INTERVIEW: Detroit Disco Wonderland with Moon King
Daniel Benjamin aka Moon King releases latest EP "Hamtramck ‘16" via Arbutus and chats to us about his late night adventures in Detroit, the inspiration behind his lo-fi disco tape.
We discovered Moon King, the recording project of Toronto born producer and songwriter Daniel Benjamin, only a few weeks back. Ever since then his lo-fi disco track 'In & Out' has been on repeat in our office. 'In & Out' makes everything feel that little bit better in the way that only 'those' great songs do and can.
In the wake of vocalist/guitarist Maddy Wilde's exit in 2016, Moon King has become a more stripped back affair. Losing the guitar focused sound for lo-fi electro, blending disco, synth-pop and house into something completely fresh. The new sound is partially credited to his relocation to Detroit and the influence of its night time party scene. The lo-fi quality which, as with most indie artists could be due to necessity more than a stylised choice is the making of the tracks. Adding a lightness to the pop hooks and melodies, which Benjamin clearly has an ear for. The hazy tape warmth adds that retro-feel that could date the tracks to the late 70's rather than 2016. Frankly, we love it. If you're curious about the man behind the music; read our interview with Daniel and take a listen to the full EP below.
GL: Hey Daniel - where are you right now? Describe your location and surroundings.
MK: I just arrived back in Detroit! I'm at the apartment where I made this tape last year.
GL: Nice, how important is location and surroundings to your creativity and vibe when making new music?
MK: It's definitely a huge part of it, to feel like you're doing something for the first time is the most important thing... Gotta surprise yourself.
GL: Yeah totally. Did this inspire the move to Detroit or did Detroit end up inspiring the music? You wrote your upcoming release “Hamtramck ‘16” there, right?
MK: Yeah, this tape is completely inspired by being here... It wouldn't sound the same at all if I had made it somewhere else. Just getting to know my way around the city a little bit better and see what's going on. Like, things aren't very visible on the surface the way they are in most cities, you have to look a bit deeper... I've been really lucky to have friends here to show me around & take me out to hear DJs and to late-night stuff.
GL: Cool, I love that feeling of falling in love with a new city. Where were your favourite places to hang out in Detroit? What did you spend most of your time doing there?
MK: Haha mostly just listening to music & recording... My friends do a weekly party called MITNM at Motor City Wine, so I guess that's probably where I would spend the most time. Ryan Spencer, who's drumming in the live band right now, DJs there every week - that whole crew (Freakish Pleasures) are all super good.
GL: Sounds fun. We first heard about your music when the dreamy In & Out popped onto our radar, but you have been making music as Moon King for a while now. Moon King became a solo vessel in 2016, how has this changed the way you make music?
MK: Well like, I've always written melodies for a female voice. That's just the voice I hear when I'm writing..... So it's been amazing to hear these really strong singers like Maddy or Natalie singing things that I wrote and interpreting it in their own way. But I'm also starting to get to know my own voice a little better, especially on this tape, although I feel like I'm doing an approximation of what would come naturally to Nat or Maddy.
GL: You recently signed with Arbutus, how did that happen?
MK: They've just been very close friends for a really, really long time, like back in 2011 I was booking shows in Toronto for the Arbutus bands like Grimes, Pop Winds, Tonstartssbandht, Silly Kissers..... I guess we've all stayed really close since then, and it just happened very naturally, they liked the new stuff & asked if they could put it out.
GL: In & Out - It feels like a song about pining for a lost love, how did it come about? Where and how was it recorded? Sounds like a Linndrum machine on there, was it?
MK: Aha thanks for noticing that!! Yeah I love the Linndrum, it's my fave drum machine for sure, and I try to use those sounds as much as I can, with a cheap little sequencer ..... especially bounced through a cassette tape, it sounds so good. So the Linndrum sounds and this Dave Smith Mopho synth, through a Tascam 4-track, with a little bit of some other synths and some really weirdly recorded guitar ..... That's pretty much how the whole tape was made, plus a ton of other tracks I made around the same time that aren't being released.
GL: How many instruments do you play?
MK: Um, the only instrument I feel confident about playing is drums, but I can do enough on keyboards & guitar at least to get the sounds & parts I like.
GL: What’s your fave instrument or piece of equipment?
MK: Again probably that Mopho synth, I've used it for the bass on almost every Moon King recording, and live too. I think I've figured out kind of a cool way of layering things out over one of those Roland SPDS-X drum pads for the live set too - I use it for kinda everything except drums haha.
GL: Ha... What would be your dream recording scenario and set-up?
MK: I guess just having some kinda room or setup that I could bring other people into ..... I'm not super into jamming by myself, I've mostly been doing it out of necessity.
GL: Do you have plans to play shows in the UK and the rest of Europe? (we're in Brighton)
MK: Would love to! And our last time (first time) in Brighton was amazing, hopefully, we'll come back really soon.
GL: Are you writing new music at the moment? When can we expect an LP?
MK: I've just finished another batch of songs that I wrote & recorded in Montreal, but dunno any release plans ...... still just listening.