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.
Check out Moon Kings upcoming shows here.