Interview: Benga @ Sankeys – On his methods, madness and Manchester

By Sophia Rahman

MM caught up with Benga for a chat the morning after his sell-out show at Sankeys.

In very high spirits, the dubstep pioneer sheds some light on his methods, his madness, and what he thinks of Manchester…

MM: Hello there Benga, first off, how was last night for you?

Benga: Really, really good. It was amazing. I always love the reception I get in Manchester. It’s always been number one on my list.

MM: Did you get to spend any time around Manchester at all?

B: Well I’ve been here all day, and I have been here quite a lot. I used to have a girlfriend here, so I used to come here quite regularly, but apart from that yeah, I like this city.

MM: What have you been up to?

B: Today I’ve just been shopping and been about, and I’ve been running little errands and stuff. It’s been a bit of a weird day but, I guess I’ve gotta prepare for Sheffield, smash it up on my tunes.

MM: How is it playing back in Britain after touring the US?

B: You know what, the reception here’s just been amazing, like especially with certain songs. I’ve been playing songs off my album that I shouldn’t really be playing. I’ve been playing a demo version of one song and it’s got such a great reception, it’s like, totally different to everything else in my set.

MM: Have you met any of your heroes on your travels recently?

B: You know what, honestly, a few but not loads, it hasn’t really been like ‘Oh my god, it’s that person’ or ‘Oh my god, it’s that person’. You’ve gotta play it really cool.

MM: Have you been making music while you’ve been on the move?

B: I’ve made a whole other album’s worth of music, I reckon. But it’s really hard for me not to replace all the tracks that I’ve been living with for a few months.

MM: What inspired you when you were making Chapter 2?

B: Being on the road. It’s been funny this year because, only as of recently have I been making songs while I’ve been on the road. It’s been a bit weird, but then I’ve got to grips with it and I can see that being on the road and partying inspires me. Like seeing different s*** and people and being in different surroundings inspires me.

MM: Do you take your set-up on the road with you?

B: I’ve just got a little laptop with me and I’ve got a Feature J and I’ve got a Personizer, I just use different headphones for referencing. It’s really simple compared to what I’ve got at home, but it’s efficient.

MM: Does that mean it’s more stripped-down, like – you’ve got less to play with?

B: It’s really stripped-down, it’s like making the most out of really silly sounds or really basic sounds, but it always comes together really well. By the time I get home, and I change the noises, I realise I worked on the best riffs notes-wise. It’s not about making the best sounds, it’s about seeing what wicked riffs I can make.

MM: Do you have much of a process when you’re making music?

B: You know what I do, I’ll tell you, I eat so much chocolate. Right, I go downstairs, get chocolate, go mental and then just get in!

MM: Where do you source your samples from?

B: It’s from all over. I don’t really do a lot of sampling. I’m more for trying to make a sound if I hear it. Or I get someone else to replay it. The only samples I use are drum samples, and I use a kit called Vengeance, there’s a secret, but apart from that, I’m not really a samples man.

MM: I see. So, how’s your’s and Skream’s program on Radio 1 going?

B: Aw, amazing! We’re having such a lovely time. We’re now moving to Fridays quite soon. We did our last Thursday and it was a bit sad but then it was a relief, because now we’ve got two hours, we can do what we like!

In an hour we were expected to play fresh tunes all week and never play a song again, and sometimes I’m absolutely caning a tune in my set and I won’t even play it on radio a lot! We’ve got freedom again. We’re freeee!

MM: I love the banter between the two of you when you’re deciding what’s happening next.  Does your producer try to reign you in?

B: Na! They’re always trying to make us do this and that but we always just like, veer off. We’re like, in a way, we’re like really bad. We’re terrible at it, but we, kinda, like, get away with it, it’s the charm of it, right? Us just being a bit mental or whatever, you know?

MM: Definitely, it’s really refreshing hearing someone cool on Radio 1

B: We f*** up! It’s refreshing hearing someone f*** up! (Laughs) Emotional.

MM: Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for the people of Manchester?

B: Yeah I do. When you come to a Benga show, wear as little as possible. That’s not me being a pervert – it gets hot and sweaty. You must type it in that way, (laughs) I’m not even joking, yeah?

Benga & Skream’s ‘In New DJs We Trust’ show will be back on its new Friday night slot in April – 11 p.m. on Radio 1

Benga’s upcoming album Chapter 2 will be released in August on Columbia Records

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