Mix It Up: Afterhours With Benji B
Whilst partying might look different these days, when there’s a reason to celebrate, nothing stops Browns from having some (adequately distanced) fun. And what better reason to celebrate than the opening of our much-anticipated new forever home, the splendid Browns Brook Street. To kick off this new era, we invited one of the world’s hottest DJs - the iconic Benji B - to perform a live streamed DJ set inside the walls of the equally iconic yellow room. Watch the highlights below and hear what Benji had to say about fashion, music and more.
Both Browns and the BBC - where you've been a producer and presenter since 1998 - are beloved British institutions. What do you think makes British culture so unique?
For me, London is one of the most important cultural hubs in the world. It’s easy to see that the city’s culture is unique - less easy to define only one or two reasons why this is. I would say the main one must be the diverse meeting of different international cultures. Although it might be clichéd to use the term “melting pot” I can’t think of a better phrase that sums up how this is reflected in UK culture. I think another cliché is true also: we have one foot in Europe and one foot across the Atlantic in the US. “Britishness” plays a big part in the cocktail too, but we’d need a whole essay to unpick that one. Too deep (laughs).
You’ve become a mainstay on the fashion scene through your work with various brands and designers. Are clothes important to you?
Yes absolutely - always have been since my early teenage years.
How would you describe your style?
My whole life, I’ve always been drawn to similar styles and silhouettes. I’ve never really followed any trends. I’ve always had a clear idea of what I like and although (happily) it’s evolved with age, its DNA is essentially still the same. It’s a laid-back style. I would probably describe it as i-Lo as it’s always been a combination of contemporary designers, skate brands and men’s tailoring.
One of my friends described me as a MOD once, I thought he meant I dressed like Paul Weller, which confused me a bit, but what he actually meant was Mod-ern. I haven’t really answered this question have I? I don’t really know how to… Maybe my “Britishness” finds trying to describe my own style a bit pretentious (laughs.)
You were music director for Phoebe Philo’s Céline, and now work closely with Virgil Abloh, amongst other fashion houses. What have you learned from your collaborations in the fashion space?
The key word in that question is collaboration. I’ve been lucky to learn from and collaborate with a stellar cast of gifted people who are the best in their respective fields: set designers, show producers, casting directors, stylists, free thinkers and of course fashion designers and creative directors. Not to mention world class musical pioneers and heroes of the craft.
When you work with creative directors and designers the energy is recognisably the same as if you were working with a high level music producer or singer in the studio - creative people often resonate at similar frequencies no matter what the genre: clothes, art, music.
London will always be celebrated for its DIY creative culture and new ideas. What are some exciting platforms or initiatives you’ve discovered that inspire you for the future of British music?
There are so many. London is the natural home of independent thinkers and DIY ethos. Recently I’ve been really impressed by the independent platform No Signal and the work they are doing.
The pandemic has seen a massive uptick in live streaming and home performances, which in a way are more akin to radio broadcasting. What effect do you think this has had on the way people engage with music?
We’ve become more accustomed to watching and interacting with live streams instead of live gigs ... but where this has really worked - as you say - is the radio style format. Radio has always been super important to me as it’s been my main outlet for fresh new music every week and something I’ve devoted most of my life to. I think recently people have had more time to engage with radio and streams in general and it has amplified the power of that art form.
We’ve also become much more used to seeing our heroes casually in Instagram live or Twitch. Nevertheless, this period has also served as a reminder that - whilst it’s great to watch streaming gigs remotely - for gigs and nightlife, nothing compares to the live experience.
It’s been too long since we’ve been able to throw one of our infamous Browns parties, so let’s have some fantasy fun. Imagine it’s next week and you’re curating the line-up. Who’s on the bill and why?
For this one I’m picking my friends Acyde and Judah. They both have the highest taste levels in music (and sartorial choices too.) their combined experience of parties means we’re in safe hands and for me it means I’m guaranteed to like every record played - so I’ll still be there when the lights come on.
If Browns Brook Street was a track, what would it be?
Sven Wunder – Snowdrops.
Director: Emily McDonald
DOP: Henry Lockyer
Camera Op: Dael Poulter
Gaffer: Leo Olesker
Interview: Georgia Graham
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