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Music Interview

Benga interview: "I'm not a sellout"

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Benga

Those not yet familiar with 25-year-old Benga's solo work will no doubt have heard his contributions to Magnetic Man, or failing that, Katy B's 'On A Mission'.

After years of independent single and EP releases, the producer recently signed a deal with Sony Records, under which he'll release his new album Chapter 2 later this year.

With his current single 'Icon' out next week and 'Pour Your Love' already causing a stir on radio, we met up with him to discuss Katy B, Tim Westwood and what else we can expect from his new LP.

You've been playing a lot of live sets recently. How has your new single 'Pour Your Love' been going down?
"I've been rinsing it! It's been different - the first time I ever played it was in France. It didn't sound right to me, it didn't sound right for the club. So I played it and the reaction was decent and then we re-balanced it and played out with it a little more. We then played it at a show in Paris and it went off. Everyone seemed to know the words.

Is it scary when that happens?
"Yeah, 100%. It hasn't been around that long and already people are starting to know the words and sing along with it. Even at my live show, (guest vocalist) Marlene came out and performed it live."

Who is Marlene? We haven't heard much from her yet.
"Marlene was first brought to me by someone at EMI. She sung on a record called 'Overdose' which was my record and I liked bits and bobs of it, but I also sent her 'Pour Your Love' and when she sent it back I just couldn't fault any bit of it. We went into the studio and she was so confident about it - suggesting new harmonies and tweaking the lyrics here and there. She's a real star."

You've released various songs and EPs over the years. Are you nervous about putting out a whole album?
"In the last five years, I probably haven't put out as much as I should have. I've been touring and stuff and obviously I helped on the Magnetic Man album. But to now have this record of mine floating about that I've been listening to, mixing and changing for the last year... it feels like the next stage of my life and it's come at the right time. And the fact that I'm putting that out on a major as well is also a different thing.

"To know that people that wouldn't have heard this album will hear it is the best feeling. I know for a fact that this album is now going to reach twenty five million times the amount of people it would have reached on an indie label and I just can't wait to see the feedback."

Listen to 'Pour Your Love' below:



Was a full album important to you? A few other artists in your genre don't seem to be bothering with records anymore.
"I think, 100%, it's what I do best. This is another thing why music can get stale, because if you constantly write singles that are samey you can't really come out of your shell and show people different directions. I think people gravitate more towards singles because it's very money-orientated. An album is introducing people to new things and you also get the benefits of having singles as well."

So far you've worked with a lot of underground artists. Have you been approached by more mainstream ones?
"I'm not even going to lie to you, I'm not going to mention any names, but I'm definitely going to say to you that there has been a number of artists over records on my album that you would class as A-list artists but they just haven't made the album. For me it's not about how big an artist is, it's about how the artist sounds on that record."

A bit like Sia writing and featuring on Flo Rida and David Guetta's songs...
"Exactly, it's so important. Guetta's had so many big records, you can't take it away from him, but how important is the fact that she sounds right on that record? Most people that wouldn't necessarily like a Guetta record like that record. I don't think she sold out."

Some critics have accused you of "selling out" on your latest single 'Icon'; do you agree?
"I get mixed reviews on it and I still get a lot of people who say they like it, but I also get that whole thing about being a sellout. I like that some people like my older music so much that they don't want me to change anything, but it's natural to evolve and change direction. If you truly compare 'Icon' to what else is in the charts at the moment, it's kind of on the fringes of it."

You helped out on Katy B's album On A Mission. Are you working with her on the follow-up?
"It was great working with her and we made some incredible tracks together, but things like that are always management-based. You know when two artists kind of get a bit of success and everything just goes t*ts up? I mean, I would love to just send her records and do it the way we did it before, but that's just never going to happen anymore is it?"

The album was pretty successful.
"She smashed it. Well, she's talented and once people get hold of talent, you can't stop it can you? People become quite protective. She's so cool though, she's remained very cool."

You started hosting a show on BBC Radio 1 with Skream in April; what did you make of Tim Westwood being axed from his weekday slot?
"I'm probably going to be hated for this because I don't think he likes me as it is, but it's probably time he grew up a bit. He introduced me to McNeal and stuff like that, so I like the fact that he's still bring certain artists to the attention of people that wouldn't hear it, but he's got to give up that act.

"I listened to him the other day and he was paying tribute to Biggie and played his old interviews with him. It was just so 'Wow', he really did bring this to England properly. You cannot fault that."

Benga's new single 'Icon' is out June 24. 'Pour Your Love' and the album Chapter 2 follow later this year.

Watch the 'Icon' music video below:

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