This year, the legendary BTRAX celebrates its 25th birthday with a bumper new collection curated by the founders of the label. We get the honour of speaking with one of the two brains behind a crew that has been at the helm of Parisian nightlife for decades, Ben Men.
Ben Men - Interview
Hi Ben, thanks for giving Minimal Mag the opportunity to speak with you! How are you today?
Hi, thanks for having me, I’m good, hope you’re doing well during this crazy period in our lives. Regarding last 2 years, I’d say the hustle is real… it’s a hard time for everybody. I spent a lot of time in the studio and producing new music for ours labels. There’s quite a bunch on the way for 2022. I also moved out from Paris to Barjac, lovely little historic village in south of France near Avignon. I get back to life surrounded by nature, quality of living after many years in big cities.
You are one of the co-founders of BTRAX, which has existed for an impressive 25 years. Congratulations on running such a longstanding brand. What have been some of your highlights and challenges running the collective?
Founded in Paris 2003, BTRAX records is me, my brother Rob Malone and a friend association, our guideline has always been music & friendship first. We started as vinyl dealer with 3 record shops from 1996 to 2002 in Paris. We worked as distributors with partners like Submerge, Hardwax, Prime… With a strong background rich of experiences as record dealers, djs, our BTRAX events at REX Club, from 2001 to 2019 (the club’s longest-running techno residency) saw the likes of Extrawelt, Etapp Kyle, Steve Rachmad, Gregor Tresher, Scan 7, Guy Gerber, Deetron and many more playing.
We produced reputed international artists such as the legendary Scan 7 of Detroit, Dj Mau Mau from Brazil, Mr C, Vince Watson, Scan X, Julian Jewel, Orlando Voorn, Thomas Barnett, Petar Dundov, Rolando, Secret Cinema…
To name few highlights is not easy as you can understand… One of the most cherished memories was the opening of our first record shop, Statik records in 20th Paris area, our hood. We were specialized in second hand vinyls, touring through Europe to bring back rare vinyls from London, Amsterdam & Frankfurt. I can’t also forget our 19 years Rex Club residency, I started to hang out there in early 90’s mostly at Laurent Garnier’s Wake up parties. I have deep respect & love for this club since first day.
I would say biggest challenge was to stay humble, keep our passion for music alive all these years and never stop working on projects.
As part of the celebrations, you are releasing an aptly numbered 25 track long compilation featuring iconic music played at the BTRAX parties at Rex club. Can you please share some more info about this release with us?
This year, we celebrate our 25th birthday with a bumper new collection curated by me and my brother Rob Malone. It features music from artists that produced and/or played for us at BTRAX parties at Rex Club since 2001. Next to classics from the back catalogue are new and exclusive remixes of those classics as chosen by the artists themselves. The first 12 cuts on the album are all picked from the label’s vital discography. Scan 7’s ‘Thoughts’ kicks off with some chunky techno funk which is followed by Vince Watson’s majestic synth-heavy remix of Electric Rescue, a brain-frying Scan 7 remix and then timeless originals from Julian Jeweil, Ben Men, and Robben. Remixes from the likes of DJ Mau Mau, Traumer and Terrence Parker have more than stood the test of time with each one offering different techno visions. The all-new and exclusive remixes run from track 13 to 24 and include names long associated with this crew. There is deep and dreamy synth techno from Altroy, warehouse ready rawness from Double Trouble, well swung drums from Elyas, abstract minimalism from DJ Mau Mau and the same track becomes a piece of high tech soul at the hands of Orlando Voorn. Croatian Petar Dundov is in scintillating form on his cosmic remix while Detroit don DJ Rolando goes for a blissful and dubbed out vibe on his remix. Scan X, Squal G, Thomas Barnett, Ricky Sinz and Secret Cinema then bring their own signature styles. The album rounds our with two new and unreleased gems from Rob and Ben themselves.
You have a longstanding relationship with Rex club, undoubtedly one of Paris’ most legendary institutions. How did you maintain such a long relationship with the venue?
Rex Club has shape part of Parisian club culture, after having offered disco music in the 1970s, then rock and new wave in the 1980s, its programming has been oriented towards electronic music since the early 1990s. It is considered today as one of the high places of electronic music in Paris and France. I played there from 2001 to 2019, Christian Paulet and Fabrice Gadeau always paid attention to high quality sound systems, cutting edge programmation with no compromise. I love the not so big club capacity (800 people), no vip area, Dj’ing there is really special due to clubber’s requirement and musical culture. Rex Club is one of the Parisian clubs which has kept a soul and an authenticity through the ages.
Your parties have featured some incredible artists over the years, many of whom have released on the label. Do you find it has been easier to manage the A & R for the label through running events? How do you navigate inviting artists you’ve booked to release music with you?
Process to select producers, remixers was easy, we are friends with most of all, knowing each other since decades and willing to celebrate our electronic journey and what it brings to Parisian & french electronic music scene. It’s all about passion and human connection.
Ben Men - The Journey
What would you say is the key to running a successful label & event collective?
Passion, humility and work.
The compilation features many tracks of your own, remixed by BTRAX associates. How did you approach which artists would become a part of the release? Is there a reasoning behind the choice of tracks to be remixed?
Not particularly, it was easy and guideline was music first, next to classics from the back catalogue, new and exclusive remixes of those classics as chosen by the artists themselves. They had complete freedom to choose any tracks to remix and the way they wanted.
Can you tell us something about your new original track on the compilation ‘25’?
I did this track during covid lockdown, while start working on BTRAX25 compilation. I’ve always been huge fan of ambient, electronica and it came naturally through the machines to capture a mix of the past, present and future of techno.
I’ve been surrounded by music as far as I can remember, my grand-mother was piano teacher, my father always played at home jazz, soul and classical music. Naturally I went to study piano and music theory at the conservatory until I was teenager. I’m a natural born raver due to do my deep link with England, I spent many times over there and discovered in late 80’s, London rave scene, Soho and Camden records shops, pirate radios, the golden era. I’ve always been into music, vinyl digging, hanging in every record shops.
To close out the interview, what do the next 25 years hold for BTRAX?
We hope to be able to travel again, looking to go back to Brazil, Bali see our friends and work on my brother’s surf foundation project. More music, more love 🙂
Peace & guidance, Ben.