Gold Artist 005: Ben Pearce
Manchester-based DJ and producer who charged to success last year with the highly infectious 'What I Might Do'
Mixmag: Gold Artist is a series dedicated to the DJs and producers who we think are making the strongest waves within dance music right now. Up next is Ben Pearce, the Manchester-based DJ and producer who charged to success last year with the highly infectious 'What I Might Do' on MTA Records and Under The Shade
Exclusive interview and premiere of 'Lego', taken from the forthcoming 'Lego' EP, below
For someone regarded as an exciting prospect in UK dance music right now, it's hard to believe that Ben Pearce hasn't always been engulfed in the electronic scene. Growing up listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin and American pop-punk bands, Ben only became truly familiar with house after heading to nights in his hometown of Manchester as a teenager.
Away from his striking collection of tattoos and rockabilly-esque haircut, you'll recognise him for 'What I Might Do' after the tune crashed into the charts last year. The epitome of a 'banger', it dramatically changed the path of his career, allowing him to leave call centres behind and gained the heralded status of Pete Tong's Essential New Tune and support from Solomun, Jamie Jones and Maya Jane Coles.
Finding time in between running his tight-knit Purp & Soul label and a hectic touring schedule that spans the UK and Europe, we caught up with him to talk about his unexpected rise to success, trying to remove the shackled comparisons to 'What I Might Do' and getting to grips with producing.
You've stated in the past that you grew up listening to bands and you're still very much into that scene. What kind of nights did you go to that got you into dance music?
Nights in Manchester like Bugged Out, Tribal Sessions and obviously The Warehouse Project. There's quite a lot of smaller nights in the city which attract really good artists too. Then I started to DJ around the city, do my own parties and just went from there.
The Warehouse Project is scaling
back its events this year and obviously received a lot of bad press due to the drug-related death last year. Is it up to the smaller venues in Manchester to step up and impress?
The Warehouse Project became a scapegoat. That could have happened anywhere in the country and it was unfortunate that it happened in Manchester. That issue is nationwide, it's not just Manchester. I wouldn't say it's bad press for the city but obviously it made all of the papers. The smaller venues like Joshua Brooks and Soup Kitchen have always been thriving anyway so The Warehouse Project scaling back just means they'll have more artists to choose from.
So you were a DJ before getting into production?
Yeah, I was a resident in a few places in Manchester and was DJing for three or four years. I had a copy of Ableton for a while and was just messing about on it, doing really basic stuff. When I started taking it a bit more seriously and tried pushing for it over the last couple of years so it's started to make a lot more sense. As I was a DJ first I always think of myself of more of a DJ and not a producer.
You've experienced unprecedented success with your single 'What I Might Do'. How has this affected your life and career?
It's completely changed my life! My career was non-existent as it was more of a hobby before. When that track blew up I had the opportunity to quit my job in a call centre and do this music stuff full time. Luckily I've got amazing management and an agent too, which obviously helps me out a lot and influences some of the decisions I have to make.
Do you think your future productions will always be compared to that track?
Without a doubt they will. I think it's good for my sake to stop comparing and beat that barrier. I've not got much self-confidence when it comes to stuff like that and I never really like anything I've made.
It takes a while for anyone to establish themselves and I'm going to have to make a few more tracks for people to grasp what's going on. I totally accept that so I'm not really fussed. I've just
got to crack on, get my head down and keep working.
How did you adjust to touring once the bookings started to roll in?
The first six months were really hard to get used to and it was really hard work. It always looks like a bit of a party but I was getting a bit worn down at first. The last few months I've been getting used to it and been a bit more lively. Because I'd DJ'd before I never really feel nervous and I feel quite at home with it.
What's your view on the state of house music after the recent chart successes? Have you noticed a change when playing gigs?
Of course you notice a change but there's too much negativity around it, you can't stop those things from happening. Everyone's complaining about it but you've got to see it as a good thing. MK's remix of Storm Queen, for example, was totally unforced. It's not like he made it for the charts. I try not to be too pessimistic about it but there's a lot of people bitching and moaning. The one thing that I've noticed is that the 'chin strokers' are the people that are moaning and they don't create a good vibe by standing at the back of the room. The people that are enjoying themselves are probably the ones that have only heard of you for that one track.
The forthcoming 'Lego' EP is heavier-sounding than 'What I Might Do'. Was it a conscious decision to distance yourself away from that tune?
Not really, I've always had a wide musical background and when I DJ I'll play a bit of disco then techno as I like switching it up. This is by all means not a follow up to that track, the EP is just made up of tracks I've been playing out for six or seven months in my DJ sets so they're more club orientated anyway. They feel quite raw and I've tried not to refine them too much. It wasn't really about taking it in a specific direction. Sometimes I'll find myself making dark techno stuff and have to stop myself so maybe I'll start another project under an alias in the future.
Which techno producers are you into at the moment?
People like Benjamin Damage; whatever he puts out is insane. Cosmin TRG, MGUN and the whole L.I.E.S movement because people are doing stuff completely off the wall and different. Hessle Audio are making completely bizarre records as well that don't really fit any format. It's really interesting how much variation there is at the moment.
How do you, as an artist, plan to stay unique?
As long as I'm enjoying it and doing something that's creative without following a trend then hopefully I'll move on naturally. I'm kind of exploring different ways of doing things and if I'm making good music that makes people dance, that's good enough for me. I'm not going to be too introverted and make some really extreme, ambient stuff as it probably wouldn't really work out.
Do you have any plans for an album after the forthcoming EP?
I have thought about it but I don't really think I'm in that kind of place at the moment where I want to make one. When I want to make one I'd have to do it properly and I'd have to make it right. In terms of other material, I've got a single coming out with Black Orange Juice in April which is a bit like 'What I Might Do' as it's a bit more song structured. I'm just exploring different options and making lots of different sounding stuff.
What are the plans for your label Purp & Soul?
Just to carry on doing our own shit really. We don't really have a vision or plan, we just like to put out music that we like. Obviously we've got my EP coming out next month then we've got a split one from Resketch, Harry Wolfman's got a record coming and Jouhl after that. We're keeping it within our artist group at the moment but it's not a rule. We're also starting a vinyl-only sub label, P&S, just for more edits or anything with a bit more of an obvious sound.
The 'Lego' EP will be released on February 17 via Purp & Soul