Get Headf*cked With This Exclusive EDC New York 2016 Mix From Ben NickyBen Nicky
Ben Nicky is the busy bad boy of trance. Rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities and rebelling against the norm suit his worldwide fans just fine, as the British DJ/producer keeps the party going without a weekend off until Christmas this year. But in the midst of jet-setting, Nicky still finds time for the studio, with the recent release of his single “Anywhere,” as well as forthcoming remixes for Emma Hewitt and Gareth Emery, a Paul van Dyk collaboration, plus another original on Vandit, “You and Me,” due out next month. As if that weren’t enough, he’s helping Headliners get in the mood for EDC New York 2016 with a special mix just for the occasion. As you work on your costumes and kandi masterpieces, get a taste of what Ben Nicky has in store.
You’ve got a fresh new single out, “Anywhere,” featuring Chloe. How did that collaboration come about, and what was your goal with the track?
She’s an upcoming vocalist I saw on a couple of tracks with upcoming DJs, and I got in touch with her. She hadn’t had many releases, and it majorly impressed me hearing her music—an absolutely amazing talent. She gave me a great song to use, and we made it a track. It came in the middle of me doing loads of other projects, but I made it quite quickly. I only finished it a month ago, and they released it pretty quickly for me. I released it on my friend’s label [Universal Nation]. It was an exciting project to do; I don’t do many vocal tracks because I find it hard to find good vocals. It was good fun, and it’s quite an emotional track, too, which is nice. It’s not just your typical banging track.
We chatted at the first Dreamstate, and the brand has grown quickly since. Why do you think it took so long for America to embrace trance on a larger scale and catch up with the rest of the world?
The fans have always been there, but the bigger brands, I don’t think they really saw how much demand there was for trance. Before, you’d have your typical hard-hitters that would play, but a lot of what I would classify as your up-and-comers or more underground names didn’t really get a show. Everywhere around the world where I played would be really successful events, but you’d never get put on that big platform in America as much. I did Exchange and Avalon [in L.A.] and pretty much every city, but there was never a big festival event dedicated to trance, like every other continent. I’d say the first Dreamstate, which I was lucky enough to play, was just a massive gathering for the whole trance community in America.
It seems like a lot of people who may have enjoyed trance for a long time are now discovering psytrance. What do you think are some of your favorite aspects of the sound?
I probably didn’t get into trance until 2000, but I always loved trance because of the emotion to it. But that kind of sound, the uplifting sound, some uplifting DJs and the pure trance DJs, they play to a very niche crowd and the nine-minute tracks. I don’t feel the younger fans enjoy standing around like we used to. They don’t want to stand there for seven minutes waiting for it to kick back in.
The thing with psytrance is it’s got that craziness to it, that unexpected feeling. You don’t know what’s really gonna happen, but when it kicks in, it’s gonna be crazy, and that’s what I think the kids love—because it is a little bit like trap, electro, house, and techno all mixed into one genre. It seems like it’s a very exciting sound, but if you don’t DJ it right, it can get boring.
But my Headfuck brand, the word “Headfuck” has always come from an unexpected type of DJing in my sets. One minute I’ll drop Cosmic Gate’s “Exploration of Space,” the next minute I drop a Vini Vici track. You’re not really knowing what’s gonna happen. For me, it’s exciting that psy has gotten really commercial like that, so it’s great.
You’ve coined the term “Headfuck mashups.” Describe what that is.
My branding is a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, a little bit on the edge and controversial at times, but it’s not like it’s being done to cause any problems or to separate me from the rest of the trance scene. It’s just something that’s an image and character that’s worked for me massively without having to release a crazy amount of tunes like other producers do. The Headfuck mashups were really just a way of me boarding the airplane and doing little bits of work here and there and incorporating things that I was brought up with, but adding new sounds to them and making them a bit more relevant. I think that’s why I have such a young fanbase, compared to a lot of other DJs in trance.
I’m a businessman, too, and things like longevity are very important to me. I think that you don’t get as far if you don’t evolve with the sound and play what the younger audience wants to hear. So, I’m still keeping to my roots by playing classics, but I’m mixing it up with psy and newer sounds. That’s what Headfuck is all about: It’s just an experience about unexpectedness, being crazy, being yourself, being a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
When you’re putting together a mix like this one for EDC New York 2016, what are you listening for when selecting the tracks?
A lot of purist DJs out there will just play their sound. They will just play what the hell they want to play, and I massively appreciate that. On the other hand, I was brought up as a resident DJ, so I was a warmup DJ for Paul van Dyk back in the day, playing for free during the 9–10pm slot, when no one’s even there. I was brought up to respect the following DJ; I couldn’t take the glory, because I wasn’t a name and no one knew me. But I also learned to read crowds, and since then, you know which country likes what music. For example, in Argentina I play psytrance all night, because that’s what they want. Whereas in L.A., I play a lot more vocal and psy mixed. Europe, I play uplifting. Every country’s got its own sound that works better on the dancefloor. When it comes to mixes, it’s the same. I tailor my mixes based on who it’s for, but not to the point that it’s not me. Whether it’s for a mix or DJing live, I just want to keep people entertained, and I think that’s why I mix very quickly. If people watch me, they’ll be like, “Bloody hell.” I’ll do like 30 tracks in an hour!
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