INTERVIEW: Breaks Stars Ben & Lex Talk Of Unnecessary Evils
After a year or so away working on other projects, from adverts to movie trailers, the multi-award winning breakbeat duo Ben & Lex, are back. Their first single for some time is a bit of a 140bpm affair firmly in keeping with the Dub influenced material that they, and their label Functional, have become know for. For this EP they have had the privilege to work on with a certified legend of the reggae scene – none other than the mighty Earl 16 from the festival greats, Dreadzone.
After the 15 year milestone of their Beatz & Bobz breaks event, Ben & Lex have been away but now they’re back and Lex Shellard takes some time out for a bit of a chinwag, chat and a rant as we talk about their forthcoming album, unnecessary evils and hooking up to the matrix:
Hey guys. It’s been almost a year since we last chatted which was mainly about the ‘15 Years Beatz & Bobz‘ party, how did that go by the way?
Howdi! Yeah man, absolute stomper! Original Beatz & Bobz soldiers in full effect! Ourselves, Barry Ashworth with MC Sir Real and Krafty Kuts all smashing it up! Our 15 years of breaks set was awesome. Took a little while to get together tune wise as loads of it wasn’t available digitally so we had to rip our vinyl copies etc. But it went down a treat and was hella fun to do. Good old knees up it was. There are photos to prove we were there but I’m not sure my mind was by 3am in the morning.
You’ve had a busy year haven’t you doing some production work which isn’t going into charts but on telly, is that right?
Yeah I’ve been doing production work for other people for yonks but the last couple of years have been bonkers since I started work with Damon (Deadly Avenger) doing all sorts from production music to film trailers to adverts and so on which has been ace. I’ve also been making beats for rappers/MCs and vocalists and so on which is something I’ve always enjoyed doing.
Would you say that either of you have social media addiction? I know I have because I’m always seeing one of you online at some point.
I don’t know what you mean! 😉 There’s no time for social media, we are working too hard!
It’s a car-crash kind of addiction isn’t it. You know you shouldn’t be looking so much but you can’t help it. To be honest, it is often just on in the background on my office comp. I can hear it calling to me. “Leexxyyyy. People are postiiingg aboouutt toaaast and GTA V and other things you don’t care aboouuuttt”.
As for Benny not a lot of people know this but he IS actually the internet. All he sees is that dripping green code from the Matrix. His dreads plug straight into his router and he controls the international space station with his thoughts.
Do you find it useful or a hindrance in life whether it be for general everyday use or as a promotional tool?
Personally, I kinda hate Facebook for what it has done to the human race or at least what it shows me of them, but I accept that it is a necessary evil in promoting music these days. I just wish there was a ‘Music Facebook’ we could sign up to so we don’t have to see so many, “Woe is me” and “Here’s my lunch” posts. I’m sure we used to just talk to our mates about stuff in the pub and then just eat our food without having to show people. Although the real life version of that would be great. Wandering round a restaurant showing people what you ordered asking them if they Like it.
Now, I’m a bit of a Dreadzone as I am aware you are. You have Earl 16 doing a bit of vocal for your guys on the tunes Our Music and Skink. How did that come about?
Through the label Functional that has been our on and off home since day one and label boss Biff we have always been involved with the dubbier side of breaks. Dreadzone also released one of their albums through Functional and we’ve done loads of shows with Dreadzone as a result. Earl 16 has been a hero and a legend in the reggae scene for decades and of course a lot of dance music people know him from his work with Leftfield (and of course Dreadzone) so when we were looking for vocalists for those tunes we sent them over to him through Biff [industry legend] to pick one and he chose to do both which was incredible! He is also genuinely one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. A real genuine human being. A lot of ‘heroes’ I have met turned out to be less than heroic let’s say haha.
And you have those two originals being remixed, Skink by Gorgon Sound and King Yoof on Our Music. Were those guys first choices for remixing duties?
Yes absolutely. I came to work with the Gorgon Sound guys through my day job at Stardelta Mastering. They are the combo of Kahn & Neek who are making big moves on their own but as Gorgon Sound they are smashing the dub scene based in Bristol and everything we had mastered for them was incredible so they were most definitely 1st choice to do a real heads remix. And as for Alex – King Yoof – well he’s just a proper badman dem! The whole Sub Slayers camp is killing the 140 scene and as the dubbiest of the lot King Yoof was our only other choice. So in fact there wasn’t actually anyone else on the list. We got both our 1st choices which is a rare one!
After being about for a while now, you pretty know everyone that matters in the breaks genre. Is there anyone who you’ve not managed to get on board for a remix and are still trying to?
Hahaha, yeah loads! Although we have got some coming up who have been on the list for a while but I’m not saying nowt about them yet and you can’t make me. Nerr! You’ll just have to wait and see.
Who the biggest Ben & Lex you fan you know of?
To be honest it’s Terry Hooligan. He phones me probably 3-12 times a day just to hear my voice and ask me about LFO’s and shit. Once I found him in the garden with a scrapbook full of pictures of me and Ben he’d printed from Facebook that he had photoshopped himself into scratching with a CDJ held in the air.
What’s happening with the 16th party then? I’m sure you’ve got one planned.
The 16th party is on the 2nd October and it’s essentially the first outing proper of our live show and the official warm up gig for our support on the Dub Pistols tour. We also have our bezzy mate Mr [Barry] Ashworth himself coming to spin a few as well so what’s the worst that can happen?
What’s next for Ben & Lex? An album?
Indeed. The album is actually done! Last few tweaks on it as we speak and then it’ll be off to mastering. It’s been a mission but we have got loads of wicked guests on there including some of my hip-hop heroes like Rodney P and Million Dan. MCs from the States like Lex One and Brian Breach from Miami. Several amazing singers, like Scarlett Quinn who wrote 2 tunes with us and her hubby Ashley Slater (a ledge in his own right). Lizzy Parks from Tru Thoughts. Also Lydia Kaye who is also coming on the road with us for the live shows and of course Jay Tuns who is a permanent fixture of Ben & Lex now pretty much.
There are some killer remixes coming too. So yeah, off supporting the Dub Pistols on tour with it through October and November. Details can be found here on Facebook.
For Ben & Lex, having spent so long being in the breaks scene, this pair have grown, made a ton of friends, and are generally loved by many because they are such genuinely nice fellas. As for their forthcoming release, I’ll let them tell you all about it:
“Our Music is an anthemic 140 steppa with reese basslines and hints of the amen thrown in for the floor while Earl’s sweet tones tell tales of “Our Music, the people’s music”.
The second tune, Skink is more of a heads down soundsystem bubbler with hints of dub techno stabs harking back to his Leftfield days and a dancing culture.
On the remix front we have two massive remixes for you. When asked who they wanted to remix the tunes these were the first and only two names the duo chose and were lucky enough to get both!
First up we have the incredibly talented Kahn & Neek AKA Gorgon Sound who have been leading the pack of the new Bristol dub & reggae scene. The duo turn in an awesome remix, possibly their best work to date taking the tune away from its reese basslines and amens and planting it firmly back into the Bristol soundsystem vibe.
Next up we have the badman King Yoof from the Sub Slayers stable who has given us a wicked remix aimed squarely at the dancefloor harking back to the old skool days of jungle techno, whilst keeping both feet firmly placed in a sound that would sit comfortably in the sets of anyone from Doorly to Diplo.
To praise them even further, the tunes are wonderfully warm, vibrant and full of swagger with touches of moody darkness. In the player below which features all of the tracks, they have even awarded us with not only a free download, but two. One of them is a tune and the other a mix so make sure that you fill your boots before you head over to the nearest digital store to collect your purchased copy next week.
Ben & Lex are breakbeat legends, mixing it up with fellow breakbeat legends and long may their breakbeat work, and other projects, continue.
Our Music ft. Earl 16 by Ben & Lex is released by Functional on September 30th, 2013
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