From pioneering the dubstep movement out of Croydon in the early 2000s, to travelling the world, selling out colossal shows and an upcoming third album, Benga epitomises success in the electronic music industry. Even for those who connect more with his early material, there’s no doubting his contribution to the dubstep scene as a whole.
The musical journey from early albums ‘Newstep’ and ‘Diary Of An Afro Warrior’ has seen Benga collaborate with Ms. Dynamite, John Legend, and, on UK pop smash ‘Katy On A Mission’, Katy B. He has built on the early sound, adapted where necessary, and delivered, in his words, ‘Benga music’ to the whole world.
Now a BBC Radio 1 host, star of a Red Bull documentary series, and awaiting, on February 25, his debut major label album release. Over a quick phone call, we got onto the Benga and Magnetic Man albums, tour highlights, ‘Chapter 2’ of his life and more.
Lets start by talking about the year that’s coming to a close. What were the highlights for you?
It’s been a good year, I’ve been having a lovely time, and I started lots of things, ie. my live show. I always wanted to play stadiums, and so taking the live show on tour was a real highlight. Australia especially, you don’t realise how big your fan base is until you go on tour. When I saw all those people chanting my name I was like, wow!
And favourite releases?
I’m going to go with Disclosure, ‘Latch’ was a massive tune. Another one was Subfocus featuring ‘The Alpines’ ‘Tidal Wave’, and I love the Labyrinth album.
You got to revive Benga Beats too. What is the plan with that? Is the recent release a good indication of the sound you want to go with?
It is in the sense that it is music that I like to play in clubs, music that has good energy, but I want to put out all kinds of music, because up until now it has only been dubstep.
How much does performing the live show differ from performing it as Magnetic Man?
Yeah quite a lot. The programs used aren’t different but in terms of the visuals and the music I’m playing it is. Also, because Magnetic Man is a group thing, it’s not really about a character. Benga Live is about me, and that makes performing it a lot different.
Will there be Magnetic Man releases in 2013?
Definitely, we’ve got an album penned and have made a lot of it already. Benga and Magnetic Man are completely separate, so I don’t see why it can’t come out shortly after the Benga album, probably around summer.
Are there similarities between the new Benga album and the first two?
There are in the sense that when I’m writing for an album I can get really creative, more so than on singles. The singles are to attract attention and get radio play, in the new album and the old ones, I got most creative when making the other album tracks work together. Its very different in that it has vocalists – P Money, Kano, Mali and Youngman.
The name ‘Chapter 2’ refers to a new stage in your career presumably?
Yeah definitely, both in terms of my music, my lifestyle, diet etc. I’ve progressed as a musician and an entrepreneur, and learnt to chill out better.
Are you drawing a line between what you’ve made before and now then?
Well everything has changed a lot. Now I’m making songs of worldwide status, that can compete with artists in America, so obviously there is a kind of line. I still wouldn’t say I’ve moved too far from the original sound though. I use different equipment but a lot of the same techniques, the way I swing my drums, the way I use reverb etc.
Do you still play any of your early tracks?
‘Night’,’ ’26 Basslines’ and ‘Crunked Up’. I play some early Skream tunes still and a couple of Loefah tunes too, depends how I’m feeling on the day.
Is the album dubstep?
Well the tunes are between 120-170BPM, so it’s hard to say it is strictly dubstep.
Would you start another alias to separate the two different sides?
I want Benga music to be representative of all genres in dance music so i’d have to say, no!
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