Benjamin Damage, much to his advantage, is a producer who has somewhat managed to avoid the hype machine.
He has quietly been churning out high quality music, both alone and with longtime collaborator Doc Daneeka, for some years now and, finally, has released a substantial example of his own work – ‘Heliosphere’. It’s a blistering example of textural depth under a techno guise, stretching way beyond the genre’s sometime formulaic character with splashes of dubstep, garage and rave. It pays homage to ‘the heyday of techno’ and modern day adaptations, all the while rooted by the high calibre production we’ve seen from day one in Welshman Benjamin O’Shea.
He has found himself very much at home within 50Weapons‘ all-embracing stable and has, like the majority of artists under Modeselektor’s wing, begun to experiment to great effect. We discussed the album writing process, his new home in Berlin, musical roots and the solo live set he’s bringing to London next month.
For those who don’t know, could you first tell us a little about yourself and your music.
I’m Benjamin Damage, a techno producer from Wales. I released a collaborative album ‘They!Live’ with Doc Daneeka at the beginning of 2012. My first solo album ‘Heliosphere’ came out on February 22, released by 50 Weapons.
How did you find the album writing process compared to ‘They!(Live)’?
I missed the social aspect of it, it can be really fun in the studio when there are ideas bouncing around and its sounding good. But then you have more opportunity to really dig in and take your time with intricate ideas of your own. Its just a different thing, not better or worse.
Do you have plans to collaborate with Doc Daneeka, or anyone else, this year?
Yes I have some collaborations planned, but until its ready to be released I’m gonna keep quiet about it.
For your album with Doc Daneeka, Modeselektor encouraged you to stay and record in Berlin. Now that UK techno is flourishing in the way it is, do you still think that was necessary?
I wouldn’t say it was absolutely necessary, but I love Berlin now and I like spending my time between there and the UK. There is a very good crowd of people here, and they are very inspiring to be around. The actual city is great too, its changing so quickly even in the short time I’ve been coming here.
Was techno the first kind of music you ever felt so strongly about?
No, definitely not. I’d never even heard techno before I found ‘Plastikman – Spastik’ on an old CD compilation. I used to get a lot, best of house, best of rave, best of jungle etc. In Swansea that was the best you could find before internet shopping took over. I’ve always been more obsessed with individual artists or songs than entire genres.
Do you have a ‘deep love’ for your Solva release, and perhaps your first 50Weapons track ‘Zeppelin’, which weren’t techno?
Yes I do, but I think my newer records sound more natural to me. I was still finding my sound at that time. Probably my favourite track from that era is ‘No Snares’ which was very melodic.
The album certainly feels like a departure from your previous work, bar the ‘Swarm’/’Headache’ 12″. Was that the whole idea?
The idea was pretty simple. It was to put out a personal album with some of the things I love most about music in. The concept of the album was purely to make something that I would really want to listen to, either at home, in a club, or both.
Could you explain the title?
It’s the solar atmosphere of the sun.
And how does that relate to the music?
It’s related to what I was thinking about when I was writing the album. I don’t want to over explain it, its up to people to make the connections if they want to.
You rarely do solo live shows – what can we expect at Ostgut Ton x 50 Weapons? Does it involve hardware?
That will be changing a lot. I’m developing the live show right now. I don’t want to give too much away but it will be completely non-linear and should be a lot of fun to play.
Live performances are a lot more common in techno than most other electronic genres. What do you think makes it so suited.
It’s possible to make everything live in electronic music because there is so much going on and the beats are very precisely laid out. Perhaps techno allows you to experiment the most because of the strength and repetitiveness of the rhythms. I find recording things live is a good way to sequence tunes as it gives it a natural feel. The live show is built on that, with some hardware sync-ed up.
Finally, what is next for you? To have released two albums in the little over a year you must surely be angling for a rest?
Actually the exact opposite. There was a huge void after I handed in the album to be mastered. I’m very happy to be back in the studio working on new material.
Benjamin Damage’s ‘Heliosphere’ is out now on 50Weapons. Catch his live set at Ostgut Ton x 50 Weapons on March 28. Tickets here.
Interview: Sean Hughes
Photo: Celyn Smyth