Catch up with DJ Ben Step
Over the past year, electronic dance music made its way out of hiding in German night clubs to the mainstream of America–so much so that it earned itself a stadium-sized festival of its very own this summer.
In its first year, Spring Awakening invited over 50 DJs and EDM artists to drop the bass for tutu-clad crowds and DePaul student Ben Stepnowski, also known as DJ Ben Step, had the honor of joining them with his co-production group Sabor.
With a new Halloween-themed Mixtape set to drop right before the holiday, DJ Ben Step took a break from spinning tracks to tell me all about the EDM scene and his journey–both past and future.
What was your inspiration to start in the music business?
My freshman year, I went to a Wednesday night party called “Just Desserts” at Lincoln Hall. When I was there I saw a guy named Matt Roan DJ. He looked like he was having so much fun and was a phenomenal DJ. After I saw him play I started emailing him asking him how do you do this or that… As opposed to a lot of other entertainers, Matt was completely open and always responded to my barrage of questions. Eventually I started showing up to almost all their gigs (him and his partner Emilio Abadia Aka E6) even if it meant sneaking in. Eventually they offered me an internship at their company at Crossfader king. Rest is history.
What equipment do you use?
Two turntables and a MICROPPPHHOOOONNNNEEE! [Laughs]. (Beck reference). But really!
Two Technic Vinyl Turntables and a Rane mixer… Serato off my computer.
I produce music in logic … Developing literacy in Ableton.
Also will play on anything the club or venue gives me (cdjs too if need be)
How would you describe your musical style?
Well that may be tough to say. I think because I am still young I am developing my own style and what uniquely is “Ben” or “me” but what my original love for music stems from hip hop. Being in Chicago means that you are well versed in dance music as well however so being able to use several genres as a sort of “dance floor palette” is what I try and bring to the table.
With the recent surge of electronic music becoming more mainstream, how do you try to stand out?
By blurring genres and bringing in records or samples that normally were not based in dance music. I also like using a lot of word play… and vocals on top of music to introduce new ideas. Music has a tremendous power to unite people, but this connection often is stronger when you verbalize that type of relation with the proper lyrics or samples.
What do you think about this over-taking of EDM? Do you think it’s a phase or something that’s here to stay?
It’s a double-edged sword. Its great for music because it has become a benchmark for nightlife and musical expression, and can bring such a wide range of people together, its bad because its going to become even more oversaturated and eventually will suffer because of all the people trying to make a quick buck. However pretty much everything is cyclical and I feel as though that those that make quality content in any genre will survive and be able to continue to convey their message to people. The art will survive.
What has been the biggest accomplishment in your music career thus far?
If we had to go with events it would be the festivals I played this year with my friend Scott Yorde (Scotty T) in our production duo, Sabor. We played Spring Awakening at Soldier Field and North Coast Music Festival in Union Park this year. Personally its just playing regularly downtown and get paid to do it is a really large blessing that no one should take for granted. Also just being able to have such great support from friends and family is an accomplishment and something I cherish.
What recent projects/shows are you working on? Any new tracks?
Well Any co-production with Sabor can be found at soundcloud.com/saborchi but also my company has a very fresh collection of jams at www.crossfaderking.com.
As for me, I have a Halloween Themed Mixtape dropping right before the holiday so keep on the look out for that. Its going to be featuring some remixes from Chicago people I really admire as well as a few original remixes and bootlegs that I have been working on. Also going to bring some live scratches on it too.
Where do you see your music career going upon graduation and beyond?
Growing, diversifying, and implementing new ideas/technology. I never really was really cool with the idea with hopping on the EL and heading to work in a suit and tie like everyone else. I think I found something I am good at and a great support structure of friends and family to help cheer me on. If you want something bad enough you just got to go out there and get it and not let anyone stand in the way of who you want to be. I just want to give people something to cheer for.