Exclusive Interview for Appalachian Jamwich
Written by Andrew Brown
DELTAnine is an Electro Hip-Hop Fusion Jam trio based out of Baltimore, MD, that has an endless devotion to creating livetronic music. DELTAnine is comprised of Ben Kolakowski (guitar), Chris Honsberger (keys/sample/bass), and Chris Beck (drums). Their combined sound is derived from years of different musical projects, DJing nightclubs and house parties, proficiency with multiple acoustic and electronic instruments, and the acquired knowledge of electronic music production.
Formed in late 2011, DELTAnine has opened for acts like Conspirator, Damn Right!, The Werks, Dirtyphonics and Smash Gordon, to name a few. They’ve also played with up and coming bands such as, Dopapod and Segway. The release of their first 9 song full-length album is quickly approaching and is to hit the jamtronica scene hard. One could say their sound blends attributes of bands such as Pretty Lights, Zoogma, and EOTO, but they are an explosive sound in their own right. The future has a lot to come for this diverse sonic monster of a band. We at Appalachian Jamwich were lucky enough to have a sit down interview with the group after their performance at the 8×10 club in Baltimore.
Artists should be able to speak for themselves without a predetermined label on their sound. What sound of genre most accurately describes DELTAnine?
Ben: “Very good question because we don’t quite fall into one particular genre by any means. I mean, there are elements of our music that are related to hip hop, related to jazz, rock and all sorts of electronic music.
Chris B: “I like to think we’re oriented around electro-funk, just a heavy driving set, but all genres are encompassed.”
Ben: “We definitely fall under this broader Livetronica sound.”
Where are you individually from? Where and how did you meet? How was DELTAnine finally conceptualized?
Chris H: ” Originally I had released an album and I already knew Chris (Beck) made beats. Chris and I are both from the Catonsville, MD area.
Ben: “Well I’m originally from Timonium, MD, but I moved around a lot. Baltimore is certainly home for me.”
Chris B: ” Chris (Honsberger) had heard about the beats I was making, so we joined together. We started making hip hop beats and putting acapellas over them. Chris already had the name DELTAnine, then I jumped in. Chris and I started showing each other different (production) programs and it grew from that. Then we started to put a live element to the production to make bigger tracks. Ben had started playing with us at the Freequinox festival.”
How did you individually come to playing your instruments?
Chris B: “Well, my brother was an inspiration to me. My oldest brother was a guitarist. I think I picked it up around ten or eleven and then the drums came a few years after that. Guitar was my first main thing till I started playing drums for a band in high school. Drums are now what I gravitate towards.”
Ben: ” I was taking piano lessons when I was five. Then I put it down for a while. In eighth grade I picked up the guitar and started playing in bands up through high school. I would play at Recher Theater and shit with them. I then went on to study Jazz Performance in college. And here I am.”
Chris H: “I was honestly chillin’ over my friends house when Chris (Beck) came over and started messin’ with Reason. You know, makin’ some beats. I was intrigued by the process and started fucking with it. I ended up pursuing a recording degree at Sheffield University. That was right before Chris and I linked up on the hip hop thing. Making the beats was just way more fun, so I picked up that and a piano.”
Chris B: “At a certain point, I was tired of constantly being in bands and wanted to get into production. I wanted to play the music and be the composer. To be the brain of it all. So I could sit there with the drums, bass, whatever and make what I focused on. I could make a fifteen minute song, with eight different genres and not have to talk to anyone. Chris (Honsberger) was on the same wavelength.”
Does the full chemical name for cannabis, Delta-9 Tetrahyracannabinol, have any significance on the band name? If so, why?
Chris H: “HaHaHa, yeah it totally does” (group laughter) “Alot of my inspiration comes from that (cannabis). I get a lot of inspiration from a lot of things, like going out and seeing live music. THC makes me want to come back home, sit down, and focus on a track. It’s like writing. When I’m blocked I smoke and it reopens my whole creative process. It’s magnificent how it does that shit. It really is.”
Ben: “musically, it makes it so that you’re not just locked into one idea. I think a lot more possibilities exist (when smoking) because it doesn’t limit you.”Does the Appalachian region, specifically Baltimore, MD region, harbor positivity for the creation of your sound?
Chris B: “We just have a lot of friends from different areas. All my family is here. All my friends are here. I’ve been a musician for a long time. People have come to recognition of that (in this region). This is a big electronic hub that people love to come out to see live electronic music. The network of jam bands and the 8×10 club have been strong and supportive of our music.”
Ben: “The 8×10 (club) is our stomping grounds. On a more abstract level, the Appalachian region, to me, has provided inspiration because that’s what I grew up on. Being out in nature. That totally evolved into my love of festivals and the music scene. To me, that’s what this region is about.
How do you, as a band, view the progression of electronic/livetronic music?
Ben: “Baltimore is huge for electronic music. Baltimore has been a hub for electronic music from early on. It’s always kind of been this east coast harbor of America. When a big electronic act hits America, they rarely miss Baltimore. It has this twenty year tradition of raves.
Chris B: “We had the rave scene here in Baltimore in the 90’s when clubs like Paradox were opening. The reason this style and genre has thrived here is because of the love, pure love we have for electronic, livetronic, and jam music. That’s where we feel like we’re stepping in, between the DJ world and the Jam scene.
Ben: “Bands like Lotus and Sound Tribe Sector 9 are able to play festivals like Ultra and All Good. They’re both two very different festivals, yet they’re able to bridge the gap. That’s kind of what we’re aiming for. Although we can’t compare ourselves to other bands respectively.
How has sampling other music had an impact on your sound?
Chris B: “Sampling is all about taking old music that’s already recorded and putting a new spin on it. Putting your original taste on something somebody else did. As far as artists that have been influential in the use of sampling, more broadly it’s just hip hop ya know. Hip hop is all about sampling and that’s kind of our roots. I didn’t get into crate diggin’ and vinyl sampling till about a year ago. Michael Menert is a current artist that has been a major influence on me as I am a huge fan of the whole Pretty Lights Music label.”
Chris H: “Sampling allows us to bring songs back to life. Like in ‘Igneous Rock’, we’re sampling Issac Haynes ‘Walk on By’. Chris and I in the beginning were just searching YouTube and old records to find something.”Do you believe your music is better defined by your use of sampling, or does it play a minor roll in the bigger picture of a fusion band?
Chris B: “It is influential and a big inspiration to the sound, but for the most part it’s just a tiny fraction of the bigger picture. It’s just spice. It’s just flavor. We could have tracks that revolve solely around samples, but yet again we have a lot of tracks that have no samples what-so-ever. Fully live.”
Chris H: “All of our songs have come about differently. ‘Acid Reflex’ was our first song. Then we started working on ‘Pocket Full of Planets’. On that track, we have a Ravi Shankar sample, an Afru-Ra sample, as well as having One Below be the sampled MC.”
How then has the use of sampling created a deeper sense of musical history? What benefits does sampling other music have?
Ben: “It allows you to pay tribute. It allows artists to bring to light material some people have never heard before. At the same time, if you’re not tasteful about it, it can definitely detract from your sound.”
Chris B: “Some people think sampling takes away from originality because you’re just using somebody else’s music. Some say it’s stealing. It’s not because you’re using minute fragments, chopping up the wave form, giving some deeper effects on it, and giving it a totally different vibe. By the time you’re done, it’s nowhere near what you started off with.”
Chris H: “And a lot of the samples bring out the live element because we mix and chop our samples live on stage for spice. So we grab people’s attention then let our music out.”
Chris B: “It’s also a good way to show people your style and what you’re about since most of these predecessors are musical, spiritual teachers. We don’t have a lyricist, we don’t have specific lyrics for our message. That’s where it helps.”
What equipment do you individually use on stage?
Chris B: “We started out production wise using Reason. It’s an awesome production unit. Reason led to Abelton because of its greater possibilities as far as live music goes. For drumming I use an old, heavy hitting, Maryland drum kit. It’s from a custom Baltimore company. I got it off of Craigslist. I use Sabian symbols and Zildjan cymbals. I’m gonna start to incorporate electronic drums into it as well. Eventually I want to have a cool hybrid drum kit that’s half electronic and half acoustic.”
Chris H: ” I use Abelton for live production. I have a Korg R3, a Moog Phatty, and an APC40 along with my MacPro.”
Ben: “I’m a really big fan of Gibson guitars. I didn’t play it tonight though, but my pride and joy is a Gibson ES137 custom shop. I also have a Gibson SG and a Stratocaster that I modified. That Stratocaster was my first guitar. I also have a bunch of custom pedals made by a local producer NoiseKICK fx.”
Chris, have you ever used older synthesizers, such as the Hammond B3 organ or the Original Moog synthesizer to manipulate sound? Explain your opinion on new music technology in comparison with older equipment.
Chris: “I have! I’ve recorded with both of them before. The mini moog Had a few broken parts but it still essentially worked. It was really cool. You can do a lot more now with the amount of synthesizers and effects, but I would love to have a lot more of the old school stuff integrated in the sound.”
Have pioneers of electronic music, like Bob Moog and Brian Eno, had an impact on each of you?
Chris B: “The influence they’ve had on other artists has traveled to a direct influence on us.”
Ben: “Yeah bands like ELP and King Crimson did. It was amazing how they were able to layer their music so well. I heard about Brian Eno through a collaboration between Robert Flipp (of King Crimson) and Brian Eno where Flipp would make ridiculous guitar loops and Brian Eno would put all these weird fucking sounds on it. I remember it well listening to it at Seventeen, being high as shit and it being so influential.”
Ben, have any guitarists been mentors to your sound? How did you learn to play?
Ben: I studied with this guy Carl Filipiak for a long time, from the time I was sixteen till the age of eighteen. I eventually ended up auditioning for Berkley University and others and I got accepted because of what he taught me. Classic rock and Jazz Fusion were my main influences. Like if you asked me what I would want to play everyday, any day….it’s Jazz Fusion. Which is funny, because to me that’s kind of what DELTAnine is to me. Funky Electronic Jazz Fusion because most of my sound is improvised. That’s my thing, artists who improvise.”
Where does most of the raw, creative energy of the band stem from?
Chris H: “It’s not just about substances. It’s about live music. I go out to a lot of shows and spent so much time in the scene that I’ve created a love of electronic and jam music. That gives me drive. Being emerged in music and festivals makes me wanna be the guy on stage making everyone groove because I’ve been the one in the crowd before. That made me wanna be the controller.”
How intimate & personal are you with the people who follow your music? Do fans of the music reflect an inspiration within your music?
Ben: “Everyone that comes out and supports us, we are not only grateful for, but to be able to move somebody in a positive way is directly what we aim for.”
Chris B: “Staying close with your fans, building your local fan base is the very foundation of your support. The people who follow our music right now are like our extended friends. For anyone we don’t know, that’s a better reason than any to get to know them.”
Instead of sourcing your music through Internet networking cites, such as Soundcloud, does the band plan on releasing a major LP in the near future?
Chris B: “Chris and I have a whole album ready to go, we’re just waiting on the right production quality to finish so that we can get a hard copy out and put it on the Internet. Before we played any shows, we spent eight or nine months in the studio just bustin’ out tracks. After that we ended up with a nine track, full length album. We’ve released a few and played others live that we haven’t officially released yet. This upcoming year we’re gonna release a bend new album with a ‘name your own price’ idea. We’re also doing a remix of a D.V.S track that should be on that album. We’re not gonna ask people for money for our music, but hey if they’re willing to help us out we won’t turn it down. We just want the music out there.”
Chris H: “People will argue ‘you gotta make money as a band, so why are you selling your album for free?’, but it’s about reaching more and more people. It’s like, I have a dream. I don’t want to just chase money.”
What is in the future for DELTAnine and what message would you like to extend to the people?
Chris B: “As far as what’s next, we’re gonna hone in on a fully live experience. It’s not gonna be more of a DJ thing, but where more live instruments are included. It’s gonna be almost all live instruments with small uses of sampling and drum machines we play live. We’re also looking to collaborate more with bands we’ve played with before.”
All: ” We plan to explore the depths of Livetronica and Jam on the same time clock.”
For more information on DELTAnine visit:
FOR ANY OF THEIR UP AND COMING LIVE SHOWS!