it’s nice to confuse a little.
So what I can say this year there will be a double EP on ESP-Institute and another EP on Emotional Rescue as Benedikt Frey, both will hit two different directions. The ESP one gets faster, The Emotional Rescue one wavy and dubby based on a cover. Two new INIT tunes will appear soon for a Sound Of Berlin Compilation. And a really nice remix for NVST’s debut EP on Serious Trouble.
We loved the recent INIT release that landed on Hivern a couple of months ago. Can you tell us a bit more about both the live project with DALO? And also about this particular release?
We started working together in 2012 during our sound studies, primarily working on mixed media installations. Since then we are also working on music together. This release is a frame we built after our moval to Berlin. We tried to create a simple array of darkish pop tracks that might also do it on the dance floor. For our live set we’re a little more straight forward, as Nadia and me both like going nuts on the dance floor. So we have a fully equipped one around 134 BPM which we try to communicate as our „Allegro“ live set. But there’s also a blueprint of our „Andante“ live version (around 100 BPM) which hits more the „Gravity“ mood & speed of our current album. Both live sets will be refreshed until the end of 2021.
Your R.i.O. label which you run with Nadia D’Alò and Markus Woernle, has gone from strength to strength in the past couple of years. Can you tell us a bit about the how the label was formed, its initial vision and how it’s evolved? Would also great to get the lowdown on what’s coming next and what we’ll be hearing in the near future?
Markus is a very good childhood friend with whom I started organizing parties 15 years ago. Now that the three of us we’re living just around the corner constantly digging and sharing stuff it was something that came quite natural to start a label. It all began with one album of a friend that we wanted to put out. It hit kind of a „singer songwriter” direction but much lighter (not so emo) and refreshing to us. At the very same time Chris Cox and me finished the KEYS album which hit more kind of a rough side. We wanted to bring them together and decided to go with the „heavy“ one first, trying to make the „Lighter“ one fit in later. Until now we didn’t manage to do so though.
Finding music for R.i.O. was kind of a natural process, since we have lot of friends around doing music. Our next big thing after Philipp Otterbachs full length album will be the second „Risks Issues Opportunities II“ compilation. Featuring Willie Burns, Charlotte Simon, Nadia D’Alò, Syncboy, Airaboi, Twoonkeys, Bocksrucker & Pannotia.
We also wanted to say, the XJazz collab with Sebastian Studnitzky and Sasha Mashin looked epic, how did that come about? And how did you experience both the arrangement and performance?
Haha, I’m glad I did it, although I really needed to convince myself for a few days here, since I mostly saw really terrible performances, when electronic music meets classic or jazz… and since I don’t play any instrument, I have the biggest respect for musicians who do, especially when they’re rooted in jazz music.
A friend of mine is part of the XJazz team and asked me if I could imagine, preparing something „live-ish“ by chopping up a drum solo that was played an hour before my performance by Sasha Mashin in St. Petersburg. My task was taking the recording and mixing it up with an instrument of mine within twenty minutes before my show. After that (also because of lockdown restrictions) Sebastian Studnitzky should have played over my „arrangement“ afterwards. Just one hour before the show I was asked, if we could imagine to perform together with some „secure distance”. So Sebastian and me had one really amazing rehearsal minutes before the streaming. And then the second try that was captured on „tape“ then. He improvised so well and I got goosebumps all over my body when he hit the first notes! It felt like a combination of Miles Davis and Jon Hassell playing just next to me. What was also amazing that the crew of Xjazz used the reverb of the church we were performing in. All that made this recording to an unforgettable performance, something I’d love to keep on doing when the lockdown is over.
One things for sure, you have a creative restlessness which seems to be ever expanding, of course you have your fingers in a number of different pies (not mentioning yet your Serious Trouble platform as well) What’s next? And it would also be really interesting to hear, if you have different approaches to the different outlets? Do you have peaks of motivation (where you are more focused on one area) or do you try to split your time evenly between the various projects?
So Serious Trouble is an open outlet definitely made for the dance floor. R.i.O. not necessarily, there you will find more abstract pieces of music. We invest certainly more time in R.i.O. currently.
Finally, what can you tell us about the mix you’re recorded for us?. How did it all come together in the end and any standout tracks you would like to mention?
The mix happened to be a potpourri of what you can call more or less a laid back early morning lockdown set. What holds them together is their spacey vibe paired with some dubby elements. If I had to name one, I had to name them all 😉