Michael Chidiac Photography
Sitting down with Ben Gold, you wouldn't be able to guess that he was such a massive name in trance. When the UK producer/DJ spins on stage, he fills the room with energy but in person, he's quiet and humble. We caught up with him in Waterloo, Ontario to talk about the fine line between his trance music and electro sound and where he thinks his music is going now.
You've been DJing since you were 15—what journey has your sound taken you from then till now?
Ben: When I was younger my sound was a lot faster. It wasn't necessarily a banging sound, just a quicker BPM. So, I've definitely slowed down a lot over the years but I feel like I've developed with it. I enjoy producing slower music and I feel like I've done everything that I could with 140 to 138 BPM trance.
My sound has always been about trance; I connect with it, I feel it, I enjoy making it. But I wanted to develop and I think you have to almost develop with the scene as it moves.
So would you say your style of music has developed with your age or with the scene?
I would say that it's developed with me wanting to explore new sounds and try new things. I wanted to test myself as a producer because I kind of got stuck with the 140 sound when I first started and I needed to slow down. I don't think I've ever lost the amount of energy I've had in my music or the feeling and emotion I write with, but I'm really happy right now. I think I'm writing the best music and playing the best music from other people that I've ever played. The scene is really thriving right now and I'm happy with where we're at. Last year was so different and now this year everything has changed again.
Is it hard changing so quickly along with the scene?
When I first started coming to North America about two years ago I was certainly influenced by the scene over here. Back then it was predominantly EDM as we know it now—which is the big drop and the vocals—so that influenced my DJ sets. Now trance is being accepted more, especially within the last six months. I've played more clubs and festivals here, even two or three times. When you look at what I first played in the club scene versus what I play now, I think it's safe to say that now is where I really want to be.
I think the crowd is getting bored of what they've been hearing over the last two years. You know? The whole, "boom boom, raise your fucking hands!" The sound that you've heard once and now you've heard it a million times. It's at festivals and it works but I think this pool of ravers is getting bored. Deep house, techno, minimal as well as trance is becoming really popular. With Armin playing Ultra Music Festival and 140 BPM at main stage, which has never happened before, I think everyone is getting more educated.
What festival are you looking forward to playing the most this summer?
Playing A State of Trance every year for the past four years has always been a huge highlight in my calendar. I'm really looking forward to playing Electric Daisy Carnival in London this year, which is in my hometown. I've played a few EDC's before and I think it's a great festival. Visually it's amazing because you walk in and you know you're at EDC. The production and sound is great, too. So, to be able to be a part of it in London is top notch.
Are London fans your favourite fans then?
I enjoy playing everywhere. Everywhere fans are great—from making custom t-shirts at home to bringing banners and kandi bracelets, you get it in any city. Some places more so than others, but I'm excited to make the smaller shows the bigger shows over the course of the next couple of years.
Well, you've said in other interviews you really love playing in Montreal. What makes them one of your top crowds to play for?
I'm one of the few DJs who have played everywhere in Montreal—from Bal en Blanc to Beach Club, to Red Light in Laval, to Stereo and Circus and most recently at New City Gas. They're all different in their own right. Bal en Blanc is this huge festival where you can get away with almost whatever you want to play. Beach Club is the same, it's always on a Saturday and Sunday in the sun so you kind of have to adapt a bit but really, it's the core fan base there. It's not necessarily the same people at every show, but it's the same mentality of: I want my mind open. I want to go where the DJ wants to take me. I'm not just going to sit here and say, "I hate trance. I hate this." The crowd lets themselves go with the energy and that's what's great about Montreal. Any DJ who goes there says the same thing. Montreal is about likeminded people who want to listen to good music and ultimately, they want to party.
Would you say it's the different crowds, for let's say in Toronto? Where some might note that people are pickier with their music?
Well, no actually. I've only played at The Guvernment in a club setting and then I played at Veld Music Festival. Since Veld was a festival setting, I played more electro sounds because my set time was a bit earlier. So the set was 70 to 30 in trance and those records were more crossover records where they could fit with trance, but they had electro sounds.
I played New Years Eve in Kool Haus and that was a full trance set. I remember thinking about what I wanted to play beforehand and I knew I had Rebecca and Fiona on before me, and W&W on after me—two of the leaders in electro. So I knew if I played electro it would all just sound like one big record. I knew I had to make a difference and I knew I had to put my stamp on things. I was happy and I played a good trance set because the feedback was great and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoy playing in Toronto.
Have you ever had a show that's been difficult to play and where the fans weren't into it?
Absolutely. As a DJ you face that most nights really—unless you're doing a festival, which I'd say is pretty safe. But, I've done some club shows where you don't know what you're going to get. In some of the States they're not in the know with trance and in some places you have to dip into a commercial folder. I have one with me at all times on a USB stick for those moments. I don't structure my sets. I always know where I'll start and which direction I want to go in. If I end up going that way, who knows. It all depends on what happens on the dance floor.
Do you feel a pull between playing for your true fans that may complain you don't play "real" trance and the fact that you have to please a crowd?
Well that's the task of a DJ, right? I think if you can please both then you've done quite well. It's always important to play to your fans because there will always be a percentage of them on the dance floor and they've bought a ticket to come see you play your records but at the same time, you want to gain fans. For me I've been working on those records that can sometimes fit right in the middle. I don't play electro but I do have some tracks that can borderline slide into that without being that. I think if you can get the timing right in your set and you have the right energy, then you have the crowd in the palm of your hands and you can play anything.
Who was the first DJ to get you hooked on dance music?
I went to Ibiza with my friend and his family and we weren't allowed to go out to any nightclubs. However, we were allowed to go to Café Del Mar. Down there we saw Carl Cox, Pete Tong, and Judge Jules play for thousands of people as the sunset. Getting to hear them all in one week and hearing those kinds of records really resonated for me and I thought, "wow. This is what I want to do." So I think I would probably hold Judge Jules, Carl Cox and probably Armin and Ferry Corsten responsible for where I am today.
You can follow Samie on Twitter: @samiedurnford