Luke Benjamin has been on my radar for a while now but after hearing his production showcase last October he quickly positioned himself as one to watch in 2014. Emotionally rich, his tracks tell stories that captivate imaginations and weigh upon you long after they've finished, their addictive nature drawing you back again and again. Wanting to know more about his productions and time in India I ...
Luke Benjamin has been on my radar for a while now but after hearing his production showcase last October he quickly positioned himself as one to watch in 2014. Emotionally rich, his tracks tell stories that captivate imaginations and weigh upon you long after they've finished, their addictive nature drawing you back again and again.
Wanting to know more about his productions and time in India I hit him up earlier this week for a chat. Catch that interview along with a free download of his excellent track 'Pray For Change' below.
Who are you and where are you from?
Luke Benjamin , I am a vocalist and producer. I grew up in Brighton then moved to London to study at uni, where I met Filter Dread and Visionist. After finishing uni I stayed there for another couple years eventually moving back to Brighton which is where I am based now.
How did you find the difference between the two cities, Brighton is very laid back in comparison to London? Does it impact on your lyrics?
Living amongst the 'grittiness' of London, having to do what ever it took to make some money, showed me sides of life that are not very nice and definitely has had an impact on my lyrics. It's nice to be able to retreat back to Brighton to reflect and to put down in words my thoughts and feelings.
I also did alot of traveling. I visited India where the sights of people living in slums, not even able to feed their children has had more of an effect on my music. It's strange because even without food, clothes, shelter they still have love. They are still so happy. Not the false happiness that we think we have; where we are happy to work to earn as much money as we can while others suffer around us. They are just happy they are alive at that moment in time. So even though my music is very dark, due to my life experiences and certain feelings I have at in that moment, I consciously try to express that love should be our main focus as human beings.
Going back to India briefly. Do you feel like you have a particular kinship with the country?
I think my time in India was when I can honestly say I was happy to the purest form for many reasons really. Their whole philosophy on life and their way of living - If an Indian loves you as a friend and companion, which can be after only meeting you he will put his life on the line for you. I remember reading somewhere that any Indian man will tell you that although love might not have been invented in India, it was certainly perfected there.
Most people in the UK (myself included) don't live in the present moment. They let their ego control their life, worrying about what will happen in the future even though it doesn't exist, worrying about what they did in the past even though it doesn't exist.
I feel music can lose its originality and its meaning because people become scared to be original. They are worried how people will react to what they say in their music, thier ego takes over and they loose belief in their work so try to conform. Which is why even with depression and anxiety I try to channel it, I analyse it into my music.
It's a like a therapy to me but even then there are times when I can feel my ego taking control. Often I'll ring up Filter Dread worried about my music saying my music is so different, I'm worried it doesn't fit in to any genre or context.
What was it that got you into music in the first place?
My dad was in a band so I was always surrounded by music. Allsorts as well, Reggae, Jazz and then Electronic music. I began producing around the time So Solid had just released their first tracks. I loved the energy and rawness of the sound. So really I started around the time garage turned to Grime. I would make grime music all day. It was difficult living in brighton as there we was always late on picking up new music.
Before the internet had became such a dominant force in music.
Yeah, it was very difficult. I remember there was one website at the time that had the Sidewinder sets with Wiley & Dizzee on that I would download but I can't remember the name. I remember them days though. I miss them. The anticipation of finding a new track. The rawness and grit of the sounds. It all goes back to originality. It was something I felt apart of. An underground movement, A rebellion if you like. I refused to listen to anything else other then Grime music. It was who I was, it was an attitude you know. A hidden secret that no one else new about it's a shame really.
How did you then progress to writing lyrics? Did that come at the same time or did that come later on?
I produced music under a different name, mostly Grime instrumentals but experimented with different bpms and styles. It wasn't actually until I was at uni that I totally strayed away from conventional Grime music and started to make ambient dark instrumentals.
I will always remember and be thankful to my uni teacher for helping me after class with ideas. He told me that my music needed a vocalist but as a shy person I never in a million years thought the vocalist would be me, especially as I had never even picked up a microphone.
It wasn't until January last year that I recorded my first track called 'Why' using my iPhone as a microphone! It feels strange saying it but vocals come more naturally to me than production now. I have a new take on life and it's meaning which for me is easier to speak. You've got to remember Im just a normal working class lad. I'm not trying to be anybody, I just needed a release for my thoughts and music was the natural way. In my tracks I try to keep a healthy balance between vocals and the music, that way the listener can use the pauses between vocals as intervals to dissect what I am saying.
A number of your tracks are collaborations that have seen you work with not only Filter Dread but Rabit and Underclass. How did those link ups come about? Do you still work on production in those cases?
I love Rabit's productions. I really get inspired when listening to his work. I heard his tracks on Rinse and got contact with him online. With Blackdown pushing me he introduced me to alot of producers. Same with Underclass, him and Rabit were working on a track together and they pushed it forward for me to vocal. When it comes to working with other producers I tend to let them have creative control on their music, I feel it's more natural.
I'll only work with something that evokes a certain emotion. I don't like to force things so if it's not right I'll let it go. In that way I try not to give myself too much pressure, I feel it affects my music otherwise.
Are there any other producers out there that you're looking to work with at the moment? Anyone that you would recommend checking out?
Definitely look out for Filter Dread, he has some big stuff coming out soon which you will hear about. I also have been listening to a mix from Murlo of tracks he's made which I've really enjoyed, very evocative.
I would love to work with Visionist - I'm still waiting for that hook up but to be honest if I'm feeling a piece of music I'll write to it.
What's it been like to work with Blackdown?
I've been lucky as Blackdown has supported me alot. In fact he has given me alot of confidence and guidance which I'm so thankful for. He brought me onto Rinse FM which was a goal I set myself when I was 18. It only took me nearly 10 years!
Finally, you've already had a release on a track with Filter Dread and we're giving away a track of yours on here, What else can we expect from you this year?
Hopefully I'll be getting an album out later this year. No dates as of yet but it's in talks at the moment so look out for that.
A big thank you to Luke for taking the time out to chat, grab his track 'Pray For Change' below.
Follow Luke Benjamin on Soundcloud and Twitter.
Artwork: Olia Bozhko