If you happened to attend the dirtybird Players BBQ during this year’s Winter Music Conference in Miami, you were likely treated to Breach’s “Jack” during a very special B2B set with label bosses Claude Vonstroke and Justin Martin. After the second I want your body/Everybody wants your body /So let’s jack line, everyone, myself included, was shouting the lyrics and acting them out—in a rather suggestive manner. And when Laidback Luke played it during his set at Ultra Music Festival, the song became the unofficial anthem for the music week.
Whether it’s the memorable bassline, or the even more memorable lyric, “Jack,” which made its way into our Top 10 just days after its release, is just one of those tracks that has “instant classic” stamped all over it. We caught up with the Brit behind the song, Ben Westbeech (aka Breach), who is currently posted up in the Netherlands, to talk about making hits, studio tricks, and the dream that inspired the infamous “Jack.”
First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
No problem. I’m currently sat in one of my favorite cafes in Amsterdam, so it’s an absolute pleasure.
You’ve had a pretty awesome 2013 so far. Can you tell us about some of the highlights you’ve encountered?
Yeah, it’s been great. My record label Naked Naked has grown and I am so happy that people are into my Breach project. I’ve just moved to Amsterdam to write a Breach album, so I’m really busy with that and DJing all over the world. This year’s highlight, though, has just been the success of “Jack,” which has been amazing.
Yes! Congratulations are in order. Some artists have a knack for predicting a song is going to be a hit. Are you one of them?
[Laughs] Kind of, but at the end of the day you just never know what is going to go. I know what I like, though, and I know what a great record is. It’s a wide open market at the moment, and the amount of records that are amazing and don’t go is unbelievable. I think to be a “hit” record, it has to be original but familiar, have a deeper hidden meaning, and also be at the right time. Timing is so key and also there is a bit of luck involved, too.
Legend has it, the b-side, “Let’s Get Hot,” was the song you originally showed to Claude VonStroke, and “Jack” you showed 10 days later. Can you give me a quick rundown of your song-writing process? Did you have the lyrics first or the beat?
Yes, this is true. “Let’s Get Hot” actually started out as a remix that got turned down, so I took the samples out and put my own vocal on the top. I thought it sounded very “dirtybird” so, yeah, I had dinner with Claude in London and said I had a beat which I thought would be good for the label. I don’t think he believed me at first. When I sent it, he got back straight away looking for a b-side. We talked about making something a bit sleazier. The next morning, I woke up after a mad dream and had the lyrics to “Jack” in my head, recorded them onto my phone, then went straight to the studio to put them down. A few days later, I went back to the vocal and wrote the tune in about four hours. That’s how it was made.
I think “I want your body/everybody wants your body/So let’s jack” could be the perfect pickup line. Has anyone tried it on you yet?
No. That’s never occurred to me. But if anyone wants to try that shit on someone, be my guest. I don’t know what the success rate would be, though, to be honest.
What studio goodies did you use to make the Jack EP?
I use Cubase 7 as my main DAW. Then I rewire Reason and Ableton through it and basically use them as samplers, which I go out into hardware then back in to Cubase. I love the NNXT in Reason and the ease of audio stretching and manipulating in Ableton. I use an Empirical Labs Fatso on my beats bus and this is key to the Breach sound. It’s an amazing compressor and saturator. For the vocal, I recorded it through my Neumann U47 into a Neve 1073 into a Steven Slate Dragon, then into an LA2A. I actually had a stereo LA2A custom-built, which you can go into and out of twice so you get the extra cream on top! The vocal then went through numerous plugins to get it sounding like that. The cow sound in the tune is just one of my vocals pitched and stretched. I tend to record a lot of vocals, then make sounds or instruments out of them using the NNXT in Reason. I also used a Juno 60, Arp quartet for strings and Korg Mono/Poly for some white noise. The bass on both the tunes was made with Rob Papen SubBoomBass. That’s pretty much it… Oh, no, hang on! The beats I made on Battery! I use this to make most of my beats. I think that’s it now!
Switching gears a little bit. Your Breach moniker is getting a lot of action this year. Do you have anything in the works as Ben Westbeech?
There’s a Westbeech album in the making, but at the moment I am concentrating more on the Breach project. It’s a lot to take on with my own music making and DJing and running a label! I just love music so much, I want to do all I can in as many different areas as possible. It’s just a question of managing my time properly. I am doing some features at the moment though.
You have a very extensive musical background. How has being a trained cellist, vocalist, and pianist affected your production?
It’s been interesting. I play cello and was a chorister, and until I was 18, was in orchestras and choirs and played in some of the most amazing spaces in the world, like the Royal Albert Hall, King’s College Cambridge, and The Berlin Symphonia. All the while I started DJing when I was 12. So I’ve always had this massive spectrum of sounds that I am into and perform. It has taught me loads about arrangement and timbre and to be free.
Do you think your knowledge of music theory gives you an advantage?
In some ways, yes, but in other ways not. I kind of had to de-learn a lot of stuff, as being too musical is a disadvantage, too. With underground music, I think there is that naivety that really comes through, so to get back to that, you have to stop yourself from being too melodic. It’s a funny one. But I’ve learned so much from people with no musical theory at all. My theory ain’t that great anyhow! I just think you learn a lot form other people.
2012 saw the launch of your Naked Naked label and you’ve recently thrown a few label parties back home. Although we got a single from you and Dark Sky earlier in this year, I was wondering if you had any plans or releases for the imprint for the rest of 2013?
Yes, the next release is from Dusky and is called the Vanishing Point EP, which drops in June. I am super-excited about this and have been caning it in my sets. Great tunes from them. It comes on 180-gram hand-stamped vinyl and also digital.