House Producer Ben A Calls Denver Home, but He's Playing the World

Denver house-music producer Ben A.
Denver house-music producer Ben A. Stephen Hausrath
Ben Archuleta, who releases music as Ben A, has been making music professionally since the turn of the millennium. Solid releases early in his career secured deals with some of the most iconic labels in the house and techno scene, including Toolroom Records and, more recently, Nic Fanciulli’s Saved Records. He's even co-authored tracks with Grammy nominee Eddie Amador.

Archuleta also manages one of Denver’s premier dance-music labels, Moody Recordings, along with Beatport co-founder Jonas Tempel and house-music icon Bad Boy Bill.

Westword caught up with Archuleta to talk about his release with Spanish house-music purveyor David Herrero on Saved, a milestone that Archuleta considers significant among all his other achievements.

Westword: Tell us about your formative years going to parties, and what it was like for you back in the day in Colorado.

Archuleta: Denver's talent pool was incredible. Getting to see already established groups and artists — like H-Foundation [Hipp-E & Halo], The Floorfillerz [Vitamin D & Sean Biddle], The Pound Boys [Craig C & Greg Dealer], and, of course, The Casa Del Soul Crew, just to name a few — producing some incredible music and being signed to major labels was inspirational. Being surrounded by so many creative artists and DJs, it became a focus point and goal of mine to push my production to the next level.

Denver has always been a growing city musically, and structurally, with a handful of promoters that took the city to the next level with their underground parties and after hours. Being a part of this in our city definitely helped me with the vision to dedicate my time and focus in the studio.

What was the moment that made you decide that you wanted to be involved in dance music professionally?

I worked on an original called "Ghetto of the Mind" with Wyatt Earp — basically a collaboration. The track got signed to a big label out of New York City called Vibernt Records owned by DJ Onionz and Master D, two A-list artists at the time. That was the moment I knew I wanted to create and take it to the professional level. I look back, and I probably wouldn't have continued music if that didn't happen. To me, this was a calling or life-changing moment, way back in 2002.

How did you get the gig as label manager of such a legendary label?

I started producing music with Jonas Tempel back in 2013, when Moody was being digitally relaunched with founder Bad Boy Bill, with a team already in place for the launch. The label was launched successfully, and after a few years went through some internal changes. At the time, I didn't apply or even qualify, with just a little experience with helping a small startup label previously. Jonas molded me and helped me with the foundation and details in grooming the label to perform at the level it is today. It's an honor to work for people that never settle and continue to push the boundaries with their passion.

What changes have you seen from how people submit music to Moody during a pandemic?

To be clear, I am not the A&R for the label. We have a team that listens and reviews the submissions. Artists usually approach the label through social media, and then will submit a demo for consideration. With this pandemic, labels have tightened up the release schedules and artists being signed to the label. We have seen more submissions, but a lot of the artists are not in the wheelhouse of what Moody is releasing currently. Moody Recordings is a unique label hailing from Chicago, with a number-one Billboard hit — “Get Get Down,” from Paul Johnson — in 1999. Moody tries to obtain a high level of artist signings, and we believe in quality over quantity.

Moody is in Denver, and is arguably the most famous house and techno label in the city, yet there aren’t any Moody Recording showcases at any local venues, even pre-COVID. What’s up with that?

We have had a few showcases at Beta Nightclub, and they were successful, but the label has artists across the globe that we would prefer to showcase, and the budget for that wasn't in the cards. Moody has been awarded a showcase at the Winter Music Conference in South Beach, Miami, and we have been working on ramping up the artists invited to perform at WMC. The showcase in Miami is what Moody needs to continue to grow on the scale we are aiming for. Moody Recordings’ artists for 2021 WMC have been in contact for future consideration for when the pandemic is under control, which is exciting news moving forward.

You would think that you would see some of the local artists on it — like Jaceo, Vedic, yourself and others — playing more locally, though.

In 2020, Jaceo, Vedic and myself were hired by the WMC to perform at the opening ceremonies and two showcase parties that all were canceled unfortunately due to the beginning of the pandemic. In the past, I focused on keeping my residencies going in other cities and countries. I love getting to play here, and Denver is home, but my music has given me a ticket to see the world. Both Jaceo and Vedic have been jet-setting for quite some time, and I've been fortunate to follow in their footsteps. We occasionally get to play together at one of the residences in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, at Club 01, which is always an unforgettable time.

What would you say was the tipping point that allowed you to start getting signed to important labels?

Dedication and persistence with submitting demos played a major role in the signing of Toolroom, which was in 2018 and a game-changer for my career, no doubt. Three years of submitting demos and getting no response at times definitely took its toll on my process, but I used it as fuel to keep pushing my music to get to that level.

After signing to Toolroom, it opened doors to working with big labels and artists worldwide. Toolroom is the biggest dance label in the world and has been setting the bar with all of the releases and artists on that roster. Saved Records has been on my list for years as well. Nic Fanculli has also set the bar with Saved, and it’s considered one of the elite dance labels out of the United Kingdom.

So how did the one with Saved come about? It’s rare that they sign Americans.

I started working with David Herrero, a legendary artist that I have followed and looked up to since I began playing out. David hails from Spain and has been a regular artist on Moody. While working on a release for David on Moody, I asked him to kindly listen to some of my current tracks I was shopping, to critique. David listened, and loved an original I constructed called “Magic Flight,” and was open to collaborating on a version with me. This was back in October of 2019, and I was also working with Denver's own C1 on a new project called Native Drum. During the final mix-down process, I sent David the layout of Native Drum that I had been working on, and David immediately said, "Let's do this one, also." We finished the two tracks in late December and sent the submission off to three major labels, and Nic Fanculli responded with wanting to sign the EP to Saved Records. We both were ecstatic since this has been on David’s radar as well with a new EP release. Saved Records is special, and will always be to me [for] taking another milestone step with my music.

What are you the most excited about locally?

Truly, I am blessed getting to work on what I love daily. The artists that I communicate and work with in Denver are stellar, and we continue to push each other in our studio sessions. Currently, I am part of a new Lo-Fi chillout group called Factory Planets. This project has been in the works since March 2020. Expect a new album and label-signing announcement soon. This has been an idea or project I've wanted to get in motion for some time, and is outside of my current music genre, which is exciting. The chillout genre is something all artists can relate to and fits in any setting, from coffee shops to pool parties or even an office format. The album has been a test to my music skill set, combining the many influences from underground hip-hop and jazz into the full circle.

David Herrero and Ben A’s Native Drum EP with C1 is out on Saved Records. Listen and purchase on Beatport.
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