Between releasing their latest album, Rising & Falling, on Olmeto, announcing their impending break-up, and one half of the duo, Matthew Benjamin, putting out the amazing Annabelle single on Crosstown Rebels as Just Be, Layo & Bushwacka! have had quite a 2012, to say the least.
With everything going on in his world, we consider ourselves lucky that Benjamin would take some time to talk with us about his influences, his favorite records, and which emerging artists are on his radar.
How would you define the style of your music as Just Be?
The musical style is deep, yet energetic, trippy, but funky. I love, and feel very at home, writing music with a deep vibe, but I equally love the power and the groove of more tech-oriented releases, so I am working on two levels.
How did the latest release with Crosstown Rebels come about?
Actually, Damian [Lazarus, Crosstown Rebels’ boss] approached me years ago to do a release for Rebelone on vinyl, and we never pulled it off, because at the time I was releasing a lot of music in house on our own labels. When I decided what my future was, and how to go about getting my sound across to a much wider audience, the first thing I did was to approach labels that I firstly have a huge amount of respect for, and secondly, are being picked up on by the new generation of quality dance-music lovers and clubbers, performers, etc. Damian’s imprint, of course, is a serious music label, and I have always thought highly of his sound as a DJ and his eclectic taste in music. So I sent him this first release, and he really dug it.
Tell us about your workflow when you are producing your music as Just Be. How does your approach differ when producing solo?
Well, I either channel my emotions when I hit the studio, and often I find that if I have new energetic forces that I have either felt from other people in my life, both new and old, which trigger feelings in me, then this comes out in the vibe of the music. Or I will just boot up, get some basic ideas down, and play with them until I feel I have hit a wall, and then save the bones and start a fresh idea. Or if I get quite deep into it, then I just crack on and submerge myself in it. It is my own world, and doing it solo means that it’s just me, my thoughts, and the machines. I often find that when I write, I tend to drift into pads and harmonics, and sometimes I didn’t want to go that way, and I have to take a step back and get back to the beat. The tracks need the edge for me at this point, as I am playing a lot of unreleased stuff in my performances—sometimes only my stuff—and of course, I use this as a test bed for possible future releases. The big difference working alone is that it’s a lot faster but it is not better, just different—although I seem to multitask a lot of the time, which unfortunately slows down the output, but c’est la vie.
Which track that you have produced is your personal favorite?
Under the Just Be alias, I have a track called “Troubled Soul”—not released—which is a personal favorite of mine on the deep tip. It’s a real journey. Historically—really hard question. Different tracks mean different things to me at certain points in time. It could be Makesome Breaksome “Nightshift,” going really far back, or it could be “Beastman” on Olmeto or my remix of “Dream On (Tough Guy Mix)” by Depeche Mode, which has a lot of my soul in it and is very personal to me.
If you had to pick one US house music producer who has influenced you the most, who would it be and why?
Carl Craig. He has been the most consistent producer of incredible electronic music since the day I first discovered house and techno, and still to this day doesn’t sound like anyone else on the planet. His sounds have moved me in so many ways over the years, and he is a total legend.
Which emerging producer or artist that you have become aware of in this past year have you been most excited about?
Well, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone by calling them emerging without that being very broad, but I really dug The Martinez Brothers, both production-wise and on the decks the most this year. I know they are not brand new, but they are kicking ass out there. Again not new-new—but I have been around 25 years, so quite new to me)—Jon Gaiser has done nothing but blow me away with his live sets and his releases for Richie [Hawtin]…incredible.
Which longstanding dance label would you consider your biggest influence?
Longstanding, Planet E, Minus, and R&S are three big ones for me. They each have carved a unique sound out there over the years and created whole sub-genres.
Which new label are you most excited about?
Oh, man, there must be 50 new labels launching a week—this is an impossible question. I am very interested to see what Music ON brings the dance world, label-wise – Marco [Carola] is on top form, so let’s see.
Tell us about where you buy music?
I buy vinyl from Phonica and online from Germany. I still love my vinyl and still play some vinyl sets where I can. I buy digital from Beatport about four or five times a year, if my head is brainwashed from promo overload or if I haven’t had time to go through them properly. And sometimes I hit Juno Digital also, if I cannot find a track I wanted on vinyl, or if I have heard something that someone played that I feel I have to have right then.
Do you have a defining, or most memorable, experience of playing at a festival?
Yes. Glastonbury 2000. In 1990, I set my goal to play at Glasto by the year 2000. In 1999, I went as a punter for the first time. In 2000, we played, but not just any old set. Back then the Radio One stage was right in the middle of the festival and the only stage on all night. When we hit the decks, the sun was setting in front of us and when we finished playing to thousands of people the sun was rising behind us. No one gets a six-to-seven-hour set on a main stage at that festival. It was more than a dream come true!
Favorite electronic live act?
Metamono: Jono Podmore and his two partners playing pure analog modular synths and outputting the whole lot to front-of-house using just a mono cable. Genius.
What is the weirdest party or setting you have ever played?
I played on a gigantic duck linked to a furry double-decker bus linked to the Robot Heart moving sound truck at Burning Man a few years back—that was pretty weird. There are more, but shhhhh.
What else can we expect from Just Be in the next year?
Tons of production, more remixes, and lots of Just Be gigs all over. Can’t wait!