Ben Joseph Vernon
This year of my school career was possibly the best year ever. I came to City As to make my transition from school to the real-world and what the school gave me was so much more than I could have ever hoped for. In September, I joined MAD Academy hoping to work with artists and develop and become better artists together. I got way more than I bargained for. MAD Academy allowed me to network with a wide range of industry professionals and executives. The first cycle was a personal favorite because we were still housed in Silent Barn’s Gravesend Recordings and I got to engineer the sessions and make mistakes to learn from first hand experience. The second cycle we were still housed at Gravesend and it basically the same as the first cycle just with a lot more new artists. Through a program called “Triumpf World” I met a musician named Nick Hakim who I continue to work with today. Through Nick, I sat in on an Onyx Collective session at XL Recordings’ in-house studio. When I left the session the engineer told me if I ever needed an internship to give him a call. The third cycle we made our transition out of Gravesend to other studios throughout the city. The cycle is also when I started interning at XL Recordings. I thought interning at XL meant making coffee, sweeping, doing runs, and filing paperwork but boy was I wrong. Interning at XL was basically assistant engineering and mixing and working with amazing artists. At XL I was able to engineer and work a bunch of artists like David Byrne, Arca, and producers that have worked with Adele, Q-Tip, and more. Being at XL helped me grow substantially as an artist, and engineer. After MAD Academy, and graduating from high school, I plan to continue interning at XL and eventually working there. I cannot express my appreciation for everything MAD and City-As has done for me.
At MAD Academy my team and I are working on a mural that is going on the outside walls of the building of City-As School. The mentor of my team is a well known muralist named Cern. He helps guide us when we need help or we have concerns when using spray paint, house paint, water, brushes, and shows us new techniques because collectively, this is our first mural. My partner Sunny and I are collaborating our ideas to design on one wall, hopefully making it easier to fill up the space. We both loved the idea of having nature be the main theme and so we went with precisely that. She is painting her unique flower display, while I paint a particular kind of person. I would say, there isn’t a gender, even though people have already called the figure a “her” which is funny because Sunny didn’t even consider calling her uncommon designs “flowers” until someone commented on them.
As an artist I don’t like to put my mind in a box on how things should be labeled. I like to leave interpretation up to the audience. I think it’s a nice way to interact with audience members. I probably won't tell people I painted the image, instead I’ll just ask “what do you think of that mural?”. For me as an artist it’s all about leaving people with a question. A new way of interpreting something, to question what you are seeing, and create conversation even if it’s simple or small. This is one reason why I make art, because I enjoy the interaction with people and the art. It can make you feel different emotions that I think, based on our mural, people will feel wholesome when they walk into school now. Students will be happy that they go to a school that supports artists. I believe that is my goal at this internship because my school is my audience. That is also why I am very hard on myself, because I hope people will feel something off of my artwork because it will be a failure as an artist if people don’t.
I can say I’ve grown as an artist at MAD Academy. I’ve never made art on such a large scale and because of this internship I am making art more consistently. I have a habit of starting art pieces but never finishing them so this is refreshing. Spray painting is something I never did before but always wanted to try out. It’s a lot of fun working with the cans and Cern taught me new techniques that I could incorporate into my practice but these are also skills that I want to improve on. As an individual, I’m figuring out my style, while also being influenced by other styles. I look at it as an amazing experience. It’s good to test yourself by not comparing your work to another. I can’t wait to stand back and look at what we have established at City-As.
My days in MAD academy were all fun and nothing stressful considering we were doing things I love to do. Some days were dedicated to songwriting, which were the funniest moments of freestyling seriously, to rapping about lazy cats. There were also guitar and ukulele playing which were pretty cool, though I don’t play. I’m the one singing melodies that decided to form itself in my head and that’s when I start to sing and write.
Studio sessions were a different vibe. Some moments are serious, and anxiety could get you because you know you’re being recorded. Most of the time you won’t like how you sound, which is why you go until you feel like it’s the best you got, and you’re confident with it. Having other people around to give you feedback is really cool, but if you disagree, it’s yours so own it. While one person is recording, another may be building a beats on the laptop, writing lyrics, and thinking of ideas for your branding. Bonding with other interns, even if it is just one person that you love singing with is a powerful thing. It can be used a source of motivation for new ideas and stuff of that sort. Something so simple as a friend.