Clearing the Air with Ben Clear

Ben Clear has been a staple in the Minneapolis electronic music scene for over a decade. Having been stage manager for Sound in Motion and worked with some of the biggest stars in the industry – he briefly retired and returns Friday 4/17 as direct support for Green Velvet. SIM bloggers caught up with him and got some answers to the following:

SIM: Going back 10 years ago, what originally initiated the urge to involve yourself in the music industry? You were Stage and Production Manager for SIMshows for quite some time.  Which came first for you – managing for Sound in Motion or DJing? I’m sure you maintained a very busy schedule doing both!

BEN: For me, djing pre-dates everything else.  I caught what you call the tail end of what people my age and older would call the “rave scene” in Minneapolis.  When I say rave scene, I’m more referring to the parties that were held in large spaces, such as big auditoriums, hockey rinks, Roy Wilkins basement, etc.  I was sucked in quickly by the sense of community at these parties, and naturally wanted to figure out the main reason all these people came together, and for the most part, that was to see the DJ.  I bought a pair of Technic 1200’s and a DJM 500, when I had no idea how to DJ.  Little did I know that buying those 3 things would help me get my foot in the door as far show production was involved.  My good friends Jane Jaeger and Matteo Halbesleben started throwing Teopelli Tuesday’s at the Gay 90’s in 2002.  I figured out quickly that to make any show run you had to have the equipment I now owned.  I was bringing my gear down ever week with the hope that I would be asked to DJ the first slot.  That eventually led to me running production, DJing for Teopelli, and later running production and DJing for DC Productions and Sound in Motion.

SIM: What can you say about being apart of Sound In Motion from the beginning of its establishment? Sound in Motion was founded back in 2000. SIMshows has brought numerous headliners to the Twin Cities throughout the years since. Is there anything in particular you can say about Sound in Motion’s progress over the past decade?

BEN: Watching Sound in Motion’s progress over the years has been a treat.  When the rave scene died down, the SIM shows were a great place to hear DJ’s from all over world.  Most of the shows were held at The Quest, which happened to my favorite music venue at the time.  I grew up seeing punk and metal shows at The Quest; to see electronic music quickly take over most Saturday nights was something that I welcomed. In those early 2000’s I believe SIM was involved in making Minneapolis a definite stop for DJs. Without them, I know we wouldn’t have seen as much ground breaking talent as we did at the time.

SIM: Are there any artists that have inspired your drive to DJ? Your history with Sound In Motion combined with such talent is enough to take credit for. What else can you say about your music that distinguishes your style from other artists?

BEN: The artists that have inspired me have changed a lot over the years.  In the beginning I would say I was inspired as much by the local DJ performances as I was by the latest dj mix I had gotten at the time.  We have SO much great talent in this city!  Seeing performances by DVS1, Dustin Zahn, Christian James, Mike G, E-tones, and JT blew my mind when I saw them.  Also, all of these guys were playing on turntables at the time (and I had turntables!) so they really showed me what was possible.  My style has really evolved over the years but has always leaned primarily towards house.  House music was my first love so it’s always hard to stray from it.  On the flip side, I have always been a closet techno head.  Techno always intrigued me because as a DJ you can get a lot crazier with layering multiple tracks and effects that you can’t always do with house.  The great thing is that I love all electronic music and with my style there is no place I’m really not willing to go.

SIM: What Genres of music do you enjoy working with? You’re opening for Green Velvet at Rev, April 17th. What are people attending the show going to expect from your set? Do you plan on featuring some of the House and Techno that Green Velvet is known for?

BEN:  The main genres I work with are house, techno, and tech house. I love working with these genres as you can really go wherever you want with a set depending on what feel you want to convey.  I like to push the energy a little higher earlier in the set/night and strip it down more before the main act performs.  Green Velvet and Cajmere tracks are always amazing, but its kind of an unwritten rule not to drop any of the headliners tracks in an opening dj set :).  I really love most things Dirtybird has been putting out lately and those are definitely along the lines of the GV style of House and Techno.

SIM: The EDM scene is booming in Minneapolis. How do you feel about the progress EDM has made throughout the Metro? There are quite a few local DJ’s throughout the Twin Cities that keep the nightlife alive. Compared to when you first got involved over 10 years ago, do you see the scene expanding any further than the progress it’s already made?

BEN:  EDM?  I guess I haven’t bought into that term.  For me, it will always be electronic music.  I like it more as a blanket term because it includes everything, all electronic music.  When I think of EDM, I think big room, over the top, in your face kind of music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of that as well, but listening to techno on a four corner sound system in a dark room is not EDM. 

 I love the progress electronic music has made in this city. There are so many great shows on pretty much any given weekend.  There is really something for everyone, whether it’s at a club, a bigger venue, or in one of those places where you need to know someone who knows someone.  I think if electronic music is going to expand any further, it falls on the venues we have in the city.  You can’t have a show with 5000 people if there is not a venue to accommodate it.  The same thing was true 10 years ago.  I have always been a fan of intimate shows.

SIM: What is your perspective on the growth of Electronic Music over the years, worldwide? Artists like DJ Tiesto and Diplo are hitting local radio stations nationwide – is Electronic Dance Music a genre that could be around for years to come?

BEN:  I think the growth is great, but electronic music has been intertwined into pop music for almost 40 years.  A good example of this is I Feel Love by Donna Summer, which is an unbelievably great track that was produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. This song was dubbed as the future sound when it came out and I think the track still stands the test of time. Diplo has taken off because the trap sound is very similar to hip hop and has become more popular much faster to a wider audience. There is no doubt in my mind that electronic music will be around for many more years.

SIM: The music industry itself is a challenging career to pursue. There is a lot of time and energy that artists invest. Is there any insight you would like to share for aspiring DJ’s/Producers that are new to this field?

BEN: You really need to make it your passion.  Put everything and all resources into trying to get where you are trying to go.  Meet everyone you can, shake hands, and get out mixes!  I would suggest just getting involved in any way you can in your area of interest. It is also important to practice!