Red Bull Studio Session with Ben Westbeech aka Breach
The Red Bull Studios in Amsterdam are just one of the eight Red Bull studios stationed worldwide. The Red Bull studios offer talented producers and musicians the opportunity to learn and improve all sorts of skills such as mixing, mastering, recording and producing. Every now and then, Red Bull invites an experienced musician with a signature sound to give other producers an insight in the world of electronic music production.
Last December, UK born, and currently Amsterdam based Ben Westbeech, was around to talk about his musical career. A group of roughly 20 people, consisting of aspiring producers, DJ’s and some journalists attended the studio session.
The session was led by a member from the Red Bull organization, who made sure the entire session was structured and offered enough possibilities for the attendants to ask their questions. It was well coordinated, and Ben had no problem talking about whatever came to his mind, which resulted in a very exciting and unique two hours.
Ben, who originates from Hertfordshire, kicked off with telling about his musical history. He was classically trained at home, and learned to play the cello at a young age. He even spent some of his younger years as a vocalist in a boys choir. At some point during his teenage years he stumbled upon the British rave culture. There was obviously no YouTube around at that time, so it was all about sneaking into warehouse parties and listening to pirate radio stations.
At the age of 15 Ben encountered the track ‘Atlantis’ by LTJ Bukem, a record that Ben described as “life changing”. It was this specific track that sparked Ben’s interest in electronic music and rave culture. Other artists who further strengthened his interest were Shy FX, DJ Hype and Grooverider.
LTJ Bukem – Atlantis
Producing his own tunes was still merely a dream for Ben during his teenage years. Since he was still musically active, he attended a university where he studied for a musical degree. In that period, Ben was required to spend time in the studio with professionals to learn from them. At a rave somewhere, Ben bumped into Shy FX, who offered him the chance to join him in the studio. This is where Ben really got his passion for producing electronic music.
Later on Ben decided to move to Bristol because he admired the sound that originated from that particular city. Ben was offered a record deal by Gilles Peterson for his first album ‘Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life’ after a friend past Ben’s Material to Gilles Peterson. He even appeared on the Jools Holland show alongside Paul McCartney and Björk, which Ben experienced as “a dream come true”.
Ben showed a music video wherein he’s singing his track ‘I Feel So Good Today’. Not the best music video ever made, but it was an important track for Westbeech. Yoruba, in cooperation with Osunlade, remixed it into a proper house track. This remix ignited Ben’s passion for house music.
Ben Westbeech – So Good Today (Yoruba Suite Remix)
Still, Ben was mainly occupied as a singer. His second studio album ‘There Is More To Life Than This’, was made in co-operation with many known producers such as Henrik Schwarz, Soul Clap, Motor City Drum Ensemble and his old friend Redlight. Ben states about the album:
“The making of the second album was so much fun, but sometimes it still felt like a treadmill… Maybe it was because singing was not what I really wanted…”
Around that time Ben created his alias Breach. He produced his first EP as Breach in 2010, named ‘Fatherless’; “I wanted to breach the transition between dubstep and house”. This vision is clearly audible in the main track of the EP, which goes by the same title. In the following years, Ben produced a bunch of tracks under his Breach moniker.
Last year he moved to Amsterdam to get a different perspective on music. In 2013, Breach really experienced a breakthrough. “One day, I woke up after a nice dream. I dreamed about the lyrics from Jack, and immediately after I woke up, I wrote them down. The next day I recorded the vocals, made the bassline and the beat. The entire base of the track was made in one afternoon.”
Breach – Jack
The record ‘Jack’ changed Ben’s life completely. Within a few weeks, he was booked for major gigs all around the globe while his manager called him every day, telling Ben that the number of sales and gigs kept increasing. Soon, Ben was playing at festivals with the ‘big’ EDM names such as Tiësto and Afrojack. Ben found it pretty difficult at times, being an underground artist between the commercial big fish. Ben managed to deal with it, and found a good balance between enjoying the peak of his career, and trying to stay who he wanted to be.
After this detailed, inspiring biographical story, it was time for some studio talk. Ben showed us some of his work in Cubase, and talked in depth about his workflow. For example, about his remix for Maya Jane Cole’s track ‘Everything‘. He didn’t particularly love the vocals, so he recorded his own vocals on top of it (one of the benefits of being a singer). Also, he revealed some of the plugins he used to make his signature UK-style basslines and beats. I summed it up for you tech-heads:
- When using vocals, try to be creative with effects. Use plenty of reverb or delay and try to make crazy and ambient sounds.
- Chop up your vocals and create a beat with these ‘cuts’. (As heard in his remix of ‘Everything’).
- In many DAWs, it’s really easy to pitch vocals. Experiment with increasing or decreasing the vocals by one or two octaves, or even use three tone heights combined to create a chord from your vocals.
- Ben uses NI Battery to create his beats. Just start with a template, and manipulate the sounds by EQing and cutting them into the desired element.
- Compress your beats with a limiter, like the Waves L2 Limiter. It gives everything a nice “punch”.
- For his signature UK-style bass, Ben uses the ‘Subboom Bass’ plugin. It is a very easy-to-use plugin, with just two oscillators and some simple filters.
- Don’t sidechain the bass on the kicks; instead, fine-tune the EQing. This way, the bass nor the kick loses any uncontrolled punch.
- Before you start to work on a track, open the mixer view, and turn all the sliders a notch down (-3/-4 DB). This gives you more headroom to work with. (A trick by Ben’s old friend and colleague Redlight)
With the tech talk done, the studio session came to an end. At last Ben gave us an exclusive preview of a techno track he’s working on with Cinnaman. He finished with;
“It has been really inspiring talking to you. Still it feels a bit weird to me, as I don’t feel any different from you. I feel just the same as you: just someone who wants to do what he or she loves to do in life.”
As said it was a special and inspiring Friday evening, properly arranged by Red Bull. Ben was really open-minded and revealing about his life. This left us with some interesting insights. If you would like to know more about the Red Bull Studios and maybe attend one of the sessions, visit the Red Bull Studio website.
Picture credits: Arenda de Hoop