Ben Khan is the first of Noisey Debuts—an in-depth profile of a brand new artist.
“I’m not going to sit here and not answer your questions,” Ben Khan tells me, as he sinks into a plush set of upholstered furniture at West London’s Electric House. “The reason why people are saying it’s like that is because I’ve held it all back. I want to keep the music out there and keep myself to myself.”
We’re situated in a dimly lit corner of what is perhaps the most luxurious venue on Portobello Road. Portraits rule the walls while chaise lounges and ottomans litter the floor, the décor not dissimilar to a reimagining of Jay Gatsby’s mansion. A menagerie of salariats and executives pollute the interior with bubbling conversations about business while waitresses pour out expensed pints of Amstell. And then there’s me and Ben, sat face-to-face, doing his first proper interview.
The stats that precede him are huge. His first single “Drive (Part 1)”, a jaggedly atmospheric smooze of dirty Southern blues intertwined with deadly R&B, has clocked up 170,000+ plays on Soundcloud. And his second, “Eden”, was immediately awarded the Best New Music accolade on Pitchfork while also reaming in almost 400,000 plays. His music is addictive, soaking the listener into a world where soul, contemporary funk and off-the-wall instrumentation fornicate. It’s like fucking a stranger, dirty and uncomfortable, yet warming, too. Until now, this is all that anyone has known about Ben Khan.
Like many of his contemporaries, Jai Paul, JUNGLE, and Burial, Ben Khan resides in a world where Twitpics, Reddit AMAs, and hash-tagged single releases are non-existent. It would be easy to call this a marketing cliché, but, as Ben explains, it’s more of a Catch 22 in an extension of his own personality. “It’s a thing from being a little insecure about letting everyone in from the offset. It’s not really my style,” he tells me. “If you’re meeting someone you don’t just say—'Hi! Hello, my name’s Ben!'—and then tell them your life story. You don’t do that. Especially if you think that thousands of people may pay attention to you.”