Interview: Ben Sims gets ready for RockNess 2012
The techno DJ/producer among names added to festival bill
DJ Ben Sims has been announced for 2012’s RockNess festival, where he joins Soma Records on the Arcadia UFO stage. With over 20 years of DJ experience, running his own Theory label (among others), he’s renowned for his DJ skills using vinyl, CD and software. We caught up with Sims.
Dance music seems to love genres. How do you see your own productions fitting into the world of techno?
It's a fusion of everything I've ever been into or influenced by, so there's house grooves in there, the energy of disco, the rough’n'ready production of dub, the occasional rave stab or break and the attitude of hip hop, all served up in a techno-flavoured bap with a side of funk.
What first drew you to electronic music?
The break-dance/hip hop explosion of the early 80s. All the kids were dancing to up-tempo disco breaks or electro and I kinda got hooked on both. For me there's still a clear link to what I do now from those early naïve days of discovering such exciting, intense and passionate music.
What led you to setting up your own label?
It's a logical progression really, not just as a DJ but as a record collector too. You eventually just need to create your own imprint and release the music you're excited about, want to play in your sets or even just as a vehicle to release your own stuff. It's like trying to compile the perfect EP or 12" for your needs. Very often it's as frustrating as it is satisfying, but it's an addiction I can't stop now.
Did you approach your album, Smoke & Mirrors (Drumcode), differently to your 12"s and EPs?
Yes, definitely. I've always produced music during the week, between gigs and never really spent a lot of time on it or been overly ambitious with my goals, just happy to bang out club cuts to drop the following weekend. Which is fine, but I really needed the challenge of attempting something more than that for an album and to come out of my comfort zone, so I took out two months from my DJ schedule and worked solely on that project, without distractions and it really helped me to push my boundaries and experiment far more than I usually do.
Could you explain the concept of your Machine night?
It's all about pushing new, forthcoming or unreleased music, and not just relying on classics, keeping things fresh for both the crowd and the DJs. It's hosted by Kirk Degiorgio and myself, so far we've done five nights in London and a bunch oversees, our next one is at Berghain in Berlin and over the coming months we're taking it to Austria and Spain again as well, also starting a new 'Machine label too.
Are you looking forward to playing RockNess?
Very much so. It's always a pleasure working with the Soma guys and I'm really happy they've got me onboard for this. I've heard great things about the fest, so yeah, I'm really excited about it. I was originally gonna take that weekend off, but fuck that. RockNess here I come! [laughs].
Do you think playing with Loch Ness as a backdrop will change what and how you play?
The dramatic setting will certainly influence what I play, an appropriate soundtrack is a must. I think many people expect DJs to play the same kind of sets at big festivals as small clubs, which doesn't really make a lot of sense. The spirit and atmosphere of, say, an annual outdoor event is totally different to a dark, sweaty, regular club night and the vibe on the night totally affects what you play and why. The surroundings set the mood before you even drop your first cut.
What can we expect on the night from your set on the Arcadia UFO stage?
It's a couple of months away, so difficult to be too specific, but a mix of upfront hard grooves, plenty of forthcoming material (as I’m busy in the studio right now), a sprinkling of classics and a few 'made for the occasion' special edits pretty much sums it up.
Ben Sims plays RockNess 2012, 8-10 Jun.