JOHN "JELLYBEAN" BENITEZ with JUAN JARAMILLO JR, HALI and ROD G at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (April 4). $14 advance, more at the door. email@example.com
Jellybean Benitez is best known for shaping Madonna's first hits. But he's also been a major figure in the underground scene since day one.
About a year and a half ago, his friends Little Louie Vega of Masters at Work and pioneering DJ David Mancuso convinced Benitez to start DJing again.
"The thing that makes me happiest is playing records. I love that immediate reaction and interaction. I think everyone should be a DJ at least once in their life, just so they can get a sense of what it's actually about," Benitez says.
Aside from his work as a remixer, producer and DJ, Benitez keeps himself busy in the film world, putting together soundtracks and also venturing into producing. It might seem like a bit of a leap to go from the clubs to the movies, but Benitez claims that he gets to use many of the same skills he developed mixing records.
"Doing music for film is the closest to being a DJ. You've got a captive audience that you can take on a journey in the same way you can as a DJ.
"I like to use songs that are older, because they don't have music videos. If you hear Like A Virgin in a film you immediately think of the video, where if you hear a song that's never had a video, you remember things that happened in your own life. When I'm doing film work, I'm very careful not to take the audience out of the picture."
Although his label, JB Recordings, is distributed by Sony, Benitez has retreated from the high-profile major-label remix work he was known for in the 80s. Back then he was one of the busiest remixers in the business, but he grew disenchanted with the big labels' approach to the business.
"I think the major labels are completely lost and out of touch with the reality of what's happening on the street. They spend like crazy, put out a bunch of things to see what sells, and then they chase that. If a particular type of artist does well there are loads of copycats, which works for the first few. Then someone else takes a risk and does well."
The club hits in the early 70s were produced in a completely different way, says Benitez. DJs wouldn't wait for the 12-inch single to come out, but would instead listen to everything and find the tracks on the albums that worked on the dance floor. Musicians were expected to take chances rather than chase the latest trend.
"The songs back then were coming from people who were experimenting in the studio. Most of the early club hits before disco were basically studio jams, musicians taking the elements that got people dancing when they performed, and building on that. That's why you had so many different kinds of artists making those records."