Ben Rau is a house and techno DJ from Berlin, Germany. Born to a Ghanaian mother and German father in Berlin , he grew up in a small town near Hamburg ,Germany. In the late 1990s he moved to the UK to study Computer Animation,soon after he moved to London and was introduced to Enzo Siragusa (founder of FUSE), for whom he became a resident DJ. Ultimately FUSE originally the after-hour to a saturday night event called Circuit became so successful that it developed into the main Sunday daytime event .
FUSE would go on to host many acclaimed international DJ’s who ‘asked to play, based on the prestige that followed FUSE. Ben continues to play as resident each year as part of FUSE, London and Ibiza residency at Sankeys. In 2012 Ben moved back to Germany to be close to his family, choosing to relocate to Berlin for a fresh dip into the realm of electronic music. He subsequently set up his studio and now calls the international meeting point for Techno called Berlin his home again. Ben followed up on last year’s visit to South Africa by returning on a 2015 tour. We caught up with him to hear from the dub house and techno master about his relations to Africa, his outlook on electronic music and his about his forthcoming EP.
You born to a Ghanaian/German parents…Tell me about your upbringing? I was born in Berlin to a German Father and Ghanaian Mother but I grew up with my parents and brother in a small town near Hamburg. My mother’s family is spread all over the world and we would spend time with my Ghanaian cousins from London. We visited Ghana a few times while growing up too. Significantly I can remember there only being 4 black people in our town; myself, my brother my mom and another boy.
…and musically, tell me about your influences? Growing up my dad was a Jazz fan and the soundtrack from Shaft would often play in our house we used to dance to it in the morning before being dropped off at Kindergarten. In terms of working in the industry, it was around ’94 going to raves and working at Tribal Gathering, I worked there as a stage manager looking after Artists like Laurent Garnier , The Prodigy I distinctly remember going to collect Carl Cox money and getting him paid, that was an eye opener that electronic music is an industry and I wanted to be part of it.
So you paid him on time? [laughter] Yes, I fetched his money in an envelope and paid him.
At Nomadiq Party, you mentioned relationships in this industry are important, mentioning the one with Enzo [FUSE]. Why is it so important? This industry is based on relationships. You know Enzo and I have been through a lot. There were times when he could have had another resident, but he stuck with me. We have had challenging times mand good times, but we stuck with each other. Floyd [Lavine] and Dave [Dix]. came to Berlin last year and they stayed with me when they did their European tour , now I am here with them in South Africa It is about relationships. Networking. Many people say it’s shallow, but it’s not. We need each other in the music industry; we need to help each
other live creative lives.
This is your second visit to South Africa. What do you see for Africa in relation to Electronic Music? South Africa musically? What do we need? I think it needs maturity. Look professionalism is important and infrastructure. The talent is there, but infrastructure isn’t yet (enough clubs) The dancefloor is still segregated in many ways but I also see people coming together for certain events , these are seeds of hope.
…and artists, who impressed you? Black Coffee , Culoe and Black Motion are outstanding, Black Coffee has done amazing things. He is big in South Africa, He is big internationally. He releases quality music.
…so which artist are you most impressed with? There are many artists and what Black Coffee has done is impressive. BUT I won’t just say the obvious. Floyd Lavine is somebody who has really impressed me , He works extremely hard and when he wants something he goes and gets it. He was in Europe last year together with his partner David Dix who’s also somebody to watch , they played some great gigs, then they did their Rooftop Party in Amsterdam. Now Floyd has some special releases coming and another trip to Europe , and Dix isn’t far behind watch the Nomadiq lads , I predict big things. I like what Nomadiq [Music] is doing. Their parties are diverse, we need to see more of that. Seeing people come together is what house music is all about and [They’re] on the right track.
Berlin is inspirational when it comes to its history and politics via musical establishments like Berghain or Tresor. What’s with the lack of politics in electronic music these days? I grew up on Hip Hop. I love Public Enemy. Look Hip Hop has words and it was easier to have specific messages. House/Techno has a message too. It’s about inclusivity, acceptance and mutual respect.That was what Love Parade used to be about before it became a commercial event.
Tell me about Berlin? Do you play out often? Not as much in Berlin, I only want to play special gigs when I play in Berlin you have to be selective. You know club politics. So I wait and see, because I don’t want to close the door on those special venues that I want to play in the future.
You have your studio in Berlin. Are you producing often? I produce almost every day , but I put out less than 10% of the music I produce. My new EP is ready to go , The Replicant EP a four track EP. The name is based on the movie Blade Runner. One of the track titles is The Prodigal Son . In Blade Runner, Roy returns to kill his designer his father so to say . Another track is titled She’s a Replicant , this track was inspired by Rachel the replicant.
You a big Sci-Fi fan? Yes ! I get inspired by sci-fi and futurism.
…do you still collect records? I buy around 15 to 20 a month, but don’t travel with many. Just a few, I have to be selective when travelling. Promoters don’t prepare for DJs to play records these days , so it’s important to be able to play even when decks aren’t set up properly.
What do you think about technology? Do you think it cripples creativity or advances it? I think it advances it. I am a technologist. I love technology. I read about it and think about how it impacts us a lot. I think laziness kills creativity not technology.
As part of the SA Tour, Ben Rau will be playing at Joint Nation presents Reunion on 14 March 2015.
Stay connected to Pulse Radio and we will inform you once his forthcoming The Replicant EP, drops.