Dance producer Beni Haze: "I'm going to be myself. I'm a white nerdy kid who's legally blind"
Up-and-coming producer Beni Haze has been a fixture in certain areas of the music scene for a while now; although you might not necessarily recognize his name in conjunction with dance music (that'll change soon, we'd wager), he played keyboard in Pnuma Trio with Paper Diamond's Alex B., and he's most recently been seen in Mansions on the Moon with Pnuma Trio's Lane Shaw, plus Ted Wendler and Jeff Maccora.
Haze explores the intersection between glitch-heavy dance music and hip-hop, and the tracks he's released so far (with such luminaries as Juicy J and Pusha T) have gotten plenty of nods. This Saturday, Haze will be at the Fillmore alongside PANTyRAiD, Kastle and Ana Sia, and we caught up with him in advance and talked about his move to a more solo gig, the progression from keyboard to production work and where he sees his career going.
Westword: Tell me a little bit about how you first came into the production game -- what did that career path look like for you?
Beni Haze: I started producing back when I was with Pnuma Trio that has Alex from Paper Diamond and my drummer from Mansions on the Moon -- the band that I'm in right now -- and so we were in the electronic scene, and I kind of started producing as we were doing that whole movement, when Sound Tribe and all those guys were going in, and Pretty Lights had just started, Big Gigantic and things like that. So not ancient history yet, but I'm on my way.
What drove you to pick music as a career to begin with?
My inability to focus in college and make grades that were passing! I think just pure destiny -- I'm trying to think of an eloquent way of saying this without sounding stupid. I tried the going-to-school thing but was really passionate about music in high school. I went to this prep school in Asheville, and convinced the principal at the time to have us be the first pep band they ever had so I didn't have to play baseball.
From that moment and that hustle, I realized that some damage could be done, not to mention that school was amazing; they took me to shows every weekend and exposed us to different types of music. I had some amazing teachers there.
Then Alex, Lane and I started Pnuma Trio, and we toured all over the world. I was the keyboardist. We were signed to Columbia. And now Lane Shaw and myself are active members in Mansions on the Moon, and Alex is doing Paper Diamond.
It seems like there are a lot of producers who started off with a background playing keyboard or piano; can you talk about that?
I definitely had an edge having some background and practice playing the keyboards, knowing chords and all that stuff obviously helps. I definitely encourage people who want to start producing to get a little familiar with the keyboard because it's kind of the brain for everything else. For me, in sessions, my forte is I can come up with a song and write a progression or melody quickly.
Because the music I've been doing and performing live for the last decade of my life, a lot of it has had improvisational elements, so I've always had to kind of think on the spot to make music that's appealing to people. I don't know if that's somehow how it correlates to the studio, but being able to play keys is definitely an advantage, and something I sincerely enjoy teaching people to play. And it's not as hard as people think it will be.