Press Lives Matter: Tyler Benz, Videographer at Noisey/VICE + All The Smoke Co-Founder
Written by Greg Harris
Press Lives Matters have instantly become a fan favorite when it comes to the content that's being published in the magazine. Modern Life has given various people in the industry their voice to spill out their opinons and thoughts about their rise to get where they are in their respective industry. In the midst of interviewing these talented individuals, this particular interview has to be one of the biggest along with being one of my personal favorites in the collection of Press Lives Matter.
Today we focus on the talented Tyler Benz, a videographer/photographer from the depths of Bainbridge Island who's been delivering some of your favorite flicks from Noisey/VICE in recent years. We chose Tyler because of the way he resonates with the younger artists in today's music scene and how establishes long-lasting relationships with them. Being early to the party with artists such as Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, Lil Gnar, Lil Xan, Lil Skies, Lil Peep, Yoppa Bam, Richy Samo, and many artists who solidified a space in today's music soundscape. Having the ability to work for such a credited source while also being able to deliver raw and edgy content has given Benz the platform to go above and beyond to tell his story with heavy doses of reality and the truth.
I had the oppourtuntity to recently speak to Mr. Benz about his upbringing, his relationship with his long-time friend + collaborator Justin Staple, being able to have creative control, what are his next moves, and more.
Read the interview below.
How’s Your Modern Life?
Bro, it could be better but we out here chasing the bag so we good.
Growing up, how was your upbringing?
It was great, I grew up on Bainbridge Island which is right outside of Seattle and my mom is the greatest artist alive. Owe everything to her.
What were some things in your childhood to gravitated you towards cameras and why did you feel so intrigued by it?
It wasn't even gravitated towards cameras so much as just visual art. It's like, why read shit when you can look at stuff? TF
What was your first camera you started to shoot with?
The first camera I fucked with was a 35mm camera I found at a Goodwill. It worked maybe half the time and getting the film back was always a roll of the dice. Still some of the best shit I've ever shot though.
Being someone behind the camera, what was one of the defining moments for you while in school that gave you the inspiration that you wanted to pursue this career full time?
Man, it's funny that is one of the defining moments in terms of image-making was not even behind the camera.
I made the unofficial "Been Fweago" video for Spaceghostpurpp back in 2011 made with found footage and thats what made me want to pursue this shit.
In the start of your career, you worked alongside Dis Magazine and VFILES. What things do you think you learned from both of these career experiences that allowed you to enhance your craft in any way?
DIS magazine started EVERYTHING that is still yet to be fully realized. Like, from stylizing internet culture to logo-mania, to stock image aesthetic.
They don't get the respect that is deserved, at all. GENIUSES IN THE PUREST FORM. Lauren, David, and Solomon (founders of DIS, editors at VFILES) taught me everything and they're the reason I'm here today. I miss them dearly and don't talk to them enough.
You spent a long time at VFILES, you’ve seen the growing stages of the brand to the metamorphosis of what it is today. Throughout that process, how did you see the relevance of the brand go from something that only fashionistas can align themselves with to it being a staple in modern New York Culture?
I mean, fashion is regurgitated for the most part. Unless it's true visionaries like Martine Rose, JW Anderson, DIS.ART its all a Xerox machine in the form of an industry.
How did you feel find about you getting the job for VICE and how did you make you feel when you first got on the VICE squad?
My best friend Justin Staple and I were roommates in college at the University of Chicago. He started at VICE as an intern when we were still in college. When I had accomplished everything I wanted to in NYC, he was the first person I hit up to start the next chapter. We go on Vro journies all the time which fulfills me greatly.
Since being at VICE, which is a revolutionary company within itself, how do you feel like you pushed yourself to get the most out of any story you cover?
We just tap into what we think is dope and VICE allows us to do that shit, which is rare obviously. It's tight having an infrastructure that trusts us.
"What's happening now is nothing new -- it's dangerous, it's divisive, it's progressive. I feel like people forget sometimes that this ain't Nickelodeon, this is real shit and matters to these artists and their families and their sets. People need to understand this. Not to be cliche but you gotta trust the youth even if you don't get it sometimes."
You and Justin Staple not only being friends behind the camera, but as business partners has helped elevate and cultivate the art of visual storytelling for music. How can you explain you guys relationship and how both of you see the same vision when it comes to directing these films?
Bro, I met Justin on the first day of college, no cap.
Not sure if you know about U of C but its a nerdy ass school. Justin was listening to Clipse n shit n we were homies since that first weekend. We basically developed out taste in tandem even when we were on different coasts.
What has to be one of the favorite things you’ve produced at VICE?
No doubt the Lil Xan doc. Because it has implications that extend beyond Diego, me, Justin... it's a commentary on the opiate crisis, on mental illness, I hope it had a positive impact on people in that way. I know Diego agrees with me on that.
Seeing the hard work that you and Justin have put in, it’s paying off with getting Daytime Emmy nominations for “The Therapist”. How does it feel to be apart of something like this?
That's all Justin. He came up with that concept. I'm honored to work alongside such a G.
Coming back to the focal point of what you produced, it’s definitely youth driven and allows these artists to tell their stories on a platform that is quite looser than other press outlets can give them. Why do you these artists resonate you and vice versa?
What's happening now is nothing new -- it's dangerous, it's divisive, it's progressive. I feel like people forget sometimes that this ain't Nickelodeon, this is real shit and matters to these artists and their families and their sets. People need to understand this. Not to be cliche but you gotta trust the youth even if you don't get it sometimes.
Tay-K's manager Ezra is deadass the homie I trust most right now and I think the kids coming up today are WAY smarter than we ever were. Shout out Quintron also he out here doing shit differently.
How do want to continue to cultivate and contribute to this emerging culture of creatives that you and your friends are broadcasting?
It's less cultivation than support. I want to support this generation coming up with the skills we've honed over the last 15 years.
What are three things you want to get accomplished this year?
I'm starting a company ALL THE SMOKE with Justin and Albert Lago from Alamo Records. I want that to produce classics out of that.
Make My Mom proud.
Not break my new dvx100 camera.
When it’s all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
I just wanna be able to pay my rent on time and get a good night's sleep :)
RIP PEEP, RIP X.
Also, tell A24 to call me.