We at Pile Palace know how lucky we are to have so many musically inclined Piles in our loving little family. And if we're talking about production skills, there is no question that one of our most talented Piles is one of the newest additions to our ever-growing force of Asians: Ben Engelberg aka Bengal. With the release of his new EP, Fractal Dust, on Atish and Mark Slee's Manjumasi label, we decided it would be a great time to sit down with Ben to talk about his musical background, his inspiration, what's to come, and, well---the EP he just dropped. Pick up a copy here to show this guy some love!
When did you start working on Fractal Dust?
The track 'Universal Traveler' is for sure the oldest track on the EP. I want to say I made that track about two years ago. So yeah, two years ago.
Where did you draw inspiration for this EP?
From so many places. A lot of my inspiration has come from backpacking and hiking trips, and also long car rides. On all the tracks on this EP, I was attempting to recapture certain vibes or feelings I was having at a particular time.
Any moments you can think of specifically? Can you think of one example and the track that reflects that?
Definitely long car trips between SF and SD, or out to the mountains or desert. For me, after I'm driving for more than 5-6 hours, my mind definitely goes into this trance as I'm staring at the road, but I'm also inadvertently absorbing the changing landscape and scenery around me. The track Fractal Dust was definitely inspired by this state of mind. I think you can hear this in the repeating piano and synth notes that basically linger on the same one note throughout the entire track, while the musical landscape around these notes change as the song evolves.
Many of us travelers/road trippers can attest to that feeling. Who are your favorite artists at the moment?
My roommate, and fellow Pile, Zach Yaklovev, AKA R. Fentz, has been working on and putting out some amazingly-crafted tracks. Living with him has been really inspiring and he has definitely pushed me in the direction which has allowed for this EP to happen. In fact the opening track “Fractal Dust” was written to be an intro track to a live set that he asked me to play on his birthday this last year and probably wouldn’t exist if he hadn't asked me to play that show. Another artist whose sound I am really into at the moment is Rafel Vogel, better known as Leafar Legov. The simplicity and execution, and emotional depth he can portray in his productions are amazing.
So, what exactly is your musical background? Where did the whole music thing begin for you?
I learned to read music when I was pretty young and began playing piano. Throughout middle school and high school my main instrument was actually drums. I played in a bunch of different bands covering a wide range of styles during this time... everything from punk, to hip hop, to psychedelic rock, to jazz. My friends and I would love to cover bands like Radiohead, AIR, and Pink Floyd. I was always the one who was tasked with attempting to record us, so I started to learn basic recording softwares. The first one I ever used was Sonar, and then FL studio. Towards the end of high school I went to my first rave and everything changed after that. I got a copy of Ableton Live and fell in love with being able to create every element of a song instead of being just one part in a band.
What do you hope to get across with this new EP? What do you want people to feel?
I feel that listening to music is a very personal subjective matter, so each individual will always have his or her own experience, which is great. As long as the listener will take something at all away from this EP, I will be happy. However, I, of course, hope they enjoy the music and sounds that I created, and that it takes them on some sort of personal journey.
Last but definitely not least, any word on upcoming shows? Where can we catch you next?
I am really looking forward to a live set I'll be doing at the second Manjumasi showcase, with my roommate and fellow label artist R. Fentz, and Mark Slee. The show will be in collaboration with the “You’re Welcome” party at Monarch, SF on March 9th. Come on out.