Benga debuted his first new music since 2016 last Wednesday 7th February on Annie Mac's Radio 1 show. Two days before DJ Mag gave the track its online premiere, the dubstep pioneer discussed the inspirations behind the track on the show, and gave an update as to what he has been up to since we last heard from him.
'Psychosis', the first track to be released on his new Illuminate label, is a high-octane cut of razorlike synths and robotic vocals with the repeated lyric, "paranoia, psychosis, voices in my head". Speaking about the track, Benga - real name Adegbenga Adejumo – discussed how naturally it came to him, and how the end result spoke to the mental illness he had been battling with in recent years.
"I was talking all about how I was feeling and hearing when I was in psychosis, so it was perfect," he told Mac. "I'd been listening to a lot of weird, new electronic sounds, and in five minutes it all kind of came together in this track."
In 2015, the Croyden DJ/producer opened up about his struggles with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in a series of tweets, citing drug use and excessive touring as the cause.
He subsequently spent time in hospital for treatment and, as he discussed in the interview, it has been a "crazy ride" toward recovery and moving on.
"It's been up and down for me. I went back into hospital again and deleted all my music. The whole hard-drive. Everything gone," he said. He did however, find the process of working on this new track and other new productions to be beneficial to him mentally, saying, "I feel like [music's] my only real way to recover. It's almost like meditating... I pen little stories, so I go back and look at [them] when I sit down and write music and it all comes out. That feeling of release."
He hopes to raise awareness among his fans and peers of the mental struggles that exist in the industry, even when it sometimes looks quite idyllic from the outside. "I felt I owed it to my fans and peers to be honest," he explained. "You see so much of me out there doing crazy stuff and enjoying DJing, but I needed to show people that things can come unstuck."
He also spoke about this enduring love for the classic dubstep sound that he helped to pioneer but that now he can only make the music that comes out of him naturally. "I still love the music. I go back to certain tracks and think to myself 'wow'. As far as where it's gone, I respect everyone that's still grinding to take it in new directions, but I can only do Benga music."
In December 2017, a 24-hour hotline to support mental health in the music industry was launched by Help Musicians UK. Benga is not alone in the UK electronic music scene in being open about his struggles with mental illness. Last November, Ben Pearce headlined an event in London's Magic Roundabout in aid of men's mental health charity, CALM.
You can listen to the full interview with Benga here.
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