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Monday, March 2, 2015

Worker/Parasite on OPD Helicopters, Role-Playing Games, and the Importance of Visual Art

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 8:05 AM

click to enlarge worker_parasite_1.jpg
Oakland tech-house producer Ben Versluis has been working under the moniker Worker/Parasite since 2010, sequencing systolic cadences, squelches, inversions and fibrillations into insistent robofunk. His serrated, driving, live-to-tape aesthetic balances gritty naïveté with graphic precision.

Having worked with a variety of Bay Area experimental artists through parties and his own Tundra Dubs label, Versluis hooked up with Barcelona’s like-minded retrofuturists Classicworks to release the Exchange Value EP, his recent four-track circuit through lo-fi, lysergic saturation. Touching base via email, the audio engineer, a Midwest transplant bred on equal parts punk and patch chords, shared some of the historical and environmental factors that color his red-lining, Chicago acid house-influenced arrangements.

SF Weekly: Draw me a timeline of pivotal records and performances that punctuated your relationship with music.
Versluis: As far as records that got me into wanting to make music (in no particular capacity) [there] were the first records I discovered as a kid. Green Day's first three albums made me want to play the drums and be in a band; the Chemical Brothers’ ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ made me want to learn more about electronic music; Prodigy's ‘Fat of the Land’ was a huge deal to me, too. Later on, bands like Discharge, Dropdead, Charles Bronson, etc., made me want to be a musical lifer.

In terms of performances, the first few hardcore punk shows I attended literally wrinkled my brain. I really feel like those shows changed my life and set me on my path, whatever that is.

Tell me about your incubators … what spaces/parties/promoters/peers were integral to your sound evolution?
Midwestern hardcore punk shows. I didn't grow up going to raves; my exposure to truly DIY music scenes was all thanks to my friends and bandmates who were putting on shows, which I ended up doing myself as well eventually. Old reception halls and weirdo coffee shops with small rooms in the back, nothing too fancy, no Funktion Ones or stage monitors. Sometimes hundreds of kids packed into a space designed for 75-100. One space that was specifically huge to me was Gabe's in Iowa City and the Eagle Reception Hall in Rock Island, Illinois.

In terms of electronic music and more recent influences, I have to count crews like Katabatik, Haceteria, Tri Works, Babeland and Shuffle Co-op. I've played for all of them to be completely transparent, but I really do feel as though the vibe at any of those parties is killer and lineup qualities tend to be quite high.

Have you ever composed because of or specifically for a place you’ve played/stayed?
Oh yeah, I frequently will write tracks the day after playing if possible. I wrote a lot after my wife and I got back from a trip to Europe — Copenhagen, Berlin and Amsterdam. Lots of inspiration pulled from all three cities.

Walk me through your signal chain … what aspect(s) of gear do you find most inspiring/frustrating … what piece of gear is most integral to your creative process?
My signal chain is simple, which is probably why my music is never labeled as complex. I have a studio with hardware — MPC, x0xb0x, drum machines — and I run it all into a Mackie mixer that feeds a cassette deck. I mix everything live and record it to tape and then clean it up and edit in Ableton Live.

The most frustrating part is the limitations of my budget, really. I buy gear only a couple of times a year and just don't have enough to get all of the outboard gear I'd like. It’s a process and the studio is still very much in flux.

The most inspiring part, for me, is the limitations of the hardware. I get too lost when trying to write in Ableton … too many options, I work better when I have hardware and knobs in front of me. I know my gear pretty well. Limitations are freeing. The [MIDI-controlled bassline synthesizer/sequencer] x0xb0x is the key to the entire studio.

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Tony Ware


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