Kingston, Jamaica, June 29, 2015 —When BenDMA was asked to join the Green Berlin production crew in Jamaica to work on the new record for popular German rapper Marteria’s alter-ego Marsimoto, he felt as if he was reaching the top of a long ladder. “I started out as Marteria’s tour driver, then I worked in merchandise, then I was tour manager, backliner, everything you could think of,” he explains. “It was really brave of him to send me to Jamaica as a producer, but he trusted my abilities.” With Antelope Audio’s Zen Studio by his side, BenDMA was at the top of his game with the rest of his talented team of producers — helping to deliver Marsimoto’s most exciting record to date. While recording in Jamaica, Green Berlin’s core producers Kid Simius, Dead Rabbit, and Nobody’s Face were supported by BenDMA — as well as Marteria producers the Krauts and K-Paul. “It was the first time we went outside Europe to produce a record,” says BenDMA. “One of the biggest challenges we encountered was staying within the luggage weight limit for the flight.” Suitcase weight limits were capped at 30 kilograms, and the small studio monitors each producer packed were 15 kilograms alone. “The portability of the Zen Studio was perfect,” he added. At only 2 kilograms, it left enough room for BenDMA to bring some synthesizers, a few mics, and a small rack with a preamp and compressor.
Hip Hop on Holiday
The crew rented a large house with 6 surrounding guesthouses, more commonly occupied by vacationing families. One room was designated for recording vocals and treated with some minimal acoustic absorption, but the producers were otherwise at liberty to ply their craft wherever they saw fit. “It’s the Caribbean so we wanted to be outside as much as possible,” explains BenDMA. “I’d bring my laptop, the Zen Studio, and a pair of headphones out to the pool and work from there. Then when I had a beat together I’d run over to the beach to show it to Marsimoto who was writing lyrics with a Bluetooth speaker.” The producers would later reconvene for a daily meeting to compare work and share ideas. “It was super-collaborative.”
Each producer brought their own AD/DA conversion hardware for the trip, but the Zen Studio outshone the rest with crystal-clear audio in both directions. “We were using the exact same speakers, so you could really hear the difference in playback,” BenDMA says. “You could pick out the details in the mix much more easily when listening back on the Zen Studio.” BenDMA also appreciated the ergonomic placement of Zen Studio’s master volume knob: “I mess around with tape delays and things like that a lot so occasionally the volume gets out of control and it was a huge help to be able to quickly make an adjustment so I don’t damage my hearing!”
BenDMA was especially impressed with the sound of the Zen Studio’s built-in preamps. “They’re incredibly clean,” he says. “I used them for just about everything from acoustic guitars to shakers and they paired well even with some of the obscure French and German mics from the 40s and 60s I brought along.” The Zen Studio was a major step up from the portable converters BenDMA had used in the past. “I’ve used a run-of-the-mill USB/firewire interface for a while and the Zen Studio was a major step up to the next level” he says.
A Hit in the Making
The Jamaica sessions were fruitful for Green Berlin and Marsimoto. After pairing down the 160 beats they put together to 15 songs, they sent all the tracks back to Germany for mixing. The resulting record, Ring der Nebelungen, was released on June 12th to an enthusiastic response. “We got the first reviews and everybody’s loving it,” BenDMA says, also noting a recent headlining festival performance for an audience of 50,000 promoting the record. Green Berlin’s unique approach paid off. “We went out there with the idea of working together to make history,” BenDMA says, “and I couldn’t have done it without the Zen Studio.”
Photo credit: Paul Ripke