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Meeting Ben Hemsley at Golden Buddha

Ahead of his brand new residency at Ibiza Rocks, we sat down with bebé recordings's top boy.

Three weeks today, Ben Hemsley will embark on his brand new Ibiza Rocks residency. It's no less than he deserves. In a few short years, the Geordie young gun has become one of the UK's most exciting young DJs and producers.

In fact, he's possibly one of the most in-demand dance music artists of the present moment.

The fever surrounding him is thanks to catalytic career moments, such as being headhunted by Ministry Of Sound and signing to Stress Records. Then there's his much-talked-about 2021 set at Creamfields, which blew up, both there in the flesh and the online stream.

These accomplishments, combined with his down-to-earth, kid from the rough end of town come good personality have seen him become one of the most likeable people in dance music. We met him at Golden Buddha on San Antonio's Sunset Strip, to discuss the season ahead.

Meeting Ben Hemsley at Golden Buddha

Meeting Ben Hemsley at Golden Buddha

Hi Ben. Welcome back to Ibiza. We're here at Golden Buddha at the quieter end of the Sunset Strip, which is a space very close to your heart. Perhaps you'd like to start off by telling us why?

"It's my favourite spot on the island. There's a lot of places around Ibiza that mean a lot to me, but this one probably means the most. I've had so many fond memories here with friends and family."

"When I did a season in 2017, I only lived around the corner from here. I didn't have much money. I would come down, buy a bottle of water, put my laptop and headphones on and just make tunes all day. Literally until the sun set.

Even some of the tunes that you hear today, started off as melodies that I wrote when I was doing a season, especially the more Trancey ones."

It obviously left a lasting impression, as you named one of your breakthrough tracks Golden Buddha too.

"Aye. When I was making that tune, it made me think of Golden Buddha, so I dedicated it to this place. It's honestly stunning."

Your sound in general is quite interesting. You seem to be discarding this outdated attitude towards genre labelling. You just make and play whatever you feel like, instead of putting yourself into a rigid pre-existing category. Was that conscious?

"It was quite conscious. Just looking back to my first time playing at Creamfields. It was my first big crowd and I just decided to play what I felt was right.

The set was getting recorded and I didn't care how it was going to be perceived. My job as a DJ is to entertain the crowd. I didn't give a f*** about what promoters were watching and if they were gonna judge 'us. I wanted to play what's true to myself."

Ben entertaining the Creamfields crowd on the Trick stage in 2022

"Since then, I felt like it really worked and I carried on doing it.

I think that's the best way to be as a DJ, to be versatile. I can do anything. Even an afters or if I turn up at a bar in Newcastle with my USBs, I can play Disco. Or play a big headline show where I play everything from Tech House to Trance to mad hardcore Techno at 160 bpm.

I like it. It feels like I can control the crowd more."

Discussing his booking policy

That philosophy is also reflected in your Ibiza Rocks' line-ups. You got a House master in Todd Terry, Hannah Laing playing faster dance music, Schak channelling Makina...

"It's just artists who I think are absolute class. I know how they DJ. I like a bit of a mix. I understand the Tech House thing. Parties like Solid Grooves have a certain vibe, but I wanted to offer something different that's a bit of a mix - what I'm into personally.

Two guys who I actually did my season with in 2017, Jonny Burn and Matty Robson, who's just had his first release on Trick not so long ago. It's nice for them to play because they were the first people to get me DJing and getting my first gig, so it's nice to invite them over here."

Meeting Ben Hemsley at Golden Buddha

So when you play all day long on 27 August, that will presumably give you a chance to spread your wings creatively and touch all these different bases?

"Aye. I think I'm going to keep it a bit more summery, just because of the setting. But there will be a bit of everything. And I'm sure that the DJs on the line-up on the rest of the dates will bring some of that as well."

Last summer you were a big part of Trick at DC10. That's quite a big shift from night to day, enclosed to open-air, an underground club to a relatively commercial one. Will you approach them differently?

"My sets will definitely be different, especially because I'll be playing last and have more freedom to do what I want. I did love those gigs, but I'm more excited for these ones."

Ben Hemsley playing alongside Meg Ward at DC10 last summer for Trick

We bet! You've been very vocal about your desire to bring the Trance sound back to the mainstream, presumably, we can be expecting to hear lots at Ibiza Rocks?

"100 per cent there will be Trance. It's the right setting for it. When the sun is setting as well, it's gonna be very Balearic vibes. Back in the day, DJs who played MANUMISSION or Cream would play everything from Hard House, Trance, House. There was everything in those sets."

Being prolific in the studio & spotting talent

In terms of what you've got scheduled release-wise, there's lots coming right?

"Shit loads! This year is going to be the most music I've ever released. In my opinion, it'll also be the best music I've ever released. It feels like I'm staying true to myself with every single one. It's not an ego thing. I make this music because I love it and I don't care how it's received."

Ben's latest release on bebé - no need to ask him the inspiration behind this one!

"I think the people will love it too. That's how I want it to be for the rest of my career."

How are things going with your label, bebé recordings?

"We released the first EP last year to get things moving. But this year we're starting to pick up the pace. I'm really excited for it. I don't think there's another label like it. It's a new approach to dance music. Manifesto back in the day, is probably the closest thing it resembles."

Meeting Ben Hemsley at Golden Buddha

Do you handle the A&R yourself?

"Yeah. It's mainly me, but my tour manager also gets passed a few things. Mostly I get handed things when I approach people. There's a few people who have inspired 'us over the years coming on it.

Yomanda - an absolute legend. Klubbheads who are Hard House DJs. Then we've got some new upcoming kids like Ben Prophet, Inafekt, Kody One and Hannah Laing, as well. Schak's got one coming out. There's another kid as well, who's really shit hot called Lovestruck."

"I didn't want to be a label where we're only releasing from artists who are already established. Most of the best music in my sets is from producers that nobody has ever heard of. It's exciting because nobody has ever heard it. That's what I want to focus on.

I just want to help people and use my platform to help them. We'll be opening a demo submission as well."

Ibiza down time

Will you be flying in and out or will you have a more permanent base here?

"I think I might base myself here for a month or so, maybe six weeks. Seeing as I'm here every Sunday, I'll probably stay until Wednesday most weeks. Sonic Vista Studios which I went to last year, means I can make tunes over here as well."

Sonic Vista Studios

"I was here for a month last year. It wasn't about mad partying, it was actual downtime. The island has so much more to offer than parties and staying up until daft o'clock. I can actually wind down here, more so than I can at home."

Where are your favourite spots to chill out?

"Here for one, as you know. I like going to Ibiza Town. I like the north of the island too, like Benirras. Cala Gració is another nice beach. Beaches, pools and going for walks. I just enjoy walking about."

Cala Gració

Ben Hemsley kicks off his debut Ibiza residency at "the home of the pool party" next month. Across eight weeks starting Sunday 6 August, a hand-picked roster of DJs including LF System, Jodie Harsh, Kettama and Hannah Laing, are all set to make a splash.

You can find tickets and line-up details for all dates below.

WORDS | by Stephen Hunt and Jo Dargie

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