An artist on both the canvas and records, Ben Moon has a vision and message he wants to share with the world. Working to find the balance in all walks of life - home vs. work, celebrity vs. reality - VIBE talks with the DJ/producer/painter to reveal some of the truths he has discovered within his many journeys.
Listen to his new track below FIRST on VIBE.
VIBE: First off, is Ben Moon a stage name? If so, where did it derive from?
Ben Moon: Yes and no. "Moon" is my middle name, but it's a name that I chose after a near death experience I had several years ago which profoundly changed my life. In a way, all the art I've made is an attempt to reconnect with that feeling. Like seeing all of history and the future flashing before your eyes in an instant.
Living in New York, what would you say are some of your favorite nightclub spots in the city?
At the risk of sounding uncool, I've been spending more time than ever in "workaholic" mode. The greatest thing about building the perfect home - studio set up is that you never have to go anywhere. As it turns out, that's also the worst thing about it. I go through phases where all I do is go out. I love to experience good music and art in any style. I feel like its all part of the creative cycle. There is a time to go out and gather inspiration, then a time to take it all back to the lab and rearrange it to create something new. I'm still trying to find the perfect balance between work and play, but then, aren't we all?
Being a fine arts major at Tulane University, what inspired you to take the dive into dance music?
I realize now that the time that I spent in New Orleans was a truly unique period. I always regretted being too young to participate in the whole underground thing when it was at its height in New York. But in the south, these parties had just started popping up and gathering steam. As the only "proper" city in such a large area, New Orleans was a natural meeting place for freaks, deviants, and party people of all stripes looking to escape the sleepy conformity of their quiet little southern towns. During this time there was actually a renaissance of dance music, but like everything in New Orleans, it just kind of blended into the mix.
You studied in New Orleans. Do you find yourself integrating some of the city’s lifestyle and culture into your music?
Absolutely. A night out in the French Quarter is like one big live mash-up. You've got every style of music imaginable, all within walking (or stumbling) distance. So you can actually hear the reggae fading into old school jazz, into dance music, like a never-ending pulse, as you move through the night.
If you can describe your music in one sentence for someone new to the genre, what would it be?
Whatever works best, from wherever I can find it.
Have you’ve ever looked to the hip-hop/rap community for inspiration? Are there any artists from that genre you would want to collaborate with one day?
The original aesthetic of hip hop involved creative people rearranging the things they had around them to create new works of art that is expressing their unique truth. What I do utilizes the same aesthetic of "cultural collage". There are so many talented people doing amazing things. I can't wait to see what possibilities present themselves.
Are there any DJs in the dance music industry you would want to work with? Who and why?
I've been listening to a lot of DJ Arty lately, as well as Tritonal, and Zedd. I have a lot of respect for the way deadmau5 handles his business. Having had the opportunity to team up with Spinnin Records on my new single has been huge. The amount of craft that goes into making music on this level is truly awesome. The more I learn, the less I realize I know.
Your most recent music video “Celebrity” seems to be a commentary on America’s obsession with the celebrity culture. Are there any other messages in the song and video that you were trying to give fans and listeners?
I became fascinated by this need the "celebrity" seems to fill within the context of our culture. I wanted to understand the source of this seemingly odd, yet universally human practice of conferring on certain individuals a "Supernatural" power to the point we feel that by the mere act of repeating the words that individual said, or touching something that they touched, there can be some mystical transmission of power, or blessings. Why do we have this insatiable need to literally consume them until they no longer amuse us, then take just as much pleasure in tearing them down and resenting them for the very notoriety we bestowed upon them in the first place? As I investigated this phenomenon further I realized that the celebrities of today have simply filled the void left by the "Gods" of traditional societies. Once you start talking about sacrificing yourself for the "sins" of all humanity, or "this bread is my flesh, this wine is my blood", at a certain point it becomes hard to tell whether you're talking about Jesus Christ, or a good night out on the sunset strip. Perhaps this is because they have more in common than we may initially realize?
What’s your take on today’s celebrity culture, and the people Americans have chosen to worship this day and age?
In a certain way, this is the truest form of democracy we have. When someone chooses to consume one piece of media over another, they are individually engaging in a behavior which, collectively, results in a process of "natural selection" through which the things that are found to be most interesting to the greatest number of people are elevated to the top of the "trending" list until it is replaced by something that people find newer or more interesting. I make no particular value judgement on who society chooses to represent it at a certain point in time. I look at it instead as more of a point of sociological interest. It seems natural that the same "Changing Demographics" so clearly demonstrated by the last presidential election will undoubtably select their own set of celebrities to represent them.
They say the world is going to end on December 21. Where would you want to be if the Mayans turn out to be right? What if they're wrong?
I've always held the conviction that I was meant to contribute something to the greater fabric of human culture. All the paths that I've taken, and work that I've done has been in the hope that I was moving towards this goal. My latest environmental art piece "ROKLYFE" is the full realization of my attempt to share the near death experience that changed my life so profoundly. Whatever happens on 12/21/12, my goal was to be able to face it with the peace of mind of knowing that I proved what I needed to myself. If that is all I'm able to do before it all ends, then that is enough. But if we are lucky enough to have the opportunity in 2013. I can't wait to prove it to the world.