Two heroes compared

Ben UFO & Zip

Two heroes compared

11-12-2013 | 16.53

"last night i played back to back with zip - pinched all the skin off my right arm so fairly certain i didn't dream it"

After reading this tweet that Ben UFO placed last summer after playing with Zip at a Toi Toi party in London, I was happily surprised but not really stunned. Zip has been inspiring a major part of the electronic underground DJ’s for years. Now that Ben UFO made it to the tenth place of the Resident Advisor DJ Poll and still hasn’t figured that a lot of DJ's see him as a role model, I understand why Zip is enthusiastic to play with him. Maybe it doesn’t look that way, but musically the two men have a lot in common.
A noticeable similarity is that they’re both focused on DJ sets. Thomas Franzmann aka Zip has aliases on which he does produce music, but I don’t think this is his main concern. In his DJ sets you’ll find a wide spectrum of hard to find underground house, dub and minimal gems. He occasionally uses test-pressed records of unreleased records, which you’ll only find within his circle of friends. You can hear Zip loves record digging. Just like Ben ‘UFO’ Thomson who shows it to the outside world and lets you hear it when he plays. 
Zip’s Perlon and Ben UFO Hessle Audio are both labels they work on very consciously. Zip has started Perlon in 1997 together with Marcus Nicolai as a foundation to release music they love from friends and themselves. It’s not possible to send in a demo and everything is vinyl-only. Ben UFO started Hessle Audio in 2007 with Pearson Sound and Pangaea, where they do give new talent a chance and also release digital. Both say they don’t have any commercial aspect. All the releases are songs they all really like. This gives both labels a very own sound, even though they say there is none. Quite unique, to own a label as a non- or barely producing DJ.
Coincidently, they both brought out a Fabric mix early this year. Ben did Fabriclive 67 and Zip did Fabric 67. Here you start to notice that Ben UFO is playing more house and techno these days, as he also states himself. But sometimes you'll also hear some minimal in his set, which is pretty special for a London-based DJ. He plays different Perlon tunes and looks for hard and chopped percussions that are comparable to the old lo-fi house sound Zip has. Zip often also makes the transition to tracks that are more ‘English’. Shackleton even brought out an album on Perlon. The tracks he produced for the label still have his dubstep mark though.
Of course there are a lot of differences between the two as well. Zip started with singing and was in an EBM band called Bigod 20 with Markus Nicolai and Andreas Tomalla in the ‘90’s, while Ben UFO started with playing jungle and drum ‘n bass. Also the quick alterations in music are easily noticeable with Ben UFO, while Zip seems to do everything quite pragmatic. The fact that Zip has already been known for quite a while, also with Bigod 20, shows as well. He barely does interviews (unfortunately not with me either) and if he does do one, he gives short answers and is very discrete. On the other hand Ben UFO is still working his way up, being about 20 years younger and having a lot to look forward to.
Believe it or not, Ben UFO and Zip are both performing at Trouw this weekend. One will play in De Verdieping, the other one upstairs. I’m already saying a prayer, hoping they will finish with a very long back-to-back set that I will never forget.

Text: Ruben Leter

Photo credit: David Courreau