EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Benjamin Damage at ADE 2014

Photo by Celyn Smyth (http://celynsmyth.com)
Photo by Celyn Smyth (http://celynsmyth.com)

Benjamin Damage is the Welsh DJ and producer now based in Berlin since being the first to be signed on to Modeselektor’s 50 Weapons label in 2010. He layers experimental and textural melodies over controlled, driving techno fitting for the warehouse raves infamous of his new German home. This is embodied within his 2013 solo debut album Heliosphere via festival smashers such as Swarm and 010x – the latter lauded as ‘track of the summer’ by fellow producer Marcel Dettman. As the festival season continues into the Autumn chill, Deputy Editor Sayuri Standing catches up with Damage in Amsterdam ahead of his set at ADE

Whereabouts in the world are you now? I hear you’re from Wales but living in Berlin… or is it India now?
I’m still living in Berlin and it’s good there. It’s a really nice city to live in.

Because of the music scene?
Great music scene and it’s really easy to live there. It’s easy to get everywhere and it’s a good atmosphere.

Benjamin Damage performing at the Red Bull Music Academy in New York, 2013
Benjamin Damage performing at the Red Bull Music Academy in New York, 2013

Would you say the different locations you base yourself in directly influence the style of music you make?
I think it has to, yeah. You just pick up on it – it’s not something you do consciously. You don’t think ‘I’ve moved here so I’m going to change my style’ but in Berlin there’s techno everywhere! You walk down the street and you can hear it. Where you would normally hear pop or chart music you just hear people playing techno out of building sites so it just gets into your head. I think because it’s so ingrained into the city it just gets into your head a bit like that.

Would you ever move back to the UK or have you fallen in love with Berlin now?
We’ll see what happens in May with the elections!

Where in the world would you love to live next?
I’m fond of New York, I think there’s a lot of really good energy there and if there was a chance to live there I’d like to.

You grew up in Wales, is there a big music scene there?
Not really for electronic music. There’s more of a little rock scene but really, to get into electronic music it’s just listening to the radio and compilation CDs and things like that, y’know. When I was growing up it was before the Internet had really sort of taken over everything so it wasn’t as easy to get into different scenes around the world.

What do you think are the greatest tracks ever made?
Of all time? I don’t really know because my opinion on that kinda thing changes everyday. I can’t think of one perfect track. I don’t think it’s possible because I think music is about emotions, so when your emotions change, the perfect track changes.

-‘Heliosphere’ mix by Benjamin Damage

Is it worth asking who your biggest influences are then?
Hmm I guess, I mean jungle was one of my biggest influences.

As in the genre?
The genre, yeah. So people like Dillinja and then Aphex Twins were a big influence.

So when did you first get into music? What was your first big break?
First big break was when Modeselektor got into one of my tunes, which was actually through Jackmaster. I gave him some tunes and he was playing them out with Modeselektor and he was like ‘What’s this tune?’ so they got it. And through that I met them in London and started sending them stuff and ended up getting signed, got a record deal and went to Berlin.

And never came back! What would be your biggest advice to up and coming DJs and producers?
Don’t be afraid to share things, even if they’re bad, because you can waste a lot of time working on something that’s not very good and when it gets out to the world it’s just rubbish anyway. So it’s kind of better if you just throw stuff out and then keep on getting better. Don’t be afraid. No one starts off brilliant – you know what I mean? You have to get better.

Is there a city or a venue that you’re yet to play which you really want to?
Yeah, Tokyo maybe. I’d like to go to Japan. I just love travelling, so wherever!

Photo by Celyn Smyth (http://celynsmyth.com)

What’s next for you? What have you got lined up?
I’m working on a new album at the moment that’s taking most of my time. This year I’ve been developing the live show which has been really, really good but the live show is a total hardware live show with no computer and it’s been really nice to just switch a computer off because it’s so central to everything – not just in making music but in life, y’know? Like e-mails and things, everything goes through the computer so to just be able to shut it off and make music without the screen has been really fun.

And you take that through to your performances?
Yeah, I’ve been performing without it since May and it’s been really good.

How does a live show work when you’re an electronic musician?
It’s basically a lot of machines all hooked up with lots of cables and you can just program them live. Obviously you don’t have to program every single thing, there’s lots of loops and patterns that you program before and with the way I’ve set it up, the whole structure of it is completely live. There’s no recorded audio or forward structure and it’s kind of hard work but it’s not hard work because it’s really fun to do. It feels like playing properly, not just standing there with a laptop!

You said earlier about the Internet and how it’s changed things. How do you think it has affected you and how do you think it will affect the future?
Well there are no secrets anymore. Like anything that’s available on the Internet is available to everyone in the world. It’s not like you have to know the right person in the right record shop and be in the right city to get certain music. You can find it wherever you are. So a little bit of mystery has gone and it means that scenes are more worldwide now so things get popular in different parts of the world at the same time. Whereas before it would be more local based. Um yeah, it’s just how it is and I guess it means people travel a lot more to do shows which is nice.

Questions by Sayuri Standing (@sayeliz)

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