I first met Ben Wu in mid 2007, when he approached me, handed me a copy of his latest mix CD and told me that he was a DJ who just moved to town. He struck me as a very friendly guy. When I later listened to his CD, I was totally impressed with his taste in music and his ability to DJ. Hearing him tell stories about his past in Detroit and the raves of the West Coast, I wanted to know the whole story.
Wu broke into DJing for the first time 13 years ago, at the age of 19 in Ann Arbor, Mich. His very first gig was in a DJ spin-off competition at a bar called The Blind Pig, where he scored himself a grand prize of $100. This experience encouraged him and helped him get his foot in the door.
He was part of the huge rave scene that engulfed underground culture in the mid '90s, and attended raves in Detroit, Windsor, Toronto and around the Midwest. He even met his wife-to-be at a rave in Toronto called Transcendence, which featured a live performance by Plastikman, aka Richie Hawtin, one of the biggest names in techno.
By 2000 they were married and Ben's DJ career was picking up. He was hosting a regular Internet radio show for Club246.com, a Toronto-based club music Web site, called the Phunky Monkey Radio Show. His mix, titled "Phunky Monkey Vol. 2," was reviewed by URB in 2002, receiving acclaim in the magazine's "Mix-it" section. All the while he was busy holding a Saturday residency at Detroit supper-club Science and playing regular gigs at Detroit's Motor Lounge and Ann Arbor's Necto.
Ben said one of his biggest gigs was playing at Ontario's yearly mega event WEMF, or World Electronic Music Festival (held just across the water from DEMF, Detroit's Electronic Music Festival). WEMF just had its 14th and final festival this past summer of 2008, ending over a decade in Canada's largest and longest running electronic music festival.
After graduating from Eastern Michigan, Wu and wife moved to San Diego in 2003, following their day jobs. "Besides our jobs, we also just wanted to try something different and try moving away from where we both grew up."
This move did great things for him. He landed gigs in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other California cities, playing both raves and club events. He was often invited back to the Midwest to play at events such as DEMF and a Halloween party in Louisville.
When word got back to his old friends in Detroit that he was planning a move to Indianapolis, the DJs and producers behind Detroit's famed Bang Tech Twelve collective asked him to open a branch right here when he gets settled in.
His first gig came in January at Therapy Nightclub.
"The people here are great. The scene is small, but everyone that's in it is very passionate about it and has welcomed me with open arms." Ben says while reminiscing of his first experiences here in Indy. "I was pleasantly surprised that I moved here not knowing what to expect and [I found] a decent scene and I'm very happy to be here."
His favorite gig came just last year at Chicago mega club Vision. "Closing the penthouse down at Vision at 5 a.m. was my favorite experience DJing. The place was going off and showing me a lot of love. Detroit is of course my favorite city for sentimental reasons, but my best gigs have been in Chicago."
Ben says the style of music he plays is constantly evolving, but that you could best describe his music as "tech-house that is anywhere from minimal to full on bangin'."
His influences include the old school sounds of DJ ESP, Robert Armani "and all the other Dancemania Records cats" in addition to the new school sounds of Hipp-E and Halo, Claude VonStroke and the Dirtybird crew.
His future is looking bright, especially after recently getting into the production side of electronic dance music. "I see myself putting out tracks in the near future and continue doing what I love to do. I'm not turning it into a business or stressing out about it though. I just want to have fun with it."
You can catch his next Bang Tech Twelve event on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Therapy featuring Mark Roy and RJ Pickens from Chicago. Or catch him spinning at Vision in Chicago on March 14, where he'll be opening for Lee Burridge, another of his biggest musical influences. Several of Wu's mixes are available for download at bangtech12.com. He maintains his own Web presence at myspace.com/djbenwu.