‘I’ve been into music from a very young age,’ laughs Ben Prok. And he’s not kidding, either. ‘Apparently I was raving it up to the sounds of [80s pop-ska band] Madness when I was in my highchair.’ Luckily for Ben – and clubland in general – that interest has not gone to waste. Since discovering the joys of house music at the legendary British mansion-turned-club Sterns back in the 90s, Ben’s career has developed fast, and in the last three years he’s also started producing music with pal James Fitch, resulting in a number of successful tracks, including ‘The Chant’ and ‘Outro Lugar’. And now he’s doffing his cap to Dubai with a set at Hat Club, the world’s only headgear-based dance event.
But he’s only got this far by doing a heck of a lot of hard work, as he explains: ‘When I was younger, I started putting on a few parties in and around where I grew up, renting village halls and blagging marquees, but it was all a bit time consuming, so the next step was getting behind the decks. My first gig was in February 2001... to say I was nervous was an understatement! I didn’t get off to the best start when I took off the wrong record in the first 10 minutes of my set. Fortunately there was a good crowd there, so things picked up.’
It’s a good job he didn’t get discouraged, too, because despite that initial mixing mix-up, the following year saw the first big success of his career – a two-hour set at Ibiza’s Plastic Fantastic. ‘My girlfriend at the time worked her magic,’ he says. ‘She wangled me a set while we were on holiday and I played a slightly different sound to the rest of the guys on trial and had a bit of fun at the same time. I ended up staying there for four months and returned the following year.’
And he’ll be going back again this year, too, straight after his Hat Club gig, to play not just the opening of a new club in Playa d’en Bossa, but also Tiesto’s new night at Privilege, a monthly party at Eden and more besides. But his biggest night so far has been with studio partner James Fitch at the Gatecrasher Summer Sound System, the UK’s biggest dance event. ‘It was the first major dance festival I’ve played at,’ he says. ‘We were playing on the Sunday and they had over 30,000 people through the door.’ But playing in England has its price: ‘Unfortunately it p***** down with rain all day!’
So was the switch from DJ to producer a tricky one for Ben? It seems so. ‘It was obviously quite different, making dance music as opposed to playing other people’s records,’ he says, ‘but it was something I’ve always wanted to do long before I began DJing.
‘It’s been a real advantage making tracks from a DJ’s perspective, as we are both well aware of what works well on the dance floor and we ensure that this is reflected in our production. However it would have been very handy if I had paid more attention at school and learned how to play some instruments!’
Not that being unable to hammer on a piano has restricted his ambition any – as well as opening their new label and club night, Floorplay Music, Prok and Fitch are also doing remixes for Cevin Fisher and Dutch producers Kraak and Smaak. But other those gigs, it seems that Tom’s just going to see where his future takes him. ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen,’ he grins, ‘if you were to tell me six months ago that Tocadisco would remix one of our tracks and that we were booked to play at Global Gathering on the same stage as Roger Sanchez, Axwell, Fedde Le Grande, Dirty South and Tom Novy, I’d have thought you were taking the p***!’
For now, the only certain thing is that he’ll be playing Hat Club, though even this isn’t being planned; Ben will decide on the set once he can see what the crowd are into. So can he at least tell us what hat he’ll be wearing on the night? ‘Surprise surprise, you’ll have to come and see!’ Bah.
Ben plays Hat Club on June 12.