01-04-2014 | 19.10
I meet Ben Westbeech, aka Breach at his Amsterdam west flat. The House maverick has taken some time out of his frenzied touring schedule to talk to Trouw ahead of his upcoming Colors appearance. He’s due for an early flight in the morning, and is in the process of going through some newly acquired records when I call at his door. “I go to Rush Hour a lot and just buy all their new releases. It’s such a good record store and they put out so much good stuff. I went down there today to just buy ten new records to take to Miami. I just get immersed in it.” I recognise a few covers, but I’m eager to talk to Ben about his own music so I leave it for another day.
The Bristol producer has had some tremendous success over the course of his career, in both commercial and underground terms. Jack was a summer hit that will probably stay with a few folks for some time, and his 101/ Somewhere release alongside Midland is still a force to be reckoned with. As a unique anomaly, Breach has had the capacity to tip both ends of the scale. He processes the uncanny ability in mixing unforgettable hooks with an ever-watchful eye on the dance floor. His next release is set to be on AUS, marking another turn to those underground roots while his label Naked Naked showcases an excellent ear for bourgeoning acts like Lorca.
He is in a jolly mood, despite his foreseeable early wake-up call and ends many of his sentences in a hearty chuckle. He moved to Amsterdam about a year ago, and I soon find out his made some interesting friends along the way…
I believe you’ve just had dinner with Yuri (Cinnaman). I assume you two are close friends.
Yeah, we are really good friends. He’s my best mate in Amsterdam. He lives just around the corner. We love the same kind of music. I’ve known him for years. I met him through the Colors guys and my friend Rogier de Reiger, who runs Applesap. I knew him before I even moved here.
Does that mean the Colors night is a more personal booking?
Yeah, it is. They’ve supported me from the start and it’s really nice to stick with a night like that. You have to stay loyal, you know. Yuri and me have always done back-to-back sessions on Red Light Radio, and we‘ve always wanted to do a night together and finally we get to play Trouw together. I think he’s going to play and then I’m going to play, and then we’ll go back to back until everyone leaves (laughs). We really enjoy playing together, which is the main thing. We have a personal relationship that’s really good. It’s nice to DJ with your friends.
Playing back to back must take quite a bit of commitment on both your parts.
For sure! The first time we played together, it was a bit of a mix mash and it came out a bit weird, but by the second time we started to gel. We tend to take each other to different places and sometimes that could be out of our own respective comfort zones. He’ll leave me with a really hard one at times to see where it goes and it can work.
You moved to Amsterdam a year ago. What was the reason behind that?
To get a new musical perspective essentially. To take myself out of London and that whole UK house thing going on there. I think if I stayed I might have gotten drawn into that a bit more. I could have gone down two directions, do you know what I mean. I could have gotten immersed in that scene or I could come over here and be inspired by the sounds of the producers on this end. And with a nightclub like Trouw it’s a nice city to be in. Amsterdam is one of the most forward thinking places in the world for House and Techno, in my opinion.
Do you think that affects your creativity?
Yeah for sure. Where I have my studio, I have Waxwell records on the next street and Rush Hour is three minutes away. I have met some really interesting people, like Boye from Rush Hour. People just tend to overlook Amsterdam sometimes in favour of Berlin. I don’t know why more producers don’t produce here. It has such a rich community.
From my experience everyone involved in electronic dance music here seems to have some sort of connection with each other…
It’s all intertwined, you know. Everybody seems to get along with each other, which is a really nice thing. It took me a minute to see what was going on in the city, but I quickly got used to it. When Jack went crazy, it all happened when I was here, and I wasn’t expecting any of that. I came here to write a Ben Westbeech record. It’s been pretty mental living here. But going back to the original question it all aided in a new musical inspiration. Just a different perspective and a new way of thinking.
A Ben Westbeech record. Has Breach taken away any of the focus off that alias?
Yes, all of it. Pretty much. I did a track with Deetron about three or four months ago and that’s been the only feature I’ve done as Ben Westbeech. It’s funny actually but just before I moved to Amsterdam and one of the reasons I moved here, is that I was here for a weekend and Henrik Schwarz was playing at Trouw. We ended up performing a tune we wrote together, from one of my old records and it was a magical moment for me. It came at a time when I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. After that I was like; ‘I’m just gonna move to Amsterdam, Fuck it’. It was the experience of performing at Trouw that made me want to move here. I realised I wanted to be near this.
What will we do when it eventually closes?
I don’t know. What is the future of Amsterdam’s clubbing scene after Trouw? They’ve done it so well. It’s my favourite club in the world. It will be really sad when it goes.
How does that Amsterdam experience compare to your Bristol origins? It seems that at the time of your emergence, Bristol was a hub of creativity.
It always has been in a sense. You can see that from the Sound System culture, like the Wild Bunch, from back in the eighties, and what came out of that. Like Massive Attack, Portishead, and Ronni Size. There’s been so much stuff coming out there for years and years, and now the resurgence of House has put another spotlight on it. Yeah, it’s always been a Hotbed of Creativity for some reason. I don’t know what it is. If you’ve lived there and made music there, it always kind of stays with you for a bit. I don’t why, but it does.
You mentioned Jack earlier. Has the success of that track affected your music at all?
It sort of didn’t really. I made two other tracks that had been in the UK top ten before Jack even got signed to Dirty Bird. It was cool, but then your world changes very quickly. You go from playing these underground clubs to getting booked for massive venues. I had to kind of ground myself musically. I’ve got an EP coming out on AUS, making tracks with Yuri and running my label, Naked Naked. I try and have this huge connection with the underground, because that’s where I come from and that’s what I’ve always known. But then I am also in a position to write more commercial tracks if I wish, and get the opportunity to work with amazing vocalists, that I would never have and an opportunity to work with in the past. It’s been nice to be able to play places I still want to play and still have that success at a commercial level in the UK. I think living here has really helped, because it has taken me away from all of that.
Your last featured release was ‘Everything You Never Had’. What else have you been busy with?
I did loads of remixes. I did the Tiga and Audion Let’s go Dancing and Sei A on AUS. I did a really Dutch-sounding Techno remix of Make it Work. I was getting asked to do so many after Jack come out. It was a stupid amount. It’s so funny how that works. You could do too many and that’s not good.
Do you think it takes over from your own output?
Yeah, it can. They’ve got to be really right to do. You have to be really into them, musically. I think some people do them for other reasons too, like ‘what is this going to do for my career’. (laughs) I don’t make music with that in mind, I just want to have fun.
How have you found balancing the label, with all these other commitments?
It’s cool. It just sort of works. I don’t have to work too hard at it. I get a lot of music sent to me. Or if I hear something I really like, I’d approach the artist. I just find music that I’m really into, that inspires me. In some cases, I’d work with that artist. Give them as much help as I can. Especially with younger artists coming through. People like Lorca, and I’ve got a new artist from Leeds coming through called Veers. He is super dope. It’s a long process but it doesn’t take that much time out of my schedule. So I’m gonna put as much time as possible into it. It doesn’t feel like a chore. You are not going to make a ton of money from a deep house or techno label in reality. You do it for the love and passion. My whole life, I wanted a label that does just that.
You’ve been quite reserved releasing stuff on your own label. Is there anything planned for the near future?
Yeah, I’ve mainly done stuff for other labels. I’ve got a release coming up with Cinnaman, which I’m really excited about. That will be out in about three months. We are just honing it a little bit. He has taken the studio next to mine. We’ll be working together some more. Basically just hanging out more and playing music together.
Text: Mischa Mathys