Q&A: Ben Remember

Tell us about your journey… When did you really get into music?

So the journey… It’s a strange one. But one that I think a lot of people can relate to.

I didn’t get into music really young, I wasn’t one of those kids that had really cool parents that introduced them to Led Zepplin. I actually listened to a lot of Queen and ABBA as a kid. I didn’t find a genre of music, or even music per se, as ‘I’m going to go out and buy this type of music because I can relate to this style more than others’ until I started DJing and that was actually Trance in about 1998. This is when I really got into it. It was the first time I thought: ‘This is something I can really relate to”. Back then I was starting to go clubbing as well and the whole DJing thing started there.

Within about 2 years of DJing, I just felt like I really wanted to make music. It was great fun DJing, I was doing it all day, everyday, I was buying hundreds of records I didn’t need, but I just really wanted to start making it.

The first music I ever really stared to make was on DJ EQ (or something like that!) it was this really old PC programme, but you don’t actually make music, you just get samples with it and chuck them all together.

I used to work for a printing company and being on the computer late at night and I’d downloaded a demo of Cubase. I was playing around with a kick-drum and an EQ and I remember finding it absolutely fascinating that just changing an EQ could completely change a sound.

From there, I then bought my own computer and a legit copy of Cubase. When I started to produce music, there weren’t any YouTube videos that I could use to teach my self and I ignored any manuals. I just taught my self.

My younger brother, at the time, was making Breakbeat. Which at the time was actually called Nu Break Beat, or Nu Breaks. He picked up production really quickly and I guess it’s what inspired me to get into producing too. I was always asking him: “How are you making these sounds?!”, “How are you doing this?!” So I started learning from him. For a while we were producing and doing events together. We DJed in Spain a lot, it was amazing. It was my first introduction into the music industry in terms of being signed to labels and playing records out.

I became really bored of making this style music and around this time is when Dubstep came in, but I mean when it was really underground. I experimented with this for a while. But I knew I needed a proper break and I took a few year out of making music completely.

I moved to Bristol and within about 2 years, I started to focus on making music again. A friend of mine lent me a piano and a midi keyboard and I taught my self to play. I was playing some really basic classical music. I was doing this for probably for about 2 years but I just loved it. I could do it for hours and hours and just get lost with the music.

So you’re not actually classically trained? Can you play any musical instruments?

I’m not amazing and I am totally self-taught. In 6 months you can get yourself quite good, the same with most instruments. I write a lot of music in my down time that’s a bit more Classical.

Who were the artists inspiring you to get back in the studio after your 1 year out?

Gorgon City used to do a show under a name called Foamo on Rinse FM, I remember him playing loads of really early Deep House and baseline stuff and it was the first time in 6 or 7 years I’d heard Dance music, been inspired and thought that is really, really cool. I instantly thought ‘I can get back into that!’ and that’s exactly what I did.

How were you managing your job and learning to produce music at this time?

Within a year, maybe two years, I’d quit my job and gone self-employed in music. I just went all in. But before I did, I was working in an kitchen and every opportunity I got, I was listening to my mixes, listening to my tracks, I was constantly listening. I had to teach myself Cubase again because things were so different. It was like learning from scratch.

So you knew this was exactly what you wanted to do?

Completely. I just knew. Every second I wasn’t working I was writing music. I was getting home at 10PM and going straight in the studio. I had the same feelings I had when I first got into music. I felt inspired. I knew I had to do something.

Did you find being in Bristol was better for your career in music?

I actually met the Eton Messy guys, they were based in Bristol, and I got chatting to them through a friend of mine called Charlie who was managing me. He was well connected and he was one of those great people that saw something in me. Within another year from there, meeting Eton Messy and DJing around Bristol, I met the guys over at Toolroom.

Can you tell us how you got onto the label?

It was a year of sending demos. I would send around 10 tracks and maybe only 2 would get signed and end up on the compilations.

Can you remember the first tracks you sent to Toolroom?

One of the first ever track I got signed onto Toolroom was called ‘We Got Deeper’ and I STILL play and I still get compliments on it. I get people telling me it’s the best song of mine. Crazy! People say to me ‘oh you’ve always been really good’ but it’s taken time and it’s taken a lot of hard work. Funnily enough, the kick drum I used for this track, I still have! I have a mix down in one of my folders; I still use it sometimes as a layer in my productions. It adds a really cool sound.

“It was a year of learning hard, trying hard, getting better and listening to lots of different people.”

I always credit these guys Weiss and Prok & Fitch. I remember listening to one of Weiss’ really early tracks ‘My Sister’ and I just loved it. Then I came across Prok & Fitch and then Dusky. Those guys all really inspired me. I became obsessed with their productions. I listened to them for a solid year, just trying to work out how they did it. My learning curve was so steep and it was just a year of hard listening really trying to figure it all out. James and Ben (Prok & Fitch) actually write and produce music to a really similar style to me. We use Plugins in a weird way in which most people wouldn’t. Total coincidence.

Were there times when labels said no to your demos? What did you do?

Of course. But I didn’t let it get to me. I didn’t let it dishearten me. I asked why and I was very forward with them. I got back in the studio and I took the advice on board.

You have to be a bit pushy sometimes, ask why and work on it. But don’t be overly so. I am not one of those people that needs a pat on the back and to be told I’m amazing when I might not be, I don’t care if people don’t think I’m good enough. I want to be good enough.

Network, work hard, listen and don’t stop.

Talk us through where you are now?

it’s been just over a year since the management meeting with Toolroom

The first single came out just before Christmas which is one of my highest charting tracks – Lots of people really liked it and with that I wanted to work on what my sound was and really find out and explore ‘Who Is Ben Remember?’.

One of the biggest achievements of mine, which I’ve said before, and something I’ve always wanted, is someone pressing play on a record and knowing it’s me straight away from the kick drum or the high hat. That instant Ben Remember recognition. It’s that signature sound and it’s something I don’t think about now. It’s how I use plugins and it’s how I produce. I’ve also had Annie Mac supporting my music on BBC Radio 1, which was one of those instant boosts.

Are you always teaching yourself new things in the studio?

Always! This past year more so than ever before. I’ve tried even harder this year to learn a lot more about music production. The stuff I know now compared to even 12 months ago is crazy. I’m working on some new stuff and I just want to be really, really good. When I say I’ve learnt more about music production, I don’t mean just how to develop a kick drum, but I mean song arrangement and how you write a song. People do it in many different ways. Even if one genre sounds very similar, if you look at it in close detail the actual song arrangement of things is an identity in its self.

What has it been like working with the Toolroom Academy? Your talk at Brighton Music Conference was amazing. You looked so comfortable. Is this something you like doing?

It was a surprise to me, to be honest. But it felt so right to do and it’s something I massively enjoy doing. I’m not one of these sorts of people where getting famous is the most important thing, I get to travel the world and play music it’s awesome, don’t get me wrong, but that isn’t enough for me.

One thing that is really important in my life is to actually be able to teach people. And I don’t mean just how to produce, but I mean, how to nourish creativity and how to get the best of it. So being able to have this opportunity to sit with a group of people and talk about music for an hour is something I love doing. I get so many people messaging me asking for advice and I speak to everyone, as many people as I can and just share the things that I’ve learnt. I find I actually learn more about myself when I’m teaching other people.

Toolroom have such credibility and people are so keen to learn. People want to know: How did you get into the industry? What is it actually like being a producer? Is there any money to be made in this? What steps do I have to take? It’s crazy. Two years ago I was working in a kitchen. Now I have people coming to me asking for advice and help. To me, it’s been so interesting and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but it makes me realise that I’ve achieved, something a lot of people are trying to do.

Can you remember your first ever record you bought?

Like I said earlier, the first time I was like right I want to buy music was when Trance was around and it was Greece 2000 on Hooj Choons, which I think was 1998! I can remember there was a ‘DJ friendly mix’ on there and it’s one of the first records I used to practice to mix with! I had the classic Gemini Belt Drives!

Your DAW of choice is Cubase. Has that always been the case? Or did you start to produce with another program? What attracted you to this over the other choices like Abelton or Logic?

I’ve always used Cubase. Like I said, I got a demo of it and since then I’ve always used it. Purely coincidence. Because this is the program I’ve learnt on, I guess I’ve never wanted to switch from it.

I’ve used Logic when I’ve been working on collaborations with people in the past, I think they are pretty similar these days. But for me, Cubase is a comfortable window to be creative. I don’t think it’s better or worse than any other DAWs available, it just works for me. I’ve used Abeleton a little bit and I think a lot of people are moving over to that. So I’m intrigued by it and a lot of people say it’s fun for ideas and you can good results quickly. So it’s one for me to start experimenting with.

How often are you working on new music?

A lot! If I’m not making a sample pack or doing some engineering, I’m working on new tracks. On average, I write at least one track a week. Sometimes two. Sometimes it might just be loads of content for a sample pack and a song. It varies each week. The Toolroom sample pack was made in 8 days – That was a solid week of work with a deadline to hit. I tend to treat these projects like a proper 9-5 job.

Sometimes I might just write a groove, it might not go anywhere but it’s an idea to start with. I have whole folders filled with ideas. A lot of people might worry about that, starting songs, not finishing them, but I wouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself. If it’s a good idea it will go somewhere eventually.

How do you like to work?

I like to make a 16 bar groove, get a little vocal, make a 6-7 minute track arrangement with that idea and not get overly fussy with what’s going. Then listen to it on my speakers, headphones, on my laptop, and then go back to it. I like to get my ideas down. Don’t be too scared to push forward. If I’m in the flow of a track I will just keep going and going, I don’t want to rush what I’m doing. The magic in creativity happens instantly, and whilst it’s there I go for it.

How many projects are you working on at this exact moment?

I’ve cleared up a lot of bits I’ve been working on actually. If you had asked me that seven days ago, it would have been five different projects.

I have my collaboration with Mark Knight this Friday on Toolroom Trax, after that, I’ve got another collaboration with Tuff London. We’ve just finished the B-side of that which is sounding good. (It was meant to be a single release but we had to include this one, so it’s now an EP) And then, I’m doing an EP with The Golden Boy and I’ve just started another track with DJOKO from Berlin. I’ve also just sent Toolroom 5 demos of solo pieces I’ve been doing at the same time.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio setup at the moment?

All in the box, I use Cubase 7, going to 9 soon. I use UAD, 1176 compressor, 670 limiter, A-2A limiter, Helios 69 EQ, neve EQs, tube tec EQs, raw distortion and the Culture Vulture (I have about 9 others on my want list on their web site, need to save those pennies!) Sound card, Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin MK1.

I also use the Slate Digital everything bundles – The reverb is amazing and have started using that more than any other reverb I own. Sound toys… I use the full bundle a lot – Love the delay, Decapitator and Radiator, they are used on every track.

Are you mostly in-the-box, do you use any outboard gear? Any equipment, which is really essential to what you do?

In the box, but I have used a Moog Sub Phatty synthesiser (Used to make the pig pad on the breakdown of the collaboration with Mark Knight) I’m going to be moving soon and I really want more hardware for my studio. It will be good to use my hands a little more with my productions. But all Ben Remember productions you hear are all made in the box.

Anything on your hardware wish list?

Softtube Console 1 MK2 (she’s in the post as we speak!) And the new Novation Peak.

In your latest Toolroom Academy course you focus on drums and groove, why do you feel these are the most important elements of a track?

Simple really, I think they are the backbone of any Dance record. Everything else sits over the top and sits with it. It wouldn’t be anything without the drums and elements. If the drums are weak why have an amazing synthesiser? I like to think of a track to have a story; every single element is a character. The drums are really, really important. As we’re talking about Tech House and Techno, some of it is only drums. So it’s the core thing of a song. With a lot of Pop records, you don’t even notice the drums because they are done so well. If you had made those drums even a half measure of what they are, the whole song would fall apart and it wouldn’t sound as good.

Make it happen

Learn how to make cutting-edge House and Tech House with our 3 month online Production Certificate taught by Ben Remember & Ben Keen.