If you're long in the tooth, you’ll remember Ben Watt as one half of the jazz/orchestral pop duo Everything But The Girl, which he formed with Tracey Thorn back in 1982. But these days Ben has reinvented himself: he’s an in demand DJ, a dance producer and owner of hot London house stable Buzzin' Fly, home to 2006 big hitters such as Darkmountaingroup's 'Lose Control' and Âme’s remix of Rodamaal's 'Insomnia'. Not a bad second wind indeed.
Ben has been surrounded by music all his life. His dad was a jazz musician who showed him the ropes early on, so nowadays as a DJ he’s one of those clever folk who mixes in key. "I grew up with a proper harmonic sensibility. I was very aware of how music was put together, the relationship of chords and scales and all that kind of stuff, " explains Ben. "But I didn't have any classical training. Everything I learnt was by ear from watching my dad and listening to music around in the house from as early as I can remember. So I also DJ in a musical way as well. I'm very into what I call harmonic mixing, which used to be the preserve of progressive DJs but actually it can be very useful in the hands of non-progressive DJs too."
As a DJ, Ben spins everything from deep house to warm techno with a sprinkle of Berlin minimalism. So is he a record obsessive? Not really. Want to get your mitts on that hard-to-find classic you heard him spin? Check the record bins at the charity shops and you never know what you might find. "I'm not a nerdy archivist at all, " says space-saving Ben. "I often take a box load down to Oxfam. Sometimes at Plastic People we'll do a kind of fundraiser and I'll take a bunch of records down and just have them on the table inside the door. People can take as many as they like as long as they chuck a bit of money in the bucket. I know a lot of DJs are completely retentive about it all, and keep everything, just in case. But I'm not like that really because it just gets me down. It gets a bit oppressive after a while. I've always thought if I give away a classic, I'll have such fun hunting it down again."
RA hit Ben Watt up at his studio where he was finishing off his first remix in yonkers. When we held him up for his ten favourite records, he was so enthusiastic, he gave us eleven. Perhaps it's no surprise that many of his picks are very musical and feature real instruments and vocals. "I think we've been through a phase of minimalism and reductivism and tried to drop down to the brutal acid b-line or the long, empty breakdown, " says Ben. "Personally, in the last few months I've been looking for a few more vocals again and a bit more music. Everyone's playing the same music these days so I think there has to be a road out of it and I guess I've been looking for more musical tracks a little bit." This is the stuff you're not likely to find at Oxfam anytime soon.