The one thing that each and every person involved in electronic music is a shared sense of community. The togetherness created on the dancefloor. Whilst transmitted through the music is the pillar on which rave culture was built. Ben Rau is an artist that was so transfixed by this he has dedicated more than half his life to the dancefloor.
Originally falling in love with house and techno in his late teens he spent years exploring his deep-seated passion for electronic music through self-expression – namely, raving. Between Berlin and the UK, Ben Rau spent many years on dancefloors. Educating himself, losing himself and ultimately forging his DJ personality.
Having a solid grounding in club culture means Ben Rau connection with the dancefloor runs deep. Likewise, his studio endeavours are aimed at those who dedicate their time to dancing. Ahead of his upcoming release ‘The Player’ on Knee Deep In Sound we sat with Ben Rau to discuss life behind the headphones.
For us, rave culture is a hugely emotive thing that circumvents all sorts of social constructs that exist in everyday life. Can you tell us what rave culture means to you and what first pushed you on this journey?
I got introduced to electronic music by my older brother Jonathan. I kept hearing stories of the rave way before I was allowed to go. At age 17 I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer and started going to clubs as well as travelling to large raves.
For me, the rave is a safe space. A place where you would be accepted for who you are and where you can express yourself through dance with a sense of community and togetherness. My connection to raving runs so deep that I have now dedicated more than half of my life to it. It’s easily dismissed as hedonism but really, as you said, it has all sorts of quite profound implications on society as a whole.
In a conversation the other day someone put forward the argument that “DJ’s that have come from the dance floor have a greater understanding of the dance floors needs than someone that comes from a production background, powered by their love of music creation” is there any truth in this statement?
Yes, I can agree with that. Before I was a DJ I was just a dancer at my favourite clubs, and I was happy like that for a long time. I think you have to have experienced the kind of states your mind enters when you dance to rhythmic music for a long time to truly understand the dancefloor. It is important to know how deep down the rabbit hole you can descend, before releasing them. Also being a warm-up DJ for a while makes you much better. People that experience rapid assents to stardom, usually aren’t very good at the sets that we like to call ‘journeys’.
What has been the most challenging part of your career to date?
Overcoming internal resistance to success for sure. At every stage, you have to acclimate to a new level of intensity. This resistance is usually experienced as anxiety or fear. In reality, all it is is getting used to being very busy. Eventually, this becomes your norm.
You run not just one but two successful imprints. When looking at signing what is your decision-making process? Is it all about the music or do you take the person and their profile into account as well?
The track has to grab me on a visceral level. I also look for hooks and melodies that might stick in people heads. To date, I haven’t done bad sniffing out records that do well. I look for music that will stand the test of time. It has to be more than just beats baselines and noises.
Being born in Berlin and living back there now, what are your thoughts on the fact that over 100 venues have closed in the last 12 months?
It’s a real shame and these are the known effects of gentrification. Having said that Berlin recognizes the importance of the clubbing industry to the city in economic and cultural terms. The government is in that respect very progressive so I’m optimistic that we will continue to have a very good scene in Berlin.
Has there been a city, club or promoter that has completely overturned your expectations for better or worse?
A promoter that really made a huge impression on me is are the promoters of 121 Festival in NZ. They are a bunch of young guns that opened a small club in Wellington NZ called 121. Only in their early twenties, the festival is growing fast. An impressive feat for its second year. They are the future, and it makes me happy that the next generation is involved with so much passion and practical knowledge.
Finally, if you could produce a track with anyone past or present who would it be and why?
I’d love to work with Kerri Chandler, Mr G or Louie Vega. Luckily we are all on the same agency so who knows – it might actually happen. They are legends of House and I’m all about House in all its facets.