Matt Benyayer [Dark Sky] – Groove Podcast 334

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Photo: Press (Matt Benyayer [Dark Sky])

Dark Sky started out as a trio. Carlo Anderson, Matthew Benyayer and Thomas Edwards made a name for themselves under this moniker with releases on Black Acre, Monkeytown and the Berlin label’s legendary 50Weapons series. Anderson left before the release of 2017’s Othona LP and since 2019, Benyayer is releasing records as Dark Sky as a solo artist. The producer and DJ is however also currently preparing the launch of a label and a new project under his surname. His mix for our Groove podcast gives us a foretaste of what to expect from Benyayer – it includes two previously unreleased cuts.

First off, how have the last two years been for you?

They’ve been quite the rollercoaster. I’ve spent most of my life isolating in rooms making music, so not much changed there. What changed for me was the pressure to release things and perform, it’s like someone just took the foot of the gas. I felt quite helpless at first, but It gave me the chance to focus on things outside of music and the time to refine my sound. There was a window when the lockdowns were eased in the UK so I decided to escape the paranoia of London to isolate in a van whilst travelling round Europe. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life and something I would have never have done if the world hadn’t been flipped on its head. I brought a mini-studio with me and wrote a load of sketches, taking inspiration from being on the road. Having used lots of hardware before, I found it quite liberating with such a small set-up.

Dark Sky was originally conceived as a trio, but since 2019 you are its sole member. How would you describe the concept behind Dark Sky after all these years, especially now as a solo project?

The sound of the project has morphed and evolved over the years in parallel to our music tastes but the core ideas have stayed the same – to try and make music with soul and emotion that hopefully stands the test of time. I used to write a lot of sketches alone and then finish them off with the guys, but after Tom and Carlo left Dark Sky I had to learn how to finish tracks on my own and practice getting better at trusting my own judgment more. The flipside to this change has led me to make some of the most personal music I’ve ever written.

In the recent past, you have also collaborated with Afriquoi. What drew you to working with a full band that primarily works with live instrumentation?

I’ve always been fascinated with sounds and instruments from around the globe so the idea of working with a live band rather than sample libraries for a change really appealed to me. I also like to challenge myself from time to time and step out of my comfort zone. I feel like exploring avenues like this can help you to grow and develop as an artist.

Your last release was a soundtrack for a film featuring dancer Wennah Wilkers and directed by Rijko Fernandez – SHE 2.0. How did the collaboration come about and what did your working process look like?

The collaboration came about through Wennah posting a video of her dancing to “Shades”. I reached out about potentially collaborating on a project in the future. Some time later Wennah got in touch saying she needed some music and sound design for a film, the concept sounded really fresh to me and I’d never done the music for a dance documentary before, so I was up for giving it a go. The process involved lots of Zoom brainstorming sessions to get to know what sounds Wennah had in her head. Afterwards I began referencing what was being shown on screen and mentioned in the subtitles to try and establish some themes for me to build from.

This wasn’t the first time you wrote music for this medium. How would you characterise your approach to writing music for TV and film?

Being a full-time music maker, this is quite an essential part of my livelihood and is a skill I’ve had to hone and develop over the years. Writing for TV and film kind of gives you an opportunity to escape from the personal sound worlds you’re involved with and try things that you would never normally try. This leads to lots of happy accidents and I often end up writing new material midway through composing a visual score. In the beginning, the sound palette I had just wasn’t cutting so I decided to invest in Kontakt libraries like the stuff from Spitfire, Output and the VST Omnisphere. After doing this miraculously I started to win lots more briefs. During the pandemic I had a lot of extra time and decided to focus on writing albums for TV library music, especially as there was no income from gigs. Laying down these foundations can help give you the security required to focus on your personal creative goals whilst still being involved in music.

Since the release of SHE 2.0, you have released an edit through your Bandcamp page, with all proceeds from the sales going to United Help Ukraine. It seemed like an unusual choice at first: Seal’s “Crazy”. What does that song mean to you?

The original song by Seal really grabbed me when I first heard it as a teen. The main hook, “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a bit crazy” can be interpreted in many ways. For me it meant just not standing by and doing nothing but trying to help the situation somehow. The world is always a crazy place but the lyrics particularly resonated with me during this time of madness when it feels we are on the brink of WW3. I’d written the edit almost two years ago just as something personal for me to play in sets but the time felt right to share it when I did.

Even before the pandemic, you did not tour extensively as a DJ. What role does DJing play in your life and work presently?

A big part of my early career in music was DJing and I’ve always had a passion for it, later on we began to play live a lot but now that I’m solo, DJing is something I want to do more of. I really enjoy the process of searching for new music and then trying to tell a story over the course of a night. I find it quite therapeutic, especially compared to the stress of trying to do a live show!

What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?

The mix I’ve made is quite rhythm-focused and is a snapshot of where I’m at right now musically in terms of influences. Listening to it you will get a rough idea of what you might expect to hear me playing over the course of the night, but condensed down into one hour. There’s a few twists and turns and I’ve also included two tracks from a new project I’m hoping to launch very soon under my surname, Benyayer.

Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?

I’m hoping to start a record label soon! I’m just finalising the designs, but the first few releases are written. I want it to be a platform to be able to share my own music, but also to support and nurture upcoming talent. I would love to create a family of artists who support and inspire each other. As mentioned before, going forward I plan on releasing music under my surname, Benyayer. It’s going to be an interesting shift but the music I’ve written feels like the most personal to date so it makes perfect sense to me.

Stream: Matt Benyayer [Dark Sky] – Groove Podcast 334

01. Aquarius Heaven – Universe
02. Eliot – Afriqua [Loxique Edit]
03. Lazare Hoche & Malin Genie – Formes
04. io [Mulen] – Reponce Profonde
05. Gherkin Jerks – Summer Love (Re-Work)
06. Sthlm Soundmachine – Beautiful People
07. Mathew Johnson – India In Me
08. Benyayer – The Fall
09. Dennis Ferrer – Sandcastles
10. Benyayer – Volos
11. Haze – Somewhere In Time
12. Seb Wildblood – MDS w/ Theophilus London
13. Jerome Sydenham – Timbuktu
14. Bakey – Take It Further
15. Venga ft. N – Leda Stray & High Class Filter
16. DJ Gigola & Kev Koko – Sueño
17. Ø [Phase] – Wanting
18. Nyra – Both of Us Knowing
19. Los Hermanos – Quetzal
20. WestBam – You Need The Drugs ft. Richard Butler

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