DJ/Producer and Permanent Vacation label co-founder/owner Benjamin Fröhlich is back on Torture the Artist, two years after his first interview to talk about many things, but mainly the time between then and now – just about the same time it took to entertain an idea of making an album, through to its fruition. Less than a week away from the release of his nine-tracker ‘Amiata‘ on his label, the (still) Munich based artist recalls his musical influences, and his recent production process, expresses some thoughts on what has changed and much about what remained the same, and even reveals an exciting plan due out in the tangible future (spoiler alert not to be missed here).
Torture the Artist: Good day Benjamin, where are you currently sitting? What did you do this morning and what else do you have planned out for the day?
+Benjamin Fröhlich: Thank you! Good day to you too. I am currently sitting on my desk at home. This morning I went to the Bayrische Rundfunk, which is the Bavarian broadcasting network, and I recorded some voice snippets for a DJ mix I did for them. The rest of the afternoon is resereved to follow up some emails and conversations that were a bit on hold as I just returned from a 10-day trip to Japan. In the evening, I will play some frisbee with friends. Keeping my fingers crossed that it’s not gonna start to rain.
I promised that I will get better with the socials, so obviously it worked.
Torture the Artist: We spoke to you in your hometown Munich just a little over two years ago, shortly after the release of your first EP, ‘Rude Movements’, on your then 10 year-old label, Permanent Vacation. Seems like quite a few things have changed since then, what are some of the key events that happened between then and now?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Oh really? That is very interesting to hear. I don’t feel that much different since our last interview. For me it feels more like an ever-evolving process rather. It’s hard for me to pick one single event, but maybe one thing has changed since then: the fact that I am using social media more frequently than I used to do. So people may be a bit more aware of the things I do. Do you remember that we talked about it the last time? I promised that I will get better with the socials, so obviously it worked. <smiles>
Torture the Artist: That’s quite an accomplishment there and we have noticed the difference. Have you worked on a piece of music which best describes this time period in your life (2017-2019). Which?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Good question. I am not really sure if I did but from the top of my had I would say ‘Drums From Memory’.
Torture the Artist: Music wise, did you spend a lot more time in the studio the past two years, or was it fair balance with trotting across the globe playing DJ sets?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Usually I have one day per week reserved for studio time. That is usually Thursdays, but it also depends what has to be done. If I have a remix to finish or something else with a deadline it can be more time of course. Sometimes I also do music early in the morning or late at night in bed, when nothing else is going on and you can just toy around with some ideas. I really like these wee hours in the day when everything is calm and quiet and you go to another mind set. I’d say my work week usually is divided into label, making music and DJing.
Torture the Artist: Does co-founding and co-running a forward-thinking label with your friend and Permanent Vacation (DJ duo) other-half Tom Bioly affect how you divvy up your time and focus on different components of your musical career?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Yes sure, the label work is of course still very important to me and like I explained above, I divide up my time between, the label work, producing music and DJing. But if you look at it in a longer period of time, producing music became a bigger segment over the past four years.
Torture the Artist: Having spent a good amount of time running a record shop (too!) would we still be able to catch you at record shops?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Yes it happens for sure, not as much as I used to, but still I go from time to time. Mostly in other cities I have to admit. I bought some nice music in Tokyo for example. But if I am looking to buy a certain record, I usually do it online, where I know they have the record I want in stock.
Torture the Artist: Your upcoming album, ‘Amiata’, is out soon. Did you find the finalization of this particular Permanent Vacation release (being your own) to be more challenging and/or drawn out? Of course, a little added pressure comes with releasing your own work, but how much did it impact the process?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Oh yes it is quite different to prepare music from other artists for a release. For once the main part, the music, is done by someone else and we only curate the tracks or give some advice for some changes if asked. So it took quite some time to have the album ready. I think almost twoyears from the first ideas to the final masters.
Some tracks really ended up quite differently to what I started out with, but for me it was worth it to invest all of this time.
Torture the Artist: Wow, that is quite the process. What is the shortest and longest period of time you needed to complete a track, whether on the album or your entire career?
Benjamin Fröhlich: The shortest was one day, the longest probably one and a half years. <smiles> Some of the new album’s tracks really took some time and also different directions over until I settled with the final version. Some tracks really ended up quite differently to what I started out with, but for me it was worth it to invest all of this time. It was a really exciting process and I think I learned a lot from it.
I think all the tracks on the album are reflections of my DJ self from the very early beginnings of my career until now.
Torture the Artist: Describe a DJ gig of yours which inspired you as a music producer. Which track off of your album is the most direct reflection of your career as a DJ?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Music wise, I am probably more inspired by other DJ sets rather than my own. Hearing music in a club for the first time still can be a mind bending thing and very inspiring. I think all the tracks on the album are reflections of my DJ self from the very early beginnings of my career until now.
For me, the whole album is more or less the quintessence of all my musical influences – Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop, Drum and Bass to Disco, New Wave and House. But if I have to choose or let’s say what I played out the most from the album would be ‘The Big Sun’ and ‘Cicada Dub’.
Torture the Artist: Do the sequencing of the tracks progress in a forward motion? Would you as a listener play the tracks from 1 through 9 or are they distinctive episodes you can jump into with each their own start, plot and finish?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Well yes, I definitely put some time and thought into the sequencing. I guess it’s a bit structured like a club night with some tracks to get you into the mood at the beginning followed by some uplifting dance tracks, a breather in the middle and an energetic ending. But in the best case scenario, also every track works on its own and you would be able to jump within the album and not feel lost. It was my goal to give every track something distinctively recognizable like a certain melody or bassline rather than have an ‘album track’that only can survive with the other tracks on the album.
You could say that all the tracks exist at the same time and reflect the influences I had over the past almost 20 years.
Torture the Artist: Let’s talk about the album as a whole. Altogether, do they illustrate your idea of a Permanent Vacation – whether a time, a place or a state of mind? Do the tracks each represent various periods in your life or do they rather exist at the same time but reflect different angles of Benjamin Fröhlich?
Benjamin Fröhlich: In the time prior to the album, I went and reorganised my music collection, physically and digitally. At first I was a bit overwhelmed with the big pile of music, but than I started to do a lot of DJ mixes in different genres. I did a couple of reggae and dub mixes, a hip hop mix, a new wave one, a disco one etc. and that really helped me to digest all the music and filter it. So in a way I think the album is a direct result of this process. Yes, I think you could say that all the tracks exist at the same time and reflect the influences I had over the past almost 20 years.
Torture the Artist: How much of your earlier years as a DJ / Producer influence your album? Your production career took off not so long ago, though you have been in the scene for over a decade, were you able to save up some of that beginner’s zeal? How hard was it to let it out again, much later in time.
Benjamin Fröhlich: I think the album reflects the whole musical spectrum of my influences. Through the process of organising my music collection (as I mentioned earlier) I was also able to get into the mindset of different phases, where I was listening to a particular kind of music. It is actually easier for me to recall the different episodes of my life through music.
Torture the Artist: What have been your favorite genres for source of inspiration? How do you get yourself out of a creative jam? Did you ever find the need to completely detach from music?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Like I said earlier, it can be nearly any kind of music, but I really like all things dubby and percussion heavy and often get inspiration from that. I think I always can listen to music, but I sometimes have to detach in a way that I can analyze how a track was produced. After that it’s refreshing to listen to music. I can enjoy it without thinking too much how it is created. That clears my ears for the next round of analysis. <smiles>
Torture the Artist: Permanent Vacation is not the label for clear-cut genres, often genre-bending, even breaking. Which genres would Amiate fall under? Do these categories reflect what you have been listening to during the production process?
Benjamin Fröhlich: I guess the album would file under Dub, House, Italo, Elektro, Cosmic, Boogie and a bit Leftfield if you will. These are the main genres, but I always also like it when they get mixed in DubHouse, ItaloElektro, CosmicBoogie etc. I am not that much of a purist and always have been a fan of a of a healthy mixture of things. I guess this has its roots in the Cosmic tapes I listened to a lot as a teenager. They just used records of different genres like New Wave, Krautrock, World Music, Reggae or Balearic and blended it into a mix and you would not know what’s next. This approach was definitely a vital influence for me, not only for the album but also for all my musical being. During the production time I also listened to a lot of’Trip Hop’, which I used to make an impression as a DJ back in the days. Coming from Hip Hop it opened up the door to electronic music for me, when I was around 17 or 18. The Rockers HiFi Dj Kicks , ‘Back To Mine’compilation by Orbital or the Journeys by DJ from Coldcut also had a big impact on me and I rediscovered them in the past 2 years. All three compilations are also good examples of genre bending mixes without being random, keeping a unique touch to it. That was also one of my aims for the album.
The end of the set is what sticks in people’s heads and in what kind of mood they leave afterwards.
Torture the Artist: In our previous interview, we focused on your career as a DJ. You mentioned that the end of a set is more important than the beginning. First, do you still agree with this currently. Would you say same applies to an album? Did you settle on Saturnia as the finale from the getgo or did you have other tracks in mind beforehand?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Basically yes, but the beginning of the set shouldn’t lack energy either, so people follow the musical journey to the end. When I listen to other DJs, I always want to listen to the whole set, because judging the DJ only after the first half an hour or hour often feels unfair to me. I think the end of the set is what sticks in people’s heads and in what kind of mood they leave afterwards. The same probably applies to the album. For a long time I was sure that ‘Last Night’would be the last track, the title called for it. But in the end it felt a bit strange to have the only vocal track for the finale. Placed at the end, it felt sort of like a ‘bonus track,’ so I think it was better to move it to the middle. ‘Saturnia’ is a more energetic yet spacey ending, which works.
Torture the Artist: One of the tracks in the album features American vocalist ‘Dreamcast’, who adds a unique touch to the entire compilation. How did the collaboration come about? Are you a fan of vocals in electronic music? Would you have liked to include more vocals in this release?
Benjamin Fröhlich: When I was looking for vocals I asked Bostro Pesopeo and he introduced me to Dreamcast’s music. I thought this was a perfect fit and contacted him on Soundcloud and we took it from there. I am definitely a fan of a good vocal track in electronic music. If you look at the catalog of Permanent Vacation, you will find a lot of vocal tracks. And yes I had planned for another vocal track, but in the end it didn’t feel right, because it didn’t fit to the vibe of the rest of the album.
Torture the Artist: Do you sing?
Benjamin Fröhlich: I sing along. That’s the way I would put it <smiles>. Like I said I like to play vocal tracks and I usually sing along. But I don’t really think that I can sing. At least, I never tried to do it on one of my tracks.
Torture the Artist: Any recent upcoming artists who made an impression on you and your production style? We all know about your diverse and sometimes eclectic taste in music, how far off did you wander in the vast world of music, to be able to zone back in in the studio, and say, I think I’ve heard enough, it’s time to get something cooking?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Recently I am a big fan of the label Hard Fist from France. Everything they put out is great! Production wise but also music wise. It’s somehow poppy and edgy at the same time. If you have not heard of it yet, make sure to check it out. Beyond that, I can wander off a bit in the landscape of music and it can be very different things that can get your juices flow like a certain percussion sound. Some details I like are starting points for a new track pretty often. I really like to to draw influences from different kind of music and not only contemporary club music, but basically a lot people, whose music I am fan of, do that too I guess.
Torture the Artist: Say your favorite producer offers to remix a track of yours, which would you willingly and ably volunteer?
Benjamin Fröhlich: You mean which track I would offer to remix? I would send the album and see what track she or he would have an idea to. Spoiler alert: I already did <smiles> remixes coming soon…
Interview by Marie J Floro