Ben UFO, real name Ben Thomson, has fast established himself as one of the most exciting DJs to have emerged from the UK in the past five years.
Able to entrance a crowd with his impeccable track selection and tight mixing skills, the boy and his Hessle crew are on the up. Preferring small intimate crowds to larger venues, Ben is a regular fixture at the Boiler Room and on Rinse FM where he has a show on the first and third Thursday of every month, 11pm - 1am, tune in for an unexpectedly eclectic mix of sounds. As well as DJ-ing, Ben is also the co-owner of the Hessle Audio label alongside Ramadanman and Pangaea. The collective formed in Leeds and have been hailed one of the driving forces in the development of bass music out of dubstep’s shadow and into a more house driven, up-beat ground.
To get a feel for Ben’s enthusiasm for bass, house and all that’s in between, here’s an exclusive segment for your ears only…
Tell us about your musical upbringing and how you first got into DJ-ing? My upbringing and my DJ-ing have very little to connect them directly. My dad works in classical music and I was very lucky to have grown up around instruments and around music more generally. Dance music or programmed music of any kind didn’t really factor into my childhood at all, and for a long time I held an inherited prejudice against the ‘artificial’. I obviously feel very differently these days. When I grew up a bit and started exploring music more seriously, it transpired that most of what I was into was only available on vinyl. There wasn’t really a culture of legal downloads so I got into vinyl as a format before I got into DJ-ing, which just ended up seeming like a logical step to take given the collection of records I was putting together.
You co-founded the Hessle Audio label alongside Ramadanman and Pangaea, what are the family values behind the label and how do you see it moving forward? We don’t have any specific goals for the label and we certainly didn’t sit down and write the ‘Hessle Audio manifesto’ or anything like that. We started the label at a point in time where there were a lot of people making good music with no outlet for it, including Pearson Sound and Pangaea themselves. Doing a weekly radio show we were in a position to hear a lot of that music first.
Where’s your favourite place to play out, do you prefer your UK crowds or those abroad? Festivals or clubs?
I’m generally drawn to smaller spaces where you can rely on people focussing their attention in a way that’s not always possible at multi-room venues and at festivals. In London, there aren’t really any clubs that can compete with Plastic People. It’s a small space with one room, an amazing sound system and a loyal crowd who are willing to listen to unfamiliar music. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from a venue, and on paper it sounds simple – in reality I’ve come across very few places which meet that criteria. Golden Pudel in Hamburg is one of the only places I’ve played in Europe which comes close, and I’ll go out of my way to play there as long as they’ll keep having me back.
You clocked James Blake back in 2009, are there any other new discoveries you are championing at the moment? James is a pretty exceptional character in the way he manages to balance writing music accessible to a huge audience with producing quite out-there dancefloor experiments. I can’t think of anyone comparable in that respect, but there’s a lot of interesting new producers around at the moment. People like Objekt, Helix and the whole Idle Hands crew in Bristol are making amazing, quite varied music.
What do you like doing in your spare time outside of music? Checking my @s.
Who is your hero? DSG_DSG.
Rinse:016 – Ben UFO is released Monday 3rd October. You can check out Ben UFO on Rinse FM on the first and third Thursday of each month 23:00-01:00 GMT. Catch the rest of the Rinse team including Ms Dynamite, Skream, Roll Deep and Oneman at the 17th Birthday Party on Saturday 8th October at O2 Brixton Academy tickets
Text: Laura Hinson