Innovation tends to be the invisible middle name of UK duo Delta Heavy. Ben Hall and Simon James have not only been striving to break genre barriers as producers, but as DJs it’s very difficult to see them play a set that’s identical to another. This feat was proven in their Mixmag LA set, which featured a barrage of unique cuts from some of the best in the bass music spectrum.
We caught up with Ben to discuss what goes into their own process and experience, as well as talk about how their creative mindset can spread throughout the scene.
I noticed that you guys do a lot of VIP versions of tracks, White Flag being the most recent- what is it that inspires that SECOND idea? Is it something that pops up in your heads as you’re making it or something that you think of as you play it out?
It completely depends; White Flag is Drum n’ Bass tempo but part time, so it’s one of our very diffrent, experimental tracks. It’s heavy, but to play it in the middle of a Drum n’ Bass set is quite slow. As soon as we did it and played it out, we realized we wanted to do a more traditional Drum n’ Bass remix of it. But also when we were writing the track, we had a bunch of diffrent versions. We actually tried doing a full speed DnB version of the track which we ended up scrapping.
There are a few tracks from our album that we’re working on making VIP versions of as well since they’re not really danceable tracks, and we want to make versions of them that we can play out.
In your Beyond Wonderland set recording, you say at the end that you appreciate the crowd reacting so well to the many diffrent genres you played- what do you think causes certain crowds to only like one genre at a time in sets?
It kind of depends on the territory. People who go to U.S. festivals, especially Insomniac ones, aren’t really going for one genre. There are people going from the Main Stage to the Bass stage to the Deep House stage. I hear people who say they’re going from Hardwell to Delta Heavy and it doesn’t make too much sense to me, but it makes a lot of sense to them and their mindset is more towards going for the experience. As opposed to the UK, people’s tastes are a bit more specialized; people kind of know what they like.
And it depends on the promoter, there are a lot of promoters in the UK who curate a Drum n’ Bass stage and don’t want you to play anything else, which I don’t particularly agree with. I don’t really like when a restriction is put on a DJ. But you know- if it’s their stage, and they want Drum n’ Bass played, you’ve go to kind of compromise. As we do make and play a range of syles, we’re quite happy custom tailoring our sets to where we’re playing. We’re not DJs who just play the same set anywhere we play. We’ll even change things up depending on the time of day. In the afternoon you don’t want to play really heavy stuff. We also think about who’s before us and who is after us…that’s part of being a good DJ I think.
You started DJing seprately about a year ago. Have you found that you and Simon play completely diffrent sets?
As Delta Heavy, we pretty much cover the same territory. We’ll talk to each other about certian areas- like if we booked a gig in Philidelphia and Simon’s going for example I’ll tell him I’ve played there before and they quite like their dubstep. We’ll play tracks in diffrent order but we have the same folder of tunes.
You’ve talked a little bit about DJs who play it a bit too safe; what are some risks you’d like to see DJs taking?
DJing live is rare hese days, especially seeing not-pre-recorded edits. But just in terms of track selections, at festivals you only get an maximum an hour or even 45 minutes; so there’s this pressure to keep playing the biggest tracks possible. Especially Bass Music; you see a crowd react in such a positive way to a big drop that you feel youre doing a good job. I still think you can have a bit of ebb and flow in hour sets. If you just play massive tune after massive tune it can get boring. I think you can still play a variety of stuff.
Where do you think that fear comes from in terms of producers who are just going into DJing for the first time?
[Producer-turned DJs] get booked to play, and they feel as if they just have to go out and play a bunch of big tunes. Personally, I like seeing variety- I think the pressure comes from being afraid that if there isn’t a drop every 30 seconds people may get kind of bored.
What would you have done if electronic music wasn’t going to happen for you?
I studied Art history in university- and I’m not sure what I would have done, to be honest. I worked with my dad after graduating. He worked in finance, and I was thinking about that or Advertising…and hating it; probably making more money than I did now but I would have been depressed.
What were the biggest pitfals that you overcame when you were first starting out?
There’s not any specific pitfall, it’s just about keeping going when you’re not really hearing anything back; coming home and trying to music after you’ve spent a whole day staring at a screen in an office. Even when we were first geting signed, we were making no money at all. You can’t spend months not being able to write anything. The one bit of advice I would give is just keep working, and writing music…even if you’re not getting responses. Things will happen for you if you work hard.
What can you tell us about any new material you have — and if you can’t talk about that right now, what is your favorite festival snack?
We’re working on a new EP, hopefully toward the end of this year. We’re certianlly working on things under the Delta Heavy banner; and we’re opening things up to collabs with other producers, who I can’t talk about right now. We’ve never quite done a Delta Heavy ft. someone else before, so that’s an exciting next step. …and my favorite festival snack is Jalepeño cheetos.
Oh, really? Why Jalepeño?
I like anything Jalepeño flavored.
Check out the latest White Flag EP from Delta Heavy and keep a sharp ear out for new material from them.