Home Interview An interview with MASS!VE DYNAM!C

An interview with MASS!VE DYNAM!C

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MASS!VE DYNAM!C (stylized as M!D!) Is the award-winning “genre fluid” project by British progressive rock multi-instrumentalist Benedict Harris-Hayes. (ENOCHIAN / OCEAN THEORY).

After winning two awards in a 2016 global remix competition for his DnB reinvention of Zanga’s “I Need You” and self-releasing a few tracks, Ben returns armed with a slew of songs to power M! D! forward with their full debut album titled “Progreso”.

‘Progress’ is a 13-track musical journey through hip-hop, drum & bass, dub / reggae, EDM-Trap, chillstep, triphop, bass house and other genres and was largely inspired by his travels in Asia, before the pandemic. and write at home during the pandemic.

We have had the pleasure of interviewing MASS! VE and this has been the result.

Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from / how did you get into music? Was it all internet based?

Salutations!
Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you and your readers. I hope they find my answers enjoyable. And I hope ever more that they check out the ‘Progress’ album by my MASS!VE DYNAM!C project!

I’m originally from the south-west of the United Kingdom, a place called Cornwall, where I spent my formative years before moving to the naval city of Portsmouth when I was 19.
I’ve moved around a lot since then and travelled the world, but I have always lived by the sea, which I like. I find it calming.

I started playing drums when I was 8 years old…which appears to be some 33 years ago now! I picked up the guitar and bass aged 14 and then the piano/keyboards at the age of 18.

I wrote my first original composition when I was about 13 or 14, although I had contributed musically to songs while playing in bands with school friends before that time.

The reason for learning different instruments is that I’ve always enjoyed trying new things or finding new ways to challenge myself with learning and development, as I feel it keeps things fresh and exciting.
I also always wanted to emulate people like Prince and other multi-instrumentalists in being proficient on all instruments and good enough to one day record albums solely by myself.

In the last 10-15 years or so, I’ve really gotten into orchestral scoring and writing music for film and TV, which I’ve done a few projects for. I like the challenge of writing for visual because it’s very different to writing a song.

My musical listening originally came from vinyl and tapes, to be honest…lots and lots of cassette tapes!!!

My father had a large collection of these and would play a lot of music around the house, and especially in his car when we had to do long drives around the UK together.
I think a lot of those journeys in the car informed a lot of musical identity in my youth because it was what my Dad enjoyed and I grew to enjoy the bands he liked before I developed my own preferences.

I then got into music my friends were listening to and I used to ‘tape trade’ with pen pals, so that was a great way to discover new bands.
My cousin was a big influence on my early music tastes as he used to listen to a lot of varied stuff and that sort of thing really sunk into my head.

I also bought a lot of music magazines and enjoyed the samplers that came on CD’s with those magazines, so that was another way of my tastes developing.

Of course, the advent of digital encoding for music led to a wealth of music I’d probably never have heard otherwise, and again, that part of my life was informed by friends who had the MP3 collections that I would party with!

Who have been your main inspirations (both musical and in “life”)? And how have they affected your sound?

Ah… this is always a difficult question to answer because the variety of genres I write in is pretty wide and varied!

I would say that a lot of my more ‘epic’ musical work stems from a love of a Canadian musician called Devin Townsend, who is a prolific and talented gentleman.
His music and production work have informed my own development over the years, and I still hold him as a big influence on me even if I’ve not followed his output in a dedicated manner in recent times.

In contrast to that, I would say the guys in Bad Company (?EI?C) and Roni Size are an equal influence in terms of being music and production heroes of mine; especially on the D’n’B side of things
Albums like, ‘Book of the Bad’, ‘New Forms’ and ‘In The Mode’ still sound fresh to me.

Brian Tyler is right up there from a composer perspective, along with people like Paul Simon, Neil Barnes and Paul Daley (from Leftfield), Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher), Liam Howlett (The Prodigy)…through to artists/producers like Alan Walker, Pendulum, Infected Mushroom, Juno Reactor, Sigma and more!

I am a huge rock and metal music lover…I love everything from Meshuggah, Methwitch, Slayer, and Megadeth through to Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin and more.

MASS!VE DYNAM!C is definitely more informed by my love over the years of electronic-based music, such as Drum’n’Bass, Dance, EDM, Electro and everything keyboard/sequencer-based…I’m a sucker for a banging bassline and catchy melody…but equally, it wouldn’t have developed without my love of rock and metal music.

How would you define your sound?

At this present moment, I decided to define the ‘Progress’ album as “genre-fluid” because it covers a lot of musical ground…and yet blurs some genres and mashes them together.

As a progressive rock/metal musician, which is my main genre of writing I guess, I’ve always been interested in blending things up and I felt no different when it came to writing this MASS!VE DYNAM!C album… only this time, I wanted to write something that wasn’t rock or metal and was more a tribute to the raves, parties and electronic music I’ve enjoyed over the years.

I couldn’t just write a tonne of drum’n’bass…or a tonne of slow trip hop, because I really do need to FEEL what I’m doing and more so, I need to ride that creative wave, wherever it may take me at that time.

Hence, the album is quite varied.

I think with the ‘Progress’ album, I just wanted to celebrate that love of all things “bleepy, bassy and gnarly”, which I couldn’t put on an album under any of my other projects…and that’s exactly what happened.
It’s always very much been a bit of an experiment for me to try to showcase my love of other forms of music out my usual rock/metal avenues.

How has your sound evolved so far?

Funny you should ask this, as I was thinking about this just recently!

I was listening to the first 2 or 3 EP’s I did as MASS!VE DYNAM!C on Soundcloud the other day from back in 2013 roughly, and I was noticing that where I started is vastly different to where I am now.

It started as some absurdly heavy dubstep-inspired noise experiment and then progressed into, what I would say is, structured song writing within an electronic/live instrument environment.

To me, it is quite interesting to hear me trying to find myself musically with this project and then compare it to where I am now.
It’s quite fun to remember how I started with just wanting to make speaker-breaking filth!
hahaha

I feel the turning point was somewhere around the time that I started bringing vocals/vocalists into the songs and really trying to create the feel that each track was its own entity with those vocals.

I would also say that I’ve sort of gone full-circle in how I write my music for MASS!VE DYNAM!C.

What I mean by that is that I originally wouldn’t use anything other than a keyboard or synth to create a song and now I try to use all the physical instruments I learnt when I was a lot younger to create the same vibe. It’s certainly great fun to explore this when placed alongside all the modern technology I have at my disposal.

What can you tell us about your last job? What inspired you? What do you want to convey?

Well, I work in IT and it’s not very thrilling!
I spend a some of my day sketching out music ideas and waiting to work on them at my home studio! Hahaha!

I’ve had many jobs over the years, ranging from being a chef to running my own studio to working within the National Health Service in the UK.

It’s definitely been a great learning experience to dip my toes into a lot of different things…which in turn, perhaps informs my love of doing very different types of music.

I’m a jack of all trades…master of none!?

I also get some extra work by doing sound design, audio restoration, and composing for film and TV, which is always enjoyable to do.

My mos recent film-scoring job was for a short film for a New Zealand team, which was based around the arrival of Captain Cook in Aotearoa in the 17th century.

What can you tell us about each song that makes up your latest work? What is hidden behind?

I think each song definitely carries its own identity as a standalone piece and has its own tale to tell, but the key thing is that it always has to be personal and it has to mean something to me as a song writer/producer.

The songs are equally informed by the vocals/vocalists that I work with or write for, which is always interesting for me.

I wrote a lot of this album while I was on the road travelling around Asia and Australasia in 2019/2020…and perhaps it was influenced, or rather had influence by some of the music I was listening to at the time out there.

For example, the first track on the album, “Let Me Sing For You” is pure Alan Walker-worship to me!

I came across a lot of his music when I was in Asia and I had never heard of him until that point…but I definitely grew to love his music and I wanted to write a song that was part-influenced by him but still very much me, musically.

I got a friend to do the rap part in the middle of the track because I love mixing music up and felt an EDM- meets-UK grime vibe was something that should not be done…but I was going to do it anyway!

Track 2, “Giving Your All”, features my long-time rapper/poet friend called Ro and it is just something I’ve been meaning to do with him for some years.

We used to work at an NHS hospital in Portsmouth and were always keen to write some music together, but it never happened for various reasons.

I wrote the demo for this song somewhere in Sri Lanka (completing it fully in a studio in New Zealand) and I was determined to find a hip-hop rapper that could write about something positive because, quite frankly, I find a LOT of rap to be rubbish – sexist, misogynistic, and so very far away from anything I know or what I deem to be of value.

I grew up listening to stuff like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Arrested Development, Kool Keith and such…and I never really got on with ‘gangsta rap’ or it’s unrelatable lyrics…because I’m a white, working- class boy and what do I know or care about being a gangsta!?!?
Hahaha

“No Such Thing As Perfect” is the 3rd track on the album…and I think we can all relate to it really.

We’re constantly told that nothing we do matters, there is always something more shiny/better just out of reach and that we will all amount to nothing…But you know what, there is no such thing as perfect! And even if there was…perfect is the enemy of the good!

There is only what you deem of value in your life, and that should be how you live. Comparing yourself to others is a downward spiral.

I also really like a particular lyric in this song—

“Took the highs with the lows, I.
Now I’m living my life and I’m doing just fine. I had a moment…
But I’m living my life and I’m doing just fine. ”

It kind of hits home for me after the issues I had during Lockdown…

Track 4 sees a song called “Falling” come along…and it’s probably one of the darker-sounding tracks on the album, because of its minor key.

Depending on your perspective – it’s a song about a guy who has lost the love of his life, but she still haunts him and keeps coming back, even though they will never reconcile…or perhaps it’s a person singing about their problems with addiction and how that continues to haunt them, with the issues repeatedly coming back…

It’s really up to the listener to take what they want from the music and the lyrics.

“Applause (Could have had It All)” is track 5 and is a song about love lost and that realisation around the moment when it leaves. The memories, the things you took for granted.

For me, love and trust take a long time to grow, but they can leave in just a mere moment.

Musically, it’s an electro track that segues into a rampant D’n’B-style ending…which, to me, musically showcases how emotionally heavy some things in your life can escalate to. Almost the musical equivalent of the remorselessness of events once set in motion.

I’m quite sure most of us have been through a particularly distressing and negative end to a relationship or seen it happen.

Track 6 is simply titled “How Are You Doing?” and I wrote/recorded the vocals for this song when I got back to England after the pandemic ended my travels abruptly.

I had a few months during Lockdown where I was, quite frankly, an alcoholic who had lost a lot of hope in the future, and I saw the same problems in a lot of friends when we talked via Zoom or Skype, because that was our only means of communication.

It was after a particularly long and emotionally-charge talk with a good friend that I started to find my way through this darkness and I wanted to write a song about it where I just asked everyone how they are doing and to say that things may seem dark at the moment, but we’re human and we will persevere.

“It’s been a long hard road, that you’re facing on your own. My friend, you’re not along…” is one of the lyrics from the song and I think it’s very poignant to how I was feeling about a lot of things to do with the pandemic, lockdown and all the other mental health issues that were exacerbated by it all.

“Proper Tings” is track 7 on the album and is a straight-up tribute to my love of reggae/dub and jungle. One of my fondest memories of making music is just jamming reggae/dub stuff with friends, going to

watch reggae sound-systems live and zoning out while playing the bass! I guess my love of that style of music has not changed, which is nice.

Another fond memory is the first time I heard Jungle when I was a teen…and it blew my tiny little mind! Stuff like M-Beat, Shy FX, Origin Unknown and other artists reached my ears, which I grew to love and I still enjoy.

I guess what is slightly amusing for me, as a music geek, is that the chorus in this song is in an odd time signature of 13/8 (or a bar of 6 and a bar of 7, depending on how you want to count it), which is certainly confusing for a lot of people… But, I guess you can take the boy out of the Progressive Rock, but you can’t take the Progressive Rock out of the boy, as if to say!

I love weird timings and odd drumming feels…and I was always going to chuck stuff like that into any music I write.

Track 8 is entitled “Home” and is a deliberately accessible D’n’B track, injected with a heavy dose of orchestral arrangement, some sweet trumpet-playing, and other instrumentation.

Again, it’s me taking one thing I love and blending it massively with another thing I love (D’n’B and classical), so you’ve got the pace and bassline of D’n’B blended with a lush string arrangement, all wrapped around an excellent and emotive vocal.

I wrote this song for my fiance?e for her birthday during Lockdown. To me, the lyrics mean that no matter where we are in the world or what happens, my home is wherever she is and her home is wherever I am.

The song’s concept stems back to our long travels together and how it can get quite difficult at times when things go wrong and you’re thousands of miles away from anything you know, but I wanted her to know that as long as we’re together, then we’ll be just fine. We’ve faced adversity and come out on top…and that will continue as long as we’ve got each other’s backs.

“Liquidity” is track 9 and has been kicking around for a little while and was one of the first tracks I shared online as a precursor to releasing the ‘Progress’ album to see what people thought.

To me, it’s a super mellow and flowing liquid D’n’B song with some weird and wonderful sound design, aided by a lovely set of vocals.

I like how the song shifts from a minor to a major vibe at times and flirts with both feels throughout the song.

A nice thing I heard from some of the people I know in the music communities that do not listen to Liquid D’n’B is that they liked this song because of its vibe and how it made them feel. That was awesome to hear.

Track 10 is all because I wanted to write a bit of a tribute to my love of 90’s warehouse rave/hardcore/dance music because that sort of thing was quite prevalent at a time in my life.

I would steal my older sister’s tapes of live sets by DJ’s like Slipmatt (who also was a part of SL2, who did the monster track, “On A Ragga Tip”!), DJ Sy and others.

I really liked that sort of music for a brief moment in my life and I wanted to take that style, slow it down a bit to that Technotronic-style Euro dance tempo and give it my own spin.

So, track 10 is called “We Belong” and is a bit of a musical tribute to that influence on my musical development.

“x All The Love x” is track 11 and is another musical tribute, in a way.

I like the groove of Reggaeton as a genre (and its associated styles), and I wanted to combine that sort of vibe with some flamenco-style guitars, synths, and a hooky vocal. That was the aim when I started this track, but as always, it became its own thing!

I really do like the vibe on this track because it’s quite uplifting and positive…I still like jamming along to the end section on my guitar for fun when I get a chance!

Track 12 is called “Flowers” and I would say has a downtempo/cool jazz-inspired vibe…another blending of two types of music I enjoy.

I met a cool, young trumpet player in Japan, who was just busking in Osaka and we talked for a bit, with me eventually asking if he wanted to work on a track together. The rest is history, really!

From my perspective as the producer and writer of the track, I really want to show my love of jazz’s pioneering trumpet players such as Dizzy Gillespie, Mile Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, and all the other supreme talents I’ve enjoyed listening to.

It’s got a smooth trip-hop groove and a super catchy bit of trumpet playing! Welcome to Jazz Club…nice!
hahaha

The final track on the main release of the album is entitled “The Devil Is In The Details”…and this was a heck of a song to complete, because of my ambitions for it.

I wanted to write a piece of music that showed my love of acts like Portishead and Massive Attack, who I’ve enjoyed over the years.

The ‘Live in NYC’ album by Portishead and ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ by Massive Attack were huge in my life, because they had that incredible blend of trip-hop and classical instrumentation.
I spent about 4 months writing this track, trying things out and then finishing the demo for it.

It was Lockdown at this point and I wanted to finish the song desperately, so I reached out to some friends who could record at home as well hiring some of their friends to get the live strings, brass and other instruments done.

This was a heck of a project to do remotely…but I think it came out really well and I’m stoked with the sound we got, considering it was all done remotely and mixed on headphones!

I think it’s probably one of my favourite things I’ve ever written and I’m proud I managed to get it done during Lockdown.

The bonus tracks, that didn’t quite fit on the main album, but are on Spotify/Bandcamp consist of:

“Filthy Und Dirty” is a track I wrote in about 4 hours at 2am one night during Lockdown.

I remember starting it very late, after I’d finished writing a piece of music for a client…and I finished it as the sun was coming up.
I was feeling quite angry and disillusioned about a lot of things, and probably a bit drunk…So, I decided to write a D’n’B equivalent of the angry heavy metal song… I think it turned out exactly as I wanted it to.
It’s harsh, abrasive and rolls along like thunder!

“I’ve Got This” – This track is just a slow jam and I don’t really know what inspired it…possibly 90’s R & B and that sort of thing.
I like the cello and violin parts in this track a lot and I chucked a big rock guitar solo towards the end for fun!

I wrote “Stop Running” to enter a Beatport competition, but I ended up not being able to enter because I got too busy working on some client work and the track never got finished in time…but it was a good learning experience as I’d never written anything like this before.

I quite like the Bass House/Techno vibe on this track, and it taught me a lot about the construction of a track that a House/Techno DJ could possibly vibe with in their set. It’s all about layering things!

“Darkside” is based around the guitar parts and the cool vocals, if I’m honest.

I sort of built this whole track around that and just let it flow. I do wonder if it should have been shorter or perhaps have had more instrumentation/variety at it’s current length…But on the flip side, I also just wanted to leave it alone! Too much tinkering and messing with a track can sometimes lose the vibe of it.

“Salvation” is just a weirdly upbeat-feeling tune that I quite enjoyed writing.
I’m not a religious man, but we sometimes need to create our own salvation for whatever reasons.

The song, musically, showcases my love of 90’s dance and features some nice vocal samples, which I just key signature tuned/corrected to fit.

How are you living the current situation because of COVID? Has your work affected you a lot? Do you think there is hope? I feel like the underground scene will continue to persist.

Honestly…Lockdown was an attack on my mental health and wellbeing.

I had gone from travelling the globe and being a free-bird…to having to fight to find a way back to the UK because I would have been breaking the laws of the countries I was staying in if I didn’t. It all became a real concern.

When I got back to the UK, I got into a bad way for various reasons…and I had to battle my way out of it.

I’m doing a lot better now in my head…and trying to be sober and just focusing on music has helped a lot.

Music has always saved my sorry-self over the years and I really do not know what I would do without having that cathartic output in my life. It’s the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel…and I am thankful that I have the ability to involve myself in that.

I feel sorry for a lot of my friends who are in live bands or relied on live shows for their main income, because Lockdown and the pandemic really kicked them in the teeth…But thankfully, the venues are opening up and people have been very smart in utilising the technology we have to perform live from their homes… It certainly is a positive thing amongst the negativity that surrounds us.

And yes, I concur…the underground scene will always be there!

What projects are you working on right now?

Right now, I am finishing a ‘rock/metal’ album under my OCEANICA project, which is due out on Progressive Gears Records, hopefully in early 2022.

I am currently seeking funding for the next big challenge I want to test myself with, which is to write a musical that features modern electronic music, rock, metal, etc.

I would also like to take MASS!VE DYNAM!C live, but I’m not much of a DJ and I would much prefer to play the songs with a live band, but that is expensive and logistically difficult to arrange!
So, who knows what will happen there!

In any case, I’ll keep writing music and pushing myself!
Thank you so much for allowing me to speak with you about my MASS!VE DYNAM!C project. I hope some people check it out.
Stay safe!

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