Interview by Mark Bayross
Famous for running London club The End alongside former Shamen frontman turned techno maestro Mr C – in the past, host to the then-unknown Fatboy Slim and Roni Size – Layo and Bushwacka! are also respected recording artists in their own right. After collaborating on a few underground club hits, their debut album LOW LIFE emerged in 1998 to much critical acclaim.
Now the duo of Layo Paskin and Matthew Benjamin have released their second album, NIGHT WORKS, a stunning concoction of their diverse musical influences, spanning techno, retro-electro, breakbeats, classical music, dub, jazz and blues that has moved their sound on even further.
I spoke to Layo “at home” in The End…
What made you and Matthew decide to start working together?
I was working on a tune in the studio one day and Matthew was doing some engineering and he started to play a melody. I liked what I heard and so I thought, “why not do something together?” So we wrote SPLIT PERSONALITY and it was well received, so we decided to work on some other things. It was a really gradual process – we kept doing more and more stuff together, and we really got on – so we thought, “let’s do an album”.
How have you felt watching people like Fatboy Slim and Roni Size get successful? Do you feel you contributed to their success?
It’s been fantastic, and we’re getting that again with Erol at Trash. You do feel a bit proud that, in your own way, you’ve been a part of their success. It’s great to be able to spot talent early on and fantastic when they go on to that kind of success.
Was there a concept behind NIGHT WORKS?
There was a concept in terms of vibe and trying to make it sound very original. There was also a concept in terms of experimenting slightly and making sure the album flows. But we also ensured that there weren’t too many rules – when we got two thirds of the way through it, we went back and tried to fit pieces into it – the downtempo bits – then when we got to the end, we drew all these elements together.
Was the process different from the recording of LOW LIFE?
There was more pressure this time. With the first album, we weren’t well known and that may have been why it was so well received – here were two people nobody knew. This time around, things were different. We were both going through difficult times in our personal lives and we felt like we had to live up to the first album – it was a heavy time. I don’t want to say I’m glad it’s over, but I am glad we’ve got the album finished and moved on.
Do you think, now you have the finished product out there, that you’ve kind of exorcised those demons?
Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. We’ve definitely exorcised the demons a bit. It will make the third album easier, certainly. I’d say making this one was unnecessarily difficult…!
Did it take longer to produce NIGHT WORKS than LOW LIFE?
Probably not, but it felt longer! Maybe that was because if the pressure. We were working to more of a time frame with this album, whereas with the first album, there wasn’t one.
You both have eclectic tastes; do you and Matthew bring different types of music to the mix?
We definitely bring different things to it, yes. We tend to introduce each other to different sounds. My musical history is possibly a bit broader than Matthew’s – he came from classical music and into hip-hop. My musical history goes from 60s r n’ b to 70s rare groove, psychedelic and punky stuff…music my parents listened to, which developed further after they remarried. So, it was me who introduced things like Devo and Nina Simone… Matthew brings a paceyness and energy – he’s good with the breaks, scratching and the hip hop elements, and he finds interesting samples from different things. It’s a very fluid set up.
Where do you most enjoy DJing? At The End?
Probably at The End, ‘cos it’s home. But I also really like DJing at Space in Ibiza and at Sirena in Brazil, and at Back To Basics in Leeds and Tribal Sessions in Manchester. Wherever the crowd’s good, basically. I don’t tend to play clubs I don’t enjoy. If I enjoy it, I tend to want to play there again.
Do you have any future plans to collaborate with Mr C?
Yeah, we’ll definitely do another 12” for The End with him.
I bumped into Terry Francis recently…I may do something with him. But, actually, I’ll maybe do something on my own for once. I wouldn’t mind having a bit of a gap, a bit of space to get the ideas going again. The whole experience of making this last album has been very draining.
What are your plans for Layo & Bushwacka!?
We’ll be releasing some more singles and remixes from the album in the next six months, then in February or March next year, we’ll get writing the next album.
Where do you plan to take your sound on the next record?
There are two things we will definitely do. One is find a couple of singers – I’ve been writing some lyrics – and the other is record two or three tracks in New York, to get a different vibe…it’s worth a try, isn’t it? [laughs] We need to keep our sound evolving and produce something slightly different every time – we’ve got a sound and we need to use it in a different way.
If you could compare yourselves to any other artists, who would they be?
I think we do our own thing, really. There are elements that are slightly downtempo-orientated, as well as techno or house-y elements. We have our own vibe, I guess. We just want to be known as two artists who are respected and liked for what we do.