Photo credit: Mariah Claire Tiffany
1. Who are you?
Ben Winans, I make music as Roche.
2. What do you do?
I make electronic music, perform live sets, DJ, organize meet ups and events, and throw parties.
3. Where do you often create/produce?
My home. I live with my girlfriend Sarah (who makes music as Bleie), our living room is our studio, with a nice colorful rug, a beautiful altar and a comfy couch. We live on a busy street so we mostly work on headphones. I love working on music at home and have always been a very prolific musician.
A good music day is chilling at the apartment all day working on music. Make coffee, work on tracks, eat, work on tracks, go to the store, work on tracks, smoke a joint in the park, work on tracks, listen to music to get inspired, work on tracks, nap, more coffee, work on tracks, etc.
Whenever I feel like it. If I truly follow this path I create so much music and feel the best. But I have to work to pay bills, so if I get the urge when I am at work or heading into work it might have to be ignored or put aside.
I feel like that is how creativity dies, without acknowledgement. So I try to take notes or look up something on my phone to nurture the inspiration. I desire to be at home and on my own time as a means to have more creative output. If I have a show coming up I will prioritize that above all else and I always write new material for every live set.
5. Why do you play music?
I love to do it, without machines or instruments I hum, sing and beatbox.
I love creating and playing with sound!
6. When did you start making music?
When I was younger I took piano and played trumpet in school.
Music was a part of my early education, I feel very lucky for that. Before that when I was even younger the Berkeley public school system had music integrated with education starting in first grade, so I was singing in the classroom and learning the basics of music very early on.
Around 7th grade I started rapping and took it very seriously, I prided myself on my freestyle skills. At the age of 17, I started making beats to rap over with a Yamaha QY20 and got a microphone and a 4 track to make tapes.
I started using a Roland MC-303 Groovebox and eventually I realized my beat making was much more relatable and enjoyable to listen to than my rapping and stopped rapping and focused very heavily on hiphop beat making.
7. Which track defines you the most?
Possibly “Ice Job”, it was off my EP Degage, released in 2010.
It was the final release of me and my crew’s underground hiphop label Solos Records.
It represents the end of one era and the start of another for me and was my first (release that was a) foray into dance music, referred to as “proto-house” by one review, that label seemed fit my musical lineage.
8. How would you describe your own music?
Comforting (at times annoying lol). I am probably my biggest fan and harshest critic. Over the years I have made a lot of music and spend hours listening to it, sometimes to see if it is ready for release, a lot of times to just listen to it. At best I create worlds to be lost in, that hopefully help alleviate emotional/psychological weight.
9. Any track of the moment?
It’s a beautiful and emotional track, it engulfs you in a very unique and special atmosphere. Cherushii and I started a weekly Monday party together 3 years ago called Run The Length Of Your Wildness. The track is coming out on our party’s second compilation release “Run The Length Of Your Wildness Vol 2” September 10th.
Cherushii was lost in the Ghost Ship Fire, I miss her dearly and listening to this song makes me want to smile and cry and yell and dance all at the same time.
10. What influences your work?
Where I’m at emotionally is a big factor, that’s influenced by many things, I have a very over active imagination, so life can get interesting lol. I have used music as a processing and coping mechanism for many years, so things like being depressed and feeling hopeless can lead to some great output. Sarah has exposed me to a lot of music I have never really payed attention to for one reason or another, great stuff like The Orb, Autechre, but a lot of other stuff too, random postpunk songs, ambient techno, bands from the 90’s that somehow slipped by me, she has amazing taste and makes dope music. Levon Vincent’s older work is a huge influence on me, Joey Anderson, Madlib, J Dilla, Legowelt, Actress, Aphex Twin are all artists whose works and interviews I have studied numerous times and draw a ton of inspiration from. I love getting lost in one artist’s body of work and obsessing over their sound, it’s been a little while now since that has happened for me. That’s part of why I am doing more ambient work and working with a wider bpm range than 110-132, which I was stuck in for awhile (mostly 120).
Changing my approach has opened up the doors for me for more influences and different ways of thinking.
11. What’s your academic background? Are you an autodidact?
No, I wouldn’t say so, I was sent away to an “emotional growth” school when I was younger and after completing high school I attended Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, for about two years. I took Yoga class, studied Environmental Science and Electronic Music. I eventually dropped out, I would be on my way to school listening to my walkman (usually Madlib’s first Quasimoto album or De La Souls’s “Buhloone Mindstate”) and get so inspired I would turn around and go home to make music all day.
After pulling this off for almost a year I decided to move back to the Bay Area and had to start working full time. I worked in health food stores and coffee shops, choosing jobs that barely paid rent but that didn’t take over my life (beyond having to show up for a certain number of hours) and continued to make music my number one priority, dedicating all my free time to music.
12. Favorite designer?
Cal Volner-Dison, who does all of our design for the “Run The Length Of Your Wildness” party, a new flyer every week for 3 years! He has also done the artwork for both our comps. Our party felt “official” when he started designing for us. Before that Chelsea and I were making flyers mostly by hand, literally copying and pasting things together. They looked cool, but when Cal joined he really branded us and a lot of people started to take us more seriously (even though to us it has always been just about having fun lol).
Cal has excellent taste and is super talented, he gives a lot to the party, it’s been great working with him!
13. Favorite book?
Online I read a ton of things and research a lot, stuff about music, cooking, health, politics. I used to read a lot of Bukowski and Vonnegut years ago.
I rarely read any actual books besides meditation and self help books these days.
14. Favorite classic movie?
I love movies and tv, I used to say television was my favorite drug. I don’t watch as much as I used to. It is still part of my nightly routine though. I watch stuff when I take breaks from working on tracks too, I find sci fi is best for that. I love sci-fi movies, classics from the 80’s and 90’s and a lot of the newer stuff. I love big budget comedies too. I used to watch tons of cooking shows, I love to cook. Skate videos and music documentaries are a fav too.
15. Favorite music label?
It has been quite an honor to release music on Mathematics, run by Jamal Moss/Hieroglyphic Being. The label has been sick for years and continues to be, releasing whatever Jamal decides is right for Mathematics. I was into Mathematics before I really got into dance music, it helped introduce me to how alternative and nonconformist dance music could be.
16. Your dream collaboration?
Living the dream with Bleie as Paramour 🙂 I would love to work on more music with my brother, CB Radio, and with my homie Bookworms as well. It would also be cool to work with some of the artists I have looked up to over the years, mostly to learn how they achieve their sound.
17. Are you analog or digital?
18. Which soft wares/tools/ instruments do you use/play?
I used to use the MPC 2000 for many years, a couple years ago I started using the MPC 1000 and currently that is my main piece of gear. I use it as my drum machine, sampler and sequencer. There is a lot you can do with that machine, especially with the JJOS operating system. I have a Nord Micro Modular and a Waldorf Pulse 2, they are great desktop synths, they sound sick and are both very versatile, especially the Nord, it’s basically an infinite modular synth in a tiny metal box. I use both synths in a lot of my live sets.
I run everything into a Yamaha MG16XU Mixer that Sarah is letting me borrow. My friend Loren Steele gave me a Vintage Time Machine delay and I use that on one of my aux channels, it adds a lot of character. I use the Roland Sp-303 sampler a lot in my live sets, it has a great gritty sound and fits very nicely in the mix. I have other synths and drum machines that mostly stay at home, an Ensoniq ESQ-1 (so dope, a very underrated synth that I have used and continue to use a lot), Volca Keys w modded midi out so I can use it’s sequencer for other synths, Filter Factory (I have used this a lot in live sets, sounds so good running drums from the MPC through it) and some other random stuff (a 707 that’s passed through the hands of Bobby Browser, Magic Touch, Bookworms and my brother CB Radio, who gave it to me for my birthday). For years I have used Protools for recording my tracks and post production, I’m starting to learn Ableton more and more now as well, Sarah has taught me a lot about that program.
19. Describe your creative process?
I usually start by writing drums on the MPC. All my samples are recorded in using the analog inputs, sometimes I doctor stuff up in Ableton, then sample it into the MPC. I use a lot of sample packs, my friend Loren Steele makes awesome sample packs, the free Legowelt sample packs are great too. I l also sample records and youtube sometimes. After writing what’s usually a 2 bar drum pattern on the MPC, I add synth lines, bass, pads, melodies, whatever sounds cool and fits the sound and pattern of the drums. Sometimes things sound great right away and I can get to recording very quickly, other times a lot gets erased and rewritten. A lot of times I write a bunch of stuff and then don’t save any of it and just consider it practice. Besides making dance tracks and beats I also make ambient stuff, that has me starting to focus more on sound design and trying to create atmospheres that engulf the listener, using lfo’s, filters, delays and reverbs more has been helpful and fun with that process.
20. When are you the most prolific (creatively)?
When I have a show coming up, I will write a set in two days if I have to. I generally do well under pressure with sets and can write music very quickly. I like to come up with ideas at night and build upon them in the morning.
21. Any favorite record stores? (Real/virtual)
Vinyl Dreams is so great, I love that place. Super fun in store parties, everyone smoking hella weed. I DJ there a lot 🙂 It’s a good place to go, Mike B, Jess and the rest of the staff are perfect hosts and offer themselves and their store to the community in a very loving way.
22. What’s your life philosophy?
Help create the world you want to be a part of. Don’t try so hard that it hurts you, just do your best.
23. Do you have a healthy lifestyle?
Not as much as I would like, I find myself stressed out a lot, I would like to feel less stressed. I am working on that in various ways, therapy, bike rides, I eat very healthy, but I’m also doing silly things like drinking too much coffee and alcohol rn and over working my body at my job.
24. How do you manage your time effectively? (Job/hobby)
I don’t, I would love a new job that takes less time and energy but pays well 🙂 or I would love to somehow get paid for all the music work I do. I used to be cool with being a starving artist but now I would like to do things like eat nice meals and go on vacations, however I’m still struggling just to pay rent. Living in the Bay Area (and at this point it seems the entire country) is very expensive, everything cost more, so you need more money for everything. My family and friends help me out when I need it, a lot of people don’t have those resources and the level of support I do and I consider myself lucky and am very grateful. I try to pass that on as much as possible.
25. Any secret skills?
I can write songs really fast. I can also cook good meals for relatively cheap.
26. Any future plans?
I want to travel the world with Sarah. Release tons of music. Grow old with friends and family and have as much good times as possible!
27.What’s your life motto?
Love, learn and grow.
28. Any “mot de la fin”?
My party/label “Run The Length Of Your Wildness” is releasing a 29 track compilation featuring music by a bunch of our close friends. All the money from the bandcamp sales go to Cherushii‘s family. The comp is really dope, I’m very proud of what we have done! Our party has been a Monday weekly for 3 years and we are now going to take a bit of a break and throw parties less frequently. It’s been a really special experience and we have a lot more to look forward too!
I’m very excited to say that my favorite San Francisco record store, Vinyl Dreams, is starting a record label and I have the honor of being the first 12″ release!
The release date will be announced soon and will be available through Groove Distribution.
I make a lot of different music and, besides releasing with labels, I release music on my bandcamp pretty often, if you are into what I’m doing it’s a great place to hear and purchase new music of mine.
Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview! Life is crazy, I just try to remember to put love into everything I do and be good to people, but that isn’t always how things play out, lol just doing my best.