MM catches up with dubstep legend Benga on his Red Bull Studios tour, between recording his Radio 1 show and preparing to hit Brighton…again.
The genre pioneer tells us about touring with Example, his upcoming solo album, summer festivals and reveals to MM that the return of Magnetic Man man be sooner than we thought – they are aiming for later this month! He even lets us in on his personal mantra…
How’s the head? Good night last night?
It was mental, it was so crazy, it’s one of the craziest nights I’ve ever had! Brighton party hard…
Your tour with Example’s going pretty well then?
It’s been fun, to be sure, so far. One of the shows that springs to mind was Newcastle, it was just so high energy it hurts.
Will you be bringing some of that to your after party in Manchester this Friday? How is it playing out to smaller places like Joshua Brooks after warming up the tour venues?
I think the fun thing is, that you play an arena as a support act and you go and see the difference between preaching to a lot of new people and then going and playing to your own natural fans, getting love and that kind of thing, giving something back.
My main aim is to try and get these free parties going, that’s what I really wanna do. I want to do arena tours, and then be able to put on unannounced free parties. Turning up to a city, doing a gig and then saying to twitter “hey, the party’s over here now,” I will literally say it on the night and done, pow! I’m just trying to live!
What’s it like touring around with Example?
It’s been so jokes, he’s a legend! He’s an inspiration to me, I watch him every night and just visualise me doing my headlining arena shows and it’s kind of made me want to get back in and be in the studio a lot more.
But in terms of touring, not only has he been an inspiration to me but he’s also looked out for me. Like, all the things that support acts don’t get he’s been giving me. He’s given me room to have production on stage and the crowds have been so warm, it’s just been a lot of fun, better than I could have ever imagined, and it’s always good when it works out that way.
One of the key things for me is that I’ve always been quite chilled and I’ve had a lot of people around me panicking and freaking out, but it’s been good to have someone around like Example who’s also really chilled and just get some talk while everyone’s freaking out!
You’ve kept up your Radio1 show with Skream during all this, though. It’s been almost a year since you took the slot, how’s it been?
Yeah, smashing it man, the pre-record today – cos I’ll be in Manchester when it’s on – that went real good. But yeah, it’s been a lot of fun at the minute, especially that I’ve been able to get my headspace into a good place.
And, you know, when you get yourself into that position and you start thinking “listen, I’m not gonna make music for any other reason than the fact that I just wanna make fresh tunes” and just not make it for an album, not make it for another artist, just in the studio writing. That’s just the best thing.
Your new solo album (Chapter 2, Columbia) got pushed back to April? How’s that going?
Yeah, April, I mean I’m trying to push it back so that I can get just one more single out. But, y’know…
Yeah, you gave us a look at ‘I Will Never Change’ earlier this week…
It’s one of my favourites from the album, it’s hard because every time I drop a new album I have a new favourite!
There’s some definite sounds from that one reminiscent of your time with Coki, back at the start in 2008, is this a return to dubstep’s roots or is it moving on entirely?
It’s moving on. I think my whole thing is just to write and not try to– everyone’s forcing things, they listen to house, they think it’s the big thing, they wanna start doing that. Or moombahton’s big, they wanna start doing that. I don’t wanna force anything, I don’t even wanna writes tunes to play in my DJ show, I just wanna write tunes, that’s it!
Are you ever worried about what your critics might think?
Ah man, I’ve spent so long in the studio working on my production that I just know I can make anything sound good! I keep saying it but, I am just trying to live! *laughs*
If I’m honest with you, I think the only thing I can say that this album will do is that, if you’re a fan of dubstep and you’ve been feeling like it’s got a bit stagnant and you’re kind of bored of the direction that people are moving in; I don’t think my album has any of that, you know what I mean? It’s just: Benga. Classic Benga!
After the tour and working on your solo stuff, have you had any time to work with Skream and Artwork? Are we going to see Magnetic Man make an appearance sometime soon?
100 percent! We’ve been in the studio, it’s been quite hard to focus on it, with all three of us there but we’re kind of getting round to it and we’ve got a month to deliver it and I think within this month we’ll have it wrapped up!
I’m taking all of March out, not gonna be DJ’ing, gonna get in the studio and I think we’ll finish it. Yeah, this year’s gonna be good in terms of stuff like that, we’ll see!
Any plans for after that? A summer festival holiday or two, maybe?
Ah yeah, loads! A couple, obviously, that I can’t say right now, but yeah! Hideout’s on there and a few more. Loads of key territory shows, like Creamfields, they’ve let us back.
Some of them, actually…A LOT of them I can’t really say, because they haven’t been announced yet but…Skream and Benga taking the stage at Creamfields which is exciting, we thought we’d never be asked back after the riots that we caused, y’know!
Most places don’t let us back, I remember we done the same thing at Benicassim and they’ve never had us back. We’ve been banned from the festival! We’re just trying to live!
So have you got any surprises in store for this Friday?
I could do! I could do! I normally bring out a load of guests with me so I guess we’ll just have to see! There’s a guest on my album who’s been a bit shady but I think he might come out and it might be epic. If people can figure out who that is then fair play, I dunno man!
Picture courtesy of stusev, with thanks.