Sophisticated Lover: Interview with the magnificent Donny Benét

After bulldozing his way into our hearts and ear holes with his 2011 debut Don’t Hold Back, Australian disco wizard Donny Benét is back with his latest record The Don. He’s been flying around his native land on tour over the past few weeks, and boy are his arms tired.

He’ll descend into Berlin’s Urban Spree like a graceful swan on November 4th in what is sure to be a sensual and nimble performance – we caught up with Donny to try and find some method in his madness.

Indie Berlin: Considering your work seems to be a crossover of so many different genres, how would you describe your sound for those who don’t know?

Donny Benét: Kind of a club band featuring Alan Vega, Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, Prince, Falco and Demis Roussos.

IB: Nice. Can you tell us about your motivation and the process behind your latest record?

DB: It was written and recorded over a period of two to three years – I’d just finished a collaboration album called Weekend at Donny’s, which was exhausting and very fun. I was itching to start working on my own music again and wrote the song Working Out entirely on a Yamaha DX7. The song wrote itself in 30 minutes! A lot of the other tracks were influenced by artists I was into at any different time – Falco, Prince, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, DAF, to name a few.

IB: Obviously, you have a very powerful image and distinct taste in clothing. Where do you find your inspiration, sartorial-wise?

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DB: A lot from the show Disco Ring, my friends, I’m not sure…I am very obsessed with hand made shoes. I have a shoemaker in Pienza, IT – I’m up to my 8th pair now.

IB: Respect. You’ve previously mentioned that your Santorini video is something of a nod to Ryan Paris and Giorgio Moroder’s work. Are there any other artists from whom you draw inspiration? Perhaps some you’d like to work with one day?

DB: I’m really into Alain Chamfort at the moment… the three albums  Poses, Secrets Glacés and Amour Anée Zéro are on constant repeat for me at the moment. At the moment I’m really enjoying writing myself and recording in my studio. For years I was a gun for hire on the bass guitar, and it’s been nice to hang by myself at the moment.

I have a terrible voice, but, it’s mine and it’s there to be used

IB: Your work tends to place emphasis rather often on the sensuality of the human body. Why have you chosen to focus on this concept in particular?

DB: It seemed so inappropriate for someone of my appearance and age to be so sensual when I first started playing my songs in Australia. That’s what drew me to it…I wasn’t a pretty, blue-eyed heartthrob – more like a sweaty hairy Italian man you’d see back in the 80s. Must be the Italian blood!

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IB: Regarding your songwriting, how would you say your music has evolved since your last record?

DB: Better production, better editing from myself. Giving the songs more shape and space. Trusting in my voice a bit more. I have a terrible voice, but, it’s mine and it’s there to be used! I try not to stack songs with synth parts as much any more, compared to my earlier recordings.

IB: My friend Steve is still pretty traumatised from your last show in Berlin at Loophole. He says by the end, his clothes were drenched with other people’s sweat. Do you have any comment on this?

DB: That was one of the hottest shows I’ve ever done. I can still smell the sweaty, mouldy air from Loophole as I’m typing this!

IB: Delightful – like some kind of macabre slip’n’slide.

DB: I loved the gig – it was nice to be so close.

IB: Regarding your upcoming gig at Urban Spree, what are you particularly excited about? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for the show?

DB: I’m excited about being in Berlin again and playing my music for the Berliners. I will have my saxophonist along for the trip and he’s a badass. But he won’t be up my sleeve.

IB: How do you want your audience to feel when they hear one of your tracks?

DB: Something. Love, happiness, loathing… just some feeling! For me it’s a form of escapism being on stage – I hope they feel that as well.

It seemed so inappropriate for someone of my appearance and age to be so sensual when I first started playing my songs in Australia

IB: What changes would you like to see in the music industry over the next few years?

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DB: Equality.

IB: Nice, we’re big fans of that. How come?

DB: Things are changing and that’s great. I’m seeing more people playing music, listening to music, and getting a positive reaction and rush from being part of a community.  It’s an exciting time with more possibilities than ever.

IB: What does the future look like for you? Do you have any upcoming projects which you’re particularly excited about?

DB: Touring. Touring. Touring. Writing. New music. That’s what the next 6 months look like for me. I’m so excited to have toured Europe for the first time in July and have loved coming back so regularly. It feels like a nice home for me to be a musician. Australia is an amazing place to live, but it’s so small and limited. That’s why we all come over and see you guys! I’m very much looking forward to writing and getting back into my studio. That’s my zone  – I would be more than happy to spend my life writing and recording music. I’ll have new music out in 2019 and will enjoy the process of writing, recording and performing my next album.

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