Friday, December 11, 2015 at 10:00pm
$15.00 advance
7th St Entry

Info Tabs


In 2012, KMS – the record label of techno founding father Kevin Saunderson – threw a 25 year anniversary party in Detroit, birthplace of the label and of techno itself. It was easily the biggest celebration of Detroit techno in many years, with all of the DJs hailing from Detroit. Except one: Ben Sims, the London DJ known around the world for the past 20 years for his energetic and tough yet funky sound. That booking alone should tell you all you need to know about Sim’s importance in the world of techno.

Unwilling to fall in to a pattern of doing the same thing over and over, Sims has run multiple labels over the years and more recently has started two different projects focused on new music. In 2011, he and Kirk Degiorgio started a recurring party in London called Machine where only techno that came out within the last year is played. Then last year, he launched a monthly radio show called Run It Red with an even more ambitious rule: he only plays music that he has bought, been sent, or produced since the prior month’s show. 

Sims will be in Minneapolis for just the second time, to play at the SYSTEM 5 year Anniversary | Ben Sims | Mike Gervais, on Friday, December 11 in the Entry. We connected with Sims to talk about his new endeavors as well as his connections to several Minneapolis DJs.

Machine focuses on new music and up and coming acts, but when you book a heavy hitter such as Oscar Mulero, do you expect them to feature new music as well?

BS: We tell them the concept and advertise it as being a party that focuses on new music but we don't stand around policing the DJ booth obviously, we're pretty relaxed about it and a few DJs (including myself) have cheated a little by playing unreleased edits of older tunes anyway.

If you do, what is the feedback you have received from the veteran DJs on playing at Machine?

BS: Largely positive. 5 years ago techno wasn't as big as it is right now and many nights out in London felt a bit tired musically, so just focusing on new or unreleased material was really refreshing and exciting for us, the guests and the crowd.

Obviously things are a bit different now, techno is in a boom period, with about 500 releases coming out every month so it's not really a challenge or as much of a statement to only play new music anymore but we always look to book forward thinking DJs regardless of whether they've been on the scene for 30 minutes or 30 years. The main point is that it's not a greatest hits of techno event.

Machine as well as your radio show Run It Red focus exclusively on new music, is this to challenge yourself and your guest DJs, avoid boredom, an excuse to listen to and make even more new music, or a combination of all of the above?

BS: Run It Red is largely based on the kind of radio shows I used to listen growing up (With DJs Mike Allen/Jazzy M/Colin Favor/Colin Dale), shows that showcased the new music out there or forthcoming stuff, exclusives, etc.  I do mix the show but it's not about me, it's not a 'mix show', it's not a podcast or DJ set.

It's just my pick of the great music out there and I hope people listen to it and end up with a wants list of tracks to buy or new artists to follow.

Run It Red is 3 hours long, does your since-the-last-episode only approach make it difficult to fill the whole program?

BS: It would have been difficult to do if i started it around the birth of Machine, but not now. Now it's hard to keep it under 3 hours, I buy lots of records and obviously I get sent loads of stuff too, so the difficulty is filtering it down to 60-80 tracks a month when there's usually about 150 I want to play. 

You recently decided to close up your long running label Theory Recordings and re-start another, Symbolism, which had been dormant for nearly 10 years. What caused the changes and what would you say are the differences between a Theory release versus a Symbolism release?

BS: With Theory I really wanted to end on a high and not just be another 90's label that never stops. 17 years is plenty for a label to exist, too much probably, some of my favorites only lasted 6 months.

I’m very proud of the output, especially the last 10 or so releases, it also survived many lulls in techno's popularity and distribution problems so I'm happy I battled through and got it to a satisfying completion. Sadly I haven't been able to do that with all previous labels, hence Symbolism returning - it's unfinished business. The story isn't complete and with so many new and exciting producers out there I really needed an outlet to support the music more than just playing it. 

Over the past two years, you have played two sets at festivals in Europe with Minneapolis DJ DVS1, how did that relationship start and what has bonded you to the point of playing together?

BS: We met a few years back, get on really well, have mutual respect for each other's playing style and have the same dedicated attitude to DJing and music in general.

I was asked to do a b2b set at Awakenings in Holland last year and to think of a partner, Zak (DVS1) was an obvious choice, one of only a handful of DJs I trust technically to be honest. We decided to do a vs. set (6 CDJs and 3 mixers) rather than your standard b2b as that wouldn't really be a challenge and it was great to come out of the comfort zone and try something new.

We did again at Bloc in the UK this year and hopefully will do something in 2016 too, it's not going to be a regular thing though, just an annual affair probably but it's definitely a lot of fun.

2016 will see an EP release from System boss Mike Gervais on Symbolism. How did you discover Mike and what about his sound made you want to put his music on your label?

BS: I think it's very hard to stand out these days, so many releases, so many artists using the same tools to make the music and sounding alike, so I'm really looking for artists who have their own vibe going on for Symbolism. There isn't necessarily a particular sound I'm seeking for the label but definitely identity in the music, even if they're just straight up tough club tracks.

Mike’s music was slowly becoming a bigger part of my DJ sets over the past 18 months or so as he skillfully manages to fuse the hypnotic, spaced, heady mood or feel of a lot of 'modern' techno with that essential machine funk and rawness that's sadly lacking far too often, It's no easy feat (I know, I've tried). So once the label was up and running he was one of the first people off the hit list to get a mail. 

I'm really happy with his release and can't wait to get it out there. 

I heard that on your last visit to Minneapolis, you were quite impressed with the turnout and crowd energy, between that and your connection to some of our DJs, what is your impression of our city?

BS: Yeah to be honest I wasn't expecting much from a Sunday night in a city I’d never been to, at the end of a 4 gig run, in the freezing bloody cold but it was great. Such a good and energetic vibe and that's really made me keen to return, first impressions last and Minneapolis techno heads know how to party.

Aside from taking in a few craft beers, some chicken wings and having a little mix up with Zak, I didn't do too much else to be honest but beer, wings and mixing is 3 out of my 5 essential life needs anyway, so that's another big thumbs up from me.


interview by Bobby Kahn]

Ben Sims

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Bobby Kahn