Twenty-four-year old Ben Hackman has been surrounded by music for his entire life. He grew up in the English countryside of Selborne listening to jazz and soul with his parents. This might sound like a laid back childhood, but things got intense quickly for the talented young musician: after learning to play the piano at five and the violin a few years later, Ben was eventually awarded a scholarship to pursue music. Ben describes the event as a love/hate situation. "Because of [the scholarship] there was this sort of pressure to continue with it," he says. "It almost felt like a burden. [Being] dependent on playing violin to go to school kind of made me hate it after a while." Eventually, a friend introduced him to drum and bass. From that point on he was hooked, diving deeper and deeper into dance music culture.
Both of those influences—the warm and fuzzies of childhood and the rebellious feelings of adolescence—are present in his EP, Carry On. The EP leads with everything we've come to expect from the producer that gave us "Forgotten Notes" and "Change My Life." On it, a smooth vocal-infused groove is dotted with harmonies that seem to infiltrate every corner of the track's space. The B-side feels like something completely different: it is a combination of Hackman's soulful style and belting bass.
Hackman's life seems full of productive contrasts. Though he was exposed to the energy of drum and bass at parties like Forward and DMZ as a teenager, his recent peer influences include Max Graef, Gerry Read and Leon Vynehall. These producers are some of the flag-bearers for an important movement in house music—they are musicians taking steps away from the infinite possibilities made available by modern production techniques and revealing what's been left behind.
Looking back at past sounds is equally important for Hackman. "My music has changed a lot recently. I went through a period of a year or so where I wasn't really writing anything I was happy with," he explains. "I think only recently that's changed."
Elsewhere, Hackman's comfort with mixing has given his career an extra lift. New mixes for XLR8R and YoungOnes are evidence of this fact. Below you can hear him embracing the spirit of youth and sharing it through music.
Oddly enough, the live performance aspect of Hackman's recent success hasn't always sat right with him. Recounting the difficulties he had with DJing in the past, Ben explains how he spent much of his early years avoiding performing: "It's weird," he tells me, "I read some interview that said [becoming a producer] sort of forces people to start performing. I definitely enjoy the production side of things more. I like to be in my own space writing away." Though the days of losing sleep over performance anxiety are now behind him, his memory is still strong. Ben laughs as he tells me how he used to reject gigs back in 2010.
Outside of his work as Hackman, Ben wants to be involved in other elements of music as much as possible—he produces tunes for advertisements and vocalists outside of house. For him, stuff that has commercial appeal is not uncool, but necessary. He believes that somewhere amongst the mass, a few listeners will realize that there's something more to discover and begin to dig through better music and become dedicated fans. "It's not really the same as EDM, but I was listening to really awful jump-up drum and bass which I would never listen to now. Ultimately it got me to where I am, so it can be a good thing."
Similarly the sounds of soulful dance music are not necessarily born in the same dark corners where we enjoy them. For Hackman, so much of that feeling can be transplanted from other contexts. "Growing up in the countryside has been quite influential in shaping me as a producer. In the middle of nowhere you have a different set of influences. I've never driven so I was quite isolated. I had a lot of time to be writing music and concentrating on how to learn to produce. It's different to living in the city; [there are] some very obvious differences."
For Hackman, the past is never lost. How can you know that what you're pursuing is new, if you haven't looked at what's been done before? Hackman's ideas and distinctive sound are testament to the importance of this perspective and proof that this producer has what it takes to remain relevant for a long time to come.
Stream the exclusive premiere of "Carry On" above, the self-titled EP is set to be released on November 24th.