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Ben Watt - On The Fly

Author: Cyclone
Monday, 7 July 2008
3D's Cyclone chats with Buzzin' Fly labelhead Ben Watt about the new label retrospective compilation and his mysterious spoken-word project.

It's a bleak time for boutique dance labels with pervasive digital downloading. However Ben Watt, who possesses a gift for divining musical changes, is celebrating the fifth anniversary of Buzzin' Fly with a lavish three-CD compilation.

The third part of 5 Golden Years In The Wilderness spotlights Buzzin' Fly's newest signings, such as St Petersburg's BarBQ. The 'wilderness' reference is perplexing considering that, within today's electronic community, Watt is hardly an outsider, instead uniting many splinter groups.

'In a wider context, the kind of stuff that Buzzin' Fly is about is completely below the radar for the majority of people out there,' Watt says, acknowledging his back catalogue with Everything But The Girl.

Buzzin' Fly means different things to different listeners. It's even been described as having 'trance' overtones. Watt, who's accepted a residency at We Love Space Sundays in Ibiza this summer, isn't precious. He always desired a nebulous stable.

In the '80s Watt was integral to one of indie pop's best loved outfits with real-life partner Tracey Thorn, but the next decade he gravitated towards electronic sounds. With the encouragement of Howie B, Watt, then intrigued by drum n bass, began DJing. This was no calculated self-reinvention - as it might have been for, say, '80s escapee Jeremy Healy.

Watt launched the deep house club Lazy Dog with Jay Hannan. In 2003 he established Buzzin' Fly, showing his affinities with Detroit techno, Chicago house and underground electro. This year Buzzin' Fly presented a quirky album from Mlle Caro and Franck Garcia.

Watt's also tapped into his history of alternative (and folk) by developing the offshoot Strange Feeling and has often alluded to a spoken word LP, Outspoken. He's aired 'extracts' on comps and he issued the memorable Pop A Cap In Yo' Ass, featuring Estelle, who's since blown up with American Boy.

'I was in the middle of writing that Outspoken project and [I] was looking for different voices to speak the different narratives that I was writing,' he recalls of the collaboration. 'I'd written this story about an estate in London that I'd read about in my local paper where kids were converting air pistols into lethal weapons and taking pot shots at people from the balconies of the flats. It was only a mile from where I lived. I was quite struck by the story - and wrote the narrative. Then I just needed to find somebody to speak it.

'Estelle was visible at the time in the UK. She'd just emerged and she had a very distinctive attitude. I got a hold of her and said, 'Would you be interested in doing this-' She said 'Yeah.''
Watt is noncommittal about the fate of Outspoken, joking that it'll perhaps never amount to being more than an interview subject. He's not inclined to labour on something when the fervour dissipates.

'It is very complete. I'm within striking distance of finishing it. But, for some reason, I can't get myself to finally put it out,' he says. 'My worry now is that some of the earlier stuff that I did is starting to sound a little dated but, if I go back and start repairing that, I fear that it's gonna be a bit like sawing the legs off a table - the more you take off, the less steady it becomes.

'It would need a supreme effort of will on my part to finish it at this point - but that's not impossible.'

WHO: Ben Watt
WHAT: 5 Golden Years in the Wilderness through Buzzin' Fly/Sto