At the Controls is a series of interviews conducted last year that peeks under the curtain of electronic music production, to highlight the behind-the-scenes people whose contributions have had a lasting impact across the dance music landscape.
The name “Benassi” alone tends to bring to mind a specific sound: grinding, saw-toothed synths, first showcased with the robo breakthrough “Satisfaction,” then appearing through an array of boisterous electro-house productions, before settling into a recent selection of full-blooded tech house, progressive, and main-room pop anthems.
In its various incarnations, Bat67, Benassi Bros., and The Biz, the Benassi sound has been formed around the central figure of Benny, the perennially popular DJ from Reggio Emilia, Italy. When it’s time for the studio, however, the Benassi talent becomes twofold: Benny the DJ, and his cousin, Alle, the composer and instrumentalist. It’s a partnership that’s sparked many a memorable hit, and has allowed the Benassi signature to traverse the Atlantic more and more frequently, with the duo landing top-shelf collaborations with Kelis, Chris Brown, and Madonna’s new album project MDNA. We recently chatted with Alle about being the man behind all those hits.
Could you describe what you currently use in your studio?
The core of the studio is a Mac Pro with Logic and a Protools HD II system with a couple of Digidesign 96 interfaces connected to some analog and virtual-analog stuff, such as a Moog Little Phatty, Voyager, Nord Lead 2x, Virus TI, Yamaha CS1x, Sherman Filterbank, and so on. There are also lots of virtual instruments, and then to monitor we use a TL Audio Fat Track and a couple of ADAM S3As.
How would describe your own production signature?
What we tend to do usually is to try to create a riff that also suggests a harmonic progression… with the right amount of compression.
Do you have any production heroes or a favorite piece of music that you aspire to?
Maybe Guy Sigsworth and Mike “Spike” Stent, but I’d say all the production crew of Bjork’s fourth album, Homogenic. Still one of my favorites.
What is the one piece of equipment in your studio that is the most valuable to you?
A compressor maybe?! But I can’t reveal more. [laughs]
What do you think are the best attributes that you and Benny individually bring to the productions you work on together?
In a production team, there’s the DJ and the musician. Sometimes these two skills are in the same person and sometimes not, so the DJ is the musical memory of the duo and brings the club vibe into the equation while the musician plays the parts.
In your own words, how would you describe the difference between producing for another artist and “ghost-writing”?
The only difference is in the credits, as far as I can see.
Are there any tracks that you secretly wish you had kept for yourself?
Sometimes there’s a remix to do and you have a demo track that fits perfectly. Here’s the dilemma: Do we do an amazing remix or do we keep the track for ourselves and just do a “good” remix? Once both things happened, for example the instrumental of “Beautiful People” was a demo track that we had and used for a remix. Luckily the remix was not approved!
When you are collaborating with other artists, do you have a usual point of entry to get started? And is it the same as when working on Benassi material?
Every collaboration is different. The idea is to build from the material that somebody brought in. Sometimes we start from scratch so we always have an autoload ready with all the synths connected and ready to be played and recorded.
What has been the biggest learning curve or problem for you to overcome as a producer?
The biggest thing is learning how to work with other people.
What advice would you give to aspiring producers?
Find a good DJ to work with!
You’ve had a number of releases under aliases in the past. Do you think we will we ever see a solo Alle Benassi record?
**Click here to sample the At The Controls: Alle Benassi chart featuring 10 tracks from his production discography.
Photo via Ministry of Sound