Classically trained Benjamin Steel was first introduced to music by his grandmother at age 7. He landed his first record deal at age 15. He then went on to front “Visitors” a band championed by BBC 6 Music as One To Watch.
From there he joined “Howe Steel”, an EDM based collaboration, which saw Benjamin make a name for himself on the DJ scene and remixing for luminaries that included Rihanna.
More recently, Benjamin has been focusing on his initial goal of becoming a solo artist and has spent time in Milan and the US, working with some big names, such as Timbaland, and Jim Beanz.
The result of which is a new album “The Record” due for release in 2015. Lead single “Stormchaser” is set to be released on January 12th.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Benjamin for a chat:
We love your look and sound in “Stormchaser”!! It’s VERY 80s influenced – what was the idea behind that?
I love 80s music, I really love Michael Jackson although I do prefer HIStory pt. 2 – 1995. I love 80s music; Prince, Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths. I am heavily influenced by the 80s. I had a friend who is a lot older than me, he was my old tour manager in Visitors. I spent hours listening to his music. I love ‘Don’t You Want Me’ by Human League and Paul Oakey with Giorgio Moroder on ‘Together In Electric Dreams’.
The 80s as a whole was a more optimistic time. Everything was larger than life. The shows were three dimensional. It was not just four guys on stage playing their new album-there were pyrotechnics. It was all so theatrical. But did I go out specifically to write an 80s records? No, but I do listen to a lot of 80s. In fact in the studio, the engineer and I always listen to this one station that just plays 80s music with huge singalong choruses. Belinda Carlisle and early Madonna stuff. Quality pop songs.
The Smiths – ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’. Even more so on the indie side of things it shows that the 80s was a great place to be musically.
Of course there was also Jackson with ‘Bad’ and ‘Thriller’ just heading it all up. ‘Human Nature’ is just such a great song. I know the story behind it and he was pissed off. I quite like depressing music. ‘Man In The Mirror’, ‘Beat It’ – he was just doing a whole new thing which was exciting.
I don’t think I set out to write 80s music but I have been inspired by it subconciously.
Talk us through the song. What’s the story?
That track is basically the moment where I realise the girl I was with for a long time was not who I thought she was. It was written the moment after I had found out what her life had become after she had left me. Seeing shots of her soon after we broke up going out, dressing very slutty and getting with a lot of guys. Just becoming a person I did not know at all. It was far more than a break up, it was like losing a part of me, ‘Stormchaser’ deals with how I felt when I realised she was not who I thought she was.
You’re known as a DJ, and yet you’ve turned your back on that success, to focus on being a solo artist. What made you take that road?
You have moments in life that you realise that it is now or never. I just had that moment. Visitors was coming to an end. I was doing lots of DJing, which was a huge financial incenive but I just thought that if I don’t make a record now, it will be too late. I had to do something for me rather than to please the bank manager. It shouldn’t be about staying afloat. What I did in Howe-Steel was amazing. It is always amazing to make a room full of people feel a certain way, whether DJing or performing but I just thought to myself that I am standing here playing other people’s records when I want to be playing mine. However I wouldn’t rule out Howe-Steel getting back together.
How did you come to co-produce with “Fixer”?
By accident. I basically demoed ‘Stormchaser’ in Berlin and had finished off writing the albums. While doing those demos I met Fixer through someone I met in a music shop in Berlin. I was talking about wanting to collaborate with someone and they were like there is this Dutch guy who lives here and you have to meet him. I met him and initially I thought he looked like the kind of guy who could produce a really cool record, so we did ‘Stormchaser’. It was the test as to if it would work.
What is your favourite musical instrument?
Piano. I just feel really comfortable with it. I really love writing on acoustic guitar but the piano is such a versatile writing tool. I just feel like I can hear something in my head and I can go straight to it on the piano. You can really get a feel for a song with just the piano and a vocal. It is an extension of me.
Would you see yourself going back to writing for others?
I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m writing for other artists at the moment. I love to be busy, I am a workaholic. My worst nightmare is not having things to do. When I am not going Benjamin Steel stuff I am still doing things for other artists. When things heat up I will have less time to do it, but I have many other songs that would suit many other artists.
What’s your advice for anyone wanting to get into the music industry?
Be very careful. Watch out for the sharks – they bite! Know what you want. Be determined. Don’t let anyone say you can’t do anything.You can do anything if you just believe and are detemined.
You went to Milan to hone your craft – do you feel the atmosphere there produced an album you couldn’t have come up with in Britain?
Yes, I do feel the atmosphere created a recording environment I would not have had elsewhere for the main reason that the studio was free. We would have been clockwatching in Britain and if you are clockwathing you aren’t quality controlling. That is what is most important.
What does the future hold for Benjamin Steel?
3 #1 albums, 2 world tours, a greatest hits and a few more world tours…