Ben Sims is a monolith on the skyline of contemporary techno; an ever-present reference point for young producers and DJs. He has enjoyed acclaim for the myriad ways in which he brings a textural, gritty earthiness to a genre which is otherwise unconcerned with the circumstances of our own planet. Truncate, as his name might suggest, whittles techno down to a small handful of constituents, which are varnished meticulously, until they resemble the most efficient tool for escapism that the genre can provide. His sonic palette is stocked with enough razor-sharp chrome shapes to cut through the oppressive, dirty atmospheres Sims so vividly conjures, like a flashlight through fog.
Together, they are ASSAILANTS, a duo whose strength is in the symbiosis of two different approaches to the same end. Spending years playing on the same circuit, their friendship developed into a blooming interest in each other's minds; more specifically, their approaches as artists. Below, they probe their imaginations in search of answers to questions relating to the technicalities of production, techno's place in the world at large, and a few you've always wished you could ask them yourself.
Truncate asks Sims
Who’s the most mainstream DJ you would like to play back to back with?
I’d be up for doing it with Carl (Cox), always had a lot of respect for him and we’ve always got on well plus the whole ‘three-deck wizard’ thing was definitely a huge influence on me in the late 80s and early 90s. I can clearly remember the first time I was introduced to him in the DJ booth at Ultimate Base in the late 90s, typically he was all smiles and hugs, it was about two mins into talking I realised he still had 3 records playing at once behind him, tight as hell!
What are your feelings about the current state of social media and its importance in the DJ world?
Obviously it’s helped create and establish a lot of reputations that are essentially built on sand (bought ‘friends’ and ‘followers’, fake votes etc.), but people blindly believing hype isn’t a new thing and has been around the whole time I’ve been doing this professionally, so it’s pointless getting wound up about undeserving DJs getting love when the same hype machine has no doubt benefited me over the years, too. For the most part, I just ignore it. If someone’s cheated their way to success then they’ll get found out and if they don’t their fans are gullible idiots whose adoration means nothing to me anyway. I’m a strong believer in just doing your best and, if it’s meant to happen, it’ll work out. At the end of day, it’s kind of like lying on your CV for a cool job - you might get the gig, the pay cheque and the props, but deep down in your soul, you’ll know you’re just a bullshit artist and should really be an estate agent or politician...
Are there any other genres of music you would like to produce?
I’d love to have a crack at some dub. I used to be strictly into 70s stuff so unless I formed a band or got some musicians together I was never going to realise that fantasy (roughly pre-1980 it was all live). Recently though, I’ve been embracing a lot of digital and more modern roots reggae and dub so I’d really like to try to do something like that (actually, my next non-techno podcast will be all modern roots and dub, it’ll go public just before my annual reggae set at Field Manuevers). I’d also like to have a go at some hip hop and drum n bass; the last real attempt I made at the latter was 25 years ago (and shite) so it would be great to try again when I have some time.
If you weren’t a DJ/producer what would you be doing for a living?
I’ve thought about it a lot, to be honest. I can’t do this forever and touring constantly for 20 years (as much as I enjoy it) isn't what I thought would happen when I started this journey. I doubt I’d do anything too music related (I’d prefer that to go back to being a hobby) but I’m looking into what courses/qualifications I’d need to get involved in sound recording and editing for movies/TV - that’s a big passion, and I’m one of those guys who, oddly, likes editing things together and solving an audio puzzle. I definitely think I’ve got a book in me too - they do say everyone has, I know, but I’ve seen - and done - some crazy shit over the years, so it would be great (and therapeutic) to document it when this is over. I’m a fan of therapy so I’ve even considered getting some training in that as I could be a counsellor for DJs to help prevent them going off the rails or selling their souls!
Do you plan on pushing your ‘Ron Bacardi’ sets more or is it just a once in a while thing?
I'm doing about one a month over this summer but in general, I aim to do a set every 6 - 8 weeks. It’s great to have the opportunity to do alternative sessions like this and take a break from the techno circuit, even if only for a weekend. I’m into lots of different styles of black dance music, not just techno, so it’s important for me to play a wider range of sounds and spin at clubs I wouldn’t usually play at (like Panorama Bar, for example). The lack of regularity keeps me excited about each gig and the little break from my usual sets means I return more focused from a new challenge, so it’s a very positive thing. There are more releases to come to support the project, both disco edits and club cuts.
Are there still any DJs these days that you’re still excited to see?
Definitely. There are loads I make a point of catching if I can. Derrick May, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood remain three of my favourites after all these years and they never fail to surprise me. DJ Deep is always great to hear/watch; he puts more thought into one transition than I do an entire set! I’ve had lots of fun dancing to The Black Madonna over the past few years and I always enjoy Sandrien, her energy is amazingly contagious and she always throws in the unexpected. Ben Klock does it for me too, I really like how he builds his sets. I’ll always do my best to catch Theo Parrish and Moodymann, no explanation needed there. Alienata I only caught a bit of live once but have hammered her RA podcast so I look forward to hearing more, and Josey Rebelle I haven’t managed to catch live at all but I love her radio show and podcasts so that needs to change. Oh, and some geezer called Truncate, he can throw down too...
What’s the idea behind the Kabuki parties?
Basically to have one guest join me and do all night back-to -back sets at small, 200 (ish) cap venues. Aside from the fact it’s 2 people performing all the roles (warm up, peak time and climax), it bears little resemblance to the traditional Japanese theatre it takes its name from and we definitely haven’t started dressing up....yet!
As the lineups for the Machine parties got more ambitious and we started to host stages at festivals I just really wanted to do something more intimate to keep the balance and play alongside DJs that I know have a wide understanding of techno but aren’t solely focused on it, so we could feed off each other and create something different over the course of a night.
Where do you think the techno sound is going in the next couple of years?
I think it’s gonna go more underground and I’m happy about that. Obviously the increased attention has been good for the scene as it’s encouraged lots of new producers/DJs to join in and loads of new clubs/festivals and promoters too, but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t watered things down and pushed things in a more commercial direction. For me, techno always has been, and should be, a reaction to the cheesy side of dance music - if that crowd are all about pool parties, champagne and table service, we should be dark warehouses and Red Stripe. The blurring of the lines doesn’t help things as people lose sight of what’s important and what techno actually is.
What is your favorite TV series at the moment?
I’m usually rocking at least two when traveling: one that gets my attention but also kills time as I binge watch episodes and one that’s just okay, that I use like a sedative. Just did Fargo one and two again - they’re great but three is awful, just dull, and the only thing more terrible than Ewan McGregor on screen is two Ewan McGregors on screen. What the fuck were they thinking? I’ve got Animal Kingdom as my back-up series right now, watchable but too ridiculous to take seriously.
I've just started Goliath and I'm enjoying that so far. Billy Bob Thornton is so good in Fargo that I’d be happy to see him in anything plus I’m keeping up with The Affair series four - it feels like it’s lost its way a bit and I’m struggling to like any of the characters now but completion is needed so I’ll persist.
Sims asks Truncate
What’s the assailants project about?
Assailants is a long-discussed collaboration between you and me. After so many years working together doing back to back DJ sets, putting our minds together and actually putting out a record seemed sensible. We both have similar tastes in music and it was inevitable that we worked on tracks together.
Are you still doing Audio Injection gigs and productions? What’s the difference between that project and Truncate?
Not really. I stopped focusing on Audio Injection years ago. You may see some tracks pop up here and there but usually they’re re-releases of old productions. The difference between Truncate & Audio Injection, I tell people, is Truncate is a more stripped down, deeper, jackin’ sound whereas Audio Injection is a bit darker and more “big room” but sometimes depending on my mood you will hear both styles crossover.
When and what was your first techno gig?
My first 'real' techno gig if I can remember correctly was probably here in Los Angeles for Droid Behavior at a party called Interface. I think it was around 2003. I’ve played other gigs before that around Los Angeles, but they weren’t really techno parties. I would play mixtures of house, techno, or hardcore. A lot of the parties before that were mostly backyard house parties which was a big scene in Los Angeles in the mid/late 90s.
What music do you listen to at home?
I like to listen to a variety of stuff at home. You can catch me listening to anything from hip hop to house to punk, classic rock, soul, funk and industrial music. Pretty much anything.
You regularly travel from LA to Europe to DJ, why not just move here?
LA is my home, I love it here and as long as I can handle the flights I will stay in the US. I don’t really see an immediate need to move to Europe.
Favourite bit of studio kit and why?
I recently bought a real 909 and I’ve been wanting one for so long. I use 909 sounds basically on every track its just the ultimate dance music machine for me and I can’t get enough of it.
Any producer (aside from my good self) you’d love to collaborate with?
I think I’d love to collaborate with Flying Lotus. I’m a huge fan of his music it has so much funk and soul it would be interesting to do a collab with him and see how he works in the studio. It would be an interesting outcome!
What’s your involvement in the droid parties?
Although I’ve been with the Droid crew since practically the beginning (2003) I’ve never been much involved with throwing the parties themselves other than being a resident DJ and regular producer on the label. I do help out here and there when they need me.
You get given a stage at a good festival. What’s your ideal lineup?
Ahh, too many names to choose from… but off the top my head I’d go with old-school heroes, something like Jeff Mills, Luke Slater, Dave Clarke, DJ Funk, Ben Sims, Mark Broom, James Ruskin
You love your craft beer, are we going to see ever going to see a Truncate brewery?
At the moment maybe not a Truncate brewery but you will see some Truncate brews that I will do in collaboration with my good friend over at his new brewery Sandbox Brewing. But who knows what the future holds!
ASSAILANTS play Kabuki @ Five Miles, London on August 26th: Tickets available HERE.
Ben Sims plays Field Maneuvers, Oxfordshire on 31st August.