On September 18th, the beautiful city of Tampa Bay, Florida was treated to a rare U.S. show by the trance scene’s badboy, Ben Nicky.
The event, which was made possible by Eyewitness Entertainment and Solar Power Group, took place at the illustrious Kennedy for their weekly Icon Thursdays.
Trance United was fortunate enough to sit down with the “Headfuck” brand boss just before his set to chat about his summer of touring, how the trance scene is different in the U.S and Canada, and his upcoming projects among many other things.
Trance United (TU): This past year you have done massive amounts of touring: From LA to Ibiza and Australia to Florida, with some huge festivals/events mixed in (Luminosity, Nature One, Creamfields, etc.), which events were your favorite and why?
Ben Nicky (BN): If I had to pick one, it would be The Crown in Melbourne. Reason being it was only like 3,000 people, but literally every person had ‘HeadFuck’ merchandising on (which is my brand) and were going off to every tune. I have played festivals with 10-20 thousand people, but to me it’s more about the vibe and the passion. That’s my favorite gig this year but I’ve done so many good gigs this year. I couldn’t even count on two hands the amount of life-changing gigs I’ve done. But for me, that one in Melbourne was really, really good.
TU: Your tour included Ibiza, how was that?
BN: I have done Ibiza six years in a row so it’s sort of like a heritage to go and do that as an English DJ. But I’ve done [almost] every continent now and for me it’s now about exploring new places and expanding my name and my brand. I don’t care what country it is, how to get there, or how long it takes me to get there, as long as the place is good – that’s all that matters to me.
TU: With all that touring, you have probably seen how diverse the trance music scene is all over the world. In your opinion, how is it different in the US/Canada compared to other places?
BN: First of all the clothing is very different [laughs]. Everyone in America wears this ‘kandi’ stuff and fluffy boots and stuff which happened in England like 10-20 years ago. There is a lot more of an EDM hype in America with the big names such as Steve Aoki, Hardwell, W&W who are massive here. They’re on the television a lot more. There are a lot more kids here that are into EDM here (I hate that term, but yeah, EDM). The 140 scene here isn’t quite as big but you have your regular 140 guys now that are pushing it (say like Simon Patterson, myself, Bryan Kearney, Indecent Noise, and Jordan Suckley) who are sort of at the forefront of the scene right now in America. I missed Aly & Fila as well, they are huge here. I think now there is a new wave of trance coming here, psytrance is getting huge here right now, in LA specifically.
TU: How about in Canada?
BN: I’ve only ever done three shows in Canada. I’m actually performing there tomorrow as well (Sept 19, 2014). Cananda’s quite a tough territory to crack. There are only certain names that work there. Luckily I am one of them that have sort of started to play there a bit more. It’s hard for me to comment on the market though because I’ve only played there three times. But I love Canada, its good fun and the girls are hot there as well [laughs].
TU: Where do you see trance music moving in the next 5-10 years?
BN: It’s hard to really comment. Everything goes around in circles. At the moment in England, deep house is massive, so like Disclosure, Duke Dumont, MK…these names are huge. I hope trance goes back to mainstream in a way because I think I’m at the forefront of that in my scene so maybe I’ll earn a bit more money if that does happen. But its not about selling out or being commercial for me. It’s about awareness and if I can play trance to more people and I can get more exposure in the next five years, that’s all I want. I think ‘selling out’ is changing your sound to make more money but if you stay in your sound and become bigger/the genre gets bigger, in my opinion that’s awesome.
TU: So what are your thoughts in regards to artists like Armin [van Buuren] who, when he plays main stage at a big festival, plays a more commercial style then when he plays at his solo/Armin Only shows?
BN: I understand. Armin’s a businessman. I would probably do the same. I do when I play in Asia or like Eastern Europe, where the money is really good. If you get offered a lot of money to play a show, say after Calvin Harris (like I did the other month), you have to play a bit slower. When it pays your bills and your mortgage, you’re not going to turn it down. I play for the crowd and sometimes you do have to play a bit slower. Ultimately I wouldn’t play EDM, I would probably play some techno and some cooler stuff, but I respect Armin. He is a very clever businessman. He gets a lot of stick from people for playing EDM but it’s his own choice. Everyone has their own career and their own path and I’m not one to comment. I don’t think people who throw cakes at people for their career are really good DJ’s but Armin knows how to mix and make good music. He does play 140 as well.
TU: Yes he has done a lot for the trance community.
BN: Yeah, at the end of the day, if young kids listen to his “This is What it Feels Like” track and don’t know about trance, they then might start listening to his radio show, and then listen to people like myself! In my eyes, he is helping people coming into the scene.
TU: Your IG followers were treated to a photo of you in Ian Standerwick’s studio. Does this mean a possible collaboration is in the works?
BN: Yeah we just signed it to Who’s Afraid of 138 label actually. I’m normally a Vandit boy. Paul van Dyk is my boy and I sign everything with him. But it was a bit too “psy-y” for that label so we went with WAO138, whom I think suited it perfectly. I genuinely think, hands down, that its one of the biggest uplifters of the year. Absolutely HUGE! Ian was nearly crying over it. I’m serious. The break down is so emotional…it deserves to be a big track. We put our heart and soul into it.
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TU: Well we are looking forward to it! What other projects are you currently working on?
BN: Yeah I just finished a remix of Paul van Dyk. I just did a collaboration with Paul van Dyk for his new ‘Politics of Dancing’ album, which I shouldn’t talk about but, I saw he announced it a few times elsewhere. I can’t really tell you anything more about it. I did a single with Sue MacClaren, which comes out in a few months, which I will play tonight…really big track. Basically I’m just going down the vocal route. All I want to do is vocals. Like my “Braveheart” track in every set I play just goes off man and its what people remember.
TU: The “Headfuck” brand has become a household name in the trance community. Fans are using it as a noun, “Still buzzing from last night’s HeadF**K” and as a verb “Time to get headfucked.” What was your inspiration for the idea behind Headf**k?
BN: You know without that word I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I had an alright career as a DJ before, but I was just another average DJ…just touring. I just sat there one day and I made a mash-up of Porter Robinson’s “Language.” I put about seven or eight tracks mashed together and I though that’s not a mash-up. It’s weird…a bit of a fucked up thing and I just called it a “Headfuck.” So I sent it to Armin and I thought he’s never going to play a thing called “Headfuck.” It’s the worst swear word, and didn’t think he would ever play it…and he played it! From then on everyone just started saying “Headfuck.” So I thought I better make some more Headfucks.
Now people know me more for that name than probably my own name. The brand is fucking huge…it’s a very strong brand and a lot of my touring comes from the back of it, and I don’t want it to get cheesy or corny so I am quite careful with it. But Headfuck represents me; I am a bit crazy, a bit different. I don’t really care what people think of me. I am a bit outspoken and controversial but that’s me and Headfuck represents me and that makes me happy and I can be myself.
People like Paul van Dyk…at first I thought it may insult people like that, like you know when I work for someone on their label when I’ve got such a controversial brand, but he’s been really supportive and he’s behind me 100% with my brand. As long as we don’t “troll” people or say horrible things about people that don’t deserve it (which I am not about anyway). Headfuck is about just being a bit crazy and different and about having fun and the fact that my idol supports all that is good to me.
TU: What other hobbies do you have besides DJ’ing/Producing?
BN: I don’t get much time to myself as you can probably imagine. I am always fucking flying and in hotels. I like girls…I like meeting girls [laughs]. Not in like a sleezy way. I like to socialize, go out, and meet people. I love the gym. I am in the gym all the time. When I am home, I like spending time with my friends. And in general I am quite a homely person; I like to see my family as much as I can and walk my dogs on the beach. Underneath it, I am quite a normal guy behind the Headfuck brand. Obviously I am quite crazy when it comes to work, but when I am at home I like to just sort of relax, eat healthy, go to the gym, and I don’t really party when I am home. I party so much for my job that I like to have a normal life as well.
TU: What is your favorite trance album of all time?
BN: I’ll be honest with you, I don’t listen to any trance albums! That’s a hard question for me.
TU: Not even when you were going up?
BN: Above and Beyond. All the Oceanlab stuff like “Clear Blue Water,” “Sirens of the Sea,” and “Miracle.” Above and Beyond “Alone Tonight” and all that sort of stuff.
TU: So a lot of Above and Beyond?
BN: Yeah Above and Beyond were my influences massively…still are now. But album wise, I’ve already been asked to do an album next year and I’m not too sure if I want to do one or not. I don’t think it does much for your career. I think people forget about them in a week. They download it off Pirate Bay and don’t give a shit. But I appreciate people’s albums, they put a lot of hard work into it, but from a previous point of view, Above and Beyond all the way.
TU: Thanks a lot Ben
BN: Thank you!
Check out the latest releases from Ben Nicky on Beatport and keep an eye out for his collaboration with Ian Standerwick released soon on Who’s Afraid of 138?!
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Interview conducted on Sept 18, 2014 by Jules Gia