Layo & Bushwacka! Biography
Matthew "Bushwacka!" Benjamin has always been into music: as a schoolboy in Ladbroke Grove, West London, he was playing percussion in the London School Symphony Orchestra. "I played the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican. We toured Italy when I was 13. It was a magical time of my life." It was 1988, and hooked on hip-hop and DJing, his life was about to take a sharp left turn. "In August '88 I went to a Rat Pack warehouse party. I left there at 11 o'clock the next morning and come home to an angry mum." Handing out flyers by night and working in Harrods by day, he began working for the Rat Pack. By 1989's summer of orbital rave he was DJing for them, as well as on London's legendary ‘Radio Rental’ pirate station Sunrise FM.
Graduating from a studio engineering course, Matthew - now widely held in awe by other producers for his crisp beats and heavyweight production techniques - went to work at Mr C's new studio "making cups of tea 80 hours a week." The Shamen ex-frontman had ploughed his pop earnings back into the studio, and he was also planning on opening a club with another young protégé of his: "That's where I met Layo," Matthew remembers. "About the same time as the End idea was coming about."
Layo Paskin had a different upbringing in a liberal North London household: the son of an architect and a writer, he was putting on funk parties at sixteen while working at weekends in Camden Market. "When I was 17," he recalls, "I went to my first acid house party, and straight away I was blown away by this thing." From then on he too was immersed in underground dance and within a couple of years he was throwing warehouse parties with Mr C. "We found this site for a party," he explains, "and that became The End." The End was designed by his father, and became Layo's life. Taking in nights from future superstars like Fatboy Slim and Roni Size, it quickly became the leading underground music club in the capital and one of the most influential dance clubs worldwide.
By the time Layo and Bushwacka! started working together it was the mid-'90s and dance music was changing. The hardcore scene that Matthew had been such an integral part of was already shifting into drum & bass, while new hybrids - that would later be termed tech-house and breakbeat - were emerging out of clubs like The End. Matthew had started his own Plank Records, and was making and playing what he terms "good quality music to go out and dance to."
In 1998 Layo and Bushwacka! released their first album Low Life on End Recordings, the label that had begun life the day The End opened. A deceptively smooth collection, the album mashed together electro, techno, underground house and old skool breakbeat, but stretched into delta blues and dub reggae for inspiration, for a trippy down-tempo atmospheric breakbeat sound. It was rather brilliant.
They also started DJing together more often - first at the End's Subterrain nights, later across the country and beyond. They make a good combination: Matthew tearing his crossfader through anonymous tech tunes and electro breaks and Layo taking a more considered approach to playing "proper" tunes.
Their second album Night Works took their blueprint onto a bigger, broader canvas. All the elements we loved about Low Life and singles like the breakbeat blues of "Deep South" were still there, but this time they came wrapped in a comfort blanket of synapse-tweaking soft chords. Once again edited and tweaked into a non-stop collage that lulls you into a false sense of security at home, where you can't feel the monster bass lines these tracks unleash over a club sound system.
Following on from the success of Night Works (and the many reincarnations of their smash hit "Love Story"), L&B kept their hardcore fans happy by taking their music live with acclaimed appearances at Homelands, Creamfields and Glastonbury. Today, their focus is the much anticipated All Night Long album and upcoming tour.
"The music industry is an industry where the best business people do the best and the most creative people don't," reflects Layo. "That's life I suppose. But I'm hungry for that creativity. I'd like to be really good at what I do, rather than hugely successful. You need to be able to look yourself in the eye and say the route you’re taking is a good route, be proud of what you do, and on the other hand also enjoy it. I'll be much more happy if this album had good reviews, rather than sell a million copies. Similarly I don’t care about playing the biggest clubs when I can be playing the best parties. All of this, all of what we do, it’s all about having something we can visit in a few years and be really proud of."