There's no denying the energy of William Bensussen AKA The Gaslamp Killer, a hyperactive individual who lives to share his love of music, his rhythm and his vibes with the human race. He's a true eclectic, respecting the past and looking to the future in both his DJ sets and his own productions. The Gaslamp Killer is an artist without a mask, a performer who isn't afraid to show his feelings and a DJ who connects with the crowd, the music and the earth.
From an early age growing up in San Diego, family events, parties and anything involving music always brought Will a unique sense of excitement.
"I always felt drawn to party time ever since I was little. Any kind of opportunity; a wedding, bar mitzvah, holiday. Whatever kind of event that was going on in my little community in San Diego, if there was music, I was dancing. It's just the way it was. I've always been into the energy and the happiness that it brings."
Will was introduced to a wide variety of music early on through his older friends and siblings. It was these early influences that still resonate today through his performance and his own work. They laid the foundation for his unique understanding of sounds, grooves and the moods and feelings that music can generate in people.
"I always had music around me because of my older friends and older siblings. They were always listening to rap and rock and reggae. If it wasn't for my friends, I wouldn't know anything. I definitely gave a lot of credit to my older friends and just my friends in general. They influenced me a lot.
"I grew up with Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, NWA. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Guns N' Roses and all kinds popular Rap, and Rock and Reggae. I'm talking at 11 - 12 years old, this is what was around me in San Diego growing up.
"I'm influenced by so many different styles. I've always loved the energy of Rock ‘n' Roll and the energy of Hip Hop. Live performances in general have always made me super excited to be part of the human race you know.
"I've always been excited about music and what it does for people."
It's obvious that influences are at the heart of Will's journey as an artist. It was the power of bands performing live, the rawness of Rap, the space and feeling of Reggae and Dub and the meditative energy in Psychedelic Rock that shaped his ear and developed his love for music that sits deep inside.
"The music that I grew up with influences me today enormously still. I love classic rock, I still love Dub and I still love Rap. Real rap. Gansta rap. I love bands, live bands, it's the music I grew up with. Thats still some of the best stuff in the world in my opinion. I don't think there are that many bands that can compare to Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors. They're not popular for no reason. I play The Beatles in my sets all the time still. Their music is a huge influence on me. I still play Dr Dre in my set all the time. His beats and the rhymes the energy, they just affect me so much. They are a part of me. As well as Hip Hop, as well as Rock, and Blues, and Soul, and Jazz, and Reggae, and Dub. That kind of music I think lends to everything that we are all into today. All of us are fueled by that. The formulas that they laid and the foundations that they laid are used by musicians forever and will continue to be used forever. That real groove is what stays with me forever.
"Now, I'm still listening to that but I have a much wider array of selections and my catalogue has grown so much. My library is insane and my actual vinyl are over 10,000 now. I have a lot of weird records."
At the core of it all, there is a deep understanding of the affect music can have on people. This comes from within and from his own experience when listening to music.
"When I'm listening to records, I hear the first 4 bars and thats when I go oh... You hear a bass line and the drums and immediately you get tingles. Your think, this is gonna be good. You're almost right every single time. Within the first 4 to 8 bars you hear the music and you think, "oh my god, this is going to be a good song," and you know, because thats the foundation for the song in the first place."
Will's first introduction to DJing was through sneaking out of the house and to going to raves to satisfy his curiosity for any kind of musical experience he could be a part of.
"I found out about djing through raves. Hip Hop videos on MTV never had a DJ in them when I was growing up. The DJ was behind the scenes and the producer wasn't featured on the record.
"I got invited to a rave from some friends of mine. They said, "there's this warehouse party, it's all ages, we can get in for 5 bucks and it goes till 6am!" So I said, "alright," and we took the bus. We were around 12 years old, super tired and had no money and nobody would buy us any alcohol. My parents thought that I was spending the night at someone else's house and I was totally caught up in this lie. I was just dying to hear some music though and we went into this rave at 1am. They were very reluctant to let us in because we were so young, but they let us in and there was maybe 50 people, two turntables, a mixer, two crappy speakers and one sub but it was thumping. It was hard techno and I had no idea what that was. I'd never heard that music before. I saw this one DJ controlling a whole room of people the way bands have done and I thought, "oh my god, this guy is by himself but he's a one man band. He's got the whole room immersed in his energy and its just one guy." I thought immediately, "I gotta try that, I gotta find someone that does this." I was relentless. I would not let up.
"I always had to talk my way in, it was never, "walk right in," it was always, "where are your parents? Do they know you're here?" I looked really young at that time and they looked at me and thought, you should not be here. Nobody could tell me anything, I was driven to be a part of this culture. I was trying to see any kind of music. I didn't even know what i was listening to. I didn't know the name of it. I was just dedicated and devoted to the felling and the vibes I got, you know."
From this introduction there was no stopping Will in his quest to perform and to be that one person controlling the entire room. It was the ultimate outlet for his insanity and his motivation and drive were unstoppable. He has a true belief in himself and that is his purpose in life; to make people dance, to bring joy to people and to share himself and his gift with the world.
"I was always dancing since I was a little kid and I was always getting in front of the camera and always jumping in the party and trying to be getting attention. I was really hyperactive. Too much energy, I didn't know what to do. Always disrupting class, always getting kicked out of class. This, was this high energy, awesome hobby that I could put my energy into and I just thought, "I wanna be performing but I don't want to speak other peoples words, and I don't think I want to speak words at all." It's not about my voice, it's about what I have in here and I want to project this energy and share my love and my vibes with people. I didn't know how, I was too young to even understand what that even meant. You know; me! me! me! me! Raising my hand at every opportunity to volunteer for anything. I was always super motivated to do that and thats obvious in my performances now. I have no shame in that, it's what I was born for.
"There aren't many jobs in the world or hobbies in the world that lend to a hyperactive individual. You have to be original and you have to be energetic and you have to be different. I'm a spaz, I'm a freak, I'm a fuckin' psycho. I cant sleep, I cant function normally in society. I have to do extra curricular activities. Theres no masking my energy, its always through the roof!
"Nobody understood me. Nobody wanted to give me a chance. I didn't fit in ever. I never had a normal group of friends. I was always on the outside and it wasn't until I found music that I could focus this insanity into something. Thank god. Thank the universe. Thank the powers that be. Thank the energy in me, that this gift was given to me. I have to share it with the world."
For The Gaslamp Killer, it's all about the journey he can take the crowd on and his ability to react at any moment. His ability to turn the set around on it's head in an instant is one of the characteristics that sets him apart. His sets can be enormously varied but the energy and vibe is always appropriate.
"When I play art shows, small gatherings or any kind of experimental night I love it. I get to play anything I want. When I'm going into a club environment, festival environment or a performance concert environment, I'm trying to play music with a certain kind of energy. Thats what I'm searching for for my shows. I'm trying to hit the people hard. It's all in the computer and it's all loaded up in my Serato crates ready to go. At any point I could flip the script completely and play the saddest, most depressing music you've ever heard. Then drop a sub in and play thrash metal, and then play Bob Marley, and then play Gaslamp Killer unheard loops, and weird records or blends, and edits and whatever you know..."
These days, it's exciting to see Gaslamp embrace technology and the future of music. It has allowed him to weave his sets through the past and into the unknown. It's his excitement for the limitless creative opportunities that are available to producers these days that really excites him.
"With the evolution of technology, I can go from one world to another in the push of a button and the flick of a wrist. I can switch between the two so fast. I'm constantly evolving my sound by realizing that if the BPMs match and you can keep the tempo in line, you can get away with playing almost anything! I didn't know that before because you cant bring ten crates of records to your gig. The limits have gone away and there is much more you can do now so my sets are evolving with the technology.
"I'm excited by music today because of the possibilities that exist with home studios. Recording techniques have evolved and people are really pushing the envelope. I'm excited about music because the internet blurred the lines between performer and fan. We are one and it's a level playing field you know. I'm devoted to this craft and this art and I'm always trying to learn about new music. It makes me better and it makes my peers better."
The Low End Theory in LA, a weekly club night that's been happening for the last five and a half years, is the home of The Gaslamp Killer and his laboratory. It's a hub of experimental music, creativity and culture which has slowly but surely carved out a scene of it's own for like minded artists and music enthusiasts of every kind. While this intimate scene has been brewing for a while, the internet has opened up a much bigger platform to share ideas and sounds to the world.
"The Low End Theory is a weekly club in LA. We have been doing this for 5 1/2 years. It's safe to say it the only 18 and up venue going on as a weekly in LA. Music enthusiasts of all ages come together to share their love of music. Any kind of creative people know about Low End Theory. It's become a hub and an experimental and creative nerd party. We have had Low End Theory Japan every single year for the last 4 years. We also do Low End Theory San Francisco every month. It's a beat scene hub, it's an Experimental, IDM, Hip Hop, Trip Hop, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Rock... All the names I mentioned before that I play. All these styles of music get played at Low End Theory and all types of musicians join us, and party with us, and perform with us, and its gotten out of control, its totally insane! I think it's amazing and I love it. Everyone knows Low End Theory, and by everyone, I mean this tiny speck of a scene we have going on, but the internet has given us a big platform to share our ideas and our sounds and our model tot he world.
"Low End Theory is my laboratory. I get to try out anything I want there. I play stuff at soundcheck there all the time. I just go out in the middle of the room by myself and listen to the full glory of the Low End Theory sound system blasting my own music in my face. It's just such an awesome place on so many levels it's insane."
It was in 2009 when Mary Anne Hobbs invited Gaslamp Killer to play at Sonar, BBC Radio 1 recorded and promoted his set and he solidified his position as a truly international artist - touring is something that he takes a lot from and is a huge part of his life.
"Touring internationally is amazing. It has opened my eyes and changed my life forever. I never knew the world was so big and I never knew that people were all the same, and that no matter where I go, young people are all the same. We are all looking for the same things. It doesn't matter how you were raised or where you come from. We're all looking for inner peace. We're all looking for happiness. We just all want to be happy and it's crazy to see that. Touring internationally has opened my eyes to humanity more than anything. Everyday I'm always devoted to traveling and touring even though all I want to do is be here in my room making music and enjoying my life and my friends and my family. Lord knows I would love to have a cat or a dog, but I'm not a good enough parent because I'm always on the road giving it out! One of these days I'm going to settle down and be able to relax."
Leading up to the release of his first full length album this September, Breakthrough, Will gives some insight to his approach to production and the content of this work. It's the essence of Gaslamp Killer. His influence, his attitude and his spirit, which he's enormously proud of.
"I feel that this album I'm working on is going to be more for a movie soundtrack, and a drive through your life than it is going to be for the club and I'm truly excited about it. I'm reaching out to all my friends that I respect, trying to pull the resources in and get people on strings, on brass, on keys, on bass. I got a lot of fun surprises on the record, and a lot of my energy on the record, and a lot of my attitude on the record. My fathers voice is on the record, my mothers voice is on the record, my friends laughter is on the record. My day to day bitching and kivetching, and crying and complaining is on the record. My ranting is on the record, my sound effects are on the record, my space whistle is on the record. I'm creating something that is going to be a time capsule for all time and I'm really happy and excited to give it to the world. It's called breakthrough and its Gaslamp Killer 100%.
"I do not make club music. I'm not making party music. I'm making head music. I'm making third eye music. I'm making cinematic music. I'm making music for TV and film. I'm making music for your brain not for your body. Thats just whats coming out of me and I'm only doing whats natural. I can't even think about making any thing unnaturally."
The depth of Gaslamp Killer as an artist is undeniable in his personal reflection on the power of music and the energy that he channels in his sets. It's emotion and feeling that drive his performance. His connection with the entire experience is what he projects to his audience and what people continue to want to be a part of.
"The drums are the heartbeat. The drums are the ocean. The drums are the water within us that humans are made of. The rhythm. It is the ultimate translation of god, and the universe, and the holy energy that created all of this, into a sound that you can hear and move to. I get to be a part of this ceremony every single time and I truly believe that me, as a performer, I connect with god. I connect with the energy of the earth when I'm really in my zone. I've never ever felt better, I've never ever felt more connected to the earth than when I'm performing."