"There's movement and energy you flow through. Flow is essential—with music and with life. I've learned not to force anything. When a track is ready to be written, it writes itself"
Beyun is definitely one to watch from the cohort of upcoming talent. Her musical selection and good judgment has dared borders. The productions and dj sets by Beyun are powerful statement, emblematic of her no-holds-barred approach. We caught up with her to discuss her accelerating DJ and production schedule, and the many influences behind her music.
Hey! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
Hey, I'm in Atlanta at the moment working from home. I'm fortunate to have my day job during this pandemic, working remotely for a company based in Boston in the social impact sector. It's been pretty hectic lately as we're supporting some of the efforts to trace and contain the virus in a few states in the U.S. and other regions worldwide.
I'll usually start my day off with a walk around the neighborhood and squeeze in a short meditation before morning meetings. Production happens exclusively on the weekends right now, with weeknights reserved for digging for new music, DJ practice, or pre-production work...if I can find the energy after an extra-long workday.
How did you first get into electronic music? Was it your first real musical love or were you a keen listener of all sounds when you were younger?
I've been a keen listener of all sounds since I can remember. My dad's love of psychedelic rock shaped early childhood music experiences—Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Moody Blues. "Dark Side of the Moon" is an album I've memorized entirely, and you could argue the track "On The Run" is electronic music.
Pink Floyd - On The Run
When I started developing a music taste of my own, it was Radiohead, Massive Attack, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, among many others. My family lived in the Seattle area around that time, so everything was more alt-rock and grunge oriented. I also enjoyed listening to movie soundtracks and played oboe in band/orchestra.
I feel very much like a latecomer to the club side of electronic music. It wasn't until the early 2010s—after graduating from university. My friends took me to a DnB party in Boston. I don't remember too many details as everything was a bit of a psychedelic blur, but that's when the light went on in my head—hey pay attention to this! While visiting family in Germany later that year, intuition led me to Berlin over New Year's. That's when I first danced at a Klubnacht, and it was hearing Jerome Sydenham's set in Berghain and later Steve Rachmand's in Panorama Bar when everything changed.
How did you decide to dedicate to producing?
My gut response to that Berlin experience was to figure out how to make this music. After returning to Boston, I noticed a music production school, Mmmmaven, was right across the street from work, so I enrolled in their Ableton class. After my first few production attempts, I realized that I needed to learn how to DJ first, listen to a lot more music, and dig deeper into history before I'd feel even remotely qualified to produce anything worthwhile.
Mmmmaven was involved with putting on a weekly party called Make it New and the Together Festival. Through that community, I met Bob Diesel, who started mentoring me as a DJ and introduced me to the more soulful side of house music—Joe Claussell, Jovonn, Timmy Regisford, Blaze, Josh Milan—and a lot of history. I am forever grateful for that education.
Bob and I eventually started a monthly party at Middlesex Lounge called Vault. It featured early appearances from Dee Diggs, Lychee, Umfang, Isabella, among more established local legends. For our first anniversary, we invited DJ Pierre to play. When the night ended, Pierre asked if I was producing. I told him I'd started, but had gotten sidetracked with DJing. His response: "the time is now"—that was my cue. This was mid-2016.
By early 2017, I had moved to Atlanta and wound up doing the A&R and label management for DJ Pierre's labels Afro Acid, Jack Trax, and Afro Deep and helping out with his club Wildpitch. I created a small production set-up in the vocal booth of Pierre's studio. My first EP released on Jack Trax that spring, then the label work took over (all while still working remotely full-time at my day job). I ended up overseeing a nearly weekly release schedule, so there was only enough energy to work on singles and remixes. This momentum lasted until mid-2019 when I decided to leave and put my focus back on production and make that a priority.
Do you have certain criteria that you work to when producing?
Lately, I'll get lost in a groove and solo a synth over it—usually the 303. There has to be a live feel to it: A knob is always twisting. No element sits perfectly on the grid. There's movement and energy you flow through. Flow is essential—with music and with life. I've learned not to force anything. When a track is ready to be written, it writes itself.
What does your studio look like? And what type of hardware/software do you like to work with?
I use Propellerheads’ Reason for my DAW. The interface feels inviting and tangible, the built-in rack effects and instruments are gorgeous, and I don't feel like I've just opened up a spreadsheet. Many of my ideas begin on hardware, as I prefer something more physical for sketching. It forces me to listen and feel first, rather than succumb to overthinking. The core of my workflow right now is DinSync's RE-303. Elektron's Analog RYTM is my favorite beat-making tool, especially for polyrhythmic patterns. Roland's SH-01A for pads, bass, strings. And of course the essentials: TR-09, TR-08, and TB-03. I also love my Microkorg for pads, strings, and stabs.
What can you tell us about “A Path of One”? What did you want to transmit? What inspired you?
I finished writing this EP in September of 2019, after coming out of one of the most challenging periods of my life. It was a lot of personal stuff I won't elaborate on, and creating this was therapy to process what was happening.
There's a spiritual story to it, about beginning to understand your role as a human being on this planet. The first track, "Be Here Now," is inspired by Ram Dass' book with the same title. It's about the importance of being in the present moment—not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. The only thing that's "real" is now. I won't break down the other tracks, though, as I'd like the listener to develop a meaning of their own.
What's in the Detroit sound that you like so much? Do you have a strong affinity for the 303 sound?
When I think of Detroit, it's more about the original ethos behind the music we call techno. There is a depth, message, and creative vision beyond the dancefloor that reflects on the human condition and where we're going. It's not lost in hedonism like a lot of other "techno" is these days. I could go into detail, but that's a whole book as the Detroit sound itself is very broad and more than just techno. I also feel in no way qualified to speak on it as I'm not from Detroit. Here are three different tracks which encompass part of what I love (and this barely touches the surface):
Cybotron - Alleys Of Your Mind
Underground Resistance - The Illuminator
Mike Huckaby - Wavetable No 9
On the 303 side of things...acid isn't so much the TB-303 in itself, but how you work it. There's musicality and purpose in how you twist those knobs. I think that's what I love about it, as it's such an expressive instrument and sound. It's melodic, yet it doesn't feel tied to a structure like a typical melody because the sound is always evolving. It can also feel completely percussive. The sound you can produce is diverse and powerful even with a simple two-note pattern. It's also super trippy, which ties into those psychedelic rock roots of my childhood.
What kind of music do you listen to at home and have there been any go-to albums or producers helping you manage the crisis with their music?
Since I'm working on my computer during the day, I'll have music going in the background. It can be someone's mix, new tracks I got off Bandcamp, or a youtube adventure/history lesson into disco classics, psychedelic rock, p funk, jazz (John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard).
As for go-to albums...I've listened to Scan 7's "Between Worlds" on repeat so many times since it came out last year. It's perfection.
Ron Trent’s “Prescription” album is an absolute classic for me. Honestly, please just give me any Ron Trent track and I can have it on repeat all day.
Drexciya - “Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller” series on Clone Classic Cuts is another must for this lockdown.
And finally, Larry Heard/Mr. Fingers - “Cerebral Hemispheres” which contains one of my all time favorite tracks, Qwazars.
A few more producers whose work I've been digging: Black Cadmium, Sepehr, Bloody Mary, Cardopusher, Cygnus, Shinedoe, Trinandian Deep, Ali Berger, J Shaw, Kyle Hall, Black Girl / White Girl, Indy Nyles, AceMo, Hunter Lombard, Lauren Flax, 30303... it goes on. There's a lot of excellent music coming out, and I’m very grateful for everyone who is creating during this time.
What are you most looking forward to doing when the corona pandemic is over?
Being around friends and family again (video chat isn't the same!). Dancing with friends. Traveling. I'll be preparing to move to Rotterdam in the summer/fall of 2021, so I certainly hope this pandemic situation doesn't extend through then.
What makes you happy?
Nature. Qigong. Digging for records. Those moments when you feel fully present with life. When little synchronicities happen, and things work out in ways you could have never planned. Connecting and growing with friends and family. Finding that perfect 303 pattern that just gels. Getting in that flow when creating music and everything just falls into place.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I don't want to ruin the surprise, but I'm always learning and evolving my sound. :)
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Trust your intuition. Learn your history. Don't forget to be here now.