Three things changed the course of Julian Benasis’ life. One, his girlfriends broke up with him; two, he decided not to go to pharmacy school; three, he entered the Guitar Center’s “Your Next Record with Steve Aoki” remix contest, and won.
The 23-year-old Chicago-bred Benasis has been DJing professionally since he was 16. Working his way up from suburban teen clubs to the venues in Chicago, he was traveling for gigs by the time he was 21. At this point he had been producing original music and uploading bootleg remixes to YouTube for at least three years—a side effect of his girlfriend breaking up with him and him immersing himself in his Image Line FL Studio system, as a coping mechanism. This process also happened with his next break-up, allowing his music take a turn for the better.
Simultaneously, Benasis was working towards a pharmacy degree. Two years into the program with his trap anthem, “Booby Trap,” getting a lot of attention, Benasis decided to take all the cash he had saved for college and sink it into a studio. He moved away from his laptop-and-headphones combination, expanding to a full set-up with Yamaha HS8 studio monitors, KRK 10 Active subwoofer, Akai MPK49, Native Instruments Maschine MK2, and PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL to complement his FL Studio.
This studio came together right before Benasis decided to enter the Guitar Center contest, which offered the Aoki track “Delirious” for remix. What attracts Benasis to remixes is the vocal, and for “Delirious,” he downloaded the stems provided by Guitar Center and knew he could do something special.
“When I do a remix, I don’t use parts other than the vocal; I like to make all of the music from scratch,” says Benasis. “The vocals gave me a strong party vibe, so I went with a bounce remix. I wanted the drop to be dance-y but strong and more varied in the way it flowed. I made the drop using a custom lead I created on Lennar Digital Sylenth1; Sylenth is extremely versatile and an amazing VST to use for leads. I adjusted the main melody by taking a brassy sound and morphing it out to make a summer party groove. The horn I used was created using a real brass sample. I plotted it on MIDI to my own liking and pitch-bended it using FL Studio.”
Steve Aoki (left) offers Benasis some production tips at Aoki's Dim Mak studios in Los Angeles.Benasis recommends the Vengeance sample packs, which lend themselves readily to various subgenres of electronic music. Additionally, he relies on Native Instruments Massive for the nastiest of bass sounds. He got to share these tips with Aoki when visiting the Dim Mak studios in Los Angeles as part of the grand prize package, which also includes a single executive-produced by Aoki (“Hard Ones” is the track Aoki chose), plus $10,000 in cash, new gear, and an opening slot for Aoki.
“This is by far the best remix that came in, with the most effective drop,” says Aoki of Benasis’ reinterpretation of “Delirious,” which beat out more than 7,000 submissions to win the prize. “It was something brand new that added his own signature to the remix. I see a lot of future in Benasis as long as he stays consistent and his passion and drive are at the front of his game.” Check out Benasis’ winning remix at aoki.amplifiertv.com.