I caught up with Ben Aqua, a local resident of Austin and the label owner of #FEELINGS, to talk about his official showcase later this week and to shed some light on how to survive the grueling week of SXSW. As a multidisciplinary artist, Aqua blends the visual and the auditory in what becomes a unique, blended experience which can only be described as his own manifestation. Ben Aqua most recently released his “4C1D” EP via #FEELINGS, which includes the “frantic acid house/8-bit-inspired title track ‘4C1D’ (from his February 2014 album ‘Virtual Anticipation’).”
I spoke with Ben about the impending week of South By Southwest, and his thoughts on vinyl as a music medium in the increasingly digital age of electronic music.
Q: What can you tell me about your #FEELINGS SXSW performance last year?
A: It was so magical. We had a great turnout and all the artists brought their infinity A-game curse vibes to the stage. No regrets, no fear, yes “reality”.
Q: With the recent increase in exposure for you and your #FEELINGS affiliates this past year, do you expect this year to be largely different than last year?
A: It’s hard to say, because the “future” doesn’t really exist. We live in an eternal now. But if the future did exist, I just hope we continue to present human and post-human worlds with high quality, sometimes confusing imagery and lil sonic booms.
Q: As an artist do you have time to enjoy all that SXSW has to offer? Or has living in Austin already exhausted the fun out of the experience?
A: SXSW is a crazy, flexible beast that can bring many #feelings out of the woodwork. I typically get extreme #FOMO during the festival because there are a million amazing things happening simultaneously, and it can get overwhelming. But overall, it’s ridiculously fun, and it brings a really huge amount of artists to Austin from all over the world that might not normally come here, which is cute.
Q: Are there any specific artists or shows you’re looking forward to seeing this week?
A: I’m basically stalking PC Music and Secret Songs as much as possible. The On The Sly showcase should be really good, too.
Q: Do you have any tips on how to survive this long week of SXSW?
A: Smile like your life depends on it and flail your arms around as much as possible within the first 7 seconds of meeting new people.
Q: #FEELINGS has been exclusively digital since its spontaneous birth in 2011, are there any plans to change that?
A: I’ve thought about releasing music on vinyl eventually, but I think it’d be cooler to somehow manifest music in the form of holograms, telepathy, or virtual reality experience.
Q: Do you feel like releasing your music on vinyl would take away from the overall image of #FEELINGS?
A: I’m not opposed to releasing on vinyl, although I’m really drawn to the hyper non-tangible nature of digital music. It floats arounds on tiny devices and exists in a dream. Music sounds and looks beautiful to me on a touch screen mobile device or embedded into a prosthetic limb.
Q: Where do you see the future of vinyl fitting in to what’s become a digitally dominated music scene? As DJ’s begin to switch to exclusively digital set ups, do you think it will have an affect on the record industry?
A: I think we’re already close to that complete digital takeover at this point. I rarely see DJs playing out vinyl. There seems to be that nostalgic magic about seeing an all-vinyl DJ set, but it seems like our culture cares less and less about “analog warmth” and more about cold digital immortal accessible freeform infinity lifestyle. Personally, I don’t care if people use vinyl or iPhones or their eyeballs to DJ, as long as it sounds amazing and gets the crowd riled up.
Q: Do you have any personal interest in collecting records? If so, can you talk about a few of your favorite records in your collection?
A: I love cheap, dollar bin thrift store records. I mostly buy vinyl to sample bits of pieces for my tracks. A few of my fav records are Metallica “Master of Puppets”, ABBA “The Visitors”, and Yellow Magic Orchestra “Tighten Up” 12″.
Q: Do you have any favorite record stores around Austin?
Q: What else can we expect to hear from #FEELINGS this year? Is there a new Ben Aqua full-length LP in the works?
A: We have some fun digital releases coming out, including an EP by Joe Howe (who recently released some gold on Sound Pellegrino), a supra hyper new Supraman EP, and more. It might take me another 3 or 30 or 300000 years to make another Ben Aqua full length album after my “Virtual Anticipation” album from 2014, but we shall see what the “future” holds…
You can catch Ben Aqua perform tonight at the Resident Advisor official showcase at Vulcan Gas Company alongside Sophie, A.G. Cook, Total Freedom, and Suicideyear – and also at the #FEELINGS official showcase on Friday at Plush ATX where Ben Aqua will be performing with his various label affiliates and friends, Supraman, Rabit, poolboy92, Ynfynyt Scroll, and more.