Benji B and Steve Bicknell
LOST presents spacebase
STEVE BICKNELL + guest BENJI B
Experience sets from Steve and Benji, featuring selective material from back in the day alongside their own take on future classics, in an intimate surrounding!
We welcome Benji B, Benji B is a highly influential underground DJ. He presents his "Deviation" radio show on the BBC's 1xtra every Thursday night, and has developed a reputation over the last 9 years as a skilled DJ, important musical tastemaker and award-winning radio producer and presenter. Known to many as the "Deejay's DJ", and for playing the tunes first that eventually end up in the boxes of the big names, he is about to show discerning clubbers the world over that it's not just the industry insiders who deserve to witness his talents. Benji is still only 25 years old.
His radio shows and DJ sets are musical journeys unique in club-land. He blends tunes from all genres of underground music whether it be broken beat, hip-hop, house, garage, jazz, soul or Detroit techno. Always reaching for the deeper side of the music with an ear open to the future, the soulful element is what links the tunes he spins:
"Whether its Broken Beat or House or Hip Hop, the beats have gotta be right. And the music has to be soulful."
When asked to describe his DJing style, Benji B refuses to be pigeonholed, but is clear about what he wants to achieve:
"I guess you could say it ranges between 85 and 140 bpm! But it has to be a journey, always a journey. I play more than one type of music, but it's all related, it's all quality and it all flows. I'm not into that mentality of playing some dark garage tune followed by an old school Brazilian joint. I mix. I'm a raver - I wanna get taken on a journey by a DJ when I go out, so I try to do the same in the mix when I play."
A musician from the age of 7, Benji played saxophone for 14 years. He achieved all of the eight musical grades by the time he was 16, playing on stage at various clubs around the capital. A player and then a teacher of the "Gamelan" (The Balinese and Javanese music of Indonesia) for 10 years at the South Bank Centre in London, Benji immersed himself in all types of music from a very early age, and soon fell in love with buying records. By the age of fourteen, Benji had amassed a record collection spanning hip-hop, soul, jazz, funk, house, garage, drum and bass and more. When asked why he let the sax playing go, he answered:
"I wanted to be making tunes in the studio, playing on the shit that I was buying, making some hip hop, playing on some house or whatever, but I didn't have the money to get the studio gear and I didn't know anyone who did. I was living the club thing at a young age and wanted to be playing at the parties. DJing was a natural thing for me, and once I started doing that, it eventually took over"
A Londoner through and through, Benji grew up with a rich musical backdrop that enabled him to sample the very best of soulful music that the capital had to offer. As most kids his age at school were not into Public Enemy or Stevie Wonder, and he was too young to blag it into the clubs he saw advertised, Benji found that his musical influences came not from his peers, but from his radio.
"When I was a kid it was all about the pirates. Legal radio was 80s pop, but at the weekend you'd get hip hop, electro, soul, jazz, funk and acid house at different ends of the dial. As time went on you got to know some of the DJs, who went on to broadcast at Kiss, Capital, London and the proper stations. Westwood, Matt Black, Norman, Rodigan, Coldcut, Fabio, Paul Trouble, Gilles' I was checking all of these shows religiously. When other kids started buying hip hop at school we used to swap tapes of the rap shows in the playground!"
Although Hip Hop was undoubtedly the music and culture that had the most impact on the life of the young Benji B, he was hungry for music from Old to New to Future. When he heard Gilles Peterson's early shows that played a selection of these styles, he had found someone who approached music in a similar way to him. It wasn't long before Benji decided that he wanted to offer his own musical input and skills to this kind of Radio.
"When I was about 14 I decided that I wanted to produce that radio show" he says.
By the time he was sixteen, he was doing just that.
Starting a new programme with Gilles called "Worldwide", Benji produced the show live at Kiss FM for 2 years. By the time he finished school he was already working on the radio all weekend, clubbing it all night, DJing once a week and studying in the daytime. He was immediately poached by Somethin' Else productions, where he set up an international syndication for the programme, broadcast at first in Finland and France, eventually providing the 2-hour weekly show to seventeen countries worldwide.
It was in this period that Benji's trademark hard disk editing and production sound began to develop. He started to approach his post-production of the international show as if he were "making one long 2 hour track". Eventually he was asked to re-mix, re-arrange and re-edit tunes for record labels and artists around the globe, including the likes of King Britt and Carl Craig.
Gilles and Benji's musical understanding went from strength to strength, and when the show moved from Kiss FM to BBC Radio 1, Benji became the youngest ever producer to be making shows for the national station. Soon applying the sonic approach he had taken in the studio to the live version, along with ground breaking documentaries, mixes, interviews and features, the show developed a unique sound that was eventually recognised in 1999, when he won the prestigious Sony Gold Award (a bit like the Oscars of the radio world)
In 2000 Benji travelled to Nigeria to make a radio documentary about the late Fela Kuti, in 2001 to New York to make a programme about rap and street poets, and in his time behind the scenes interviewed hundreds of artists, including the likes of Chuck D, Herbie Hancock, Pete Rock, Pharoah Sanders, Pharoah Monche, Tito Puente, Erykah Badu, Femi Kuti, Roy Ayers, and many more. He also initiated and created series of unplugged-style unique recordings at the BBC's legendary Maida Vale studios, producing the likes of Bilal, Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott and India Aire.
During this time Benji still managed to find time to develop his underground DJ career, playing across the world. Whether in Switzerland, Estonia or Indonesia, any promoter that booked Benji got him back for more - he might not have been a huge-name DJ but every session went off. "I enjoyed doing those regular spots abroad because you build up a following based on quality, word of mouth and good parties instead of hype," says Benji.
In London Benji B has played spots at the Blue Note, Plastic People, Bar Rumba and Ministry of Sound to name just a few, and ran a monthly residency with Gilles Peterson at Cargo. Whether in the backroom for a party session - or the main room for an all-out dance music journey, he has since developed a reputation as the man who plays across the board and always delivers quality DJ sets.
The radio environment is second nature to Benji B, from running the college radio to producing complex live outside broadcasts, to making radio mixtapes. When the new station 1xtra launched last year, Benji was asked to present his own show, which can be heard every Thursday night between midnight and two a.m. The programme has already developed an international following. In March 2003 Benji broadcast live from the Miami Winter Music Conference alongside special guest Jazzy Jeff. Benji looks forward to spreading his musical vision further with groundbreaking interviews, live recordings and radio mixtapes of the highest quality.