After our conversation with Thomas Datt last month, the next entry in Fight the Daylight’s interview series is Ben Lost. Best known for his vocals in Young Parisians’ “Jump the Next Train” and as part of the Federation project, he’s recently returned to his original role as A&R manager of Lost Language after a 7-year hiatus. We sat down to talk to him about his return, his take on music, and the future of Lost Language, the label that’s given us some of the biggest tracks of the new millennium.
Fight the Daylight: Alright, Ben, first thing’s first. Your big announcement these days is your return to Lost Language as chief A&R manager. What made you decide to come back?
Ben Lost: I was totally removed from all things dance music for a while, pretty much until Rich [Solarstone] and I started Federation a couple of years ago. We’d actually written a track together which is going on the new Visage album, to be released by the parent label of Lost Language, so I was still in contact with those guys. Some really good trance had also started coming my way again, and I was listening to a lot of electronic music, so I just naturally returned to the fold, an easy transition. I’ve got quite a specific idea as to where I hope to take things, now I’ve been back there a short time.
FTD: So when exactly did you join forces with them again?
BL: Oh, late last year? It’s hard to tell. I’d pushed a few things their way and worked with them on a few releases for various subsidiary labels early last year, but it was very casual. There were quite a few things in the Lost Language pipeline – Tilt, for example – but I didn’t get fully stuck in and take hold of the reins until quite recently.
FTD: Who’s been running the label since you left?
BL: It was looked after as part of the MRC group. A very passionate guy called John did most of the A&R. I don’t really know how it worked, and I haven’t even heard all the releases put out in 7 years I was away. I was in a totally different world.
FTD: Which brings me to the next question… why’d you leave in the first place?
BL: Well, previously I’d put my moves down to boredom, dumping projects that no longer interested me, but looking back, I think it was more a case of me getting excited about something new and then just drifting away from whatever it was I was doing before. I’d been DJing and working with that music for the best part of 5 years. Being a 24-year-old, hanging out in new clubs, listening to new music, making new friends, hanging out with old friends… I just wanted to follow what excited me, even if it meant losing my income and sleeping on friends’ floors.
In everything I’ve done – be that bands, DJing, labels, etc. – it’s always somehow worked out, to at least some extent, so I’ve always been very trusting when it comes to circumstance, fate, and following your drive, rather than choosing the safe option. It’s taken me full circle in so many ways.
FTD: The label went on with releases in the 7 years after you left. What’s your opinion on the musical direction it took? Where do you plan on steering the sound of Lost Language now that you’re back on A&R? It seems like you’re really into the darker, Goa stuff as heard in your Beyond the Black show these days.
BL: I’ve heard some good stuff from those 7 years, but I really owe it to myself to go through everything I missed while I was away; I just haven’t gotten around to it. I guess with Lost Language, there is a sound people associate with the label, at different points. I love the outright Balearic-sounding stuff like Salt Tank, Mike Shiver, Solarstone, etc. and I’ll always return to that sound if someone properly captures that mood.
Then there’s that classic trance sound of Lyric, Origin, V-One, which have their own very specific character. I consistently hear both of those sounds represented in the new Goa stuff, so I’m dying to release a load of it on Lost Language. It’s dark, techy, and hypnotic, but also brilliantly melodic and energetic. However, if someone captures that same atmosphere in a progressive house or techno record, then I’m all over it. I’m not interested in genres per se; I’m interested in productions that capture an essence.
FTD: Well said. My mantra’s always been that trance is a feeling, not a genre. I don’t know why it had to become formulaic, four-to the floor stuff.
BL: I know! It was never like that before. Lazy DJs breed lazy clubbers.
FTD: What Lost Language releases should we be looking out for in the coming months?
BL: An awesome artist called Filteria has just remixed Tilt’s “Rendezvous”, and we’ve signed a track by him called “Perpetually Delayed Voyage”, which another great artist called Sonic Entity is remixing. Sonic Entity is making us an EP, since I fell in love with his stuff, especially his track “Grey Pressive”. Bernie Allen is also finishing his album as we speak!
FTD: When you’re listening new tracks you get sent, what are some things that will either immediately grab your attention or immediately get you reaching for the “delete” button?
BL: There are certain synth sounds, kick drums, etc…that I’ll immediately dislike. Sometimes it’s an overly complex melody. I rarely hear a vocal I like in trance these days, which is ironic, considering I’m a vocalist in a trance act, haha! I’m always pushing for more delay, more space and FX with my vocals. I loved Underworld’s vocals, and John Graham’s were great but generally I like them dark and moody, with lots of reverb. In the past I’ve loved massive melodramatic trance songs, but they don’t suit the sets that I currently like to build.
FTD: What have you been up to in the interim 7 years? Besides Federation in the last 2 years or so.
BL: I was in The Remote with Ashely Casselle for a few years. We were inseparable for a long time; we lived very near to each other, and we were working on this album for Global Underground. We had some great times and we’re still friends but I was a little terror with a massive ego for some of those studio sessions. At 25-years old, you think you know it all. I was full of it, and when things didn’t work out, or when I was relying on other people, in other band situations and I didn’t get my way, I could be a right c**t. It’s quite funny looking back, justifying my big gob! I’ve grown up a lot since then.
I had another band called Tough Love, whose world domination was a forgone conclusion, as far as i was concerned! Then I had another project called Benjamin James Jinx, with ex members of Tough Love.
There was a band after that, which shared members from both and is still going, in the flakiest possible way, called Hills + Hollows. We are about to release a mini album, recorded by none other than Bill from the Asda Pie adverts, who’s now a full-time member.
FTD: I admittedly haven’t listened to any of these musical projects, but in what kind of genres did you dabble with them?
BL: Tough Love was quite glam: electronics with sleazy punk riffs. Benjamin James Jinx was a bit “post punk”, complete with sax and psychedelic vocals. Hills + Hollows has been compared to Hawkwind and Roxy music. It’s very tight, primal, and rabid.
FTD: Wow, you’ve really been all over the map then.
BL: No trance whatsoever.
FTD: I noticed that! But let’s return to that musical diversity in a minute. How would you say that you’ve changed, now that you’re 7 years older and wiser? Well, presumably wiser…
BL: Well, I’m probably a worse musician now than I was five years ago – haha!
FTD: Hah! Any Perfecto Fluoro fan begs to differ.
BL: I’ve always been more of a songwriter than a musician. I love writing songs, but I never pick the guitar up and just jam or even practice. I have these rusty old strings that I can’t be bothered to change. But if I get a song idea in my head, then that’s the tool I’ll go to in order to lay down the notes, structure, etc. I also have no desire to develop my production skills, so in the case of Federation, I’ll take a rough idea to the studio and together with Rich, we’ll pull a song out of this mess that I’ve made. Rich is amazing with melodies and he’s a great songwriter – not to mention his production. We let things happen and it seems to work. Although we’re trying to push things harder and darker with the band. We’ve got a new guitarist who is helping us down that route. He’s been sending gnarly Ministry-esque riffs over, so we’re keen to take things into the black on our next recordings.
In regards to your original question, lyrics come much easier than they ever did these days, and I have a style of writing them that works for me.
FTD: Like I said… older and wiser.
BL: More experience, and more confidence in what I’m delivering. I feel no pressure to explain lyrics, to tell a story, or not to tell a story as the case may be. I’m happy to leave them open-ended and let people build their own narrative around them, which is way more magical. In the past, there have been issues with people in and out of the studio wanting to know “what it’s about.” Some songs are outright stories, I guess, but with mine, it’s all about the picture that forms in the listener’s head, rather than trying to see exactly what was in mine at the point of inception.
FTD: The next question is perfectly timed since Ashtrax’s “Digital Reason” just started playing on my playlist. Whenever anyone says “Ben Lost”, everyone immediately thinks of “Jump the Next Train” and more recently Federation. However, in this interview you’ve mentioned so many other projects in which you’ve been involved. What are some of the other major milestones in your career, things that some people may not know about?
BL: Well, Ashtrax’s “Digital Reason” was a milestone. It was the first dance project I’d sung on, having always been in guitar bands previous to that. I was thrilled when Paul van Dyk reworked it for the start of his Politics of Dancing compilation. That project became the aforementioned band The Remote. I also worked with Super8 & Tab on two tracks when I was in Finland, nearly 10 years ago now I think: “Won’t Sleep Tonight” and “Needs to Feel”.
FTD: To close things out, a couple questions from readers of the site.
You’ve done so many types of music. Why is electronic music so special to you?
BL: I was really into a band called Therapy? in the early 90s, and they used to write guitar riffs that were based around techno chord progressions, really dark and melancholic. I’d love it when The Prodigy, Leftfield, Orbital, etc. would get played as the honorary dance record at the indie disco. The pomp and melodrama about those records always excited me. Then I wanted more stuff that specifically sounded like Therapy?, those kinds of riffs, and I found some of it in the early Goa/ prog / trance records. So I started clubbing, and nothing compared to the thrill of a killer riff being dropped in a dark club at 3 AM. That change of energy that would fill the room, especially a great big, dirty, dark riff… it was such a leveler. I’ve always been interested in moods, how groups react – actually, the positive and negative sides of that really interest me.
But yes, a well-built labyrinth of a set and the collective journey that you can be taken on as a part of that crowd is something I find best achieved through the medium of electronic music. That’s not to say bands can’t do it, they can and they do, but a 2-hour+ set in a dark room, in the early hours of the morning is something very special to me.
FTD: All-time favorite track? None of this “I can’t just choose one” BS either!
BL: Non-dance would have to be Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Think About You”. They were my first love as a 10-year-old boy, and my wife and I had it as our first dance at our wedding… although we’ve since found out it was about heroin, haha!
Dance-wise, I’d probably have to go for Natious’ “Amber”. I love all the original mixes of it, and I love the new mixes we’ve just had done for the Lost Language release: Thomas Datt and Charm & Strange.
FTD: Describe yourself in a few sentences without mentioning music at all.
BL: I ravenously follow my enthusiasm; whether its the people I love, or books, films, philosophies, games. I like to challenge my perspectives, question my ideas – I enjoy viewing the village from every hill. Like everyone else, I’m ultimately only ever looking for happiness – and I never have to look very hard.
FTD: OK next question, this one’s from also from a reader, although I wish I had come up with this one myself.
Have you ever had to jump a train to reach your destination? What is the most number of trains you’ve had to jump in a single journey?
BL: When I moved to London to work at Pinnacle Records, the wages were so shit we’d have to jump the train to get to work every day. Sometimes you’d get caught, but the fine was small enough to warrant coughing up now and then. We looked into the law, what the inspectors could do in regards to physically stopping you from walking through their little gang, where they’d be busting fare dodgers at the station – the ones without turnstiles at least – and it turned out that the guards couldn’t actually touch you, so I’d brazenly just walk through them and out the station with my headphones on, them hassling me all the way to the door, which was hilarious at the time, bearing in mind I was 19-years-old and the supreme ruler of my own unquestioned perspective. Although one time they just piled on me, which was a bit of shock. Anyway, I guess 3 would be the answer: from London to Oswestry to see Rich when I was skint.
FTD: Haha, epic! Most definitely not the answer I was expecting.
Last question: Solarstone finished off his set last March at Ministry of Sound for A State of Trance 550 with a stunning new remix of “Jump the Next Train” by Haris C. Do you know if it will be seeing the light of day?
BL: You know what, I’m sorry but I don’t know anything about it! I don’t know if I’ve even heard it properly? I’ll have to speak to Rich…
Our conversation then continued with various ramblings and crap-talking (quite literally… don’t ask). A big thanks to Ben Lost for joining us, and most importantly, be sure to keep your ears peeled for Lost Language’s offerings over the coming months.
|For more about Ben Lost:
Ben Lost’s official website
|For more about Lost Language:
Lost Language’s official website