In an age in which the freshest face on the block is hot property it is somewhat heartening to see familiar smiles still swaying crowded dancefloors. Ben Sims & Billy Nasty have experience which few can contest with, the pair are perhaps two of the most prominent faces in British underground dance music and have been for decades. From the days of pirate radio and mixtapes to pioneering techno and electro labels they have both respectively amassed reputations as forward thinking figureheads with excellent taste.
Ben Sims is known for his driven techno sets, three deck wizardry and fast paced interchange whilst Billy Nasty carved a niche through his storytelling capabilities and record label management which has seen him release music by the likes of The Advent, Mark Broom, Paul Mac and more.
This weekend will see the pair play back to back at Field Maneuvers, a rare reggae, roots and dub set ,we invited them to interview one another...
Billy Nasty Asks...
1. So, Ben we've known each other for quite a while now, how do you feel about us finally doing a b2b?
Really looking forward to it mate, I know the subject has come up a few times and just never happened so it's great it's now a reality. I've been doing quite a few b2bs in the past few years and I'm definitely enjoying them, especially the challenge of not knowing what's coming next and creating a unique vibe with the other DJ but this'll be a really special one as it's only the second time I've ever done a dub or reggae b2b and I'm excited to hear what tunes you pull out.
I'm very much into my roots and dub and have been since I first heard reggae as a kid. I’ve got a pretty decent collection but I don't pretend to be an expert on it so I'm sure I'll be trainspotting and adding more records to my wantlist during the set, I certainly did with my recent dub b2b set with DJ Pete in Berlin.
2. So how many times have you played at FM and what is it that you think makes it such a special/unique festival?
This'll be my 4th (3rd as a resident) and it's truly one of the highlights of the year for me. The crew that run the fest are great and have made us (me and my wife) feel very much part of the family from the get go, we even celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary there last year! It's just such a wicked party and always feels more like a big BBQ with mates and quality music than some generic huge ‘event'. It's just very chilled, welcoming and friendly so we tend to stay all weekend, have fun and get our groove on after the 'work' bit is over.
Obviously the fact I get to do my usual techno thing AND an alternative set is ace too as it's a very rare I get to do that or play parties where it would even make sense but FM is diverse musically and you hear everything from Disco to Dub, Rave to House and Techno to Electro over the weekend, it's all embraced with open minds and open, often raised, arms.
3. As clubland/parties & festivals are becoming bigger & bigger are you finding that sometimes smaller intimate boutique gigs are often more special?
I think a balance is important. You kinda need to do some of the big ones for the visibility and I've done quite a few huge festivals this summer and luckily most have been great fun but it does make me crave small parties and intimate venues. It's easy to lose touch when you're only playing to thousands from a big stage every week so I'm happy to see some great smaller parties in the diary.
Last weekend I had one of my ‘Kabuki' nights on at 512 in Dalston, a party focused on all night b2b sessions in intimate venues. This time it was with Jerome Hill and obviously Field Maneuvers is this weekend so i'm feeling pretty fucking hyped at the mo.
4. Obviously you are well known and respected world wide for your Techno sets, which often incorporate house and disco. How many reggae/ roots/ dub sets have you played now & how have your fans/ followers reacted to this new style/ love of yours?
This will only be my 4th public Roots/ Dub set (twice before at FM and the aforementioned b2b with DJ Pete in Berlin last month) so I'm still pretty new to it. With some of the early 'Essex Rascals' sessions at venues like 'The Key' and Corsica' we definitely had Reggae or Dub sections too but we were going through various genres in a night and just playing whatever we fancied.
Generally, the response has been positive and people can see I'm just having fun playing a style of music I love. Obviously it's not for everyone and some people can't even deal with me doing my 'Ron Bacardi' House or Disco sets as they only want Techno but there are plenty of heads that dig it and one of my roots podcasts remains one of the most listened to and downloaded on my soundcloud page, so that's a good sign.
For me it's really important to not just be a one dimensional techno dj - I grew up loving various of genres of black dance music and still buy records of all styles most days. Techno became the thing most people know me for which is great but I love the chance to flex the rest of my record collection too.
5. Are you considering making Reggae/ dub inspired tunes in the future?
To be honest it wasn't something that ever crossed my mind before as I tend to favour 70's roots reggae which is all live bands and instruments but recently I've been getting into a bit of modern electronic based dub stuff and that's definitely got me thinking about having a crack at doing some myself. I decided to take the summer off from studio work as I just haven't had the time to get in there but I have some time out in September so I might have a bash then. Just loving a genre of music doesn't automatically mean you'll be any good at making it obviously but it'll be fun to try.
Ben Sims Asks...
1. You've done quite a few reggae sets before, how does your approach differ to a techno or electro set?
I guess there's less beat mixing involved, with most of the reggae sets i just play the tunes back2back, although I do like using 2 copies of my favourites so you can start with the version before chopping or fading into the vocal mix.This almost seems to create your own personal 12" extended mix.
Like yourself I grew up on funk & soul so it's not that weird to work this way in fact it's quite nostalgic. As a youngster growing up in South London I had always heard & been around reggae but recently I've started to fill the gaps in my collection thanks to the Dub Vendor guys so i'm really looking forward to playing them out.
2. Recently you've been working on music with our mutual friend and unsung techno hero nick dunton as M-Twelve, how's that working out?
It's gone really well. We've just cut our debut release for Electrix records which has been promo'd this week and will be released in October. We also have another 4-5 tracks in a more techno/electronica style that are unfinished but sounding great + we've just started on remixes for Mr Velcro Fastener & the London modular guys so it looks like there be more stuff from us both under the guise of M-twelve.
I enjoy working with Nick as he's a super talented guy and really easy to work with. He's currently also getting (rightfully) a great response on the work he has been doing recently on the new Poverty Is Violence label
3. Your Electrix label seems to be going very well at the moment, are you sensing an electro revival ?
Yes indeed, it seems like (Finally) there's a huge revival on Electro. It's always been a big love of mine, so i'm really happy to see it get the credit it deserves. It seems like the younger clubbing generation that grew up on D&B/Dubstep are really getting into it, maybe it's because they can see beyond the 4/4 kick drum?
Dj's like Dave Clarke, Helena Hauff & Dj Stingray are constantly playing Electrix stuff and as a regular user of Discogs I can see the demand for the labels earlier releases just going up & up. I'm planning to re-release some of the most in demand ep's from ETRX Like Umek's Zeta Reticula 1 & 2 + dynArec's Body sequencer EP.
4. You've been on the circuit for many years, do you have a favourite period or era?
I guess as you get older you reflect more on the past? It was really exciting to get involved with this amazing new scene and working at Zoom Records 89-94. It was a great place to be at the time. Things were really exciting as the whole house/techno scene was new & fresh. Clubs were opening in every major town/city all over the world at an incredible rate.
But saying that now's pretty exciting. I'm interested in all musical genres and the beauty ofTechno & Electro is that it does keep keeps changing & evolving. I still loving Dj'ing and playing my part in the wonderful scene that we live and work in.
5. Have you made the transition to digital dj-ing or are you still focused on vinyl sets?
I have traktor scratch in my home studio that comes in handy for using unreleased tunes when doing mixes for radioshows & podcasts but i'm strictly vinyl only when playing out. I've collected records now for over 30 years now so rather stubbornly i'm sticking to the black gold: it just has a power, warmth & colour to its sound that i love. I'm a huge fan of all future advancements in technology but with playing out & recording i'm strictly analogue! I'm an analogue guy living in a digital world.
Visit the Field Maneuvers site HERE.