Going Solo – A Chat with Just Be
As the sun sets on beloved tech house duo Layo & Bushwacka! Matthew Benjamin’s Just Be project is quickly heating up with tracks and remixes for the likes of Crosstown Rebels, Tronic and also Get Physical who have just released the Latin-flavored percussive workout “After the Storm.” Data Transmission caught up with Matthew whilst on the duo’s final tour together in South America.
You began producing music as Just Be with the release of your ‘Second Base’ EP on Get Physical Music back in March of 2012 and 2013 sees you focusing full-time on the Just Be project. What will set your music as Just Be apart from your catalogue as Layo & Bushwacka?
Well, I think my solo music has always sounded different from the L&B sound. Working with Layo brings a whole different dynamic to the sound, feel, and vibe of the tracks. I think that for the most part, the Just Be sound will be deep but edgy depending on which way the wind blows over the course of time. I will be trying out some more leftfield ideas too, but I will only release sounds that work.
Given all that you have achieved with Layo, describe your emotions as you played your final tour together in South America.
It’s weird – we have talked loads about all the amazing times we have had out here (I am still here now). It’s an emotional time – in some ways daunting- because to think that in the future I will be flying and gigging solo- it will be very different. We have achieved so much together. It is wonderful to have all these shared adventures, to have left a massive legacy of music and to have touched so many people with our sound and vibes. There’s definitely a sense of sadness right now, but we are embracing the change too.
Do you feel perhaps a greater sense of musical freedom with Just Be? Possibly less compromise?
I feel that I can fully concentrate on my new path and focus on the new sound. I have built and kitted out a completely new studio and setup, and I’m super excited to get back from touring South America and start writing again. I sense an exciting future with Just Be – it’s daunting to reinvent in the current saturated climate, but if I stay focused and work hard I believe I can share my sound with a whole new audience- a new generation. It’s not really about compromise – I have the potential to work faster as I have only my own thoughts to deal with when it comes to producing.
You kick off 2013 with your “After the Storm” release for Get Physical. Does the title have any significance for you in this period of transition?
Funnily enough I never thought of it like that, but now that you mention it I think the title has a huge relevance. The last couple of years have been tough- so much change occurring. It’s been a struggle in many ways. It’s a great way to kick off 2013 with this release, and the video is really special.
The deep mix of “After the Storm” is reminiscent of a few pieces off of your Rising & Falling album from October of last year with its warm melodic elements. How has it gone down in the clubs so far?
The track has gone down beautifully on the floors since I started testing it last summer. It has loads of feeling and vibe. It’s a real journey, and the audience can sense this when I play it. It’s a vibe changer in one’s set.
The deep mix also has plenty of that organic Brazilian percussion that has been a recurring element in your music over the years. What is it about samba music that has resonated with you?
It’s Latin influenced, and I have always loved the Latin percussion sound. It’s just got that special something. I love percussion- I’ve done since childhood, and it’s often an integral part of my production.
You were a percussionist yourself in the London School Symphony Orchestra. When crafting your productions do you record any of the drums live or do you tend to stick with samples?
I record a lot myself but not usually live- often played through my electronic congas or manipulated samples. I don’t mind where the sound source comes from. For me, if it works I will use it.
With Just Be, you’ve released on both tech house labels like Kling Klong and Crosstown Rebels in addition to stricter techno labels like Tronic and Intec. Looking ahead, will you be focusing your sound in one particular direction or will you maintain a variety of styles in your productions and remixes?
Well I am toying with the idea of keeping techno releases under the Bushwacka! name and keeping all the deep/house sound to Just Be, but this is still being talked about. With Crosstown I will be focusing very much on the deeper, trippier end of things, and with Get Physical – they are such a versatile label that I can send them all sorts of things to check out. I am keeping an open mind to all styles, labels, remix offers, etc. For me it is just about making quality music with identity and getting it the best possible platform to be received.
Looking ahead, what Just Be gigs are you most looking forward to most in 2013?
Well, time will tell. I will be playing solo all over so this year for me is about growth. As long as I get to play on great sound systems to people that care about the music I will be happy. I already have some wonderful shows lined up in Germany, USA, Ibiza, UK, and we are just planning various tours at the moment. It is going to be an interesting year.
Production-wise, what’s in the pipeline for Just Be?
Well I have a new single coming on Crosstown early summer, a remix for Fur Coat coming very soon, some new techno tracks that have been killing it on the dancefloors, a remix for Anthony Middleton from Audiofly on Get Physical [“Till the End of…”] and tons more work in progress… but I am most excited to come back from this tour to my new studio and start warming up the analog beasts and seeing what occurs!