I couldn’t help but shiver as I slipped down the back alley. Slipped in the most literal use of the verb; there was ice everywhere. Adjacent the apartments, across the road, and behind the bar, this back street was exactly where I wanted to be. Late at night, by myself in a quiet downtown Lansing, I was looking for the unmarked entrance to basement414, alsoknownas b414, where the much anticipated performance of Hazben would be taking place.
They say that when walking by yourself in dark and desolate places such as this, you should stay off your cell phone. Complete alerted-ness to your surroundings is key. I decided to take the chance of disregarding that tip. Cell phone out. “Hey Ben, can you meet me outside? I have no idea where I’m going.” Yes, you guessed right, “Ben” is in fact the “ben” part of “Hazben”. I’m with the band. Inside connections. No big deal.
[I feel it is necessary, at this juncture, to provide a sort of disclaimer, simply in the name of journalistic integrity. Namely, that Ben is my brother. That is all.]
Ben graciously came and found me, escorting me back down to the door of b414. Turns out it’s not unmarked; it’s covered in graffiti. Check out the pic. B414 is officially an intriguing space. Random art, bike racks, skinny jeans smoking ashtrays, and lingering assortments of people filled the three room-ish type areas. Some guy was playing guitar, so we loitered, met a few people, said hi to some friends, and looked at drawings. Until…. showtime.
Hazben’s performace set-up was pretty basic: drum set, headphones, recordings, sound system, himself. Not really knowing what to expect, I moved around the room, took a few pictures, and finally settled in near the stage, curious as to what I would hear. In four words, it blew me away.
The foundation of the pieces where pre-recorded mixes, all created by Ben. I had heard most of these before. This performance added the element of live drums, played over the recordings. As he played, I racked my brain for words to describe what he was doing, what I was hearing, a way to classify the music. Electronica? Techno? Mixed Audio? Percussion? IDK? I soon gave up brain-racking in favor of just listening. I’d talk to him later…
Thankfully, Hazben was kinda enough to agree to an interview at a later date. Here, dear readers, are some insights into his musical mind:
HAZBEN – Well it’s kinda… I mean there are aspects of instrumental and post rock, but it’s wierd, when I write it I don’t think of what type of music I want it to sound like. I kinda just spit it out. Some of it kinda has electronic aspects but usually it doesnt sound like techno. Parts have very techno sounds, but then there’s still all the music that I play live… it doesn’t sounds like what you would categorize as electronica or electric music of that genre.
ALISSA JEAN – Your strongest musical background is in percussion; how does that affect your song writing?
HAZBEN – I want to make it more interesting for me, so I tend to use weird or complicated beats. Sometimes, I just bang on the drums though.
Lots of the musis is based on the beat to emphasize whats going on in the rhythm.
ALISSA JEAN – What about all the other audio that you utilize in your pieces?
HAZBEN – I like to use lots of audio clips, spoken word, poems, interviews; I used to use the text to speech function on my mac. I would type words and it would say them and create an audio file that I could use.
I haven’t done singing clips, I think it would be kind of pointless. If i want my music to say something, I might as well say it without convoluting it with melody
ALISSA JEAN – So what do you want your music to say?
HAZBEN – Most of the songs that have message have a message based on what I was thinking when I wrote it or what I was going through. Or it’s just something I heard and thought would sound cool. For example the “stand up, sit down” clip was from a scientologist interview. I’ve used an alarm clock, a poem by Walt Whitman (that was kind of inspired by the levi commercials with poems in them, even though the commercials where almost sacrilegious, the way they used the poems.) I usually mask audio clips, makes it harder to tell what they’re saying, mysterious.
ALISSA JEAN – If you have a message why do you feel the need to mask it?
HAZBEN – Half of it is my own fear that people will judge me based on what my point of view is, the other part is to make it sound cool. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea or think that I’m militant ani-anything, really. It’s more, listen to this, this is something interesting to think about.
It’s a way for me to tell people, but not really. To express the way feel, the way I think. It relieves stress for me. It’s like “there I said it; sorta.” If people really wanted to figure out an acutal message, they could.
ALISSA JEAN – How do you go through the process of writing your music?
HAZBEN – A lot of it started as me teaching myself to use the program [The “program is Reason – a midi sequencing program musical instrument digital interface, for the electronic musically illiterate among us.] It’s me practicing things, liking it, not liking it. Lots of the music I’m writing now has more theory in it [thanks to the music theory classes he took]. Before, I would string motives together that sounded cool. Now I’m forced to think about if it actually works.
It’s really annoying sometimes if I show my music to a musician and they say it sounds “weird”. Sure it sounds weird or different. That’s the point of music. You’re not always gonna hear the same harmonious thing. Try something different that doesn’t follow rules. At one point or another it becomes uncreative to follow the rules. You have to do weird stuff.
ALISSA JEAN – And finally, why did you start doing a solo project?
HAZBEN – Most of the people I know who play music don’t play the type of music I want to play. Plus, as a drummer, you don’t have a lot of say how the music is written. I’ve been in a lot of bands, and until I can lay down the rules, I don’t want to be in a band. It’s a lot easier to have own goals, my own music, completely entirely my own. If people like it or don’t like it it’s my problem, not a band issue.
Music is always gonna be there something I can do, an outlet, my thoughts. I’m always gonna play drums; and computers are always right here to use. Well, granted that we don’t have an end of the world apocalypse and go back to living like cavemen.