MY FIRST CDR… BEN HOUGHTON

We were first introduced to Ben Houghton at a recent CDR Melbourne and were thrilled to hear that this wasn’t his first session. Ben attended the very early Melbourne sessions and CDR Berlin. However what really left a mark on us was his incredibly tight unreleased track “Babez” aired at Loop.

So when and where did you first attend CDR?

My first CDR was a few years back in Melbourne when Red Bull Music Academy was involved and hosting. Peanut Butter Wolf from Stone’s Throw was the guest. He was great; very humble and inspiring, talking about the story of the label. We were all into the ‘beats’ sound at the time and obviously Stone’s Throw was a massive inspiration.

How did you hear about the sessions

I heard about CDR through some friends at the time but rediscovered it last year while living in Berlin where it runs monthly. It was great to learn that it was starting up again here in Melbourne just in time for me to come back home!

What’s been your musical journey?

I started with music playing sax in high school. That carried through with me for quite a few years actually – I was playing with a second-line brass band and we were touring and playing shows quite a lot. At some point my tastes moved over to the hip hop side of music and when I worked out what sampling was, I decided to buy an MPC. It’s been a long journey but these days I’m making house and techno and loving it.

Any other noteworthy CDR memories? 

Hearing my music on the system at Prince Charles in Berlin was pretty great – they’ve got a pretty sizeable Funktion One rig in there with a massive horn extension on the sub. It’s always a great experience to hear what you’ve been working on with a full scale club system. On that same night Thomas Fehlmann spoke and blew my mind as well; hearing the stories of the early Berlin techno scene and how it grew to what it is today. His music is incredible as well, I remember he played this stripped back techno track with this 6/8 kind of Dilla thing going on.

So what’s your current production set up?

My current production setup revolves around the MPC2000XL. I use it to build ideas and beats then drop them into Ableton Live where I get to work with mixing and arrangements. On top of that I use Maschine and some hand-built 808 & 909 modules for drum sounds. I love being able to mod those circuits beyond their original capabilities. For synths I’m mostly on plugins and free stuff! I made a choice a while back to not use any cracked stuff for making music so I’m a free plugin guru. I use all the TAL synths and some plugins from Airwindows. I’ve also got some Arturia and waves stuff which helps give things a bit of shine! My next gear project is the 9090 which is a DIY clone of a TR909 drum machine, just without the sequencer. It’s in the mail as we speak.

Have you a favourite piece of equipment? Something you always return to or at the centre of your studio?

My favourite piece of equipment is the MPC, without a doubt. It’s what got me into making electronic music in the first place and I’ve had it for years now. I’m currently on my second one as the first started to crap out a bit. I’ve had an MPC since about 2008 and been stuffing around with it since then. I could use it in the dark, it’s so simple and intuitive. It’s part of the lineage of what we’re doing here. You don’t need hours of sampling time, endless plugins etcetera to make good music. I’ve used it for live sets, chucked it into a backpack to go jam with friends, whatever. ‘Nuff said!

Any projects or tracks you’re working on at the moment?

At the moment I’ve been working on some more techy and muscly dancefloor tracks. I’m hoping to self-release them as a 12″. It’s proving to be a more complex project than I realised but vinyl has always been the ambition. I’m also talking to a new label, Love Sexy Records about doing an EP sometime later this year.

Finally, have you any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?

Well this is just one general tip but something I come up against is getting things finished in time to bring them in! So if you’re working on a track and CDR is just around the corner, something that works for me is hooking up a MIDI controller with plenty of knobs and sliders etcetera and just running it as a live take; automating everything on the fly. You’ll probably screw up a few times but usually it helps you break out of the grid and gives things a more live & organic feel.

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