Life as a DJ is a never-ending rollercoaster of Red Bull-fuelled parties that spill across penthouse suites the world over, with intermittent pauses to update your Twitter account and tell your denizens how you ‘smashed’ last night’s gig. You’re dressed by some Italian designer with more vowels than strictly necessary, and are prone to replicating the Jesus pose, bathed in white light when the breakdown kicks in. Right? Oh, and when you’re touring around California you like to cycle between gigs rather than take your private jet. Erm, what?
‘Ha, ha. It was quite a challenge,’ laughs 44-year-old Italian DJ Benny Benassi. ‘I trained hard for it so I was okay. Cycling is so good on so many levels. It keeps you healthy, it doesn’t pollute the environment, it doesn’t burn fossil fuels, it gives you a chance to see places you wouldn’t see otherwise, or at least experience them in a different way than you would in a car. I hope I raised awareness.’
Yes, and also confounded our clichéd DJ expectations. But perhaps it’s not so surprising. Benny is, after all, a DJ and producer who keeps his Grammy – awarded for his stonking rework of Public Enemy three years ago – next to the coffee jar. When pressed to talk about it, he mumbles: ‘Well, I guess it’s one of the high points,’ before admitting that it was a ‘turning point’ for his musical partnership. For while Benny may be the goatee-clad face you see orchestrating the dancefloor destruction, he’s not actually pulling the musical strings behind the scenes. Step forward one Alle Benassi, Benny’s cousin and studio partner, who’s happy geeking away in studios perfecting crisp hi hats and basslines while Benny takes the credit.
Throughout the interview, Benny is quick to point out that it’s a joint venture, happily name-dropping Alle when we turn attention to the forthcoming album, Cinema. ‘Alle’s the man in the studio behind my sounds,’ he says. ‘We wanted to continue the path we began to tread with Rock’n’Rave and see what the Benassi bass would sound like with vocals from a range of styles. So we have tracks with T Pain, Pitbull, Kelis, Chris Brown, Gary Go and several others. We’re really happy with the collaborations. There are a lot of songs and great melodies, but there are also club instrumentals that I hope will keep our hardcore fans happy. We haven’t forgotten where we come from.’
That may be so, but it does sound worryingly similar to the career path forged by David Guetta. As successful as Guetta has been, does the world really need another mega-global-cheesy pop DJ?
This is why Benny has turned to the UK, and primarily dubstep, to keep his sound fresh. After commissioning a remix from metalhead-turned-noisy electro/dubstep producer Skrillex, Benny fell in love with the seismic bass wobbles and regularly drops the emerging 140BPM sound in his sets. But with Dubai relatively new to the genre, will he be brave enough to drop it here? ‘If the mood is right, I’ll slip a couple in. I’m sure it’ll go down well in Dubai,’ he says excitedly.
Just as our chat is coming to an end, we ask him what else we can expect from his headlining set. After several home truths and the revelation that he’s a green DJ who doesn’t make his own music, he thankfully makes it clear that he’s not entirely cliché-free. ‘A DJ set is a journey. I need to connect with the people in front of me and we all go on a voyage,’ he says without a hint of irony. It’s not quite the revelation that he snorts ants for breakfast, but it’s enough to keep our faith in larger-than-life DJs strong.
Benny plays Peppermint’s seventh Birthday at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday June 10. Tickets Dhs150, www.timeouttickets.com