You Can Thank Ben Aqua for Keeping Austin Weird
Long before the phrase "EDM" emerged to sell stadium techno to norms, dance music was the purview of weirdos: hippies, drag queens, drug addicts, cyber-goths, dummy-sucking man-babies. You know, the kind of people who live in Austin—people like Ben Aqua.
Part-time visual artist, producer, DJ and label manager at #FEELINGS (home of Lotic, Rabit, Ynfynyt Scroll and more) Ben has just released his debut album Virtual Anticipation, an opus that taps everything from footwork and club to seapunk and skweee, and pulls it all together with a post-human outlook. The dude holds it down for an international network of social media-savvy digital natives, and it's not unusual to see friends in any major city wearing his iconic NEVER LOG OFF shirt, or sporting a #F sticker on their laptop. On the week of the #FEELINGS SXSW showcase, I quizzed Aqua about his life, work, and—most importantly—the Illuminati-endorsed "Gaylien Agenda."
THUMP: Which character from the movie Hackers most closely resembles you? And why?
Ben Aqua: I was the formless, invisible cluster of bug-free binary code subconsciously embedded throughout the film once every 14 nanoseconds.
Something about your work, and in particular your album, makes me think about the melding of man and machine, or the singularity, even. It might be combination of classical elements and up-to-the-minute synth sounds. Is there any kind of a concept behind the album? What is Virtual Anticipation?
Virtual Anticipation is loosely about a sense of anxiety, happiness, fear, alienation and excitement I've felt as a result of years of endlessly analyzing how the Internet and technology are influencing ideas of self-identity, sexuality, privacy, "immortality," and fantasy. Aesthetically, I experimented with a ton of different samples and instruments from various sources, old and new. So if you listen closely, you can hear bits of field recordings from my phone, drum fills ripped from mid-70s cosmic prog/synth vinyl, pitched up and pitched down sounds from random YouTube videos, sampled Nintendo DS noises, bit-crunched iPad soft synths, etc. I wanted the album to sound very loud, detailed, crispy, cute, fresh, somewhat frantic and NOW, but with hints of THEN and ALWAYS and NEVER and FOREVER.
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