We catch up with the D&B producer as he returns to Metalheadz with the 'Summoned' EP
You know when you’ve been thunder-slapped by Benny L…. Everything cuts through the mix with such startling crispness all your senses heighten. You pull a face like you’ve just been served your least favourite dish, and it’s gone off. Suddenly you’re neck-deep in toxic waste bass slurry. It’s sludgy, it’s boiling and it’s bubbling all around you. You feel it push down on your stomach while his beats continually wallop you on the back. Your nose tickles, you have an innate urge to tell the DJ to fuck off and you smart for at least 10 minutes after.
For keen listeners it’s been this way since Benny broke through on Shimon’s Audioporn in 2015 with prominent EPs Granulateand Walrus. But the moment when everyone in drum & bass knew they’d been thunder-slapped was Low Blow last year. A highlight from Route Zero, his debut Metalheadz EP last autumn, it was one of those dubplates that everyone knew long before its release, and was played across the board. By the time it came out, Benny, now cited as one of one of the key frontrunners in the new-generation of artists currently pounding the genre into rolling, riffy shape, was already deep into his second EP: Summoned.
Nine months after he submitted it to Metalheadz, and after a season of heavy dubplate circulation, Summoned is finally ours. It follows a run of releases on Audioporn, Drum&BassArena and Mac II, and comes with some of his most disturbing slaps to date. The eerie theatre of the title track’s intro, the doomsday growls and high voltage snitches and glitches of Dogs Bark, the tubular sci-fi textures of the heads-down grunter Rough Edge... Benny’s playing with thunder here. Everything cuts through the mix, the bass is neck deep and toxic and you’re pulling faces not even your mother would love.
With more slaps locked and loaded, we summoned him to the phone to find out more…
"Yeah, it's been wicked! Recovering from Boomtown at the moment - it’s going to take a minute."
That looked mental
"It was. Mine and TI's set was really busy. It was one in, one out. Just chaos mate. They were talking about closing the arena down for health and safety reasons. Locked in!"
"One of them, yeah. I’d say EDC was one of the craziest, too. It was just surreal, playing in Las Vegas at such a massive event."
Did you play differently because it was a very EDM-oriented event?
"No chance. We stuck to our guns and rolled out the beats! It was a really cool set, watching people who might not know about the more underground sound of drum & bass slowly getting into it. I like doing that - getting people into what you’re doing. You gotta do that, introduce people to new things."
Any other highlights?
"Let It Roll was very cool. Eastern Electrics with Shimon on the Ram stage was mental. To be honest, every festival, every party is a highlight. Things just keep getting better."
Are you fitting any studio time into this?
"Yeah, always in the week, trying to get new things on the go. I’m going to get a new Mac soon so I can start my album really smoothly. I’m looking forward to that."
Any plans for an album any time soon?
"Yeah, that’s got to be the next big project. The chance to expand on what I’ve done and take it further, I guess."
You’re young, but I know you were brought up on D&B from an early age and have more of an old school outlook. So do albums have value to you? People always lament that they’re not as viable now, but for an artist or a serious music fan, albums are still the one, right?
"Absolutely. It’s really important as an artist - it gives you a chance to properly express yourself on more levels and it’s a real staple in your career. I’ve always listened to different albums, like classic albums too, I grew up hearing my parents listen to Pink Floyd, The Who, Yes etc... I love how the music is all interlinked and makes sense as a whole. That’s what I’m influenced by, the idea of making something that you can sit down and properly soak up. That’s the idea I have in my head anyway."
So that’s full priority after the summer silly season?
"I reckon so. I want to hide myself away and go in on it. There are a few bits to tie up first. A few things that have been on dub for a bit."
You’ve been quite vocal about dubs online: how ID sites have been leaking tracks or giving away the wrong information them...
"I just like surprises and building releases up properly. A lot of people want things instantly and the minute something is in a mix you get people saying, ‘When you putting this out?’ Firstly, it’s not me putting it out - it’s the label. They got their own plans. And also just wait a minute. It feels like once a clip is online some people think the whole track should be out. It doesn’t work like that."
Let’s talk about the Summoned EP. The last Metalheadz EP took you some time because of the profile of the release on such a mothership label. Did you experience that again with this follow-up EP?
"Yeah, that first one took me a a bit of time! Getting the details right and the interchanges, This took just as long. Maybe longer, actually - it’s got an extra track on it and I’ve been so much busier with gigs and that. Lots of distractions, making it harder to really go in on it. But I got there in the end. I’m really happy with it."
I’m sure you said you were working on it last year?
"Yeah, I submitted it before Christmas! It’s been on dub for a bit. Like we said - these things take time!"
You also released Thunder Slap this year. Serum told me what a thunder-slap is… you can be a bit slappy with friends behind the decks, right?
"I’ve been known to get carried away, yeah! When it’s going off sometimes you’ve just got to be like ‘Oi! What you doing?! Shut up!’ and give them a slap. It’s just an ‘in the moment’ thing I guess.
"People get a buzz when you’re going mental to their set. When you’re on a big stage, and you or your mates are playing some proper tunes and the crowd is going mental, it just happens, innit? A recent Viper night at Egg in London I did this summer was mental for it. Little booth with Trimer, Pastrymaker, a few other mates and we were going mental... it heightens the vibe, doesn’t it?"
The crowd buzz off that too. They know you’re loving it, that you’re not going through the motions.
"Exactly. Everyone’s doing it. It just how it used to be and it’s always gone on, especially in drum & bass. It’s the vibe, innit?"
Here’s a vibe: a summons vibe. I’ve got some dilemmas which you’ve got to summon some DJs for. You up for it?
"Yeah, go on then…"
You're en route to a gig and the car gets two flat tyres. Who you gonna summon to help you get it sorted?
"Trimer. He’s handy with everything."
You've lost your USBs, and your back-up USBs, and any other type of back-up. It's moments before the gig. Who you gonna summon to restock you?
"Oh, Randall without a doubt. He’s got dubs for days."
You're on tour in Mexico and you gave the wrong DJ a thunder-slap. He's taken you out into the desert and left you with nothing the clothes you're wearing. Who you gonna summon?
"Goldie - he’ll know someone. He can probably even speak Spanish and have a right word with them."
You're stuck in an airport due to shit weather and flights aren't happening for at least 12 hours. Who you gonna summon to pass the time and drink with you?
"Serum. No question. When we get on the beers, that’s it."
You've arrived at a festival and it's a muddy one. Like, up to your waist. You fall over with your bag and mess up all your clothes. Who you gonna summon and blag some threads off?
"Pastrymaker. He’s always got spares and dresses well."
You've had a confusion over bookings and you realise, when you arrive at a show, that it's actually a kid's seventh birthday party. Who you gonna summon?
"A kid’s party? Never played one of them! Erm… Turno. Yeah. Me and Turno back to back. That’ll be well fun that."
Goldie tells you the next Headz EP is gonna be a collaborative one and you've got a month in Thailand in the studio with four artists of your choice. Who you gonna summon?
"Okay… Dillinja, Serum, Shimon and Krust. All in on the tracks together. Imagine that. Mad collab."
Oof! Okay, you're running your own big event and the headliner demands some home-cooked food. Who you gonna summon?
"I see Voltage is a good chef. He can do it."
You’re mates aren’t you? Hasn’t he cooked for you?
"Not yet. Never been to his house. But looking forward to his food when I go round his for a collab."
A crazy fan traps you in a corner of a room backstage and they’re being way too intense. You need a getaway plan. You need it now. Who you gonna summon?
"Randall again. He can talk for days, he’ll distract them and I’ll be off!"
You wake up one morning and all of your production knowledge has left your brain. Who you gonna summon to teach you the skills again?
"Oh man, this one isn’t good. I need to think about this... actually, I’d summon Shimon.
He got you on this path!
"Exactly, man. He’s been incredible supportive and helped me with so much stuff, if anyone can summon all the knowledge back up, it’s got to be him."
You're on holiday and have a cheeky swim in the sea but realise you've swum into shark-infested waters. Angry sharks. Who you gonna summon?
"Mampi all day long. He can handle that. He’d have a shark for sure. He’d be ‘The One’, mate, ha ha!"
Ha ha, very good! Okay, last one: you're backstage minding your own business and some knucklehead has come up and given you a low blow for no reason. He's got his mates with him and you're outnumbered.... who you gonna summon?
"Mampi again, Goldie and Dreps. No one’s messing with us."
Words: Dave Jenkins
The Summoned EP is out now on Metalheadz. Buy it here.