Modal Electronics Backstage: Matt Benyayer [Dark Sky]
In our latest installment of Modal Electronics’ Backstage Blog Article Series, we catch up with Matt Benyayer AKA Dark Sky, taking a look into his creative inspiration, influences, lockdown’s ramifications and managing your workload to maximize your creative output!
So, tell us who you are, where you’re from etc?
Hello! I’m Matt, an audio lover from South London, I’ve spent most of my life in this crazy beautiful city. I’ve been making music since I was 15 and professionally since I was 21.
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
It’s quite varied, I recently discovered Bahamadia’s 1996 album “Kollage” which still sounds super fresh. Westbam’s “You Need The Drugs” has been getting under my skin quite a bit. Global Communication’s “76:14”. In terms of new stuff, Rene Wise’s EP on Mote Evolver, Silverlining’s new album “Simulacra”, Anunaku’s EP on AD93, and the new Portico Quartet album “Terrain” to name but a few. I have a playlist on my spotify if you want to hear more 🙂
The first track that really grabbed me was ‘Chameleon’ by Herbie Hancock. After I heard that bassline it was game over basically.
Has Music always been a part of your life? Was Music a big part of your childhood? What did you listen to back then?
Massively, my mum had a great collection of CD’s and cassettes. I would go through them all searching for things that resonated and then play them over and over. The first track that really grabbed me was ‘Chameleon’ by Herbie Hancock. After I heard that bassline it was game over basically. I was also really into guitar music, “What’s the Story Morning Glory” by Oasis got a heavy rotation. I first got into electronic music through my older brother who used to play garage tracks from his bedroom – I think the track that got battered the most was Nightcrawlers, “Push The Feeling On”.
What inspires you musically?
Mood and memories are key triggers for me. How I’m feeling on the day really affects what I write even to the extent of how the weather is. Every piece is basically a diary entry of some sort. Sometimes I write stuff based on memories of a space I was in such as a club or festival. I try to channel the feelings I felt in these spaces into the music.
Who are your biggest influences on your production?
It’s always changing, but there’s a few producers that I come back to for sonic references, Photek, Floating Points, Carl Craig, Moodyman, Goldie, John Beltran, Shed.
There’s no set rules, sometimes I like to create a ‘system’ that randomly generates ideas and then select the best bits to develop further. I used to do this a lot using ipad apps like Thesys hooked up to hardware synths.
How does a track start for you – what is the spark that kicks off the rest of your production?
There’s no set rules, sometimes I like to create a ‘system’ that randomly generates ideas and then select the best bits to develop further. I used to do this a lot using ipad apps like Thesys hooked up to hardware synths. Recently I’ve been using the Pioneer Squid to do a similar thing but instead of touching a screen it’s hardware. Other times I will spend some time finding a sound that really inspires me, tweak it till it’s right then try and write a riff and build a track around it. Other times I like to experiment with a new piece of equipment or plugin / max for live device until I hear something that feels like it could be expanded into a track.
What gear is in your studio at the moment – any standout pieces?
I recently sold a lot of stuff during lockdown and decided to invest in modular as It feels like a really exciting new world to explore. Some modules that I’m loving are the Quad Drum by Vpme.de, Pamela’s New Work Out, Rings, Maths and the Voltage Block. I’ve also always been a fan of desktop synths because of their portability, a lot of the early dark sky tracks featured the Tetra by Dave Smith which I still have. The problem was a lot of the features were buried under the hood so it was quite time consuming to use. In replacement I’ve been using the ARGON8 from Modal a lot because of how easy it is to access all of the key parameters and the sound palette feels really fresh and inspiring – I love how you can scan through wavetables on it with an LFO to create really evolving patches.
I’ve been using the ARGON8 from Modal a lot because of how easy it is to access all of the key parameters and the sound palette feels really fresh and inspiring – I love how you can scan through wavetables on it with an LFO to create really evolving patches.
From remixer, to TV / film composer and a producer under your own name – how do you find the time to do all of this? Is there any job you prefer?
For me breaking the week up into chunks and working on lots of different projects helps keep things fresh. Although it’s tempting to say yes to everything, knowing when to say no is important to avoid overstretching yourself and compromising on quality.
How did lockdown influence your music making?
Initially the lockdown made me want to write ambient music as a way of escaping, but as the lockdown progressed the yearning to dance grew and grew which led me to start making more sound system based music.
Do you ever suffer creative blocks? What is your coping mechanism?
Yes this does happen from time to time, I think the best thing to do is to take a break, get out into nature if you can and give your ears a rest. Sleeping also really helps give clarity to decision making if you’re hitting walls. Try not to be too hard on yourself and listen to other styles of music to get inspired again.
How does technology impact your creative process?
Massively, I think since the beginning of music the technology behind the instrument has always had an influence on the user. This is really noticeable in each decade of the 20th century where advancements would completely change the sound of a generation. I feel like music tech companies have more impact on the direction of a musical scene or sound than they might otherwise be aware of!
I feel like music tech companies have more impact on the direction of a musical scene or sound than they might otherwise be aware of!
What has your experience of the industry been like thus far and what advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
It’s been a rollercoaster, I’ve been blessed to have played some amazing shows and released music on great labels. The experience of sharing your music with an audience at a gig never gets old, it’s like a drug basically. There’s been some tough times for sure but you can’t have the highs without the lows! My advice would be to put in the hours and listen out for signatures in your music that make you unique and develop them.
What is your production setup at the moment? Is it fixed or do you switch things up regularly?
In my studio the hardware is currently hooked up to the Toraiz Squid which sends midi and cv out. The audio from everything goes into my Octatrack to process the sound with effects then into a Universal Audio soundcard. I use my Nord drum 2 a lot for drums because of how expressive it is. Everything gets saved to dropbox so I can continue working on it remotely if I want to. Sometimes I like to use the ipad to generate ideas. Then when I’m feeling adventurous I like to fire up my modular system and just get lost in a wormhole for a few hours recording long takes of audio then cut and process the audio.
My advice would be to put in the hours and listen out for signatures in your music that make you unique and develop them.
What are you working on at the moment?
A collection of new club focused singles for a new alias, the sound design for a documentary and collaborating with some vocalists on some more down tempo stuff.
So we hear you have a SKULPTsynth SE and an ARGON8M in the studio at the moment – what’s your impressions on these?
I really love them, the sound and design of the ARGON8M is something I’ve been waiting for a synth manufacturer to do for some time, I can’t think of another hardware wavetable synth at this price point that sounds this good. I also love the Modal ipad app integration, that really opens the synth up for me and is a great way to learn more about synthesis and what the synth is capable of. I love the patch randomisation feature if you’re feeling uninspired to get the creative juices flowing. The fact that you can record 4 lanes of parameter automation alongside a sequence or arp can lead to some really expressive sounding patches too. I’ve also been using the SKULPTsynth SE quite a bit too, I love how portable it is and how versatile the sound palette is for a virtual analog, again the Modal Ipad app works like a charm with this. I could see the SKULPTsynth SE fitting into a live show rig in the future for sure.
Matt Benyayer - DARKSKY Signature Sound Pack
Invisible Waves for ARGON8
Matt Benyayer aka Dark Sky is a producer, DJ and live act who has been making and releasing music since 2011. With 2 albums under his belt, multiple EPs on various labels (50 Weapons, Mister Saturday Night, Pictures Music, Black Acre and Tectonic), plus a string for remixes for the likes of Kelis, Bombay Bicycle Club and the xx, Matt has cemented himself as a pilar in the eclectic London music scene. Looking to delve into the sonic-mind of this producer? Matt’s debut preset release for ARGON8 – Invisible Waves – is the perfect solution. Whether it’s sultry, soulful pads, sub-rich bass tones or mod heavy arps, this is one collection that should be in every ARGON-user’s preset arsenal.