Behind the beats by Alex McIntyre
Frank Wienk, more formally known as Binkbeats is a percussion-centric, multi-instrumental, experimental music maverick hailing from the Dutch hub of Utrecht.
He is probably best known for his ‘Beats Unraveled’ series for Boiler Room in which he broke down and reproduced live some of hip hop and electronic music’s greatest achievements including beats by Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Aphex Twin and Shlohmo. This gained him recognition within the community and allowed him to start releasing live performances of his original production and subsequently bringing out an ongoing EP series entitled Private Matter Previously Unavailable.
Spending years honing and perfecting his unique blend of brooding and progressive organic electronica, he now takes to stages worldwide to exhibit mesmerising live sets that leave audiences stunned and hungry for more.
I spoke to Binkbeats to find out all the gritty details of how he writes and records his music, his sound influences and how he prepares for his mind-blowing live performances, plus a whole lot more!
Getting to witness you wielding your full setup live last month really blew me away. You obviously have a penchant for percussion. When did this collection begin?
"Well up until 2009 my living space was very small so I couldn't collect a lot, nor did I have the money either.
After that I got a studio in a complex called Kytopia, this space was huge so since then I've slowly started collecting instruments, a lot came from websites like Craigslist."
Naturally there must be plenty of pre-preparation that goes into recreating your music in a live setting. Would be be able to discuss the technicalities behind how you build your Ableton Live session as well as how you trigger and manipulate your loops and FX chain live. How long does it take to develop and practice?
"Well I use Ableton's scenes as a big Que list. Every time I launch a scene a bunch of stuff happens.
This could be the triggering of a recording, stopping,deleting it or launching it to play or turning effects on and off. I route all my inputs through two channels, one for controlling the recording and the second for controlling fx-chains. On these channels there are empty clips (dummy clips) containing automation, so making a new song into a live version requires a lot of time drawing in automation lines. Also my live set has about 70 channels, so it's important to label everything really well to keep it organized so you know what goes on.
So if I wanted to create a new song I would probably be busy for a week. Thinking out how to actually do it, in what order I could build up the song, how to make certain transitions or come up with solutions for stuff that's not possible yet, these are the first steps. Then I need to start building the structure in Abelton and write all the automation. This takes a lot of fine tuning sometimes because some transitions do not work as you wanted them to or the sounds are not working well together.The last step is rehearsing it. This takes some time because there's a lot of actions that I need to get into my routine, and for every sample you make you just get one take to do it.
Over the years I have become faster in this process, before things took me even longer."
I noticed that your myriad of music making machinery resembles a Foley studio (honourable mention to the slinky and sheet metal). Do you draw many influences from cinematic sound design and composition?
"Yes I do actually. I'm fascinated by being able to see what a sound is and what sound certain things/objects produce. In the foley world people have experimented a lot already with finding ways of making new sounds or trying to reproduce certain sounds. I think we share the urge to find new sounds all the time."
I’m sure your pedalboard must be rather extensive but could you list me your top 3 pedals and why they’re essential to you?
"I don't think I have that many pedals actually, most guitarists probably have a lot more than me but my favorite pedals are:
Particle (the red panda)
This is a granular delay and you can get really cool stuff out of it, but it's also very difficult to use it in a good way, it can sound to much like an effect easily, so to use it in a musical way is tricky.
It depends very much on what you run through it and how you modulate the effect.
Freeze (electro harmonix)
The idea that you can freeze a sound is already very compelling. The outcome is very cool. The processing of this pedal is similar to the Particle (which also has freeze function) but has just one function. Especially in percussion where so many instruments have such a short decay, it's cool to be able to make long notes with it.
Ring Thing (electro harmonix)
Like the particle, this ring-modulator can do so many cool things but again, it's hard to use it very musically without sounding to much like an effect on top.
I like to use the ring-modulator as a sort of pitch-shifter to get undistinguished pitches."
There are so many instrumental quirks layered within your music, notably the ‘pump flute’ that features in Little Nerves. Do you spend time trawling for new objects and sounds to make music with? Have you ever created any of your own?
"I never went traveling for instruments except in my own country. Most things can be found here already (probably because of other people traveling) and otherwise it can be ordered online. If I do come across something when I'm traveling I'll take it with me if possible. Once in Zurich on a market there was this gigantic cowbell that I loved, but it was way too expensive and I was travelling by train so I couldn't take it.
I have created some instruments or had them made by someone. These were two sets of chimes made out of old detuned vibraphone bars. Then there are two other instruments but they were never finished (have to call that guy, now we get to it), one was a mini Rhodes made of tuned pitchforks and the other a bass-instrument made of elastic strings.
For the rest I'm not making instruments but I do put contact mics a lot on objects which can transform them into instruments."
Your music tends to be rather polyrhythmic and somewhat a-tonal in places. I was wondering if there was any obscure or less obvious influences that you draw from musically?
"Well this both probably has to do with the fact that I was trained as a classical percussionist.
I still play with this ensemble called 'Slagwerk Den Haag' were we play a lot of contemporary music.
Over the years I've experienced and/or played a lot of atonal, experimental music so maybe some that stuck with me. If it comes to this genre I'm quite into the music of e.g. John Cage and Harry Partch.
I don't think my music is particularly atonal, maybe some harmonies are a bit vague but I've noticed I tend to have this melancholic touch to a lot of what I do."
As a lover of sound and noise in all forms there must be some sounds that irritate you. What is the sound you despise the most? Which is your favourite? (If you can choose)
"Hahaha this is a funny question. Of course there are sounds that irritate me, they are just noises that don't resonate with you. What irritates me the most is probably the sound of knives squeaking on plates in a reverberant restaurant. I just gives me chills every time.
I won't pick a favourite sound, there are too many to choose."
Experimentation seems key within your production. Is your writing process fairly free and organic or do you prefer a more linear approach?
"The songs that are on the two EP's all had a very organic approach. They were derived over a long period of time. I would work on something, then let it rest for quite some time until I knew what to do next with it, or just simply trying out different things and suddenly found what was working.
I noticed I can work quite linearly as well but only if it's for other people, with my own music it has to come organically."
Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom for the budding musical polymaths out there?
"Just keep on going. Don't look back too much and keep making errors and keep on making miles.
Stay honest with your music and it will resonate on day."
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