Benny Page has been talking to DJ Mag about his debut live show, his new single 'Champion Sound' and his new album, recorded with a number of dancehall vocalists in Jamaica.
Benny is playing his first ever live show at the Jazz Cafe in London on Thursday 11th September. Congo Natty, aka the Rebel MC, is the special guest support act, with one more artist to be announced. And DJ Mag has teamed up with the Mama Group to co-promote the show. Full details here
Buy tickets for the Jazz Cafe show here
Just in advance of the live show, Benny releases 'Champion Sound' on his own High Culture Recordings — the first single from his forthcoming album. A skanking dancehall breakbeat number, it features Jamaican artist Assassin on vocals — and a rather cool video, featuring the little kid on all of Benny's new artwork.
Watch the video here:
The track was reportedly all over Boomtown Festival last weekend, and is sure to be a big hit at Notting Hill Carnival next weekend.
Benny has recorded with loads of dancehall artists in Jamaica recently — around 25 vocalists in all, including Beenie Man, Spice, Italis, Richie Loop, General Degree and lots of others. Many will feature on his forthcoming album. Watch the making of 'Champion Sound' here:
And stream the track in its full glory here:
Benny first shot to prominence in the drum & bass scene when he was signed by Shy FX for his label Digital Soundboy. His 'Turn Down The Lights' tune hit big, and he has continued to throw out dubwise d&b tracks and other tunes in varied bass music styles ever since.
Basically, this guy is going places. DJ Mag caught up with Benny to find out what makes him tick...
Hey Benny, how's it going?
“All good. Thanks for having me.”
Can you first of all tell us what made you want to make your own music in the first place?
“I got in to listening to music quite young, recording tunes off radio and TV at around eight years old.
“After going through my dad's vinyl collection, I got into playing guitar and drums while at secondary school and everything progressed from there. I found making my own music way more interesting than anything else (laughs).”
Where were you brought up, and who and what influenced you?
“I was brought up in Reading and was heavily influenced by the reggae scene there at the time. I started a music technology course when I left school and there was this Rasta guy there who we used to pay visits to for one reason or another. We would sit in his car and he would play dub and reggae, and that fuelled my interest in d&b and jungle.”
How did you hook up with Shy FX and his Digital Soundboy label initially?
“I used to send out demos to radio Djs, and one day I got a message from DJ Bailey who was on 1Xtra at the time saying that Andre (Shy FX) wanted to chat. He got in touch and we got the ball rolling — this was in 2005, and Shy was just about to launch the label by releasing his second LP 'Diary Of A Digital Soundboy'. Following that release came my debut single 'Turn Down The Lights'.”
Although Shy came from drum & bass, Digital Soundboy is known for being quite broad in scope — did this appeal?
“Definitely. At the time I was only making d&b, but a few years down the line I did switch things up in style and explored more of the sounds the bass music spectrum had to offer.”
Why do you like making different styles — drum & bass, a bit of dubstep, bit of reggae or UK funky or whatever
“I like to make music all the time, so after a while things will get a bit stale if you stick to the same tempos, beat patterns, genres. If you switch from different styles and tempos, making music can be more enjoyable and you can test yourself this way. I find I’ve improved my sound a lot by doing this, and that also keeps me inspired to keep making music. I’m pretty sure I’ll never stop.”
What gave you the idea of recording in Jamaica?
“My manager Hal came up with the idea to spend some time there voicing some of the bigger artists in the reggae/dancehall scene that aren’t really accessible from the UK. It made perfect sense. I fell in love with Jamaican music a long time ago and the thought of going to the island to make music was a no-brainer. It meant I could get the sound I was looking for vocal-wise and have a more hands-on approach with the production and songwriting process. A lot of the time producers will have vocals sent electronically and in some cases may have never met the vocalist, so it was nice and very rewarding to be working closely with each artist on the tracks.”
Did you know anything about the Two Culture Clash project that Wall Of Sound did about 15 years ago?
“Yes, of course. I’d heard about it and got to meet some of the people that came up with the idea while I was out there. The original partner in Major Lazer with Diplo was a guy called Switch, who was a central part of the project. Two Culture Clash was really the predecessor to what Major Lazer are doing now. In fact, Two Culture Clash was all produced and recorded at Geejam in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The same studio we use as our base when we’re out there, and the same studio where a lot of the vocals from the album were voiced.”
So was Assassin the first dancehall artist you hooked up with for your new album?
“Yes. The Assassin link came through an engineer we were working with out there. I think it happened on day two of the trip in Kingston. There was real buzz when we finished that session… I think everyone knew we had a killer vocal. Assassin is a real top-class artist and at the time he was still on a high from his feature on the last Kanye West album.”
'Champion Sound' is also the name of a few classic dub cuts, isn't it?
“Yeah, 'Champion Sound' is used quite a lot within Jamaica genres... it’s a big part of the DJ (Jamaican term for vocalist) culture in Jamaica, much like rap — to big yourself up and claim the champion status.”
How did the other vocalists fall into place – and who are they?
“My manger worked hard to make things happen. We had lots of artists on the list when we went out to JA late last year. Actually, when we got off the plane we had no sessions confirmed! It’s a different ball-game out there trying to get tracks voiced, but we learnt quickly and it ended up being a real experience. We ended up voicing around 25 vocalists in two and a bit weeks. Some of the artists included Spice, Beenie Man, Popcaan, Mr Lexx, Italis, Richie Loop, General Degree, Chino & Di Genius.”
Are you a perfectionist? How much of a control freak are you in the studio, or do you let things go with the flow sometimes?
“When recording vocals, I like to let them do their thing, provided you're working with experienced artists it's good to let them do their thing. A lot of them have written the song before they reach the studio but in Jamaica most artists turned up, heard the beat for the first time and voiced right there and then from their phone or straight off the top of the head. I like to re-record lines that need to be, but that’s where it ends. I do most of my work when I’m back in my own studio. I’m definitely a perfectionist, I don’t like to rush mixdowns, I like to test them out in my set and car for weeks before I do the final mix.”
What's happening at your debut live show on September 11th at the Jazz Cafe in London?
“It’s gonna be mad! We’re having a single launch party for 'Champion Sound' and it’s also the launch of my first ever live show. In fact, we just confirmed Congo Natty today as support on the night. I’ll be playing some exclusive music from the album along with some other music I’m feeling at the moment. The live show itself involves visuals, live horns, live percussion and vocals from Solo Banton and Data. Currently we’ve got our film guy going around Jamaica, shooting all the artists we voiced lip-syncing their parts in their respective neighborhoods. The ultimate plan for the visuals is to sync the artist lip-syncing footage with their tracks when I play them, so it will be like the artists are performing behind me on the screen in sync to the set.”
Has anyone thought that the little boy in the artwork and in the video is you?
“Ha ha ha. I thought about this... he's bit young to be mixing records at a rave!”
More Benny Page goodness here