Days Gone By: Dirty Vegas' Ben Harris Talks Changing DJ World With Pulselocker
In 2001, three South London mates got together to form the house music group, Dirty Vegas; fast forward one decade, and they have become dance music pioneers, thanks grossly to their breakout hit “Days Go By,” which has secured a Grammy Award and public exposure in the Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial (which was later spoofed by Chappelle's Show).
Group member Ben Harris has since taken a break from the music side of production to get his fingers on the ‘pulse’ of the new digital age with his new app “Pulselocker,” where today’s DJs and producers can access a full-library of music, serving as a cross between Spotify and Dropbox, through a simple subscription of $10/month. VIBE sat down with the EDM pioneer to talk about his new application along with tales of ‘days gone by’ with Dirty Vegas and the state of electronic dance music.
VIBE: You first started out as part of the house music group Dirty Vegas, producing the hit track “Days Go By.” Our readers might not be familiar, but you had this great music video with a beautiful story line. Who came up with that concept?
Ben Harris: UK video directors, Blue Source, created the concept for the video. Our idea for the song itself was to take this story about a relationship and longing for someone, and fuse that with underground beats. Blue Source picked up on that and it inspired them to write the storyline for the video.
About a decade later and you’re more on the tech side of things. Explain to us how you got involved with the application Pulselocker?
The last album Dirty Vegas did was on San Francisco-based label Om Records in 2011. It was there that I met Alvaro Velilla, who worked at the label. We connected instantly on music and the business in general. During the band’s last DJ tour across the States, I had become increasingly frustrated with how I got hold of new music. It was fragmented, messy and expensive to gather music from promo pools, digital download stores, etc.
It just so happened that my last gig was in San Francisco and Alvaro came along and pitched me on the idea for Pulselocker, which he and the other founder, Joshua Goltz, had come up with. I was blown away and had to get involved immediately!
In your words, explain how it will revolutionize EDM today and its DJs?
It’s a completely new way for DJs and EDM fans to access music. DJs consume high volumes of music, sometimes only playing tracks for a week or two. Up until now, the only options were to acquire music through promo pools, if you could join them, expensive digital download retailers or via pirating.
Pulselocker is great for several reasons. First, you can listen to our catalog of over 4 million songs, on-demand. Second, and more importantly, you can download tracks into your “Locker” (a secure folder on your laptop) and play them offline on third-party DJ applications, like Serato Scratch Live and Native Instruments Traktor. You can exchange songs from your Locker and play them as much as you want for the length of your subscription. Lastly, if you find that gem you know you want in your collection, you can purchase it from our download shop.
We want to change the way DJs and EDM fans access and experience music.
Producing music at the cusp of EDM when the genre was first developing, what would you say are some major differences/changes you’ve seen over the years?
Firstly, that it is now known as EDM! When we started making this kind of music, we knew it as House music, and still do now. This music was originally born in the States, specifically, Chicago, Detroit and New York, brought to Europe in the 80’s, and we embraced it from that point on. It was an underground thing and an exciting time to be a part of that scene.
Naturally, the scene grew into a cultural movement, which is exactly what has been happening in the US over the last few years. Kids are going out to raves and discovering this music, just like we did back then. The speed and scale at which this industry has commercialized in the US has drawn certain talent away from Europe, enabling a new wave of DJs and producers to revitalize Europe's underground scene.
Do you still stay in touch with your old pals from Dirty Vegas?
Of course! We are friends, first and foremost. We all grew up in the same neighborhood and hung out in the London club scene for many years. I live in LA now, Steve [Smith] is in Boston, and Paul [Harris] is in London, but we still see each other when we can. Recently, they came to DJ in San Francisco, where the Pulselocker HQ is based, and we hung out, just like old times!
Would you guys ever consider having a reunion?
Steve and Paul are still doing some music together and DJing. There’s definitely a chance that I would do something with the guys again. Dirty Vegas is something that all three of us decided we could come back to at some point, but right now my focus is on Pulselocker and seeing where we can take it.
Tell us about some wild war stories from the Dirty Vegas days.
I’m not at liberty to give up details on that right now, but let’s just say I’ve the scars to prove it.
Photo credit: Getty Images