If you’re going to thrive on the electronic music scene for more than two decades then you need to know how to adapt to the changing times, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Matthew Benjamin - also known as Bushwacka, Matthew B, The End Soundsystem and, currently, Just Be - has operated under so many guises.
His career has seen him enjoy chart success of his own and produce remixes for the likes of Orbital, Stanton Warriors, Paul Oakenfold and Depeche Mode, with releases coming via XL Recordings, End Recordings, Get Physical and his own Olmeto, Plank and Oblong labels.
As new Just Be EP Logical Syncing arrives on Leftroom Records, we asked Matthew to tell us about the 10 tracks that helped to shape his musical destiny.
For more info on Just Be visit MN2S booking agency.
1. West Street Mob - Break Dance - Electric Boogie
“So the first time I heard electro was the first year of high school 1983 and I was hooked. First it was Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock, and then I went out and bought the Street Sounds Electro 1 album.
“That changed everything for me. I was 11. I heard sounds I had never heard before and I was hooked. It quickly became an obsession. I used to sit in the garage of my parents’ house with an open out suitcase record player and try to teach myself to scratch on the the Electro 1 album. It still has spray paint on it in between the scratches on the grooves from where I was trying to do graffiti, too!
“But the Apache break used on this track was what I really connected with. Little did I know that, years later, this break would be the basis of my adventures into breakbeat with Plank records.
“It’s hard to focus in on one track from this pivotal compilation as the way it was put together was, in a way, my entry into DJing before I knew it... all mixed and edited. It would be fair to say that this track was my entry into turntable techniques.”
2. Bob James - Touchdown (live version)
“So my father introduced me to Bob James, as he did to so much other music. He had a bootleg cassette from New York, I think, of Bob live, and used to play this in the car on the school run.
“I was musical from a young age, making stuff up on the piano at three years old, but the cool jazz style, melancholy tones, and badass funky grooves shaped the way I started to incorporate jazz into my productions in the ‘90s.
“There are tons of Bob James tracks I love, but this live version blew me away every time because it was played more upbeat, and the solos on it were sick! I think my right hand could play all the melodies in the air on the way to school long before I got to the piano. I used to lock myself in the piano booth at lunchtimes and try to play this style!”
3. Depeche Mode - Dream On
“How does one choose one track from one of the greatest bands with a catalogue as extensive as theirs? Well, while I was trying to be one of the cool kids at school with the electro and hip-hop, I also became a massive Mode fan, with my classmate at the geekier end of the classroom. I bought all their albums.
“I have a story about the band that is very special. We got to meet them in the ‘80s and got records signed and photos with the band. Then, as my career developed, I was asked by the band to remix Dream On for their Exciter album.
“I was almost done with the remix when Terry Francis (fellow DJ) called me to tell me that a mutual friend had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was really cut up, and I stayed all night in the studio and rewrote the whole track and did a new version. I named the mix (Bushwacka’s Tough Guy remix) after the nickname of our friend, and donated the fees to his hospice treatment, went to see him and gave him the record with his name on it.
“A few months later, when Depeche Mode hit Wembley, Dave Gahan got on the mic and said the next track was for someone special out there and proceeded to play the song, dedicated to our man. So moving.
“Then a few year later, I was playing at the Benicassim festival in Valencia and Andy Fletcher sent someone to come and find me. When I met him he told me he was a big fan and was buying all my records! I couldn’t believe it. This was the biggest moment for me in my musical history! I told him about meeting him aged 13, and now again like this!”
4. Prince - Purple Rain
“One of the planet's geniuses, and totally unique. I always loved Prince’s music, particularly his use of discords in such an individual style.
“Purple Rain is such a powerful piece of music. That never-ending outro and all the hooks - pure power. But the reason It changed my life was that it was the first song that I associated with being in love
“This was my entry into having my heart strings pulled, and I played it over and over again, trying to understand the feelings I was going through; so innocent when I look back. And seeing him perform this live made me realise that he is one of the greatest living legends.
“His music has been a huge influence on me over the years. You know he almost released a sample CD of his sounds and riffs, back in the day, which I tried so hard to get hold of, but they deleted the idea in the end, and it never materialised.”
5. Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime
“I’m not sure when I first heard this track, but it sure wasn’t in 1980! What really got me was that rhythm - so baggy it’s almost pots and pans - and the track is so monotone in a way, for that period, until the chorus kicks in. Very unusual and unique, and the tinkling arpeggio that haunts the track as a bed for the magic vocals.
“I have a weird thing: I don’t actually listen to the vocal content of music, instead zoning in on melody, harmony, rhythm, tone, nuances... everything but the words. So, I’m not really even sure what the song is about, but I love it.
“It really became relevant for me when KC Flight sampled it over his 1988 release, Planet E. Funnily enough, those words resonated more with me, but the combination of the acid house track, with this underneath, was killer.
“The tune has stood the test of time. A remix made of Once In A lifetime by a friend of mine Jesse (Scumfrog) has been my biggest NYE tune two years in a row. That’s what I love about magic tracks like this - from the first time I hear them it switches a little switch on, and once it is on, it stays on.”
6. Radiohead - Subterranean Homesick Alien
“Wow... these guys. They ruled the world for me from the moment I heard OK Computer. Probably one of the best albums ever written in my opinion.
“It was really hard to choose a track, but I think it has to be this one. Shortly after it came out I was touring so heavily, I was hardly ever home. My life was crazy. Things were just beginning with Layo and Bushwacka and my studio time was relentless in between gigs. This tune made me feel out there, up in the sky, flying high above the clouds, and it also, as the title indicates, made me feel homesick. I had just bought my flat in Ladbroke Grove, and was settling in, but it was all about the studio and the production.
“What was so good about this track, and more specifically the whole album, was that it totally brought me out of myself and into another zone. I remember we were playing Glastonbury - the second time, 2002 I think - and Radiohead were headlining. This song live just blew my mind. We had to literally run to the Radio 1 stage to start our second show that day, as we had performed live in the Dance tent in the afternoon, and the concert hadn’t finished yet. It was a spiritual experience seeing Thom Yorke do his thing up there.”
7. The Night Writers - Let The Music (Use You)
“Nothing changed my life more than house music, the acid house explosion in 1988, and the revolution. Frankie Knuckles is the king. He is God.
“Why this tune? This tune was the peak of the night, the ultimate high, and the lyrics - “Let the music take you to the top” - those strings, the bassline; everything about this track sums up what was magical about the scene in its heyday.
“We used to go to Heaven, under the arches of Charing Cross Station, religiously from 1988, to either Spectrum or Rage on Mondays or Thursdays, and the light rig they had in there was sick. But it was this tune, the water-cooled green laser through the smoke, the united vibe of love and happiness... nothing comes close to how this was.
“I have a residency this year in Ibiza playing 1988 acid house classic music every week at Sankeys and this tune will be one of the ones on regular play for sure. For me, arguably the greatest house track ever made.”
8. Goldie - Timeless (20 minute version)
“This changed everything. I remember going out and buying this on CD, coming home, putting it on, sitting on the sofa, and then BOOOOM! It was simply the freshest sound around at the time.
“What that album and Goldie (together with Rob Playford) created there spawned the explosion of that whole scene. It was kind of like a musical experience akin to seeing Blade Runner for the first time; by the time the record had got to the end of track one, Timeless, I was thinking, ‘I need to get my game up immediately’.
“I had been doing my own thing with Plank breaks-wise, and had let the drum and bass scene go a couple of years before this came out, as I wasn’t feeling the crowds at the parties or the MCs constantly chatting over my sets. So I had gone back to my house and techno roots and was experimenting with the breaks. The cinematic pads, the use of timestretching (back then a laborious process) the production, the programming and the bass are so dope.
“Proper vibes. Timeless truly took me on a new journey in music when it came along.”
9. The Police - Walking On The Moon
“My parents got me into The Police and Sting later on. I started collecting their albums and, for a good few years, they were who I listened to most of the time.
“I started playing the drums, and got a drum kit at home. I would get my Walkman, and try to drum to various songs. I think that, as a drummer and a percussionist in my early teens, I was massively influenced by Stuart Copeland. His syncopated rhythms and tightness combined with the dubbed out sound is so particular to him, and is the backbone of the band.
“The power they exerted as a trio was incredible, and Sting’s harmonies and layering of vocals is magic. In particular, the Synchronicity album really got to me, but Walking On The Moon is just a beautiful piece of music and sounds as fresh to me today as it did then.”
10. Rufus and Chaka Khan - Ain't Nobody
“This may be my favourite track of all time. It sums up growing up in the ‘80s for me. It makes me think of my sister, my friends I grew up with, that I still make music with, my entry into DJing, and my passion for music. This tune is at home at a wedding as it was in the main room at Amnesia back in the day. I get goosebumps whenever I hear it.
“When I was 14 I went to an under-16s disco in the basement of a church called the Parrot and Palm. The DJ was my old classmate from junior school who I hadn’t seen for years, as we had been separated for causing a nuisance! The next day I went to his house and had my first go at mixing two records together. I was instantly hooked for life. This tune sums up that period, the innocence of youth and the discovery of music as the soundtrack to my life. And what a voice!”