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Interview With Grammy-Winning DJ & Record Producer Benny Benassi

Ace Italian Disc Jockey and Record Producer Benny Benassi dishes on new music, his favorite collaboration and why he chose to train as a triathlete.

by Haider Rifaat

What did you aspire to be growing up, and what led to an interest in producing music?
I always loved music. I dreamt of being a Disc Jockey all along, and wanted to produce my own music and find my own sound.

Where do you get your remixing inspiration from?
I listen to my old vinyl records with my team and get inspired by them. There are plenty of ideas out there to help us get started. 

Was it challenging for you to make a name for yourself outside of your home country, Italy? How so?
You don’t really think about the future of a track when you are in the studio. You just want to make good music. I was working with my cousin, Alle Benassi and we produced Satisfaction together as a house record. We never thought it would become so popular. The real challenge was to keep making quality music. If you can do that, there will be room for you to succeed, even if you are a foreign artist.

Do you feel that at times, music producers are seldom recognized for their craft?
The streaming platforms clearly show all the credits, and a lot of producers get discovered this way. I have seen many producers who have been featured on the tracks they have created so I think their situation is evolving with time.

How have you grown as a musician over the years?
I try to be open to new ideas and different music genres. My collaborations have always benefited the music industry. I like how electronic music has become popular with mainstream artists tapping into it. I particularly loved working with John Legend. He is great!

Which past collaboration has been the most rewarding for you as an artist? Why?
It was a great experience working with Skrillex on his remix of Cinema. His energy and talent have played an important role in my growth as an artist. His remix recently surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify so I am really happy that he rendered his skills for this track.

How are you taking the ongoing pandemic?
I have been spending time with my family while keeping myself busy with new projects that I am excited to share with you all! During the lockdown, it was harder for me to streamline my creativity but I feel that running helps me keep a clearer head. So, I have started to train for a triathlon.

How are you keeping your fans engaged during a worldwide lockdown?
I am working on Panorama, a series of virtual DJ sets captured in some of the most beautiful locations in Italy. I have also produced three tracks – Everybody Hates Monday Mornings featuring Canguro English with BB Team, Just Miss Love featuring Saint Wilder with Burak Yeter and I’ll Be Your Friend with CeCe Rogers. These singles have been released by Ultra Music. It is important for me to keep my fans entertained with new music, especially in a time where there are no gigs, festivals and tours to experience first-hand.

What more do you want out of your music career?
The past few months have affected everyone differently in the entertainment industry. These are strange, hard times for the world. We don’t know when things will be normal again. I just know that I will keep working with a smile on my face and try channeling my passion for music. I am happy as long as I am making music and collaborating with artists.

Are you plotting a return to music with a new album?
Right now, I am focusing on my new singles and remixes. Thanks to all the streaming platforms, many artists now prefer single releases over albums.

What do you hope to conquer next?
I am just daydreaming about my next rave party. Although live streaming has been a fun ride, I miss playing at my shows and seeing a crowd's reaction. 

What disappoints you most about the music industry?
The music industry, like every other industry, has its pros and cons. It is very tough out there. I see many young artists struggling to get their music heard. My advice to them would be to network as much as they can. You never know who might know someone in the music business. Because of digitalization, every artist has had a chance to exhibit their potential by promoting themselves online.

Although some Disc Jockeys today are quite popular today, many of them do not see the kind of success that mainstream singers do. What are the reasons for this limitation?
In our culture, we are used to seeing mainstream singers achieve humongous success. Disc Jockeys began to earn their share of recognition and fame a lot later in their careers. They struggled to get recognized in their initial years. It feels great when more mainstream singers collaborate with disc jockeys and producers. It helps both parties build success.

Is disc jockey a thriving profession in Italy?
It is usually considered a thriving profession. Clubs are always looking for young, talented DJs.

Out of all the new music producers and DJs out there, who do you place your bets on?
I know I am biased but I love the producers from my BB Team. I truly believe in them. If you haven't already, check them out! They are featured on a lot of my tracks and are destined to go places.

What is your preferred genre of music right now?
I have been enjoying good old house music. I have just released a new single, I’ll Be Your Friend with house legend CeCe Rogers. It feels good to finally return to the roots of house music.

What new skill have you learned during self-isolation and quarantine?
I am training to become a triathlete! It has been nice to switch off from the daily drills and focus on running, swimming and cycling.

About Haider Rifaat: a writer for Arabian Moda, South China Morning Post, OK! Pakistan and Good Times magazine. He is an actor and also the creator and host of Pakistan's first web talk show - The Haider Rifaat Show. He can be reached via instagram and twitter.