Ben Houghton may be a name familiar to you. We first crossed paths Mr Ben Houghton back in 2013 at CDR Berlin where he was residing away from his hometown in Melbourne, Australia. Immediately were impressed with his tougher, jammy style of house. He returned to his hometown and became a regular at CDR Melbourne sessions, and then was a finalist in our Dimension Sounds project last year.
It was coming so close in last year’s project that motivated Ben to start working on his track for 2015 early on in the piece, crafting his ideas over multiple iterations. It’s without a doubt that this dedication paid off… as they say “the proof is in the pudding”. We caught up with Mr Houghton prior to him smashing out a great set on the beach at Dimensions Festival, comprised of all his own material (listen below).
Please tell us about your sample choices from Phase I. What was it about the palette you chose that appealed?
The samples this year were great – tons of locations and different atmospheres, strange sounds etc. I did found it quite challenging to get things to fit together though. My focus was on getting some great percussion sounds going and ended up doing some heavy processing. For example I took ‘Earth Vibes – Rocks’ (which is some stones kerplunking into water) and tuned and distorted it, til it sounded kinda like a 909 tom. Using ‘Debas – Feira Livre – Sao Paulo, Brazil’ was just a last minute idea, some sort of Moodymann type vibe track in the background.
When did you start making music? How has your production process changed along the way?
I started making electronic music around 2007, I was playing sax in a band at the time and just got really fascinated by the whole concept of sampling – understanding how it was behind so much of the music I loved (house & hip hop) was a real revelation. Over time I’ve moved away from sampling being the core part of my music-making process, to now being something I’ll play with from time to time – grabbing a vocal here or there, that kind of thing. But I’m not really going through old records and chopping up loops like I used to. I’m still obsessed with drums though! But I’m using a lot of synths where maybe in the past I might have gone looking for old 70s rhodes or piano type samples.
You entered a track last year as well, what tools did you use and was your approach different in each year?
My studio hasn’t changed at all in the last 12 months actually! So my approach this year was very similar, I cut up the Phase I samples and formed a percussion track and built up more parts around that. It ended up being a super dense production with a lot more elements than I would typically use. So a lot of time was spent on the mix and the arrangement to get everything to work nicely together.
What’s your current studio set-up?
As I said I’m in a pretty good headspace with my gear and setup at the moment. So I’m working with my MPC2000XL to throw together loops and ideas and then dropping them into Ableton Live where I’ll mess around with Maschine and some other plugin stuff to build up the track (SEM-V, TAL U-NO62 & TAL Bassline are the top 3 for sure). I’ve also got a Roland SH-2 that I bought for cheap and managed to fix up with a bit of love and soldering. That thing is a beast. There’s nothing quite like that vintage Roland sound, so thick and juicy. Once I’ve got all the parts etc together in session view I’ll turn on the arrangement record and generally lay down a live arrangement that I’ll go in and refine. Favourite mixdown tools are Airwindows Density II, Waves EQP1A and Waves CLA-76.
One last thing, and this is absolutely my secret weapon, I’ve got a standalone 909 kick module that I built from a board I got online. It’s got this enormous, gritty, tough sound that I love and use on nearly all my tracks. If you’ve got the time and patience, DIY is such a fun thing to get into.
And lastly, who/what’s on your stereo of late?
I’ve been listening to Floorplan, Harvey Sutherland, Linkwood, Levon Vincent, Fatima Yamaha, Fred P, Traumprinz, Maurizio, Andrés. Always the deep stuff, ‘the soul in the machine’ type thing. I’ve always been interested in this Detoit/Berlin connection and how Melbourne as a city might fit into the greater picture of electronic music.