- Tue, 2009-05-05 10:56
Fully fledged pioneer and member of the dubstep community, Benga started DJing at the tender age of 12. Having released his album Diaries of an Afro Warrior in 2008 to much critical acclaim, the DJ and producer is constantly making tunes, remixing, touring the globe and shaking the foundations of the club scene.
With the popularity of dubstep ever on the rise, I Like Music caught up with Benga to chat beats, production, next album plans and the future of dubstep.
"I Like Music because… it brings everybody together.” Benga
ILM: You're in the middle of a huge tour at the momenet, plus you have so many dates coming up. How are you finding them?
Benga: I absolutley hate travelling. I hate getting on planes. I hate waiting in airports. It's the worst thing for me. But then I like playing the gigs! So how do you get around it?
ILM: Hmmm. A tricky one. What do you enjoy the most about playing a set?
Benga: Reaction to be fair. I play a lot of my own music, sometimes I just make it in the day and then play it out in the night and it's like...raaahhhhh! What a feeling!
ILM: Do you make tunes whilst you're on the road then?
Benga: Nah, I don't really. I can't really write on the road. When I get home I get straight into the studio and I write.
ILM: Out of all the live shows you've played, which have been the most memorable?
Benga: It's crazy. There's a lot of gigs I try and make memorable. Don't get me wrong, I go to every gig and try my hardest to put on a good show, but sometimes I might crowd surf or do something mental. I always remember things like that! Hahah! The one at Bubble Pop was great, a festival out in Belgium. Exit Festival was good too. Skream and I played on the main stage and that was just funny. Hahah! We got off the stage and got 15 girls back on the stage! They were just dancing around, haha! We got in trouble for that.
ILM: What's the biggest crowd you've played to so far?
Benga: Something around 23-24,000 people.
ILM: Do you have a favourite soundsystem or venue to play on/at?
Benga: matter. When I first went there I thought that was sick.
ILM: And you're playing Fabric tonight?
Benga: Yeah, yeah. I don't get to play a lot of London gigs, so I'm looking forward to that. When I do, I always see a lot of old faces and it's always a good reaction.
ILM: Is the crowd reaction in Europe different to the crowd reaction in the UK?
Benga: Yeah. When I go outside the UK a lot of the time I get a better reaction. They don't get the music there as much, so I think they appreciate it a bit more. It's a bit mad to say that, but it is actually the truth. You get mosh pits when you go abroad! It's funny, it's actually funny, hahah!
ILM: Are you playing many festivals this summer?
Benga: Depends. There are a few I can't say about. But Global Gathering definitely, some other UK and European ones.
ILM: Is there a difference between the way you approach a festival set and the way you approach a club set?
Yeah. At festivals you generally get mental different vibes. I write different music for when the festival season begins. Don't get me wrong. I do write for a reaction sometimes. So it's like, you might get more vocals into your music. When you play at festivals you know that you are going to get such a different crowd. People are coming to listen to so many different artists. It gets cross pollinated. I don't know.
ILM: So you make your music more accessible?
Benga: Yeah, definitely.
ILM: What are you working on now?
Benga: I'm on a Baltimore, house type...I don't know....um....a fidget house type hit. I'm actually writing at 140 which is the dubstep tempo. So erm, dunno. I'm trying to bring something new to it. I get quite bored with myself listening to some of the stuff.
ILM: Do you struggle to know when a track is finished? Do you have many unfinished projects laying around?
Benga: I write songs in about 20 minutes. I have an idea and then I just get writing. It usually takes a couple of hours to structure it. I don't really finish songs to the point where every single break has got something going on. I tend to concentrate more on a main riff and then see how people react to it before I finish the song. So I might cut it to dubplate before it's even finished.
ILM: What's your typical equipment set-up?
Benga: For actual production I've acquired software. I use a sequencer. I haven't really got loads of plug ins, I always stick to the bare minimum. I find you learn them better. I use AkoustiK 5 by Native Instruments which has massive features. And a couple of others. I have a Mashine (Native Instruments) which is hardware and software. It's a drum machine. I also use a Core 2. Djing wise I just take vinyls.
ILM: Do you have a big vinyl collection?
Benga: Well, where I'm only playing like four people's music, not really! Hahah!
ILM: You've been making dubstep for a while now. A lot of people look to you as one of its forefathers. How do you feel about that?
Benga: I suppose it's good in some ways. You get a chance to listen to everything that's going on before it hits the road. Sometimes though it makes me feel quite dark, I mean I can't listen to everything. I get sent hundreds and hundreds of tunes a day. It's like......wow. I spend a lot of time trying to make my own music, not just going through other peoples. But then, I do like to listen. I just can't listen to it all.
ILM: It's like a blessing and a curse.
Benga: Absolutley. You got it in one.
ILM: How would you describe your discovery of dubstep? When did you start making it and getting involved with it?
It's a bit of a weird one really. When I first started DJing I was 12. When I first started playing it out I was 13. I just wanted to make the music that I could hear the DJs play that I couldn't get my hands on. I was really making dubstep from the beginning. I mean, when it was 2-step, Skream was on that whole 2step, electro vibe. But a lot of people just didn't think our sound was the same as the others, that was it really.
ILM: And now dubstep has found its way into the mainstream. Skreams remix of La Roux's In For The Kill is being played out on Radio 1 by daytime DJs. How do you feel about the heightened awareness of the genre?
Benga: I love it to be fair. I'm not against anything mainstream. When someone makes a song like Skream’s version of La Roux, if it is genuniely what he is doing and then it blows up into the mainstream, then I have a lot of respect for that. Rather than actually trying to create tracks for the mainstream, or trying to get number ones, it’s just natural and I respect it.
ILM: What would your advice be to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Benga: I'm all for keeping it natural. I've done stuff before where I've tried to go in this direction or that direction and do things that weren't really me. It's only a matter of time before you get lost and find yourself asking 'What do I do next?' The more natural you keep it, the less likely you are to get lost. Carry on doing your own thing and people will pick up on it. It's a matter of time really, before people pick up on it. Especially if it's different, you can keep it up and it's you.
ILM: What's next for Benga?
Benga: My plan musically is to put together my next album. I've been DJing a lot so my next album is coming first. To be fair, I want to be my last album like ten times over.
ILM: Woah. Well that's going to be insane isn't it...
Benga: Yeah I know. I set myself these targets. These amazing ones! But that's the only way you can do it.
ILM: How long did Diary of An Afro Warrior take?
Benga: Right, for the main tracks, without the ones like Night, 26 Basslines and Crunked Up which were around before I started creating the album, it took me about two months.
ILM: Really?! Two months?! No way....
Benga: Hahaha! Yeah, I write so quickly. I wrote 50 songs in two months.
ILM: So in terms of your next album and also the future of dubstep, what are the next steps? What's going to push it forward?
Benga: Riiiiiiiight. I think vocals, but don't get me wrong, the right vocals, that will definitely push it. I've gone about working with a lot of artists from everywhere. I want to do a few songs with these guys called the Teriyaki Boyz. They're like a Japanese group. I just want to do different things. Things that'll make people go 'Wow. That's well different.' And it sounds really different. You know, involving different cultures and sounds and vocals. I don't know...haha!
ILM: What music are you listening to at the moment?
Benga: Got to big up Jack Beats. I'm on iTunes all the time searching for music by Jack Beats. A lot of the fidget house stuff. I am into that. What Diplo's playing, what Sinden is playing. Erm...I guess I'm still all over the place. I'm a radio listener. I listen to the radio when I'm on my way to gigs and stuff. I always hear things on there and I'm just like 'Woah. That's interesting, I'll go and look it up.' I'm into Erol. I'm into Justice. That's a funny one for me to say I'm into. But yeah, I'm definitely in to that....hahaha!