Ben Mono: From Orchestra to the Turntable

29 years old Ben Mono aka Paul Beller hails from Munich, Germany. A self-taught drummer, keyboard and bass player Ben Mono had released by the age of 23 two 12 inches under the moniker of "Force & Paul" on Compost Records. Collaborations with local and regional people soon followed on labels such as Spinning Wheel (Space Clique, Druckwelle, Sonic Surfer) and Sonar Kollektiv (Space Clique remix for Micatone).

He also studied bass at the Converatorium of Music in Munich, and has been involved in creating various professional movie soundtracks. In 2003 he released his debut solo album on Compost Records, entitled "Dual", described as a world of cut-up sounds and innovative broken beat bringing.

Ben Mono visited Romania recently playing at the 2006 edition of the TMBase Music Workshop, in Timisoara and in Bucharest at Club Gossip the night before. Beat Factor had the chance to ask him a few questions in Timisoara before his set.

If you play it in the right order it can work. It's amazing. That's the most fun of it: taking people to difficult levels without them realizing that you got them in something they would have never listened before.
Beat Factor: You are for the first time in Romania now for the TmBase Music Workshop. You also had a gig in Bucharest in Club Gossip. How does the Romanian electronic scene seem to you?

Ben Mono: In Bucharest when I came the other day I realized that the scene is more like electro and drum and bass. That seemed interesting because in Munich everything is like disco oriented and now I'm really surprised. The gig I had in Bucharest was much about nice people having a good time dancing to different kinds of music I was playing. I really like this open-mindness. I also went to DJ Food in Bucharest and I saw the crowd. They were nice and really into that.

BF: Are you familiar to any Romanian DJs or producers?

BM: I know Electric Brother. We met in the studio. I like the stuff he does, it's really up-front. And I just met a guy who offered me a remix he never did. So two people I heard of before.

BF: What are your musical influences?

BM: I was very influenced by funk. Funny enough, some people say my music sounds like Prince. I never liked Prince. Now I'm really digging Prince and I started liking the old Michael Jackson stuff. Before I hated it. I was more into the heavy metal and crossover stuff. Now that I'm getting older I'm more relaxed, digging more melodic stuff. It's changing inside. And it's changing all the time. There's so many records I play and I love. I like Squarepusher as a producer, for example. But I don't want to focus only on one name. It's not really fit for what I'm into right now. It's more like bringing new things in and still having the same sort of attitude. That's what I really like. For example using a certain sound that people might realize where is coming from but you think it in a different context. That's what I'm trying to do. Thinking about sounds and how to make music with some influences. But not copying something.

BF: What do you mainly focus when mixing? The selection of tunes, your mixing technique or the crowd response?

BM: The crowd response! I wanna' go with the crowd. I don't want to teach people what to listen. I just want them to enjoy. But I think all these work together very well. If I had a bad day I play the same selection and it doesn't work 'cause I'm in a bad shape, I'm just not feeling it and then another day I'm in a good mood and the whole works up perfectly. I like DJs that really mix perfectly and I'm really up for mixing good and just mixing the unmixable but I can't understand DJs who can play music no one relates to. For example, last night in Bucharest, it was like progressive house and no one was dancing. And then I was playing, something else, the place was banging and then some guys came and said: "We want progressive house!" I said "You just saw what happened when I played progressive house. Why do you want to go on with that?"

BF: What else did you play at the gig in Bucharest?

BM: I wanted to combine different styles and funny enough the people went for the guitar tunes as well. If you play it in the right order it can work. It's amazing. That's the most fun of it: taking people to difficult levels without them realizing that you got them in something they would have never listened before.

BF: What is your kind of favorite venue for a party?

BM: I prefer smaller places, intimate crowds, direct contact, not being two meters away and on top of something. And this really affects the way I'm playing. Also I realized that if you play in a small venue you can even forget you're mixing. You play three tunes in a row from the same record and people wouldn't stop dancing. And that's something you can't do in a big place and with a huge sound system.

BF: What memorable parties do you remember?

BM: At a bar I was playing heavily guitar music for two hours. They were freaking out. I never had this again in my life! Another is in Tokyo last winter. Me playing at a place called The Room. And while playing I saw a guy clapping his hands like keeping the rhythm and he went on clapping and he did that for three hours. Amazing! He was so much into that! I hardly had such a good crowd ever. This really energizes you and you put much more effort in music. It's amazing how much you get back and you play much better. So, it's up to you if you want to get them or not. A lot of Djs are used to play in a club from two to four so that's the kind of record they buy. Whenever they start earlier they can't really blend in or when they start too late they're too heavy again and this is dangerous.

Features Archive


Ben Mono: From Orchestra to the Turntable

April 10, 2006 at 2:06 AM CEST



BF: So you're prepared for anything?

BM: I was really working hard on my set and I think I have now every tune for every gig and crowd. I'm really proud of this. Playing in an Asian country really sharpens your senses. It was a good lesson.

BF: Did you perceive the Asian scene as very different?

BM: Totally. In Europe you would expect people to know at least about disco. In Asia they don't. they don't even know Prince. They expect you to play, in a way, what they want to hear. So getting them into a different thing it's quite hard but once you managed to do that it's an easy thing.

BF: So what do they like?

BM: RnB, Paul van Dyk, Tiesto. So it was heard for someone like me. But I'm really good in r'n'b now :)

BF: You are from Munich. How do you perceive the German scene right now? Is it uniform, regional or how?

BM: It's very diverse. The more house oriented scene is between Koln and Berlin. Koln is more with minimal and tech house and Berlin is more the sort of deep house. Three's also minimal in Leipzig. In Munich is still about disco, electroclash and punk-funk. Compost (e.n.: Ben Mono activates at this label) made its name through nu-jazz. Munich has lots of micro scenes, interacting and working together. It's good to see that no one is sticking too much to his "thing" and I like this attitude.

BF: You're labeled as a nu-jazz artist. But in your opinion, where exactly do you fit in this scene?

BM: Me as a person was never part of a group. I could never stay with a group for long. It took me quite long to get my reputation on a certain level but that was also because I'm not part of anything. There's so many things in Munich and they all respect me for what I'm doing, they all like my production. I think it's the result of me not getting to deep into one thing and working on parallel things but not focusing too much on one. It's important to me that people like my music.

BF: You're both producer and DJ. Which do you like most?

BM: Producing. Djing is a lot of fun, I like it but producing is more substantial. You do something that will remain. I spend 80% of the week in the studio, alone, with no one around so going Djing is also an important thing, just to keep yourself updated.

BF: You started as a classical musician. You played in an orchestra. How did you went into electronic music and started producing?

BM: I realized that the orchestra stuff was not really what I wanted to do. I had my ideas about where I wanted to go with my sounds and so I was trying things out. The longer you do that the faster you reach the level of the sound that you wanted to. The important thing is not the melody but how sounds refer to each other and in which order they're coming. It sounds a little bit academic but it makes sense in the end. It's the music I can listen often without getting bored.

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