Techno DJ, label owner and audiovisual artist – the labels on Berghaim resident Ben Klock are many. For years Ben has contributed deeply in shaping the techno seen around the world, but always in one leg firmly rooted in Berlin’s underground scene. During 2018 a lot of his focus and attention has been on the audio visual concert Photon, which premiered early this year. But have since then explored many different facilities around the world. All venues are carefully selected to create the maximum experience and the perfect match between his Photon lightshow and the minimal techno that encapsulate the crowd. “Photon is about the experience of light, architecture and music in way,” he says. “We only do it in special locations like warehouses which have a nice look where you can really do something with lights. This experience almost like a light installation but the vibe of a techno party.”
A photon is a quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation. In the video Ben discusses the inspiration for the party which took London’s incredible Printworks venue by storm inApril with its blending of a stunning, intricate light show and sets from Marcel Dettmann, Planetary Assault Systems (live), Ben Sims, Dax J, Etapp Kyle and Klock himself.
With spotlights panning back and forth forming stark parallelograms, octagons and triangles overhead that relate spatially to the venue’s layout – at times monochromatic, at times an overwhelming, disorientating pulse of colour. “Taking influence from the notion of a photon, the fundamental particle of visible light,” says Ben, “the idea involves geometric symmetry, simplicity of light design, and supporting the energy of a room.” But Photon also immerses you in darkness during the long continuum of track build-ups, sinking you deeper into rapport with the music. The lights tend to use just one primary color at a time, a carefully judged synaesthesia with the direction of the music.
This intimacy, says Ben, is one of the main aims of Photon. “It’s also to take the focus little bit away from the stage and bring it back to the room, where the dancers are. In the end the people are the main factor of a party. I would like people to have a feeling that they experienced something real and deep, not just an audio-visual show.”
In another article the audio visual part is explored in more detail: Working within Ben’s direction of minimalism, Photon’s lighting designer and operator Lars Murasch bases the show on narrow light beams modelled in WYSIWYG, a 3D software program. The precise, higher intensity of narrow beam lamps allows for deep contrast capability and precise definition in the built shapes. An important requirement is the absence of the extraneous light that is usually present at many large-scale events, including from bars, merchandise stations and other light structures. “The level of darkness is a recurring negotiation,” says Lars. “Nowadays at big events, but also in many clubs, everything that is on the market in lighting technology is used, especially lasers and LEDs. That offers [people] visual entertainment, but it also leaves each DJ feeling emotionally random, and drowns every DJ or live act in a flood of visual highlights.” With Photon, less is more.
Born in 1972 Ben is a true long-timer in the industry and one may wonder how he keeps his inspiration up: “I still see DJing as about 20 percent as a job, but 80 percent as doing what I love—or trying to achieve a vision,” he says. “Of course, there is a business side to it, but I still need to feel the core of it; I still need to feel the passion for it,” he adds, before reflecting on his answer. “If there are times where I don’t really feel the energy then I have to adjust quickly because then my role as a DJ won’t work. I have to have passion for it otherwise I cannot be good.”
And he continues in the same interview stating: “If techno just repeats itself again and again, then at some point this copy-paste music will become uninteresting,” he says. “So it is important that I keep looking for new ideas, inspiring myself without necessarily changing my direction musically.”
Next opportunity to experience Photon on October 27th:
His long-standing relationship with the notorious techno institution has formed the backdrop to his success, providing an invaluable platform that has allowed him to become one of the most in-demand DJ-producers of the current generation.
Those who have witnessed him perform will note not only the diversity in his track selection, but also his ability to create a room rather than just play to it. Though intense and powerful, his DJ output reflects a certain kind of fervour, capturing an artistry and emotion that can often appear absent from the techno genre. He also possesses a wonderful understanding of how to adapt his music to the circumstances, a competence that means he can be found at both large-scale festivals and small intimate club settings around the world. Much of his early career was marked by marathon sets—a signature that played a considerable role in nurturing his skills and reputation— but even the more compressed sets he shares today evidence an intricate narrative and sense of flow that defines him as a DJ. It was these inherent abilities that led him to compile the Fabric 66 compilation in 2012, before winning the BBC’s Essential Mix of the Year award in 2015.
Over recent years his focus has been on touring—but his early works, most of which were released via Ostgut Ton, have become landmarks in the imprint’s history. 2009’s “Dawning,” the first of his collaborations with Marcel Dettmann, kickstarted the label itself and remains a stand-out track in its discography. Other releases of particular note include “Subzero,” taken from his Before One EP, and 2010’s Compression Session EP. For many, however, it is 2009’s One that best captures Klock’s talents as a producer. Still today, this seminal album forms a reference point for all techno long-players. His skills as a remixer have also seen him rework tracks by a wide variety of artists, including Kerri Chandler, Depeche Mode, Robert Hood and Kenny Larkin.
Additionally, Klock also runs Klockworks, a label he founded in 2006 as a home for his more raw and minimal productions. The focus, however, has shifted over recent years, with the label becoming a medium for him to present his more diverse personal tastes and support developing talents. Trevino, DVS1 and Etapp Kyle have all released on the imprint during the earlier stages of their careers. The growth of the label has been aided by a series of showcases at various international locations, including London’s Village Underground, New York, Barcelona, Detroit and Berlin, with more on the horizon.