_
Benn Jordan can’t slow down. As a recording artist, music educator, researcher, and popular YouTuber, Benn Jordan combines his innate musical talent with a relentless drive to innovate to make music at a dizzying pace. Over the decades, he has released countless hours of compelling music and sits on a treasure-trove of unreleased work that could keep fans busy for years. Since 1999, Jordan has produced music under the names The Flashbulb, Acidwolf, CHR15TPUNCH3R, DJ ASCII, Dr. Lefty, Dysrythmia, FlexE, Human Action Network, Lucid32, MC Flashbulb, rnd16, 66x, and Q-Bit. He has also written and produced music for TV and film across a variety of projects. We caught up with Benn and heard about how he came to electronic music, how he uses Auto-Tune, and learned something surprising about his past recording habits.

How were you introduced to electronic music? Who was the first electronic musician where you were said to yourself, “Oh wow, I get what they’re doing. I understand it.”

Benn JordanSo I think the first time that I heard anything that made me really appreciate electronic music and what it was capable of was probably Nine Inch Nails; probably Broken or something like that. I think I was still a little bit too young for Pretty Hate Machine to appreciate it. But I remember when Broken came out and I remember thinking, “Oh, these, they’re, they’re synthesizers here, but I don’t really know it.”

And then when Downward Spiral came out, I remember getting that from the record store on the first day. And just that was it. Electronic music can give me a whole new road that I could go on and there are no rules. By the time I was already making electronic music, I got introduced to musicians like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher and all those like early IDM artists and it all validated me so much.”

You’ve been putting out tons of music for many years. Every description that you read about you touches on how prolific you are. How is it that you are able to generate so much beautiful work? What is driving you?

Benn Jordan: I think I just always have this sort of fire under my ass to do things. And I’m always kind of inspired just naturally. I’m always cranking it to ‘11.’ But I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing. When I talk to my psychiatrist they’re telling me to, literally like my therapist and psychiatrist, they told me to play video games. They tell me “Dude, no, you need to play video games for 90 minutes a day because you’re gonna get burnt out.” And I don’t know if I am ever gonna get burnt out because I’m, you know, I’m 42. So, it’s like it’s been going on for a while. When I’ve tried to figure this out, I think a lot of it ties in with just where I grew up. There were just a lot of, a lot of things to be scared of and I kind of addressed that. And then I even think with like things like boxing that I did when I was a kid and when I was younger and even mixed martial arts (MMA) when I was like 30; I was competing. When I started to cross things over to that or, or even like, you know, crazy mountain biking trips and stuff like that. I’m not scared of failure, I guess.”

Much of Jordan’s music has been released under The Flashbulb moniker.

Benn Jordan, cont.: Ultimately, I love being a musician because I love writing music. The moment I separate from that, the moment I say, “Well, how many people are paying attention to this album? How many Spotify views? How much am I getting paid to play a gig? Is it getting licensed anywhere?” All those metrics kind of steal the purity from it a little bit.  And when people want to be a musician just to get famous, just to get attention, just to be appreciated; those are very valid things. But at the same time, those are the people that end up struggling more with everything from addiction to burnout, to creative blocks. Whereas if you just say, I really love playing the guitar. And that’s why I have such a massive library of unreleased music and stuff that I’ve just asked myself “Why release it? I enjoyed making it, it’s over now, you know? I went through a delete phase where I would make stuff and delete it. I got addicted to that. I have some people close to me and they’re just like, “Look, there’s no point in doing this, just save it.” Because it just felt so good to finish a song and then just nuke it and delete it. It was this very addictive thing. And I remember talking to Mr. Bill and some other people about it. And they were just like “That’s the most irresponsible. I can’t even wrap my head around it.” And I thought, “It’s great!” It’s like a little dopamine rush to just say, “I did that, now it’s gone. And that’s how I spent my day. And it was beautiful.”

Do you ever find yourself thinking back to a melody or composition that you had deleted thinking, “Well, that was probably the one I should have kept.”

Benn Jordan: Never. If you’ve ever noticed when you make music and you have a session that crashes and you lose it all, the second time, it…I mean, it’s, it’s painful and then it hurts. But the second time it’s better. It’s like you know the route you took. And then you could improve a few things. So, usually it’s like, “Oh yeah, that one thing that I worked on that one day, I’m gonna make that a little bit better now.” Or tie that into something bigger or something like that. But now the way that I’m doing things is everything I make, I just upload to my website or to GitHub and it’s no longer an album as in a, you know, a final thing. Now it’s just an organic thing that constantly updates like software.”

How does Auto-Tune work into your creative experience? Is Auto-Tune an every-day tool??

Benn Jordan: Anytime that I mix an acoustic instrument with an electronic instrument you immediately notice how out of tune the acoustic instrument is; especially fretless instruments. It’s so easy to notice tuning problems when you just put them over a digital synthesizer or something like that. And that happens constantly when you’re dealing with Kontact strings or something like that. And so I feel like that’s probably where Auto-Tune comes in handy the most, is where you don’t realize that you’re hearing Auto-Tune at all here, but it’s just ever so slightly pushing something, you know, 4 percent sharper, you know?

Have you taken Auto-Tune as far as it can go?

Benn JordanI don’t think I’ve hit Auto-Tune’s limit. I always have to kind of step back and recognize that Auto-Tune has been abused to crazy limits by hip hop. And I say that with the utmost praise. That’s why I love Kanye. A lot of the music I listen to is Auto-Tuned and it is what you would consider abuse for a pitch correction algorithm, right? It’s like what you consider abusing it or using it outside of its original intended purpose. So it’s kind of funny because it’s like, “Where do I fit into that?” Auto-Tune is still very helpful. I’ve definitely used it on my voice. And Auto-Tune Slice it’s really fun to play with because it just feels like a sampler with a lot of really weird options. If you just think of it that way, you can get some pretty crazy sounds out of it.

Who are you currently collaborating with? Are you putting together projects with other electronic musicians?

Benn Jordan: Yeah, I’m pretty notoriously terrible at collaborating. Usually I am either 10% or 90%. And so I haven’t done it much. I don’t even really do remixes that much. But when it comes to instrumentalist collaborating, when you just go back to jazz standards and stuff, just looking at charts and jamming around, there’s an artist called Nicola Claudine. She’s a singer but also like a saxophone player from England. And she’s coming here for a week to do sessions which will be fun. And we have no plan; we’re just gonna record. Another thing I was thinking about was doing a charity album. it would be really fun to do a charity album this year or in the near future where I just challenge my disliking of collaboration and just do one track with people that are good friends of mine.  Because I have so many friends who are recording artists that are very notable and stuff, but I’ve just never actually collaborated because I’ve always just had my hands full with my own projects and stuff. So, it’d be fun to kind of do like a compilation sort of album type thing that just where everything went to charity. That way you didn’t have to deal with the rights.

How will people get a chance to see you live this year? Are you going on a tour anytime soon?

Benn Jordan: I’ve been telling myself I’ll do a show a year. Right now my show for 2022 is the Astronox Festival, in Austin, Texas, in October. There’s another festival that’s really guilt tripping me to appear in August but, but I’m just like, “No.”  The last show I played, the only post-COVID show that I played was in Minnesota. It was a festival. And I remember at the end of the day feeling, “Thank God I don’t have a show tomorrow.” Just feeling like there was no, “Man, I wanna do this again.” It’s more like, “Thank God that this is a one-and-done and I can go home and do whatever I normally do.” But I’ve been saying one a year and just trying to get as much money out of this as possible out of that one rather than doing a bunch.

However, if I were to do a tour where I was to play seated venues, like kind of almost where you would see someone like Pat Metheny play or something like that, I would be much more open to that because I’m allowed to get quiet, which is something that I can’t do in any… Like I can only play bangers or I’m dealing with people talking and, you know, people are talking and interrupting it to the next person, which I’m not cranky about, but it’s just, it is…That’s just how it is. Every show just ends up being a volume war where you have to play loud. Astronox, fortunately, is shutting down the other stages during my performance.  So if it were to be an actual seated theater I would be much more, much more happy to perform because I could be creative and I could improvise and I could be quiet and emotional and things like that. It wouldn’t just be like ‘The Best of the Flashbulb’ with some guitars. 
What women in the electronic music space are really putting out compelling music?

Benn Jordan: My friend Nicola Claudine, the one who’s coming here to do the sax. I really like how she’s kind of being. She’s mixing electronica and jazz. You know, people are just very kind of scared to step into jazz because they think it sounds cheesy or something like that. She doesn’t have that fear. She’s just like, “This is what I’m doing.”  Maddie J. She’s kind of poppy lo-fi, and she’s an incredible bass player. I think she was top in class at Berklee for bass playing, for jazz bass. She’s an incredible player.

Sarah Longfield is a multi-instrumentalist based in Madison, WI.
And Sarah Longfield, of course. I think she’s probably the best guitarist I’ve ever heard in my life, but also does a ton of electronic, ton of modular stuff. It’s such a shame that not more people pay attention to her. You know it’s always a shame that you have, like, [inaudible 00:51:52] and Richard Divine and me, and then somehow Sarah’s not in that conversation for most people. Like that’s, (laughs) that’s a tragedy to me.”
Where will we hear new work from Benn Jordan?

Benn JordanIf you go to theflashbulb.net or theflashbulb.co.uk, there’s something there that just says NONALBUM and it’s just a constantly updated thing and there’s a link there to the GitHub. And then all that ties in pretty well with the Discord community where if, you know, if you’re a developer and you want to get involved in freeing music from the tech business world, the tech corporate world, if you’re freeing music from that then, you know, definitely my Discord is a place where everybody’s throwing those ideas around and, you know, doing test projects (with my music) and stuff like that.