Interview | Ben Keen


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As a South African schooled in the 90s, I was spawned on a rave culture that was more than just a Saturday night free-for-all white gloved gurn fest, it was a lifestyle. Our focus wasn’t math literacy or alcohol fuelled orgies, it was the latest beats and lots of them. The idea of collecting tracks, and hearing them until sunrise in one of our city’s many superclubs, was a motivational factor driving our weekdays and zesting the banal daily ritual of adorning a school uniform. In a time where the internet was limited by dial up, and vinyl took nearly a month to be delivered, each track we owned was gold. There was excitement every time one of the major artists released a track, but none more so than BK. Every night out in Cape Town would bring tingles as soon as those two words echoed through a mix “Revolution, Revolution”.

From his work through Nukleuz onto Riot! Records, he is now returning in a rainbow of nostalgia to grace CT with a swan song par excellence. I got to chat with one of my heroes and arguably the king of hard dance himself, Mister Ben Keen.

MCBN: Hi Ben, lets get right in. You and I have both seen “Hard Dance” move from various styles in cycles over the years. From the trends of old school, to hard house, hard trance, into a funkier house through an NRG wave and then whatever it is Andy Whitby plays. Where are we now in terms of the “trend” and how would you categorize the current scene?

It’s healthy for a scene to move forward and even back to keep things fun and fresh. At the moment I would say the scene is very healthy music wise, pretty much encompassing all of the styles you mentioned. It has had its ups and downs, one of my least favourite is when people take whatever is big and just making it harder and faster with a few sample packs. Of late though it seems to be moving back towards its routes. Untidy dubs is an updated version of real hard house is smashing it for me. The music is always the most important thing, how many Facebook and Twitter friends you have is not what counts lol.

MCBN: Having played in almost every major festival and event over the last 15 odd years you must have seen some crazy parties. If you could resurrect one of the old events from evocative years past, what would it be and why?

To many to mention. Gallery in Cape Town and of course Unity were amazing. I would have to say Dance Valley and some of the Trade birthdays are up there for me. Oh and Global Gathering!

MCBN: At an event that will draw nostalgic ravers of old, as well as new and fresh punters, what can we expect when you grace the decks at Unity?

Pretty much music for both, a mixture of classics and new stuff, the new stuff will be firmly set in the style of hard house that Cape Town was such a big supporter of though.

MCBN: You have released 100s of tracks over the years. And thus I guess this is a two part question. Firstly, what can you always rely on to bring a crowd to its peak? And what is one of your hidden gems,  that might not have been so critically acclaimed, that you will always hold a soft spot for?

Hmmm Bad Ass and Revolution always do the business . One I seem to play that people have forgotten is mine and Nick sentience’s remix of Mario Piccoto’s ”Iguana”

MCBN: Your list of collaborations encompasses every major artist in the genre. From Andy Farley to Nick Sentience, Glazby to Lab4. Is there anyone you would still like to work with, be it inside the genre or out?

Would love to work with Liam Howlet from the Prodigy. One of my favourite producers.

MCBN: Be honest, do you yearn for the days of taking a fresh vinyl from the sleeve, or have you fully embraced the digital age without glancing in the rear view mirror?

You have to move on and to be honest I don’t miss carrying vinyl around . I do miss playing it and the off the cuff way you could play it. I miss going through my record box and coming  across a tune you had forgotten and realising it was the perfect tune to drop at that moment too. I also think it’s sad we have lost the B sides. Many a time I would buy a record for one side and discover a hidden gem on the flip.  I also miss finding a gem that was a LTD press that no one else had for ages, so yes I guess you can say I miss it ha ha.

MCBN: Who is a young up and coming producer that we should be on the lookout for?

Trap two (Ben Carr and Digital mafia) are doing some amazing funky stuff at the moment.

MCBN: As an engineer you are responsible for every tweak of the knob so to speak. For our tech savvy readers, could you give us a brief idea of your setup?

Logic pro X, too many plugins to mention. Novation bass station, Virus c, NI maschine , Juno 2 , Mackiee 824 mk2 , ns10’s with subwoofer , Drawmmer compressors , mics, fx units…

MCBN: As long as I live I will always hold your name in high esteem, and my grandchildren will listen to your remix of I don’t Care in their cribs… but do you ever see yourself calling it a day? What still needs to happen in your career? And what does life hold for Ben Keen outside of hard dance?

Ha Ha I will make sure to pack that for Unity! I already do lots of stuff outside hard dance. I write music for TV and film have worked for Robyn, Hotchip and Lethal Bizzle to name a few. I can’t see my self stopping yet, I was lucky I started young so I have a few years left still.

MCBN:  We’re gonna go slightly off at a tangent here, but which celebrity is unquestionably part of the illuminati/is actually lizard person intent on world domination?

David Guetta!

MCBN: What one food can you absolutely not stand?

Liver

MCBN: Do you have a rider for your gigs? Any special requests?

A midget to fan me with a Palm leaf while I play.

MCBN: Do you think Dom Sweeton will let me cut his hair?

I hope so.  Especially his pubes

MCBN: And finally, our dreaded “would you rather…” question. So, would you rather have a head the size of a tennis ball or a watermelon?

A watermelon. We are talking about the head of my cock?

Ben thank you so much for your time and we can’t wait to see you on that dance floor.

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