In conversation with Ben Pearce
“I was playing big clubs every weekend and working a nine to five job. It never crossed my mind that it would be a career until, my single blew up and, yeah, everything changed”
The words of Ben Pearce resonate with all our young dreams of DJing with the only difference being that he made it. With an eclectic mix of house, techno and disco tunes, his sensibility towards music production shines through in every project. From performing all over the world to living back at his family's home, Ben shows that life after lockdown is just as promising.
What music did you grow up with and how would you describe your listening habits now?
I grew up with Classical music at home, and at a young age went to the Northern College of Music for a few years to play the viola. Then I made the jump into rock and hip hop through hanging out with friends at skate parks. I was actually quite late into electronic music. Obviously I sort of knew about it, but got into it when I started going to clubs and raves. I listened to all sorts and I still do - Spotify shuffle is a dangerous game. It could be death metal, or it could be jazz. I love house music but for me it is too associated with clubs. Listening at home just doesn't feel the same...I need to feel the bass in my chest.
What have you done during lockdown?
I've not really done much. I think I went into this really strange state living at home again. I've literally been in the countryside for a year and I'm pretty far away from everybody. I miss not being able to get takeaways. I feel like my friends had the same thing where we didn't even watch anything new on TV. I just watched the same stuff over and over again. I felt so uncreative. I was opening Ableton to try make music and I just couldn't do it. And then slowly over the last few months I've been starting to make stuff happen again.
How do you think Covid has affected club culture?
The conversation has been there for five or six years now about clubs and whether we actually need them anymore. With a VR headset you could be there and at home. And it's a weird concept because it goes against sort of everything you think is good about clubbing. But if people feel comfortable in that situation, then why not. It’s like the big festivals, why wouldn't you have a guy with a VR camera standing in the middle of the crowd, and people can put a headset on and be in the middle of it too.
Would you rather play Manchester or London and how do you cater to each?
When I lived in London for five years, every time I returned to Manchester it felt like home. I do think anywhere in the UK is good. There's a passion for music and club culture here that you don't get anywhere else. The difference between London and Manchester crowds, is if you drop New Order in London, it probably wouldn't be alright and then drop it in Manchester and everyone goes mental. I think the whole point of a DJ is you're there to provide a good night for the people in the club. It shouldn’t turn into this ego thing. When I started DJing I played bars where you've got to pay attention to the crowd and I think that's the part of the job that you can't teach. You have to constantly think about 10 songs ahead. The whole point is that people are there to have a good night and that's the most important thing, keep it flowing, I guess.
Where in the world would be your dream destination to play?
I've been so lucky to travel and it's been such a privilege to be able to embrace people's cultures. I think Japan's probably top of my list. The anime film Akira was the only film I had on my laptop when I was touring for four years but to be honest, I guess I could take or leave the club like I'm sure everyone's heard of Womb in Tokyo and everyone's heard of all these amazing venues but 100% I'm going there for ramen. I want to eat my way around Japan.
So, you’re into cooking then?
Yeah, I qualified as a chef a couple of years ago. I've always been a big cook and I do supper clubs for friends. I've done a couple of pop ups and I'd like to do more, I love blending music and food. When you eat you don't necessarily pay attention to the music but I think it's important. I want to produce a specific song for each dish. So something rich in flavour it’s going to be quite heavy. I guess it’s like Heston's restaurant where you listen to the sounds of the sea when you eat seafood.
There's a lot of research being done into how different keys of music can make you taste differently. I don’t want it to be too pretentious and I don’t want to exclude anybody because it's sort of like music, in that anyone can enjoy music without knowing music theory. I want it to be a kind of thing where you can go and eat amazing food and then if you want to pay attention to the music in the background you can.
What has been your weirdest request when playing a set?
The ones that get me the most are people that request my very old songs, the ones that didn't officially come out because I was 19 and didn't have a clue what I was doing with production. I do appreciate those requests a lot but I genuinely don't play my own music. I remember in Bath a girl tried to order a drink from the DJ booth and it happened a few times and by the end of it I just took her order and said I'll bring them over to you.
Here are Ben’s top five tracks that got him through lockdown?
Yuksek feat Julia Jean-Baptiste: Chega De Saudade - Souvenirs D'ete
Royksopp/Robyn: Monument (Olof Dreijer Remix)
Laurence Guy - Love Theme For The Morning After
All Time Low - Once in A Lifetime
Jay Prince - Worth it
With a new remix out last month, Ben Pearce doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit. We look forward to seeing him play across the UK this summer.