“The hardest thing is breaking from your previous ideas of music. There’s always a template that you’ve carried that you depend on as a creative stimulus.”
Check out the interview with Ben Desland exclusively on Skilly Magazine Online.
Skilly: Tell us where this all began. What is your history in the music scene?
Ben Desland: A lot of where my music derives from is definitely centered in how I grew up. I was born in Riverside, California in 1993, but I came from a divorced family and had to have moved at least 10-15 times in 10-15 different cities or towns by the time I was 12.
Art, cinema, and music in particular were a safe haven for me even though I didn’t understand my issues at the time. It really started when I used to go to the neighborhood pool with my dad when we lived in Hacienda Heights. He’d play Sublime, 311, Rage Against The Machine, KoRn, etc. Just music that really caught my attention, music that was angry, and dope all at once.
I feel like that left a lasting impression on me and ultimately shaped my path in becoming a rapper, being that a lot of those artists integrated hip hop into their craft as well. But before wanting to rap, I originally wanted to be a vocalist for a band and after being unable to find members willing to play I decided to try a solo path.
What are the best ways to promote yourself as an artist? Any tips you can give us?
The best way in general to promote yourself is to be confident in your craft. I’m not too concerned with promoting my music so much so as I find myself concerned with having fun making my music. Having that mindset should be enough if you already know what you want to do with your talent. Everyone walks a different path and some people really are destined for fame and fortune, whilst others are just meant to make some great music with their time here. I try to lean myself more to the latter, for sure.
What do you ultimately want to become in your career?
Ultimately, I’d like to be recognized for what I bring to the table. I don’t want to be considered the best, or better than anyone, or in any Top 10, Top 40, Billboard Charts fiasco. If I ended up to that point, that’d be fantastic but to me reaping the benefits is hearing people tell me that what I’ve written or what I’ve rapped has helped them better themselves.
And I can proudly say I’ve had people, friends, and strangers alike find solace in my words. Having helped others is enough for me to know I’m meant to do what I’ve worked so hard towards. That’s what I strive for on a larger scale.
What is the hardest thing about being in the music business?
The hardest thing is breaking from your previous ideas of music. There’s always a template that you’ve carried that you depend on as a creative stimulus. But there comes a time when the more you learn, the more change you have to make to compensate for the new knowledge you’ve obtained about the business.
So really the hardest thing to learn is to humble yourself. Artists naturally have an ego, but learning to balance that with humility will help in the long run for both you and your music’s legacy.
What is it like in your city? What is the music scene like, and how is it like living there overall?
Like I mentioned before, I’ve lived several different spots all over Southern California and have had a much different experience with life than most. Where I call home is the small, quiet Big Bear Lake, California. I love where I live and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But anyway, the music scene isn’t much of anything. There’s been potential in recent years but given the town’s small size and the generational gap, a scene isn’t likely to pop up anytime soon. However, though almost needless to say, there is genuine talent up here that I think one day will be recognized accordingly.
What are some of advice you can give and share to other artists who are still trying to come up?
Honestly, just make the music you want to make. If you are writing a song and a certain melody or note begins to appear just ride it. Milk your brain, get as much as you can from it because even by next year you could look back and find yourself regretting not writing down that last line or practicing the chords for that song you almost had perfected.
Don’t be afraid to go back to old concepts or delve into something totally new, learn from every aspect of your gifts. And of course, if you’re just doing music to have fun with it, do that too, just make sure you’re doing what you’re wanting to do.
What is the best thing that’s ever happened in your career?
The best thing for me was actually recording my first mixtape Outsiderinside. It was a project I conceived at the end of 2012, but it took me almost two years to finish. At the time, I had major problems with finishing what I started but I stayed persistent through all the thick and thin. I really just wanted to prove that nagging voice in my head wrong every time it’d creep up and convince me I wasn’t worth much of anything.
I finished writing in May of 2014 and recorded the rest of the summer finally releasing the project on August 8, 2014 for free online. It may not have been the epic masterpiece I was hoping it to be, but writing and recording those 16 tracks was definitely a turning point and a huge highlight for me in my outing as a rapper thus far.
What is your inspiration?
My main inspiration is life itself really. I’m always learning new things about our world that make me question the very fabric of reality which you could imagine can be by either great or terrible. In terms of musical inspiration, my influences are Eyedea & Abilities, Gang Starr, Atmosphere, Big L, Sage Francis, Big Pun, Kendrick Lamar, J Dilla, Flying Lotus, etc.
Those are the guys who I personally feel really pushed the envelope for their own category and helped the music transform with the times. Pioneers who weren’t afraid of experimenting with sounds that wouldn’t make sense until 5 years afterwards.
Do you feel anyone can be successful now in today’s world of music?
Not really, and simply because music is still at the will and disposal of the listener. The listener ultimately is what cements or destroys a musician’s legacy. If anyone could do it, we’d see millions of musicians at once all simultaneously famous.
It sounds harsh, but music is as life is survival of the fittest. To adapt is to live and the artists who we all know and love have had to compromise and experiment beyond their expectations to be where they’re at. Shit is rough, but the truth is a pill better swallowed on one’s own will rather than force fed through mistakes. If you really want it, you’ll make it work no matter what.
Where can we find you on social media?
On Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Just look up Ben Desland and you should find me.