Hailed as Birmingham’s biggest show this side of 2017, Shadow City and Leftfoot have put their heads together to curate a line up with no fillers – strictly the biggest names in dance music at the moment. With a great working relationship and similar musical ethos, the two entities are a driving force in Birmingham’s nightlife.
We spoke to the increasingly well known O’Flynn ahead of his performance alongside Bicep, Joy Orbison in the Warehouse whilst Gilles Peterson and Hunee grace the Blackbox.
Ben Norris, better known by his mother’s maiden name O’Flynn, has magnificently risen through the layers of YouTube noise to be picked up by some of the biggest electronic labels in the game. Musicians with as much talent as Ben have often been bottle-fed records from birth, O’Flynn, however, states his family aren’t musical in the slightest, (bar an uncle who has provided percussion on ‘Glow Worm’) nonetheless the music he is putting out right now is something else.
Since the age of 13, when he first began to make music it’s become a fundamental part of his life. At school, he was an avid Mike Skinner fan, as many people from his generation are, (including us) as Ben says “I used to love The Streets and still love Original Pirate Material.” As his music tastes developed Norris discovered the French label Ed Banger, which steered him towards a more digital direction of production, he cites in particular the influence of Justice’s album, Cross. Like many electronic producers, it was the exposure to Burial, Four Tet, Amon Tobin and Flying Lotus which revealed the freedom of sound, sampling and in his own words the ability to “really create whatever you wanted to on a computer.”
The move to university marked a major transition in more ways than one, Ben explains that it was only when he moved to Leeds that he started to make dance music “before that it was more experimental stuff.” The house party and going out culture encouraged the shift from bedroom producer to serious tune maker; “At the start I just tried making tracks my friends would like at pre-drinks. Then one of the tunes I made got picked up by a YouTube channel, I suppose the moment I started making tunes for other people rather than myself stuff started happening for me.”
Studio or DJ booth O’Flynn appreciates and reflects on the differences between the two, “Having the energy of the club in your control and making it work is a great feeling, but also to have that little breakthrough with a tune after hours of stuff not working feels amazing too.”
Dance floors respond very well to what O’Flynn creates for them, both ears on the mix but always an eye on the moves. When asked if making people dance was important to him, he enthusiastically replied “Yes absolutely! Especially ‘Tyrion’ and ‘Oberyn’, I had dance floors in mind when I was making them, I did not think ‘Tyrion’ would make it out into the world so it was amazing to see lots of my favourite DJs and producers playing it.” The energy, life and conviction conveyed through his tracks, where he cleverly manipulates samples, Ben admits is not reflective of his personality. However, he does possess a quiet confidence that’s perhaps getting him billed on line ups with those who have been in the business a little while longer.
Ben has cunningly but with the utmost modesty not named names; when he says his “favourite DJs and producers” he actually means Four Tet and Gilles Peterson. He has done a remarkable job of impressing his idols in a very short space of time. With the same amount of humility he speaks of playing apace with Gilles on Saturday, “It feels great to be playing alongside people of his stature.” It will no doubt be an even shorter amount of time before he is producing tracks with those he once looked up to.
O’Flynn returns to B9 and the Rainbow Venues on Saturday; he recounts his last set here “It was a great vibe, I got the feeling I could play anything for that crowd and I think that’s when DJs have the best time.”
He’s also selected some pre-party tracks for us to get you in the mood.