SA / 012: Beyun

Beyun is a DJ and producer based in Atlanta. She was a founder and resident at Boston's monthly party Vault, bringing a consistent space for deeper, darker dance music to the city. From there, she moved to Atlanta to manage operations and direct A&R for DJ Pierre's Afro Acid label. With DJ sets that feel gritty, soulful, and timeless, she's plotted recent and upcoming dates in New York, Amsterdam, and Berlin.

About the mix:

I make two kinds of mixes in the studio: the fun, feel-good, soulful, jacking kind and the therapy session. Sometimes the two collide, but it depends on how eager the subconscious is to take over and work out any unresolved issues. If there are unpleasant emotions or thoughts crowding my headspace, I confront them through the music I play.

Think of a particularly bad knot in your shoulder: to find relief, you jam your finger into it and increase the pressure to the point the pain subsides and there is a release. A mix is a psychedelic massage. Apply pressure—abrasive sounds, fast, gritty percussion, dissonance—and release—soulful n deep cuts, vocals—then repeat and increase the intensity of the cycle each time.

Through this process a narrative (or several) generally forms. While I’m not fully aware of what this narrative is while making the mix, as the listener afterward I always hear a message. Sometimes it’s not one I can put into words. I do approach mixes with the intention of uplifting and empowering the listener/dancer at the end, regardless of how difficult the journey is to get there.

I recorded this with Pioneer CDJs (2000 NXS) and an Allen & Heath Xone:92 mixer. I recently switched my at-home mixer to the Xone because I always dread playing on it at gigs. I’m used to the three band EQ mixers, so having four is challenging to get the levels perfect since I never have much time to practice on it—the EQ is also way more responsive. If something challenges me, I prefer to confront it and embrace it rather than run away from it—that’s the only way growth can happen. Since my other mixer was on the outs, I decided to get this beast.

My dream is to have a custom built rotary mixer with an isolator built in, but that has to come later. I love my standalone Bozure isolator, but due to the audio routing it’s still a bit awkward to use it with the Xone, unfortunately. Twisting the EQ knobs quickly for effect just doesn’t feel the same, but with practice I’ll eventually find a method with the external effects.

Where did you grow up? How did that shape your sound or the way you relate with music?

I spent my early childhood in a state of flux, contrast, and a blend of cultures. My father is Ukrainian-Canadian-American and my mother is German. They were missionaries for a church based in South Korea, so I was born in the Philippines and given a Korean first name. At age four, we moved from the tropics to the frigid Siberian/East Russian winters of Khabarovsk. In between we were back and forth to my mother’s family in Germany. At age seven we left for Seattle and moved frequently until I was ten.

Since my set of friends would fully reset within a year before age ten, I learned to invest most of my time into solo creative pursuits. I loved sci-fi and action movies. Once I started playing clarinet (and later oboe) in school, this developed into an obsession with film scores. I would write these sci-fi novels in middle school, and still to this day I can recall what score provided the primary inspiration for each story, and which pieces set the tone for a particular chapter.

Music has always been a form of storytelling for me. It’s probably why I’m easily bored with monotonous, linear, single-genre sets—it's a story stuck on one chapter (sometimes one page). The selections might be fantastic, but together they’re only taking the listener in circles. I love creating peaks and valleys in my sets, breaks of near silence, dark heavy abrasive moments, and the contrast of layering something soulful over a darker, heavier beat.

My dad was also a big influence on building strong opinions about music. He is an o.g. 60’s psychedelic rock head and had a huge record collection of rock, jazz, and blues records before moving overseas. Never fond of what was on the radio when he returned to the U.S., he helped steer me away from the commercial mind-control of pop radio and toward digging deeper into what resonated most with me on a personal level. I was never interested in music because a chart, radio station, or a review told me it was popular. He also introduced me to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which is one of my favorite rock albums and still sounds fresh every time I put it on.

What was the first dance music experience that really stuck with you?

I was by myself on the main floor of Berghain. This was the second time I had been to any sort of rave. As more of the recluse nerdy type growing up, this scene was very foreign to me. However, I had set an intention to experience Berlin on my own not as a tourist—as I had done many times before with family—but as a local. My host said Berlin was all about its dance music culture and pointed me in the direction of a few clubs. I’m forever grateful she did.

It was no turning back after that. Not only did the music carry all the emotionally deep, narrative qualities of what I loved about film scores, it was hypnotic, heavy, beat and body driven. It required me to dance. Fully immersed without any substance, it was enough of a drug on its own.

Though I was there alone, I felt a deep connection with the other dancers. As the strobes flashed on and off, I would note the momentarily frozen figures in mid movement. I’m often anxious around crowds, but on that dancefloor I felt at home and at peace. Everyone here was in their element and their own truth. Differences were celebrated, and there was an unspoken assurance that you were free to just be. No masks. No labels. For the first time, it felt like I was with my people. I grew up in a family beyond borders, and here was a language that finally spoke to that experience—holding a power to unify that could not be ignored.

To what extent is your music tied to community, and to what extent is it about individual expression? Can those things intersect?

As a performer you must first engage in an act of individual expression. If your selections aren’t your truth, the dancers subconsciously pick up on the dissociation. Though a DJ might be flawless technically, if there is no soul in their selections the act is empty. It is destructive hedonism—if the DJ cannot break down their own walls, the dancefloor too will fail to unify.

The intersection of individual expression and community is then vital. The shamanic energy exchange between the dancefloor and the booth is necessary for everyone to enter an altered state of consciousness. The nights I remember most are when the DJ and the dancers have both transcended the physical. The DJ is absorbing energy from the dancefloor as much as the dancers are absorbing theirs. It is the movement between the subconscious and conscious. Time has no meaning and you’ve forgotten what kept you up worrying the night before. The moment transforms into a collective of individual experiences and expressions that together create the community. As you breathe out, I breathe in—the heal and release of the dancefloor.

Production is a far more individualistic process for me. I don’t create music with an external audience in mind, but I do try and create something I think I would play. The act of creating music is a state of fluidity of ideas and sounds that has to come together naturally. If a track starts to feel forced, I put it aside and work on it when it feels right or I use part of it later for a remix.

Can you share any tracks or mixes created by someone else that really bring you back to a place or are somehow connected to a specific time or locale?

I remember when John Barera dropped Aux 88 - "Music is Your Medicine" ft. Samara Naier during his set at Tresor. It was a Tuesday morning. I had been in Berlin for about 6 weeks and was going through what might be a “quarter life crisis”—trying to figure out what exactly I was doing with my life, and feeling a bit alone and isolated in the process. It’s a gritty, rough track with soulful vocals layered on top (a contrast which I love). The lyrics spoke directly to what was going through my head at that moment: “When you feel all alone, and the dancefloor is your only home. There’s a place you can go, and not worry about tomorrow. Cast your fears to the side, and let only the music reside. Give yourself to the rise, and let nothing but joy seep inside. Don’t stop the music. Let it be your medicine.”

I was in a favorite work / cafe spot in Rosenthaler Platz (Berlin) trying to put together a track on my laptop when a man approached me, introduced himself as Paleo, and asked to listen to what I was working on. His response to my track was “It takes time...it takes time”. He said there was potential, but I needed to take the time to listen and grow my ear. He then mentioned how he’d recently put out a record a few months earlier called “It Takes Time” (ha!), and that I should check it out and left. It was a very odd exchange. I searched for this track and remembered being a little confused. I couldn’t get over the low noise hum and slow progression of it, and it was just too foreign for my ears at that moment. I shrugged it off and went on with what I was doing.

Over a year later, while doing my homework to open for Fred P in Boston, I came across one of my favorite sets: Fred P’s Boiler Room set at Spacehall in Berlin. I would revisit this set again and again, even after that gig, because it was such a perfect journey. Around 1 hr 59 min Fred P drops a track that had had me go WHAT IS THIS?? and it was SVN feat. Paleo - "On Tempo".

I looked it up and there it was, the flip side to "It Takes Time". I listened to "It Takes Time" again and it was a completely different experience—it made sense. Things had come full circle. I had been listening, digging, and expanding my ear since I last heard it. It would also take a good 4-5 years of making tracks before I finally liked what I was producing, and it first required that I stopped and listened more first. It truly does take time.

Share a video or photo that you recorded that takes you back to a moment, and tell us a bit about that moment.

These are a few short clips from the first time DJ Pierre played at Vault—the monthly party I used to run in Boston with Bob Diesel. I had meant to record the entire set, but the camera was having issues with power and it was too dark to troubleshoot (I’m seen bringing it out of a reset in the basement at the beginning).

These are a few of my favorite moments that were captured on camera. In the background you can see all the lights (the walls, the tower, the booth) and visuals I had built and programmed over the previous year. I had to utilize nearly every skill I had in order to get to this moment. On top of that were the tremendous efforts from the Vault team: Bob Diesel, Loki, and Georgette helping promote this night and getting everything set up the entire day of and the night before. It was one of the biggest event production efforts for Vault.

The date was July 12th, 2016—both the anniversary party for Vault and Pierre’s birthday (we even baked a TB-303 cake). The energy was unreal for Boston. Pierre told me afterward that it was one his best sets—it felt like it had been a huge emotional release for him. There was an intense connection between the booth and the dancefloor that night, and I remember several people coming up to me and asking if they were still in Boston. Ha…

Pierre stayed in touch after that gig. He invited me a few times to work on my productions at his Atlanta studio and then to open for Dennis Ferrer at his club Wildpitch. I think he was most impressed by the breadth of my selections after hearing me play a second time, as I went in a deeper and more soulful direction from my Vault set. At some point afterward the suggestion was made to move down to Atlanta and be more involved with Wildpitch and the label. I was itching for an adventure, so that suggestion quickly became a reality. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was basically living in the studio, managing the label, and directing the A&R.

It’s truly been a blessing to have experienced so many different aspects of the industry since starting only a little over five years ago. It’s also very humbling to have a constant reminder that you are always barely touching the surface, especially working so closely with a legend like Pierre. This is a lifelong journey. If things slow down and take more time than expected, or roadblocks come up that you never anticipated—embrace it, learn from it, and grow through it. Know that it’s the stories of success that are shared at the end, never the struggle in between.

Tracklist

  1. Mr Fingers - Electron [Alleviated Records]
  2. VSK - Alias [47]
  3. Pittsburgh Track Authority - Crosstown Blvd. [Argot]
  4. Basic Soul Unit - Landlocked [Dekmantel]
  5. R-Zone - If You Going Thru Hell Keep Going [Creme Organization]
  6. Industrialyzer - Orbit X [Synewave]
  7. Aux 88 - Music Is Your Medicine feat. Samara Naier [Puzzlebox Records]
  8. Lo Hype - Route 50 [Ibadan Records]
  9. Jaquarius - Gooseka the Slippery [Tripalium Records]
  10. Gabriela Penn - Saturator [Micro.fon]
  11. Deetron - Solar Surge [Rejected]
  12. The It - Somebody Somewhere [Alleviated Records]
  13. DJ Pierre - Meet Hate With Love feat. Ann Nesby [Get Physical Music]
  14. Maral Salmassi - 1994 [Konsequent]
  15. Robert Owens - I'm Strong (House Mix) [Alleviated Records]
  16. Reflec - Fracture [Clergy]
  17. Toxic Taste - Runners Kookies [Konsequent]
  18. Falling Apart - 202 B1 [Planet Rhythm]
  19. Thomas P Heckmann - Zeitmaschine [Monnom Black]
  20. 3 Phase feat. Dr. Motte - Der Klang Der Familie [Tresor]
  21. Jensen Interceptor - Bubble Boy [E-Beamz]
  22. Hodge - I Don't Recognise You Lately [Hemlock]
  23. Shan - The City Never Sleeps [Running Back]
  24. Joey Negro, Patti LaBelle - Music Is My Way Of Life (Joey Negro Funk in The Music Mix) [Z-Records]
Published October 2018.

Base photo for mix cover provided by Nathaniel Young.

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