In The Studio With... Benjamin Damage

The Welsh born but Berlin located producer, Benjamin Damage, found a delightfully apt home for his robustly constructed beats and other worldly synth washes when he hooked up with the 50Weapons label back in 2010. Following some teasingly good EPs, his first full length effort, Heliosphere, dropped last year to a pretty solid reception, impressing both with his aptitude for dancefloor and head spaces backed up by some serious engineering of rich and hard hitting tones. With the album not too far in the recent past he's already preparing for the next phase and recently set himself about reworking his live set for a series of key dates this spring – one of which we're excited to be hosting this coming Saturday in Room Two.

Like the audiophiles we wish we had enough time to really be, we're always up for a bit of hardware voyeurism so we linked up with Berlin based photographer Lisanne Schulze to head to Damage's studio to uncover what's new and interesting about his live setup. We also engaged in our own email exchange with Damage to find out exactly what it is that sparked this re-jig and what exactly it entails…

So I’ve heard that you’ve put together a new live set for the summer – what sparked the impetus to change things up?
I'd been buying some equipment and testing it out, and I realised the computer was really getting in the way and slowing things down. Having a screen on stage seems to just focus all your attention and its a lot more fun to just use hardware machines and be free of it. Also it makes thing completely non-linear. There's no audio tracks playing so you can extend, shorten and change everything depending on how you feel.

What is it you’re performing on now exactly? Can you run us through the hardware in this new live set up..
The heart of the setup is the Sequentix Cirklon. Its a very powerful hardware sequencer made by this one guy in Scotland. It controls everything else (that is controllable) in the setup. What is great about it is how easy it is to change everything so quickly. Its very non-linear in how it works. I'm also taking a Roland TB-303, Niio Iotine Core, MFB-522 drum machine, Eventide Space, Strymon Timeline and MPC 1000. Some of the equipment in the studio is too delicate to take, like the ETI 4600 so I've sampled it into the MPC.

Do you have a favourite piece? Like what do you most enjoy playing on and with?
The Niio Iotine Core is a great sounding machine. Its almost impossible to get a bad sound out of it. It has 3 filters, distortion and envelopes and is very well laid out and easy to control live. Its doesn't have any midi or digital control. Its a very purist device.

How much of your set is new unreleased material? Do you find live sets double up as testing grounds for new tracks?
I'm writing new material with the hardware setup and eventually I'm going to just record it live. Even the older stuff sounds very different from the released versions. It's all recreated and performed live, so while there are recognisable elements its essentially new.

So what we’re seeing in these pictures, is this the live set up as you’ll be bringing to fabric this May?
The SE Boomstar was borrowed from a friend to try out. Its a good sounding synth but a little bit fiddly to use in a live situation. Also I've got a Strymon Timeline which is a great sounding delay pedal.

How does it differ from what you produce with?
Before this I've always mixed down in the box and recorded everything to the computer. I use Ableton mainly to produce with, though a few things are done with Renoise and Cubase.

Did you face any challenges when you were writing the set and putting it together? Like did all the machines talk with each other like they should or were there a few problems along the way to solve?
The whole process took quite a bit longer to set up than I planned. The MPC needed an operating system upgrade and all the samples had to be converted to a particular format.

Does all of this mean there’s a new album forthcoming? What has been coming out of your studio of late?
I've been working on bits for a new album all year. The live show has influenced it a lot, but its not going to be all hardware. There are a lot of things the computer is good for too.

Obligatory end of interview dream studio purchase question: if money were no object what's at the top of your want list?
The new Macbeth Elements synthesiser looks really good. All the Macbeth stuff sounds incredible and laid out in a musical way. For the studio I'd love a Yamaha CS-80. I've resisted the urge to go modular so far. I like the way you interact with different machines.

Photography by Lisanne Schulze

Saturday 17th May

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