Bates Belk of BB3 Dynamics – Music meets philosophy
Today we’d like to introduce you to Bates Belk of BB3 Dynamics – a badass global recording artist, music producer, DJ and sound designer who’s melted brains of dance lovers all over the world. He’s moved audiences in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. BB3’s music is both traditional and boundary-pushing, combining classic dance elements with out-of-the-box concepts.
Experience meets philosophy in this very successful mix between the building blocks of electronic music and numerous references to other genres. The result is a sound that is raw and essential but also inspiring thought-provoking. Bates is here to answer some of our questions and share some wisdom with you guys:
You call some of your pieces “philosophically-based theatrical compositions”. What does that mean? Where do you find inspiration?
In my most recently released EPs, Life Trichotomy and it’s companion remix EP, Life Trichotomy Reincarnated – The Remixes, I decided to write some contemporary techno compositions for the clubs and at the same time have simple hypnotic philosophical life lessons communicated by a voice as part of the music. The EPs are about taking the listener and the dancer on a thought-provoking voyage from the beginning of life to the end of life. The original inspiration for the EPs of music integrated with philosophical statements came from a London-based graphic designer and artist named Genís Carreras.
Listen to Culmination (The Mental-Instru Mix):
I encountered his series of illustrations entitled “Philographics” that combined philosophical concepts with design.
“The EPs are about taking the listener and the dancer on a thought-provoking voyage from the beginning of life to the end of life”
I am a huge culture vulture. In any city I visit, I’m out at galleries, museums, theaters, concerts and any place that I think will lead me to a cathartic experience. And as I experience the art, I’m constantly trying to think through how the artists brought their art into the world and what journey they went through. And in some cases, when I know there is an artist that will be doing a speaking engagement or that will be attending some event that I’m able to go to wherever I am, I plan ahead of time to meet that artist so I can ask them questions directly. All of the learning I seek out gives me ideas and helps me set benchmarks for my own art.
After spending 20 years in New York City you moved to Germany. Why? How is Berlin different from the Big Apple?
New York City! Berlin! They are both exciting cities! They both allow you to jump up and explore a cultural wonderland. They both allow you to have an infinite amount of incredibly deep and cutting-edge creative experiences. They both allow you to interact with interesting out-of-the-box thinking characters. They both offer opportunities to grow and take risks. They both attract people from diverse cultures.
“Life Trichotomy EP”:
For me today, the biggest difference that exists between New York City and Berlin is that in Berlin, I have access to more available, more compatible and more forward-thinking artists than in New York City. Berlin, and Germany, for that matter, is a society filled with open-minded adventurous artists that are prime for collaborations. Over my last few years of living in New York City, I witnessed a dwindling in the population of boundary-pushing artists that I believe was due to local economic conditions. Many artists in New York City either completely evaporated or relocated to more cost-effective places in the world. But that is not currently the situation in Berlin. In Berlin today, I have easy opportunities to explore the Berlin mainstream and underground art worlds of forward-thinking artists and, as a result, I’m able to choose collaborations much more quickly than in New York City.
What about your background? You spent two decades with a career in marketing in the financial services and publishing industries. How did the big transition to music happen? Are your knowledge and experience in these very different industries helping you promote your music?
I’ve always been a student of music in one form or another. Since the age of 13, I’ve regularly traveled all over the world and I have been fortunate to be exposed to many types of music and cultures. I’ve intensely studied song structures and the dynamics of sound creation on my travels. After accomplishing everything I had set out to do in a career in marketing in New York City, it was the right time for me to fulfill my ambition of being a full-time recording artist, record producer and musician. And because I am the type of person who does what he sets out to do, I made the transition happen. All the knowledge and experiences I gathered in my two decades in New York City is most certainly being applied to my career in music today. A career in marketing teaches you to be strategic and, therefore, my marketing experience has helped me plan and execute marketing campaigns surrounding my music releases, and it has also helped me make solid business decisions.
Before you became successful, have you ever had any second thoughts about doing what you do? Have you ever thought about quitting music? What has kept you going?
No way. I’ve never once had any second thoughts in any of the choices I’ve made. It’s all a learning experience in one form or another. I’ve spent a long time preparing myself for a career in music and while there will always be bumps in the road, barriers put in front of you and uncertainties, I believe that with the right mindset and determination to go after what you want, you can overcome anything. I have no intentions of moving myself away from music. I have an endless list of goals that I am working on to achieve as a recording artist, record producer and musician and I have every intention of fulfilling those goals.
“There is nothing better than going on a journey with another artist.”
As for what has kept me going, as an artist, I’m constantly searching for creative inspiration. And because by my nature, I’m very curious and in awe of many artists that propel themselves and who in-turn have created really inspiring art, I immediately challenge myself to develop equally inspiring art. Also, at this point in my career, I am not afraid to fail. In fact, any failure that I have had has always helped me better solve future creative challenges and has led to music that raises the bar for me. Also, trusting my instinct and knowing who to accept input from always keeps me going. I also am a big proponent of having a routine when creating music. A routine keeps me focused and helps me stay on the right track. And for me, I love to collaborate with other carefully selected artists that can make the art better. There is nothing better than going on a journey with another artist.
Do you spend time listening to your own tracks while you’re not working on them, experiencing them as an ordinary listener?
I actually don’t listen to any of my tracks while I’m not working. I am always moving at such a fast pace to accomplish everything on my agenda, that once I finish a track and it is shipped off for distribution or to one of my collaborators, I move on to my next creative challenge. I will say that after I am confident that the work created will have my intended impact, I will sometimes run “litmus tests” on my songs toward the middle of the mixing stage. I do like to go to environments where people get an opportunity to hear my music ahead of any public release. At that stage in the creative process, I’m a little more relaxed about the work and I sit back and observe the body language and facial expressions of the people encountering the music, which then allows me to make quick and realistic improvements. In the case of my most recently released two EPs, Life Trichotomy and Life Trichotomy Reincarnated – The Remixes, I worked with DJs and clubs across Europe to test out the songs on the dancers in the clubs. But even when I’m not working (which is very rare), I’m constantly thinking through my next creative challenge and my plan to conquer it.
Danger with a Stranger 😉
You produced and starred in your own “music film”. Tell us a bit about “It’s in the mind”.
‘It’s in the Mind’ was a fun collaborative experience. I’m a big believer in combining music with the visual arts. My original purpose was to produce a short film with an abstract storyline with me starring and with me contributing a “soundtrack” to the film. I collaborated with a very polished film director. We worked on the concept, wrote and pre-produced the film over the course of 6 weeks and then filmed the entire film in New York City over 10 days and nights. The film was meant to introduce me, my art and my music to the world. I’m very happy with the final version and I’m looking forward to my next music film that will start shooting in 2016.
BB3’s ‘It’s in the Mind’ video is impressive:
You are currently working on your debut album – care to share some details? What should we expect?
The album is shaping up to be a rather epic piece of music. I spent the last 6 months in 2015 intensely songwriting for the album, which resulted in 15 highly sophisticated and layered demos. It’s a very cinematic album with a narrative that takes the listener on a dark journey. My team and I are now in the recording studio full-time in Berlin spending time on the production and sound design. There are a lot of really talented artists contributing to the album and it’s all very exciting. I am also working with a very talented Berlin-based film composer on the album who is providing all the orchestral arrangements. The album is most definitely an electronic album where all the orchestral instruments are tightly woven with the synthesizers, sequencers and samplers. Much of the music on the album draws from multiple of my favourite electronic dance music genres including Trip Hop, Disco, Balearic Beat, Ambient House, Techno, Trance, Electro and Acid House. It is my goal to perform the music on the album in live theatrical environments after it’s release.
What would you say to those of our readers who are just beginning their musical journey?
Music is a fun experience. But in order for it to be a fun experience that you can enjoy long-term, it’s important to always work hard and that you spend a lot of time at the beginning strengthening your craft. If you feel that music is the right path for you, then go for it. The world needs more music artists that can help counter all the negativity and oppression that is taking place all over the world. As you start out, make music a routine in your life. Make music a habit just like breathing. Make music a discipline. Expose yourself to learning all parts of the music industry so you can be well rounded and knowledgeable. Learn to have a thick skin and be strong because you need to open yourself up to accepting feedback. Feedback helps you progress on many levels.
“Make music a habit just like breathing.”
Be humble with everyone that can contribute to your art. Don’t assume you know or have all the answers when collaborating with others and receiving feedback and critiques on your music. Be open to other perspectives. Be persistent. Keep going and going and going and going and going to push yourself to develop your art. It’s a long road to really make it work. If a barrier is put up in front of you and you are confident you are on the right path, then figure out a way to go around the barrier. The hard work you put forth will all make for a positive experience in the end and you will end up with music that makes a difference to you long-term and add to the fun experience and enjoyment.
Name three musicians or bands we’ve probably never heard of but are definitely worth checking out.
I love learning from pioneers in music…the artists that experiment, take creative risks, think outside the box, are future-thinking, go against the norm and end up with music that is adopted by many.
The world of music today would be very different if English super-producer Trevor Horn didn’t work so hard to bring the “art of the remix” to radio and clubs over 30 years ago. Trevor Horn has always used the advances in technology to build new ways for people to experience music and he continues to trailblaze today.
German composer, musician and producer Nils Frahm combines atypical classical elements with electronic music and, as a result, has released multiple musical and film projects and has been able to collaborate with other high-profile artists quite successfully. He continues to create new career opportunities. I’m really looking forward to seeing where his career goes.
And while he is not a musician, he is on the forefront of supporting independent musicians, Matt Jones, the co-founder of “CrowdSurge”, the company that allows independent musicians to sell tickets directly to fans. Matt is a forward thinking business leader in the music industry that we should all support and learn from.
What do you think of Drooble? Do you believe people can meet, jam, learn and earn money from music online?
I’m a firm believer in online communities that allow artists from all over the globe to collaborate, share information, inspire each other and become better artists. That is exactly what Drooble is providing to people and it’s exciting seeing it grow!
You can follow Bates Belk at drooble.com/bates.belk