Legendary veteran producer Ben Spaander aka Cosmic Force returns this month with another bomb of his trademark sound on French label New Flesh Records. We took this opportunity to sit at his side for a brief yet intense interview. This authentic pioneer from Netherlands goes back into time to recall his beginnings and career, the launch of Marguerita, and his current projects.
Let's have a talk with a real showman and one of the firing musicians at the moment!
Chris Nexus 6: First of all, and this is a regular question on Electric Kingdom, could you please tell us more about you? As far as you remember, how did you get into electronic music? And before electronic, were there any musical influences you had as a kid? Who are your masters in Electro music (past and present)?
Cosmic Force: Always interested in Electronic music, even before I knew I was. Listening to old skool Hip Hop, which was basically a drum machine, a synth, scratch and a MC. I listened to synth music before I realized it (Mantronix for instance). Hanging on around friend's houses, I got exposed by Kraftwerk, which I fell in love instantly. And as so many times it goes in life, if you listen to music a lot, you get to get your own ideas about how certain things should sound, and entering for instance Clone record store, I got very critical. So critical that I did not want to be surprised anymore, but wanted to hear something so specific that if the change would be very slim, I would find it.
So trying to find my satisfaction in listening to a lot of electronic avant-garde and Industrial music, combined with Neue Deutsche Welle music, I decided to create the sounds by myself. Hanging around squat buildings and eventually owning a studio in one of the basements, I made my first creations built on electronic power music, and never turned my back on that sound even 'til this day.
When a relative once visited my studio, he told me that there was a label that was putting out tunes in the same sound that I was producing. I could not believe it. Also that the label was located in Rotterdam, so there we went...up to Clone Records. The rest is history!
Were you considering yourself as a pioneer? 'Cause at that time, not so many people were making Electro beats.
I think it’s not up to me to call me a pioneer. What I do know is that the Dutch Electro scene is one to be proud of to belong to. Since the mid 90’s up until now we deliver a sound which has a correlation, but everyone does it in their own style. No copycats just using Electro as a way to make your own vibe and expression. For instance, Legowelt into Wave/Disco, DJ Overdose for the Miami bass perspective, Dexter into the Electro Funk, Electronome in the professor approach of making discrete electronics, Edo 8 for the booty sound, Orgue Electronique the 4/4 Acid style, Alden Tyrell in the high energy style, I-F in the all-round Acid/Disco/Obscura corner, Rude 66 a mixed style of Wave and distorted 808/303 vibes and so on. The thing that connected us all is the love for uncompromised love for music, gear and originality.
How did your city and/or surroundings influence your musical choices?
I grew up as a person and a producer in Alkmaar, which is a bit isolated from the rest of the Netherlands. Also this was all before internet, so you were very relied to the people around you. We created our own world over there with our own rules. Had our own squat parties, favourite bar to talk about gear, and record shop. That was the atmosphere I grew up in. It was fair, relentless and very pure.
You could have lived in self-sufficiency! :) Back in 2001, what motivated you to launch your label, Marguerita Recordings, and release music? How would you describe the artistic line of Marguerita, its concept, and philosophy?
The main reason why I launched Marguerita Recordings was to put out music that I wanted to present to the world, and what fitted to the sound, beliefs and tension arc. The label’s roots come from Rave, Techno, Experimental, Electro and Acid from the early 90’s.
Were you and are you still on a mission today?
I think to run a label you have to be on some kind of mission. The most obvious one is of course to put your music out, but that was never really my intention. I would just get tracks or make tracks that would fall into the category of hard, robotnik, uncompromised electronics, whenever it was created by me, Edo 8, or whoever. That was not important.
It was even so unimportant that we made a different artist name for every release at that moment. Proskool, Double Dutch, Dr. Switch & Mr. Portamento, Cosmic Force, Ototax, E8...it was all done by us! : ) We didn’t think of name building, just vibes and music.
Precisely, as an artist, as you said, you are involved in numerous musical projects (from Belton, Ben Spaander, Dr. Switch, Ototax, to Proskool). How hard is it to jump from a project to another? Is the boundary between your multiple monikers small sometimes?
It’s not really hard to switch between the different names. Sometimes I produce something and afterwards I think, hey, this would fit perfectly under this name. Sometimes I feel the urge to inject into a name.
Let’s drive through the usual process of when you are in the studio creating your new tracks from the analogue outboard, MIDI, samples, etc. What is key in your whole production process, and what’s the process itself? What inspires you, and how do you work when it comes to writing a track? Do you start form a beat, or a melody? Maybe an idea or a theme?
I sit down and don’t think. I played on the gear so many times that my hands go automatically to the right sliders or pots. Sometimes I begin with an overview idea or a theme, sometimes the track starts from a rim shot with a delay. The most important thing is to reach my goal, and that is to Frankenstein a piece that I want to hear.
In my studio I make only music for my speakers. When you are in a mantra for hours and hours, no normal human communication, only audio, you start to lose common sense about interaction with your senses. I mostly see it that my monitors are the boss that demand a certain thing to be done to reach the goal. I am just the processor that can make it happen. My speakers are the boss.
Later on when the track is done I decide if it’s suitable for other ears to hear and if I can either release it and or use it for my gigs.
Analogue or digital?
Digiloque and Anatal!
If you had to choose one EP or LP from your discography that is the most representative of the Cosmic Force sound, which one would it be and why?
I could never be able to answer this question that easily. A lot of the tracks are like a photo album, or a diary from me as a person who I was back then, and the state and circumstances I was in at that moment. So it is not 1 discography but rather different chapters of my life. Could never choose about them.
Your new EP on New Flesh Records is called “Frontline Fuel”, and is an absolute stormer! Could you introduce it a bit?
This is a record I am very proud of. First of all Umwelt asking me to release my track “Miami Is The Place To Be” was a real honour. It’s definitely one track that resembles my message that I stand for as Cosmic Force, and I love the track very much. When we discussed the track it was actually the idea to release it on a various compilation, but Fred asked me if I would be interested to drop an EP instead. I was totally for that idea and locked myself up in the studio to make 3 more tracks that would tell a complete story.
“Miami Is The Place To Be” is an ode to the old skool Miami Bass that it brought and my friends from Miami that booked me for years after years. It was such a great time returning each time to my Cuban connection that supported me and got me over there to play.
“The Demon Inside Me” is an expression from mixed personal feelings I was encountering at the moment about personal and music stuff. The repetitive high pitched sound that starts from the very first second and does not stop for the full 5 minutes, even in the breaks is a metaphor for all things that keep on nagging and sucking energy out of you that everybody experiences some time in life. It will not stop. Even if the track or your life evolves, the constant pressure of unfinished tasks or draining emotions that just keep you haunted.
The bassline that starts in the middle of the tracks are my intestines and physical reaction to all these experiences but is also the sound of power and maintaining.
“I Know Your Facebook” is a track which resembles my melancholic feeling about the times that social media wasn’t such a big thing. It’s not a love or hate track, just an expression about the fact that it changed a lot about how things run at the moment. A lot of social convention changed when that phenomenon took over human communication and propaganda.
“The Only Sh_t” is a victory track and a real frontline fuel machine. It is a track that makes sure I never forget where it’s all about and what the main targets and goals are in life. The Only Shit lyrics are about Electro. The music that keeps my chin up and makes me want to go out of bed in the midday, not to be distracted by hate, opinions or other external influences from people, media or other events.
Do. Make. Don’t copy. Put your life into it. Don’t do it for fame, girls, money, status or importance...
Lots of new artists are emerging. How do you judge the current Electro/Techno scene? How do you judge the state of Electronic Music in general today? In its evolution, does our music progress, or regress?
I don’t judge and am only interested in my own development. I think this is because I’m not a DJ. I do see a lot of new talent coming up, this gives me a good feeling! I am very glad the new generation got into the sound and dusted off everybody from the past and also have new producers entering the scene that I love.
What are your thoughts on the so-called “Digital Revolution”?
It’s the devil.
What about MP3? How did you adapt to digital? Can we still oppose digital to vinyl?
The devil I tell you!
Ahahaha, definitely no compromise! I think Fred from New Flesh Records and you have the same approach! ;) So tell us about your forthcoming releases, and your next big planned events or projects.
I do not really like to tell about what I am going to do, only what I do at the moment or have done. Heard too many people talk about future plans. They are for you and you only and should be used to set your goals and reach them. Then it’s time to talk about it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring producer on how to be creatively original in an already saturated market?
Do. Make. Don’t copy. Put your life into it. Don’t do it for fame, girls, money, status or importance. Only do it if you have the absolute urge to add to the world what you think would benefit for it. If you make music for yourself and/or friends, just do whatever you want :)
What a wonderful conclusion. Thank you very much for your time, Ben! Would it be possible to get an All Time top ten of your favorite EPs, LPs or Tracks?
Here it is:
Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft
L. L. Cool J.