The London DJ has made bangers his business – to celebrate the release of Deviation Classics, he selects the tunes that defined his legendary night... or would have, were it not for COVID
Founded in 2007, Benji B’s Deviation can lay claim to being one of the 2010s most influential club nights, a party with genuine DNA that manages to have an “anything goes” music policy while still retaining a definitive sound and attitude, celebrating UK Bass as much as spacey, boundary-pushing producers from across the Atlantic like Flying Lotus or Theo Parrish.
Deviation kicked off at East London’s (obviously-now-shut) Gramaphone, but Benji and host Judas took the night around the world – from Miami to Moscow – building an international community in the process. If you look back at photos from Deviation and at the list of guests, you’ll see a roster of era-defining artists, from Kelela and Jamie xx, to A$AP Rocky and James Blake. Virgil Abloh is another who is inextricably linked to Deviation, having appointed Benji musical director at Louis Vuitton, a move that resulted in techno pioneers Cybotron soundtracking the fashion’s house show. All this is happening while Benji continues to host his legendary Radio 1 show, carrying the spirit of the Deviation dancefloor onto mainstream radio.
In April, Benji released Deviation Classics, a celebration of the party’s nascent beginnings, a body of work that cements the concept of the “Deviation sound” and a release that puts a moment in time into one place, featuring a generation of producers such as Joy Orbison and Pearson Sound who changed the direction of the UK underground.
It’s been a traumatic year for dancefloors around the world, with DJs and punters forced out of clubs and onto livestreams (Note: please check Benji’s incredible #AloneTogether sets he did for Dazed in Lockdown 1, 2020). To celebrate the release of Deviation Classics, and the club night as a whole, we asked Benji to select ten Deviation tracks for our readers – five that define Deviation, and five he would have played in the club if he could have.
FIVE TRACKS THAT DEFINE DEVIATION
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – “45:33 (THEO PARRISH’S SPACE CADET REMIX)”
What is there to say, this is a stone cold Deviation classic really. I remember when this first came out it twisted everyone’s heads off – what a remix. The only song I have ever known that a whole room sings along to without really knowing the words.
MOODYMANN – “I GOT WERK”
A more recent classic from a couple years back – this one features on the CD and streaming versions of the compilation only. So many anthems by Kenny Dixon Jr and so many legendary DJ sets by him… I could have chosen a number of them, but this one is a personal favourite.
MALA – “LEAN FORWARD”
“Lean Forward” had to go on the compilation as it sums up an era and I will never forget the moment when it was played in the club by the man himself. Very deep moment!
RAPHAEL SAADIQ – “SKYY, CAN YOU FEEL ME (DEVIATION YAM WHO? DUB)”
This is basically our end of night classic theme song and is about 12 mins long. A bootleg dub version that became bespoke for the club.
ALICE SMITH – “LIVE ENDEAVOUR (MAURICE FULTON REMIX)”
If there was a contender for a Deviation theme tune there’d be a few in the running but this would definitely be one of them. The ultimate gear change tune when it’s time for the dance floor to start warming up, this is one of those tunes that has probably been played at every other session. Had to be a/1 on the vinyl!
FIVE TRACKS THAT WOULD HAVE DEFINED DEVIATION IN 2020/21
HAGAN – “COASTLINE”
Definitely an artist that has emerged in the last two years making great club music – can’t wait to be able to play it out – Hagan tunes will def be featuring in my sets for sure.
SCRATCHCLART – “X”
This tune is just silly. Been storing it in a secret folder on my USB because I wanna see what its gonna do to a dance floor. It’s simple and there’s only TWO elements to it, but will be fun to mix and I predict is an instant pull up. One of them tunes if you play for the right amount of time at the right time will do serious damage.
PML BEATZ – “NO CUBAU”
I love this sound from Portugal. I’ve been playing a lot from this scene on the radio and can’t wait to play on the dancefloor, they have this unique groove and swing to them that’s a signature sound of labels like Principe. Hypnotic.
PA SALIEU – “FRONTLINE”
I Feel bad for Pa that this massive tune only got a couple months in the club before lockdown one. Banger and needs to be played again.
OMAR S – “GONNA LUV U”
Feel good house music from the don from Detroit – this one will sound good this summer.