For over 20 years, Benny Benassi has been a living legend in the electronic music scene with hits such as “Satisfaction” and “Cinema.” “Cinema” was even remixed by Skrillex, pushing it to reach gold in the U.S. and platinum in Australia and Canada as well as earn Benassi a Grammy. He is one of the headliners at this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) and recently released a new single featuring Ne-Yo called “Let Me Go.”
Before his performance at EDC, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Benny about the changing landscape of electronic music in Las Vegas, the lowlights and highlights of the scene and how he feels about pineapple on pizza as an Italian.
Scarlet and Gray Free Press: You’ve been to Vegas before, how have you seen the landscape change, the grandeur of nightclubs becoming larger than life. As a DJ and music producer what excites you most about this growth of almost universal reverence for electronic music?
Benny Benassi: I guess I’m a first-hand witness to electronic music coming out of its niche and going mainstream. To be honest, I was not expecting it. You know, I’m from Italy. I never imagined I’d be regularly playing DJ sets in Las Vegas, that club music would be charting alongside pop songs and everything that happened. It’s beyond exciting. I feel lucky and privileged to have been there and still be part of it.
SGFP: You have been doing EDC since 2008, your first set being in the legendary Kinetic Field in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with 90,000 people, where now EDC Las Vegas hosts over 250,000 people over three days. What are some of the watershed moments that you think led to this and what are some highlights and lowlights of your time at EDC?
BB: No lowlights! I’ve only ever had a great time at EDC festivals. The energy is unbelievable, the production, everything is off the meter. It’s also a great place to hang out with other DJs and share the experience. It’s hard to pin down what the turning points actually were. It just seemed to evolve very naturally. More and more people seemed to be into dance music.
SGFP: In that time, the landscape has changed, some names like yourself, Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto and Kaskade are some of the biggest names in a field with newer names like Skrillex, Zedd and Alesso. Is there a friendly competition between the legends and the new kids?
BB: No, I’m not competing. I love connecting with a young crowd and I have a lot of respect for the new kids. Imagine what it would be like if there weren’t any! There wouldn’t be a scene if it was JUST the old folk spinning. The young blood keeps the culture going and I am honored when they want to collaborate on a track or do a back to back with me.
SGFP: Pineapple on pizza, yay or nay?
BB: Come on! I’m Italian. Who puts pineapple on pizza?
SGFP: Do you have a routine before a show? Anything specific you look out for in terms of meditation? Food or drink? A cigarette?
BB: I gave up smoking so long ago I can’t even remember! If it’s a club show in the small hours, I usually have an early dinner rather than a short “disco-nap.” It’s really a power nap, me recharging to give it all I’ve got.
SGFP: From various other interviews and discussions, you’re very open about working with newer artists and continuing to learn and grow with the change in dance music while also staying true to your electro roots. Do you have any advice to those who feel like dance music should be one thing and electronic music another thing?
BB: Yes, I like working with younger artists and my in-house producers with whom I collaborate all the time are youngsters. Advice? Be true to your taste, don’t look for formulas. As for the difference between dance music and electronic music…it beats me! Maybe my English isn’t good enough.
SGFP: You have a new song with Ne-Yo coming out called “Let me Go.” What’s the inspiration for that? How does working with Ne-Yo differ from other artists you’ve worked with?
BB: The track was originally written with some great U.K. writers, Tim and Kat Deal. They’re brother and sister and really talented. Once we’d got the ideal demo, we were looking for the right voice. When Ne-Yo said he would cut it, I was thrilled. I’m such a fan. His performance is amazing, the tone of his voice, his phrasing, harmonies and his own precious contribution to the writing. He was very easy to work with and I have nothing but respect.
SGFP:I s there anyone you’re looking forward to working with in the future? What would be your dream collaboration with an artist?
BB: It’s a long list and it changes every day. The usual suspects are Dua Lipa and The Weeknd but I guess I’m not the only DJ with that dream.
SGFP: You’ve been DJing for over 15 years at this point, and while retirement feels like it’s far away, have you ever thought about what you’ll be doing once you’re done with music?
BB: More like 20 years, I’m afraid. Cooking, gardening, cycling…Benassi has had the high task of being one of the pioneers of the electronic DJ scene. In the everso changing music industry, DJs have the hardest time keeping relevant. This however has never been a problem for Benassi. His 20 years on the scene has just proven he has what it takes to be around for 20 more. Make sure to keep up with Benassi’s new music on his Instagram and Spotify.