Two Techno stalwarts go head to head in this edition of ‘Vs’.
With a combined experience of over forty years, Sims and Degiorgio really need no introduction. As well as a constant tour schedule inclusive of the most prestigious venues the electronic music world has to offer, releases on labels such as Drumcode and Planet E have propelled the two to lofty heights as producers as well as DJs. With a label each and a collaborative night called Machine, ‘focusing on new unreleased and upfront music’ launched in 2011, Sims and Degiorgio have never been afraid to expand their musical ventures and explore uncharted terrain.
Before the pair take Machine to Corsica Studios tomorrow night with heavyweights Floorplan and Surgeon in tow, we managed to corner them for an interview. The opportunity to venture beyond the turntables and studio set ups of these two mavericks seemed more than appealing, so we provided the platform for Degiorgio and Sims to do so. The results do not disappoint. Revealing topics covered include comedy, online personas and the realities of being a sober DJ.
Kirk Degiorgio interviews Ben Sims
Kirk: I know you have a passion for comedy and this often comes through in your track titles. Tell us a bit about your comedy tastes and how do you find this fits in the sometimes super serious world of Techno.
Ben: I guess I’ve always been into the more impact, shock value side of comedy, growing up in an era when bootleg ‘Derek and Clive’ tapes were handed around junior school (and often confiscated), the forbidden side of humour appealed to me first and that’s kinda stayed with me.
I have mellowed though and now guys like Daniel Kitson and Stewart Lee are among my favourites who, whilst challenging and thought provoking, certainly aren’t Doug Stanhope / Brendon Burns in your face types that I usually tend to gravitate towards. The more I’ve become immersed in the business side of the industry (promoting, running labels etc) and it’s become less of a paid hobby, the more important it’s become to escape from it and sit back, and just being entertained by someone else helps massively.
K: You’ve been doing longer sets for the past few years – has this changed the way you approach a set technically?
B: My approach was always more linked to Hip Hop battle DJ’s really, short intense bursts. I never really classed myself as one of these ‘journey’ guys and I always thought why bother doing 3, 4 , 5 hour sets when I can do it in less? I can’t see any justification in a DJ playing a track for 8 mins, that just not DJ’ing for me. The DJ’s I grew up listening to put as much as humanly possible into their time and that’s just what I always thought was right, that’s just what I aspired to.
I guess the main reason for my recent change is that there’s so much more good music out there that even if I cram 30 odd tracks into an hour, there’s so much more to play and the more great music I’ve got to drop, the deeper I get into the zone, lose time and don’t just rush through all the peak time tracks at once. It’s a big change for me but one I’m really enjoying.
K: In four years of DJing regularly with you, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you come even close to messing up a mix. Do you ever need to practise or does playing week-in week out keep you technically on the ball?
B: I do have a mix up occasionally, very little beats that first mix with a bag of new records but I rarely ‘practice’ as such. I was pretty obsessive when I first started out though, and wasn’t ever satisfied until I’d mastered a particular mix and spent years putting together tapes for no one in particular. These days I don’t really have the time and if you’ve done a couple of gigs over the weekend you tend not to want to crank it up at the studio for a few days but I still really enjoy putting together studio mixes, podcasts, radio shows etc.
K: For your live show at Machine-London last year – you went the old-school route and brought out an entire mini-studio. Is this something you’re going to do more of in the future or will you have to strip it down for a foreign tour?
B: To be honest, I’m not sure. It would be fair to say that I didn’t make life easy for myself. I guess I just wanted the live set to be
interesting visually as well as musically and that made it hard work. These days although I use hardware equipment, it’s generally an add on to the software side of things. Watching me lay down a track live would basically just be a guy occasionally playing with a filter or clicking a mouse- and that’s no fun for anyone, so I decided to recreate about 20 tracks using a small hardware set up and take that around with me. It wasn’t easy and there were technical issues (FX and909 failing at Awakenings and sound cutting out at Machine for 12 of the longest fucking minutes of my life). It was a challenge I’m proud to have had a crack at and I’ll certainly be trying it again in some form in the future, just with more of a balance of old equipment and new I think.
K: Like myself, I know you’re a collector of Disco, Funk, Hip-Hop, Reggae, etc. Do you ever get the urge to do non-Techno sets and is this something we can expect in the future?
B: I’ve often tried it. I used to do these sets where I started out playing Hip-Hop and Funk, then over a few hours I ploughed through various genres until I got to techno and a headline DJ took over. It was fun but since I’ve made a name for myself on the Techno circuit, it’s definitely become harder to play varied sets. Many people that come to see me play expect a certain thing (definitely less of a range of genres anyway) and, personally, I’d be happy to work my way through loads of them. I guess over time I’ve just realised that not everyone has had the same musical upbringing or exposure, so it just doesn’t make sense to them.
Saying that, I’m definitely gonna try a few in the next year, just the response to my recent Roots Reggae podcast (below) alone had made me realise that it’s something I should be doing- even if just occasionally and for fun.
Techno may be the thing I’m most known for but it’s definitely not the only style of music I’m passionate about.
Ben Sims Interviews Kirk Degiorgio
B: You’ve been involved in the Techno and Electronica scene for many years- I think the first record of yours I bought was in 1991, and 20 odd years later you’re by far one of the most passionate music lovers I know, do you think you’ll ever stop?
K: Not unless I go deaf. I’ve been into this since the age of 11 and – like an indoor cat – I don’t know any different.
B: Your love and knowledge of studio equipment is legendary (and obsessive), do you think you’ll ever have a complete studio? Will you ever be satisfied?
K: I change my setup around too often for it to ever be complete-and there is no such thing as a complete modular synth!
B: Being one of the first DJs to embrace Ableton and a firm supporter of digital DJ’ing in general, are you ever tempted to make a return to vinyl? Is it something you ever romantically think about or does it feel like a different time for you?
K: I don’t miss it at all. I’ve spent so long crafting my digital sets that I think I’ve surpassed the creativity achievable with vinyl. Even with Soul, Funk and Disco I prefer to use USB sticks as I make so many of my own re-edits.
B: It would be difficult to describe you as shy when it comes to giving your opinion on a wide ranging selection of matters on the Internet (Facebook, Twitter etc). Is your online persona confrontational on purpose or are you often having a bit of a laugh?
K: I’m just being myself. The difference online is that it’s easier to miss the humorous intention behind most of what I say. I think most people who follow me on social media are now attuned to my attitude and know I’m usually having a laugh, whilst making a serious point.
B: You’ve recently been working behind the scenes on co-producing an album for a well known and respected DJ/producer. How do you find this differs from making your own music and is it frustrating not having the final say?
K: It differs as I’m there to facilitate somebody else’s ideas and talent. I don’t find this difficult actually – I have a defined role and although I can offer my opinion, at the end of the day it’s somebody else’s vision and I can’t be too precious about my input.
B: Being one of the few tee total DJ’s in clubland must mean you get to be the sober guy in many drunken situations, all the fucking time! You’ve certainly seen me in some post-set states. Does it not drive you crazy or make you tempted to hit the sauce?
K: I would love to neck a handful of jack and jills and slobber around the DJ booth but I damaged myself beyond hope in the rave days, so it would kill me!
Ben Sims and Kirk Degiorgio play Machine alongside Surgeon and Floorplan. Grab final release tickets here.