Underground or Riches? Benny Benassi Breaks It Down

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Winter Music Conference has grown to be one of the key destinations for those with a career in the electronic music industry.  Every player in the game makes an appearance, whether it be for a performance, to speak at a seminar, or just to soak up the Miami sun.

I took a break from the onslaught of pool parties, nightclubs, and hectic traffic, by kicking it at the Dim Mak house party. Steve Aoki and his crew had rented out the house in a swanky South Beach neighborhood (the neighbor across the street was none other than J.Lo!) so the Dim Mak roster and members of the media could escape the craziness.

In between scooter races and platefuls of Siena Tavern,  I had the opportunity to catch up with a living legend at the Dim Mak House Party: the one and only Benny Benassi.

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How’s it going? Are you enjoying Miami?

Benny Benassi: Yes, I love it here. This is like Ibiza in America. It’s a great combination between a VIP [atmosphere] and forward thinking music. The sound systems are always great. It has a really great balance; plus, this week has a special place in my heart.

EDM is becoming its own thing, it’s too noisy, it’s not music.

Oh really, why is that? Any memories you’d care to share?

My favorite memory is when I was DJing during ultra and some big guy sticks his head out and says "Hi Benny! It’s Me! Afrojack!" So he came up into the booth and I jumped up on his back and we played a couple of tracks like that.

Oh you know what? Another funny story. I had to go right on after Swedish House Mafia and they had no idea of the lineup, so, for their last track, they dropped a mash up of "Be" and "Satisfaction". When they saw me there were like "Oh my god, Benny, we are so sorry".

Wow. They should have checked! Everyone in the crowd was probably waiting for you to drop that. How does it feel to have one of the most recognizable synth riffs throughout the history of dance music?

To be honest, I am conflicted. I am very proud and happy that people love my music. But when you have something so famous, your fan-base starts to split. You have those who want you to make more of the same, while others encourage you to grow and experiment.

You have seen first-hand Dance Music blossom into what it is today, do you think it was for the better?

Now is a really strange period for me. Sometimes, I go to festivals and I go to the crowd before my set because I want to see what’s happening -- what other DJs are doing -- A lot of DJs play the same music, you know what I mean? It’s strange. Everybody says that EDM is shit nowadays, but to me, it’s "electronic dance music", there are a lot of ways you can do it; the Chemical Brothers are EDM to me, but a different style. When your hands are on the keyboard and you move through the chords, you decide what direction you want it to take. You could even make it a little bit dark. But now there is too much "womp womp womp", for me to be honest. It's all the same, EDM is becoming its own thing, it’s too noisy, it’s not music. I’m sure that our production is too noisy too, but inside we try to put a vibe that is a little bit funky, you know what I mean? Now there is too much "womp womp womps" in music, you can’t stay for three hours with your hands like this [fistpumping], even if you take everything you want, you can't. The problem is, the software really makes it too easy to make this type of music.  We need to go resample some old songs, we need to listen to the old sound from England from 10-15 years ago, we need too……

Go back to our roots?

A little bit yeah, a little bit. The club music should be club music and the pop should be pop. But I’m really confused, because it’s a difficult situation. I get forty new [promo] emails a day and I can’t tell one from the other -- it’s too many and they are all [made] in the same way. I’m really confused to be honest. But maybe if I put all my cows into a new project, something cool will happen in the future.

Everybody wants to be underground, but they all want to be rich. That’s not how it works, you gotta choose underground or riches.

What do you think is next for dance music?

I’m at a loss, but I’m honest. The only music that inspires me now is the House music with a little bit of a Techno flair. Like, I love this kind of music [He gestures to the Tech House DJ] or maybe a little darker with a slower BPM because you can put music inside - a chord progression, a good bass-line. I think the next step will be, after 2-3 years of this music, some really good song will come out and it will crossover [to the mainstream]. If you listen to the House today it reminds me of the House music when I was 20 years old. There are some [variations], but it’s the same. We are in the same club period as 20 years ago, and now people are coming and producing songs in this style and a crossover will happen; hopefully the radio will pick it up. The problem is always if the radio plays [the track, or not] because this is a business; it’s not only for passion. The record company needs business, so do managers, so we need to sell some records -- and if the radio doesn’t play it, there is no business. Everybody wants to be underground, but they all want to be rich. That’s not how it works, you gotta choose underground or riches. But, if you can keep one foot on either side of the line, you’ll be number one.

Did Benny Benassi just say he is going to start a new alias? Could it be Tech-House?? Do you agree with his "toe-the-line" philosophy? Sound off!