Interview with Benn Gabriner – animator of ‘Slumber’ video

A conversation with Benn Gabriner, the animator of the official video of Asta Hiroki’s ‘Slumber (feat. Dontmesswithjuan)’ video. We talk about all things animation, mirrors, insider trading, and chocolate hummus…

What’s your name/alias?

Benn Gabriner // mirrormang

How did your alias come about?

My instagram started by only taking photos in mirrors. And Mirrorman was already taken…

How long have you been animating?

About 1 year now 

As well as animating you are a musician too, do you have a favourite creative medium?

Not really, I just like making all kinds of art. Probably would help if I narrowed it down a little though. 

Who or what do you count as your main influences when creating?

I find Paul Dano very inspiring.

How did you go about coming up with the imagery for Asta Hiroki’s track ‘Slumber’?

I’ve always liked slice of life kinda stuff. I guess a lot of the imagery is just observational things of life and walking around

What is your favourite thing from the video?

I love praying mantis’ so I really like that shot. I find them very beautiful but I’ve always been kinda afraid to touch them because of their pincers so I wanted to draw one in my hand.

Are there any secret weapons or techniques you use that help define your style?

Find influences that you like and then completely disregard them when your actually making your art.

What’s coming up next for you creatively, any projects on the horizon? 

I’m currently learning 3D modeling so hopefully some more music videos in 3D.

Official Video for Asta Hiroki – ‘Slumber (feat. Dontmesswithjuan)

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world alive or dead who would it be and on what project?

I would like to show Mozart Hyperpop beats and then film his reaction on a super 8 camera. Maybe show that at a few film festivals.

Sweet or Savoury?

There’s this chocolate hummus at Trader Joe’s I’ve always been curious to try but can’t bring myself to buy it. If anyone see’s this and you’ve had it can you please let me know what it tastes like?  

What tools do you regularly use in your work e.g. which software, specific techniques of animation?

I switch between traditional hand drawn animation and photoshop.  I also like to mess around with making animation and then filming it back on my 1980’s VHS cameras to degrade the quality. 

Did you study or are you self taught?

Self taught, but I would encourage anyone interested to try formal training. If you want to get into animation and be successful go to Calarts or somewhere with a big community you can make connections with. 

How often do you draw?

Depends, sometimes a lot, recently not so much just focusing on CG and music 

What’s the longest period of artistic block you’ve had?

Idk there’s always something tumblin around in there. Maybe a month.

How did you get past it?

Take a trip somewhere and do something new. Even if it’s just the beach or something. Talk to random people. Go to the beach and talk to a stranger and you’ll get rid of your writer’s block. 

How would you describe your own work to someone?

I wouldn’t, when people ask me what I do I say I sell insurance so I don’t have to explain what kinda art I make. 

One of Benn’s musical/visual projects: Astral Bird – K2000

Can you share what you would consider a career highlight?

I miss my job writing for SNL until I got fired for reasons I won’t and legally cannot get into. I also got away with a fair bit of insider trading which was really exhilarating and I never got caught for… 

Where are you based?

Los Angeles, I moved here a couple of years ago, it’s always sunny and warm, can’t complain.   

How can people find you (any relevant social links)?

@mirrormang on instagram 

– Any final thoughts, advice, or words of wisdom you want to share?

Please don’t take advice from artists, If the apocalypse ever happens and we have to rebuild society I will be totally useless without computers and photoshop.

Debut Album ‘Entropy’ out now!

Buy / Stream on other platforms:

Electronic producer and visual artist Asta Hiroki has steadily built a name for himself in recent times via a clutch of high-quality singles, remixes and an EP. After an extended period spent hibernating in the studio while the world as we know it changed significantly, electronic he emerges in 2021 with his eagerly anticipated debut album ‘Entropy’.

Spanning leftfield electronica, downtempo, contemporary jazz, and hip hop, and recorded across studios in UK, Colombia, USA, and Cyprus, it’s a glorious collection that sees the producer teaming up with some sizeable talents.

Across ten tracks he combines with a truly wonderful cast that features: Lalin (The Seshen, Tru Thoughts), Muhsinah (Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus, Common) Dontmesswithjuan, Tristan de Liège (Loci Records, Future Archive) and more.

This expansive record is beautifully arranged, with a fine balance between live strings and drums, muscular bass sounds, colourful Fender Rhodes chords, delicate organic textures and intricate sound design. There are knowing nods throughout to the LA beat scene, the Bristol sound, and London’s nu jazz upstarts, yet it maintains it’s own unique style and aesthetic away from them.

Highlights include the lumbering-yet-nuanced Flying Lotus-esque opener ‘Dahlias’, the dynamic and virtuousic live drum playing of percussionist Robbie Hookins on contemporary jazztronica cut ‘Cherry Blossom’, Dontmesswithjuan’s dreamy, drifting vocals on ‘Slumber’, and Lalin’s heart wrenching, shivers-up-the-spine vocal performance on ‘Left Behind’.

Crafted as a highly conceptual project – many tracks incorporate the albums theme in the music literally, illustrated by real humanistic playing and improvisation being preferred over quantised, or copy and pasted audio clips that give a ‘perfect’ performance.

In the artist’s own words:

“This album was made over a period of years where this ‘entropy’ theme became more prominent for me. Looking at the world and seeing climate crisis, the rise of fake news, the dominance of social media, a spread of populism politics, increases in wealth and quality of life disparity, a pandemic, etc, etc. It seemed to be visible everywhere and inescapable.

It’s easy to think the world presented to you is in a certain order as you grow up, but the entropy of the universe is always increasing, naturally slipping towards the unknown, and trying to stop it is pointless. I think there is sometimes beauty to be found in this shift – an unexpected element that brings joy.

These compositions were created with that in mind, and are bound together by the common theme, intending to occupy the both the side of the order that we are comfortable with as well as traveling to the spaces beyond those boundaries.”

Programming, Piano, Synths, Guitars, Bass, Drum Machines: Asta Hiroki
Drums and Percussion on ‘Cherry Blossom’, ‘Entropy’, ‘These Hands (pt.2)’: Robbie Hookins
Cello on ‘Apparition’ and ‘Left Behind’ – Bela Emerson
Vocals on ‘Left Behind’: Lalin St. Juste
Vocals on ‘Between Love and Happiness’: Muhsinah
Vocals on ‘Slumber’: Dontmesswithjuan
Harp on ‘Entropy’: Alexandra King
Saxophone on ‘These Hands (pt.2)’: Tristan de Liege 

New single ‘Left Behind (feat. Lalin St. Juste)’ out now via Jalapeno Records

Electronic producer and visual artist Asta Hiroki unites with the extraordinarily talented vocalist and lyricist- Lalin St. Juste (aka the voice and bandleader of the Bay Area electronic seven-piece The Seshen) in the second single taken from his debut album, the sublime track ‘Left Behind’.

Having created a sparse arrangement with a theme of loss that was an intriguing downtempo fusion of piano ballad, IDM, sound design, and live orchestral string elements, there was only one person he wanted to collaborate with to help the track reach its full potential.

Counting himself a fan of The Seshen’s explorations into Electronica, Pop, and Dance since their first album ‘Flames and Figures’ (Tru Thoughts), he reached out across international waters to Lalin who immediately got on board with the sonic vision and laid her intimate and achingly beautiful vocal arrangements down.

Drawing from her current personal experiences along the same theme, the resulting piece became a beautifully cathartic and naturally emotive process to create the moving composition, which ultimately laid the foundation for further work between them…

Between them these two artists have gained a huge range of support the last few years including the likes of Lauren Laverne, Tom Ravenscroft, Don Letts, Huey Morgan (BBC 6Music), KCRW, Radio X, Jazz FM, Bandcamp, The Arts Desk, Dummy Mag, EARMILK to mention a few.

And with them producing a must-listen track like this one it’s very hard to imagine that list won’t grow even further still.

Vocals: Lalin St. Juste
Piano, Synths, Drum Machine: Asta Hiroki
Cello: Bela Emerson 

New Single ‘Slumber feat. Dontmesswithjuan’ out now via Jalapeno Records

After an extended period spent hibernating in the studio while the world as we know it changed significantly, electronic producer and visual artist Asta Hiroki emerges in 2021 with the first single to be taken from his eagerly anticipated forthcoming debut album. And it’s a typically luscious track of downtempo nourishment that goes by the name of ‘Slumber’.   

Lo-fi aesthetics combine with leftfield electronica are laid down to form a beautiful bedrock, as the Colombia-based, Montreal-native producer and vocalist: Dontmesswithjuan contributes to an appropriately dreamy vocal performance for this sleepy title. She further enhances her already growing reputation on a track that captures the mind with it’s soulful, heavy-eyed hypnotism.

Her vivid lyricism mixes the everyday and the surreal with overarching themes of stopping and stepping back for reflection, looking to find joy and beauty in simple moments, and not just sleepwalking through modern life scenarios and situations.  

Listen here:

New track out on ‘FAR 2’ compilation by Future Arhive Recordings

‘You & Me’ is the latest release via Czech based label Future Archive Recordings. The imprint is home to the likes of Arms and Sleepers, il:lo, Yppah, Sun Glitters, Natasha Kmeto and more.

It’s a lofi abstract hip hop track with Portishead and Knxwledge vibes. You can find it alongside the aforementioned artists on the compilation ‘FAR 2’.

Listen below…

FUTURE ARCHIVE, VOL. 2 by Asta Hiroki

Interview with Tyler Evin, creator of the ‘Hiding Place’ artwork

Tyler Evin’s stunning artwork – ‘Delete’ was used as the ‘Hiding Place’ single artwork. He took some time out to answer some questions about his work and creative process.
Your work frequently fuses sensual, human subjects with glitch aesthetics, but in contrast to most artists experimenting with glitch art you aren’t working with digital media – how did you develop this unique style?  
I have always been a traditionalist when it comes to visual art. So when I found myself inspired by glitches and technology, I gravitated towards using the materials I was familiar with-drawing (charcoal, graphite), and painting (oil paint). It’s not to say that I don’t experiment and try to branch out, but there’s a certain aesthetic to the traditional forms of art making-as well my comfort level with rendering an image. I love the physical quality of painting, and creating this art form digitally doesn’t quite bring me the satisfaction I’m looking for. There is also an interesting dichotomy at play with representing this digital theme in a traditional/physical manner that I enjoy a lot.
What are your ‘go to’ tools for creating a piece?
It all starts with the initial inspiration for a piece. To create the reference for me to work from, I use Photoshop or a similar image editing program. I work with various color combinations and play around with the distortion of the image until it feels like it tells the story I want. I am not tied down to representing the reference exactly as it is of course, but instead it gives me a general guide and direction for where I am going. For surfaces I like to paint on, usually either canvas or a panel or some sort. In terms of the paint and tools, I use oil paint exclusively, usually Rembrandt or Winsor & Newton. Rosemary and Co. brushes, and various paint rollers to create some interesting and unique textures is all I need.
Are there any artists in particular that have influenced you?
I have came across and met several artists over the years that have influenced me in some way or another. A few that come to mind are my painting professor in college: Zhimin Guan, a Chinese master. Tons of contemporary painters: Casey Baugh, Henrik Uldalen, the list goes on. Several photographers as well, including my friend who I collaborate with a lot: Albin Siggesson, from Norway. Ironically enough, when it came to my glitch series, I more often sought out the work of traditional painters and artists, instead of digital artists and how I could merge the two. I have a strong appreciation and love for the work of digital artists though. That is a skill that I have not ventured into yet.
You are based in Fargo ND, do you find that your surroundings affect your art?
I don’t believe that my surroundings heavily affect the aesthetics of my work. In terms of inspiration for my work, I find myself rarely seeking out the landscape of North Dakota. Instead, I draw inspiration from the people around me. I love playing with subtle psychological themes in my work. You could make an argument that my surroundings have affected my work in that sense, but the visual aspect remains about abstract and figurative elements. At times, the desolate nature of ND comes in to play with themes I am exploring.
If you could only keep one of your artworks which one would it be and why?
To be honest, I wouldn’t keep any. Now that sounds like I don’t have a love for what I do, or the work I create, but it’s actually the complete opposite! I love what I do so much that I want the work I create to be loved and appreciated by somebody else too. I hope the owner of my work feels the story I am telling and connects to it in that way. There is no better feeling than that. I have created lots of paintings over the years, and each of them has a story and is unique to me. Sometimes having that story and memory is the only thing I need.
Your work ‘Delete’ has recently been used as the front cover for Asta Hiroki’s single ‘Hiding Place’ – do you frequently collaborate with other artists/musicians?
I absolutely love collaborating with other artists! I used to run a little contest for portraits on my Instagram with my followers for a couple years, where I got to collaborate with some awesome people. I have worked with my photographer friend from Norway, Albin Siggesson on several pieces. His work is amazing. Instagram has opened up so many opportunities for collaborating with creative people. I hope to work with many more in the future, visual artists and musicians! I have been very grateful for this opportunity to work with Alex. I find his music incredibly inspiring.
How did you create ‘Delete’ and do you have any further insights into the inspiration behind the piece?
As I mentioned previously, I collaborate with photographer Albin Siggesson many times. I worked with him on using one of his images as a point of reference for me. The story I wanted to tell was the absence and hole that technology/social media can create in an individual’s life. Through the manipulation process, I decided to leave out details and focus on the essence of the figure-leaving just the ghost-like shape. I opted for a neutral, monochromatic color palette for the painting to represent the bleakness and isolation associated with loss of human connection with technology. The title: “Delete” is signifying a disconnect and removal of the human aspect in favor of the digital one.
Lastly if you had one bit of advice for everyone what would it be?
I probably only have your typical advice you hear from everybody, but it seems to work for me! Don’t be afraid of failure or trying something new with your work as an artist. It will always lead to better creations in the end, and you will learn and grow from it. In the end, it’s about the work and practice you put in. Be constantly working and perfecting your craft every single day. Good things will come.