“You have to go with what you feel inside and hope it works”
Ben Westbeech is a name that means different things to different people. To some, he’s the Strictly Rhythm-signed house producer and vocalist behind the 2010 album ‘There’s More To Life Than This’, while to others he’s the man behind the Breach moniker and one of the most innovative and consistent producers in the bass-driven underground. With club music currently awash with mediocre, 130bpm ‘UK bass’ music, it’s refreshing to find a true musician with a real ear for a groove, and a studio bursting with hardware ready to make it happen.
‘Fatherless’ was, without question, the track that launched Westbeech’s Breach project. Distinctly London sounding, its incessant, chopped-flute loop and nippy vocal jolts became one of the anthems of late 2010. Since then, he’s dropped ‘You Won’t Find Love Again’, the synth-heavy introduction to his fledgling Naked Naked imprint, plus his recent stripped-back collaborative EP with Midland.
With more much-hyped collaborations and new artist releases looming, Breach and his Naked Naked baby are assembling a showcase of authentically creative UK dance music. While taking a snoop around his memorabilia-laden studio, Trap caught up with the London-based producer to talk drum & bass, staying original and pushing the scene forward.
Where did music making start for you? We understand you produced drum & bass back in the day alongside Clipz, aka Redlight?
I started producing when I was 18 and yes, I started with drum & bass. Having heard early bootleg rave tapes and LTJ Bukem’s remix of ‘Return to Atlantis’, I was instantly hooked and mesmerised by the sound of the music and the atmosphere. The whistles and horns and crowd noise sounded amazing and I couldn’t wait to go to a rave myself when I turned 16.
A couple of years later, I moved to Bristol and having met Clipz (Redlight as he’s now known), I started making music with him and DJ Die. I met Roni Size and Krust and all the producers I’d looked up to for years! I was also producing for Bristol MCs such as Sirplus and Buggsy, as well as singing on my own stuff, which was secondary to becoming a DJ.
How did your break as Ben Westbeech happen?
I got signed to Brownswood (Gilles Peterson’s label) by chance after he heard ‘So Good Today’ through a Saab 900 sound system in a field at Creamfields. Then, having made a Ben Westbeech album, I started making house records after hearing Osunlade’s remix of ‘So Good Today’. I went on to make an album with Strictly Rhythm, working with the likes of Motor City Drum Ensemble, Henric Schwarz and Midland. All the while, I had started working on the Breach alias.
So that trademark Breach bass/house blend was intrinsic to your productions from very early on…
Yeah, I’d made ‘Fatherless’ about a year before anyone actually heard it. I was trying to bridge a gap between dubstep and house, as I was going to FWD at the time and was getting inspired. This was about four years ago. So that’s when Breach started. As Breach, I’ve released on house imprints such as dirtybird, Pets Recordings and of course my own label, Naked Naked, all of which share affiliation with bass. Even with the new Ben Westbeech album, I’m featuring artists such as Bondax and Disclosure, so it all crosses over really.
How do you approach preparing for studio time and how do you set about creating something truly unique?
Studio time is about having fun but being focused at the same time. With Breach, I just let go and concentrate on making dance records that have energy and emotion. Melody is important to me, but also the core of the track – the drums and the bass. I use a lot of analogue hardware, both synths and outboard to create the sound of Breach. It started off as a bit of fun and it still is; which is what I’ve always wanted to do as a producer. I think you just have to go with what you feel inside and hope that it works. I guess we are all striving to do that in music: be original and push the scenes forward.
What’s it like working to find (and create) great music to represent Naked Naked? Are you overly pedantic?
Well, the first few releases have come from me or my collaborations with others, so I’m in control of the sound. I worked on the first single, ‘You Won’t Find Love Again’ for a very long time and was very meticulous with it. However, what I have forthcoming is from other artists; the likes of Dusky, Lorca and Lyon Vynehall. I’ve gone and seen them and A&R’d them to slightly tailor the tunes so they fit within my ideal sound. I know the sound I want, so I just give ideas on how to make the tunes fit a bit more. I’m really excited about releasing other artists’ music and creating a home for them.
We’ve heard the third Naked Naked release is coming from the Dark Sky boys. Can you disclose anything about the release and how it came about?
Yes, that’s true; it’s a collaboration between me and Dark Sky called ‘The Click’ and it’s gaining a bit of buzz already. I have known those boys for a while and we talked about writing some stuff for the new Ben Westbeech record, but I wanted to make a banger with them so we decided to do a Breach vs Dark Sky release. ‘The Click’ came out of that and then we wrote something for the B-Side last week. I’m really looking forward to it!
Are you casting your sights strictly on the UK, or do you search further afield to find the next release for the label?
If I get any records from abroad that I really like, then I would consider it for sure, but right now the sound is coming from the UK. That’s what Naked Naked is about right now. Making a home for these artists and creating a sound out of a movement.
Has it been difficult to build up a label in the current industry climate?
I think the industry is getting better and better! It’s made people really think about what they’re releasing, especially on vinyl. Sales seem to be picking up and the digital market is booming. Yes, we do have a lot against us, but it’s an amazingly rewarding job to do as you have to think hard about what you are doing and creating. I think it’s a great time for the industry, especially for dance music.
So what’s the future for Naked Naked?
Well, I hope to release great records on vinyl and digital. I am also planning Naked Naked parties, the first one happening next March, which is going to be in an amazing space in London, with a line-up including all the people who are involved with or close associates of the label. I also plan to do art, prints and some clothing in the next two years and collaborate with artists, photographers and video artists to create forward-thinking art to go with the music. I see it as an open-ended, creative label that will expand organically and support its artists fully.
Breach & Midland’s ‘101’/’Visionary’ EP is out now. Watch out for the new Ben Westbeech album later this year.