– Installation Four: Burning Down – The Detail’s in the Dub –
Today marks the official release of Mind in Motion, the debut album from mastermind Matt Benoit, known predominantly for his role as drummer of HIRIE. Mind in Motion is an exploration through the land of experimental dub, with an emphasis on composition and soundscape. Top notch musicianship is the norm, with definitive guitar work by Igor Stolarsky aka thebishopgame adding the icing to this prog/dub cake. From start to finish, Mind in Motion pushes musical boundaries, presenting a dub-forward take on creative music production with a final product that is as enjoyable as it is interesting.
Today, in the final installation of Rootfire’s Deep Dive series on the album, we sat down with Benoit and Stolarsky to get the inside scoop on how this project was executed, some of the gear that made it possible and what’s next in the cards for Mind in Motion. Give the album a listen while you give this interview a read—it is a guaranteed approach for putting your mind in motion.
Rootfire: First off, congrats on the release of Mind in Motion. How does it feel to have this music out for the world? Are you excited to make more music as Mind in Motion? Relieved to have this first album done and released?
Matt Benoit: Definitely relieved! This record has been a long time coming – Igor and I wrapped the final masters about a year ago and then I started touring with HIRIE almost immediately after that so it took a little while to line everything up schedule-wise. But now that it’s out I’m just excited and happy and looking forward to following it up with more new stuff.
RF: Are there plans to tour with the Mind in Motion album with a full band?
MB: I would love to tour with this project! With Mind in Motion I take a lot of inspiration from acts like Dub Trio, Emancipator Ensemble, Ott & the All-Seeing I – that’s how I envision presenting Mind in Motion live and it’s partly why we did the live video for “Burning Down.” It was important for me to have an example of what the band sounds like in that context.
Right now HIRIE is my main priority so a lot depends on our schedule there. I’d love to start playing some Mind in Motion shows around LA/San Diego when I’m home from the road and I’m open to any additional touring that I can fit in.
RF: Today we’re premiering “Burning Down,” including an in-studio video of the track, which is great because it really shows off some of what’s happening from a technology standpoint. First off, is this track live in its entirety, or are there overdubbed parts on the final studio version? On first listen, I just assumed there were parts overdubbed, but watching the video, particularly the use of the Roland SPD drum pad by you, Matt, and the APC40 Ableton controller by Igor on guitar made me wonder how this track was pulled off. Can you two give us a bit of a breakdown on what is happening from the technological side on “Burning Down?”
MB: This performance is a lot more “live” than you might think. Igor can explain the nuts and bolts here, but the goal in general was to avoid just throwing everything on backtracks. We wanted it to still feel as organic as possible so I use the SPD to trigger samples throughout the song and Igor is doing a ton of looping on guitar/keys.
Igor Stolarsky: As far as the setup goes, everything revolves around an Ableton Live session on my laptop. The session runs the click track for Matt, whatever backing there might be, synths and samples for all of the various controllers, and oh-so-many loopers (mostly for my guitar parts). All my guitar tones (and Dom’s bass tones) are Line 6 Helix going direct so that I can loop and process as needed in Ableton. I’ve got the APC for keys/knobs/faders, a Fishman TriplePlay MIDI pickup on my guitar for synth layering, and my trusty Livid Instruments Guitar Wing for live glitching and getting weird (though it unfortunately doesn’t actually get used in this song). Matt’s also using the SPD to send MIDI into the session and trigger reverb/delay shots on his snare and timbale.
For “Burning Down,” the hardest part for me is probably the beginning – I need to get the main guitar skanks looped immediately so that I can jump to the Rhodes once the groove comes in. That took a bunch of practice to get tight. The Rhodes chords get looped next and then those are set for the rest of the song – they get automatically pulled in and out as needed, but it’s always the thing I actually played. The session also has all of my patch changes automated so I don’t have to tap-dance on top of jumping between instruments.
RF: Was the plan from the get-go to have an in-studio video for this song? How did this influence the composition and/or execution of the song?
MB: I wasn’t necessarily thinking about it while writing the song, but I definitely had a plan to do the in-studio thing as the record was nearing completion. I had done a couple videos just like this with my band Lithium Dawn the previous year, we even filmed at the exact same studio (Clear Lake Recording – North Hollywood, CA). Having gone through that experience and seeing how great it turned out with LD, it was a no-brainer to do it for Mind in Motion.
RF:Let’s talk for a moment about the inspiration behind the song, particularly the name. What was happening that inspired the theme of “Burning Down?” Paint a picture for us of the backdrop to this track.
MB: At the time I was in LA and it was during one of the major fires that hit the area during my time living there. I remember it being completely dark out at 3pm because there was so much ash. I had the news on most of the day in case my neighborhood had to evacuate but luckily it never came to that and I just wrote this whole song in the meantime. What you hear on the album is exactly what I finished that afternoon, no changes or instruments added later. The vibe of that day definitely permeates the album version of the song for me.
RF: I’d like to hear from both of you regarding how this project compares to other projects that you are apart of. There seems to be a wide array of influences, from dub to prog rock on this album – how have your other projects set you up for the music of Mind in Motion?
IS: Mind in Motion is definitely not like any other project I’ve been a part of. Matt made this really amazing production-based record with all this awesome sound design and tons of parts but normally that results in a DJ-type live show, not a band, so trying to figure out how to make it work live was definitely a heavy lift. Since the idea was to keep the group small, it was always going to have to be a tech-heavy performance but it still had to feel organic and human, so I had to pull out pretty much every skill and trick I’ve picked up over the years for how to do that. The interesting thing is that I had very little experience with dub and reggae prior to this – I had always played in rock and metal bands, so this was unexplored territory for me in a number of ways. But I had always been interested in enhancing band performances with technology, not just playing a backing track but really making it part of the performance, and this just felt like the culmination of all my attempts to achieve that.
MB: One of the biggest things that influenced me with this project was the experience that I had over the years learning from some amazing producers that I’m lucky to know personally. I’m completely self-taught when it comes to recording, so pretty much everything I know has come from working with guys like Igor, my Lithium Dawn bandmate Ondrej Tvarozek, and Taylor Larson, who I recorded the drums for this album with. Just sitting in and watching those guys work, asking questions. Having their input and approval, in a sense, gave me more confidence to actually put out a record like this.
RF: What’s next for the two of you musically? Are there other projects that you have in the works together or individually? Is this the first of many albums from Mind in Motion?
IS: I’m always working on something – I still do a lot of mix/master and touring FOH work and I’ve got a solo EP brewing as thebishopgame that I’m targeting for a 2019 release. It’s ultimately up to Matt, but knowing him, he’s already got material for like, another three albums written so I would be really surprised if there WASN’T more Mind in Motion in the future.
MB: Yes, this is definitely the first of many! I have a full-length album’s worth of songs already demoed and even have a title picked out for the album. My goal is to continue working on those songs while I’m on the road and squeeze in another drum session with Taylor at some point soon. Additionally, I’m working on a record with my HIRIE bandmate Blaine Dillinger – he’s been writing a ton since we started touring together so I’ve been helping co-produce some of the tunes and working with him on the drums/programming aspects for the album. I’m super excited about how that’s turning out so definitely look out for that in 2019!
– Installation Three: Kinetic Dub + Joining HIRIE –
1. relating to or resulting from motion
The music of Mind in Motion is full of movement. Be it the ability to transport the listener to dubbed out instrumental soundscapes, the dexterity of the musicianship found from start to finish or the sense of momentum that permeates the album in its entirety, there is no shortage of propulsion within the seven tracks of this self-titled album. This makes it all the more fitting that the third installation of Rootfire’s Mind in Motion Deep Dive should feature a particularly dynamic track, aptly titled “Kinetic Dub.”
Featuring bassist Andy Flores of HIRIE and thebishopgame on guitar, “Kinetic Dub” is the launching point for Mind in Motion, setting the course for the galactic journey of prog dub that follows. Aggressive guitar tone soars at an accelerated rate above a pulsating foundation of drums and bass. The parts themselves aren’t particularly quick, but nonetheless the music leaves you with a distinct sensation of calmly moving very, very fast.
Diving deeper into the stories behind the music, we check in with our musical protagonist, the creative force behind MIM, Matt Benoit. In this latest installation, Matt continues the story of joining the HIRIE band.
It was Thursday, October 5, 2017. No different than any other weekday for me – I was at work, scrolling through my phone on my lunch break when I saw a new message on Instagram…
@hiriemusic: “Are you taking on any new bands? Auditioning drummers right now for HIRIE!”
After almost choking on my sandwich, I responded with an emphatic “YES”, and was told that the band was holding auditions in San Diego from 4-9pm that same day. I was about three hours away in Los Angeles…no problem. I made up an excuse to leave work early, grabbed my gear and drove straight down. While sitting through rush hour traffic, I reviewed the audition song, “Boom Fire,” over and over again. I didn’t have time to practice the song on my own so my first time playing it through on actual drums would be with the band themselves. Talk about nerve-wracking!
Luckily the audition went well and shortly after that, I was asked to join the band on “The Woman Comes First Tour” with Nattali Rize (November 2017). It was an AMAZING tour—a truly unforgettable experience. After returning home and playing a couple more shows, I was invited to join the band full-time.
Since then, weʼve traveled to Hawaii twice, embarked on two more headlining tours, supported Michael Franti & Spearhead on the Stay Human Tour, and we wrap up this year supporting Slightly Stoopid on the Just Passing Through Tour and at Closer to the Sun in Mexico. These are things that I still canʼt believe Iʼm relating as actual events happening in my life. Iʼm just so incredibly grateful for these opportunities.
Pre-order your copy of Mind In Motion’s debut self-titled, available on all major digital outlets November 2.
– Installation Two: Holding Pattern + The Serendipitous Rootfire Connection –
In installation two of Rootfire’s Mind in Motion “Deep Dive” Matt Benoit talks about the history behind the song “Holding Pattern,” and how the initial demo of this track serendipitously launched the next chapter of his musical career. Mind in Motion’s debut self-titled will be available Nov 2. Pre-order your copy today and receive an instant download of “Northern Lights.” And don’t miss out on Mind in Motion on Spotify.
Guest Post by Matt Benoit
“Holding Pattern” was a song that I demoed back in 2016. I was feeling sort of stuck in a rut creatively at the time so I decided to treat myself to a couple new guitar pedals thinking it might help spur some inspiration. One of them was this Electro-Harmonix Sitar Emulator, which has a really cool drone setting on it. I played a low D through it and started building an intro around that.
A few simple, repetitive elements came together pretty quickly from there – the oscillating synth, the finger-picked guitar, and the bass line all holding on one chord. This was meant to give that feeling of being stuck in the same place. Even as the song evolves after the intro, it never stops or moves into a new section – it just continues to build on the same groove until the big release at the end.
By the time I finished the initial demo for “Holding Pattern,” I was already planning to release a proper EP, but I decided to post the song on Soundcloud and solicit feedback from some friends anyway. I took a shot in the dark and sent it to some management contacts and to my surprise, Seth Herman from Rootfire responded with a ton of enthusiasm! After sending him a couple other demos, he expressed interest in having Rootfire help with the release of this music and he became a trusted soundboard for me as I finished the album.
One thing about Seth is that he has an absolutely incredible ability to connect people, especially artists/potential collaborators. His very first email ended with him CC’ing his friend Brendan Dane (a.k.a. Alific), saying, “You guys should connect – Maybe there is some synergy here.” I’ve been a fan of Alific since his Dub in the District album and had actually just seen him open up for Stick Figure at a show in Los Angeles earlier that year. We met up a couple months later at Cali Roots 2016 and before I knew it, I found myself watching Stick Figure crush The Bowl from the side of the stage!
After Stick’s set, Brendan and I went backstage and he briefly introduced me to everyone, including HIRIE, who just happened to be hanging out there. I told HIRIE I was a fan and she was super gracious and sweet. Little did we know, just two years later I would end up joining the band and we would play that very same stage together at Cali Roots 2018!
This is one of so many examples of the magic of Cali Roots. You never know who you might run into and so many great friendships and collaborations are born out of having that convergence of artists and brands all in one place.
The Mind in Motion story and album is really a testament to what good things can happen when/if you put yourself out there. I sometimes wonder what I might be doing right now if I had decided not to send that first email to Rootfire. If I had let fear and past failures convince me not to post that song. We can be met with so much negativity today so it inspires me to know that people like Seth, Reid, Brian and the whole Rootfire team exist.
In all my years as a musician, I’ve never encountered as much love and support as I have in this community. It’s a big part of what’s made my career possible thus far. People ask me all the time now, “How did you start touring? How did you link up with HIRIE?,” and the answer’s pretty simple: I worked hard and practiced for a lot of years and was ready when a couple lucky opportunities came my way. While the Mind in Motion project may not be directly related to HIRIE, I believe that the steps I took to get that project started is ultimately what got me on a path that lead to me joining the HIRIE band. It’s a testament to following your passion and seeing where it can take you. I’m incredibly grateful for all the experiences I’ve had thus far and look forward to many more in the future. Much love to Rootfire and everyone who has made this project possible!
– Installation One: Prog Rock to Heavy Dub –
“From the beginning, one of my goals was to have a dub/reggae foundation but with a really big drum sound and production influence from that prog rock/electronic vibe,” declares Matt Benoit, the musical brain behind Mind in Motion, a new instrumental project from Benoit, drummer for the rising star of the American reggae world HIRIE. Pleasantly broken drum beats and heavy bass kick off “Northern Lights,” the first single from the upcoming EP, proving this initial goal for the project successful. But it’s only a matter of time before this rock driven dub exploration peels away to the ethereal, leaving nothing but the harmonized vocal expressions of singer Bo Riley as the song catches its breath before coming back even harder with the 7-string guitar work of Ondrej Tvarozek driving the finale home.
Music is communication, is expression, is a voice. Lyrical or not, music has something to say, and in the case of Mind in Motion the message from Benoit is clear: Let me take you into my world and let you see the things I see, hear the things I hear. The project is an undeniably original journey into the esoteric undercurrents of progressive rock and electric dub, marked most distinctly by a driving exploration to create. Over the next few weeks, Rootfire will be taking a Deep Dive examination into the inspirations behind Mind in Motion with a focus on what went into the production and testimonial from Benoit about his own musical journey from prog-rockers Lithium Dawn to holding down the pocket with HIRIE.
As we share from the debut Mind in Motion EP, one thing is for sure: this is intelligent music for the listener who likes to do just that—listen. The attention to detail is palpable, the tone is dialed and the musicianship top-shelf, resulting in a sonic display that leaves the listener eagerly anticipating what will come next. This is music that moves. This is Mind in Motion.