TRANSMUNDANE: Interview with Ben Blue

Ben Blue

Toronto-based one-man project by Ben Blue, Transmundane, recently put out the first in the series of two EP’s titled “Vehement vol. 1.” Blue recorded and produced everything by himself, and in the interview for Prog Sphere he talks about his mission, the creative process for the EP’s, and more.

Define the mission of Transmundane.

Transmundane’s mission is to release boundary pushing, modern metal. I don’t want Transmundane to be confined to specific sub-genres, or unable to borrow from influences outside of metal. At the same time, the music has to be uncompromisingly metal as far as i’m concerned. Metal, to me, is some of the most exciting music in the world, and Transmundanes goal is to manifest metal, without confinement.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new EP “Vehement vol. 1.”

The creative process was exciting for me, and I think that comes across in the end product. All my life, I’ve played in bands. Contributing ideas to a collective group. Transmundane was a chance for me to do things exactly how I wanted, without compromising to other ideas. That being said, I love creating music as part of a band. But it can be very tiring to get to the end product. It can wear you out, and create tensions that keep the creative process from being fun. So it was really exciting for me to have complete control over the creative process. I knew I wanted to create something that was diverse and uncompromising, yet cohesive and unmistakably Transmundane. I feel I’ve accomplished that with both Vehement Vol.1 as well as Vol.2, which will be released later in 2016. The two EP’s really are meant to be listen to together. The songs typically started with a guitar riff idea or a rhythmical idea. I wrote all of the instrumentals first, and then came back and wrote vocals to all of the tracks. I enjoy getting into the different heads spaces of writing instrumentals and vocals. So it was fun to focus solely on instrumentals, and really get into that head space, and then switch things up and focus on the vox.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I recorded everything into Pro Tools, direct in, while I was writing the songs. I don’t enjoy writing music out on sheet paper or anything like that. I feel it slows me down and kills the creative vibes. Writing with Pro Tools gives me the freedom of laying down ideas directly into the songs online work-space. Then I’m able to rearrange parts, make changes, start fresh ideas without losing what I already had and find ways to tie it all together. The new age of recording technologies really does make writing a breeze.

Vehement vol. 1

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes it is. I’m not trying to just throw a bunch of ideas together when I write these songs. I’m trying to create cohesive, sonic story-telling that both flows and surprises the listener. I feel a songs structure is extremely important in taking the listener on a journey and keeping their attention.

Describe the approach to recording the EP.

I inadvertently “took the long way” when recording this double album. Initially, I wrote the songs using Pro Tools. Once I had more then enough songs for an album. I went back and had to re-learn all of the instruments to record them properly. Once the songs instrumentals were written and recorded with final tracks, I went back and recorded vocals. Once I had all of the sounds recorded, I did all of the production cohesively. I live in an apartment, work full time and have a family to support, so I was limited in how I could record this album. I had to record everything direct into my pro tools mbox. I used a guitar simulator to get as real a guitar and bass sound I could straight into the mbox, then in my post production I tried to bring it all to life. I set up a make shift vocal booth in my apartment for recording vocals, and did my best to bring out the acoustics in the room.

How long “Vehement vol. 1” was in the making?

Vol.1 as well as the yet to be released Vol.2 were written together. There are 11 songs in total between the two EPs as well as a bunch of tracks that were cut. I’d say the two EPs were about 3 years in the making.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Way more then I could list, but to name a few: Gorod, Ahab, At The Gates, Cattle Decapitation, Decapitated, Tool, Deftones, Anaal Nathrakh, Obscura, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Gojira, Meshuggah, Early Mastadon, Necrophagist, Nile, Rivers of Nihil, Tesseract. The list goes on.

What is your view on technology in music?

I’m of two minds. From a creative standpoint, it’s awesome. Writing and recording music has never been easier. From a business and consumerism standpoint, I fucking hate it. I think technology has allowed for consumerism to run rampant. Streaming, pirating and ease of access is completely devaluing recorded music, and it’s not right. People don’t buy music anymore. That makes it incredibly hard for unsigned artists to support their art, and it causes an unfair split in already limited music sales when working with a label. You have streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music who freely stream an artists music for a monthly fee. A monthly fee that goes to these big businesses instead of the artist! Sure, sure, royalties right? The royalties an artist makes when their music is streamed is insulting considering all of the fans who choose to pay a fucking corporation instead of the artist. And these days even if the fan were to pay the artist, in many cases the artist is hardly making a cut from that as well. Again, a record company is stepping in and taking a massive cut, iTunes and other distributors take a cut, and the artist is left with pennies for the recorded music they worked so hard to create. It’s disgusting, really. Meanwhile, if you try to take a stand as a musician from using a record label, or from using streaming services or iTunes etc, you can’t survive. If fans can’t find you on iTunes or streaming services, they would rather pirate your music, or just not buy it and listen freely on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. Technology has empowered big business to suck artists dry for their recorded music.

Ben Blue (Transmundane)

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

On a personal level, it serves the deepest purpose I could ever express. From a global or external perspective, it’s hard for me to say. I certainly want it to, but I feel that is up to the listener to decide. Music is powerful; it is the universal language that can unite and divide. It can inspire and be the force behind powerful social movements. But Transmundane’s only purpose is to move the listener on an emotional and personal level. If the music serves any purpose beyond that is out of my control and not for me to judge.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to keep writing and releasing music. Eventually, i’d like to find the right label to partner with who are able to support me in finding touring musicians. Touring and merch seems to be the only way to make money in music these days. Being a single musician at the moment, live shows aren’t an option. But I want that to change, and I want Transmundane to have a impact on listeners. Creating music means the world to me.

Stay in touch with Transmundane on Facebook.

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