Apr 11, 2022
8 min read
Rolling basslines, colorful percussion, and lush melodies characterize the tech house of Warrington, UK-based DJ and producer Ben Walsh. His ravenous appetite for success has resulted in two of his releases hitting the Beatport number one spot. He’s played alongside dance music titans like Jamie Jones, Richy Ahmed, Denis Sulta, and Alan Fitzpatrick. And he's received support from the likes of Solardo, Stefano Noferini, Nicole Moudaber, Steve Lawler, and Archie Hamilton.
The dance music that first grabbed Walsh’s attention was festival and big room house. Artists like Swedish House Mafia, Hardwell, and Martin Garrix formed the basis of his burgeoning fervor for all things electronic.
“A lot of my mates were from the Liverpool area, and EDM was big there. But with me being in the middle, between Liverpool and Manchester, I also [liked] that indie side [like] The Courteeners... I had a bit of both.”
Frequently stepping foot on the sticky floors of indie venues and the grassy fields of dance festivals, Walsh’s music taste was also influenced by his parents.
“My parents have always been big into their music, especially my dad. He was what you’d class as a ‘mod’ back in the day.”
By his 20’s, he'd shifted from festival and big room to tech house. “I was still listening to EDM until about three or four years ago, until it started to hurt my ears… [it stopped being] the EDM that brought a lot of emotion and excitement.”
In 2014, as Patrick Topping and Richy Ahmed exploded in popularity across the UK, Walsh increasingly traveled to raves up and down the country.
“I had Circus [Club] 30 minutes down the road in Liverpool, Warehouse Project 30 minutes down the road the other way, in Manchester. Because there was more of that music coming through, I just started to gravitate towards that music.” Nevertheless, Walsh continued to attend both tech house and EDM events.
Growing up in Warrington, a town between Liverpool and Manchester, Walsh split his time clubbing in both northern cities.
“Sometimes I was doing Fridays and Saturdays. Warehouse Project on the Friday, and then I’d go to Circus on the Saturday.” His unwavering passion for the electronic scene drove his movements. “I just didn’t want to come away from it. It’s what I live for.”
Ibiza, the sun-kissed Spanish island at the heart of the global clubbing community, is where Walsh first fell in love with dance music.
“You’ve got all these lineups. You know that people are going to go and see someone on that lineup because they like that particular style of music. You start to get a completely different vibe then, because everyone’s there for the same reason.”
Walsh first went to Ibiza around 2017, when he was 22. Disillusioned at seeing some people in UK clubs not enjoying themselves, Ibiza provided a stark contrast.
“I think that’s when the moment clicked in my head that I wanted to be involved in the scene, rather than just a raver in the scene.”
Walsh returned home and began producing music with a friend and soon started playing DJ gigs with him.
Walsh is a testament that first gigs don’t always go according to plan. Two weeks after their first DJ session, Walsh and his partner were booked to play at a local club.
“It was payday weekend, so we knew it was going to be a busy Saturday. We had a 90-minute set as well.” Neither of the guys had played in a club before and completely lacked confidence on the decks. “Absolute nightmare! I couldn’t even beat match. The little decks I had were tiny little Numarks, with half the dials missing… the next minute, I was put in front of these CDJs.”
Walsh believes that throwing yourself in at the deep end is integral to becoming a DJ. “Everyone’s so obsessed these days about not making mistakes… For me, DJing is all about taking those risks to excite a crowd. A lot of people would’ve turned that [gig] down and said, ‘I’m not ready.’ But when are you ever going to be ready?”
The event still brings back fond memories. “It was funny! The drinks were flowing, all our mates were there. I look back now and go, ‘I can’t believe anyone ever let me go near those decks at the time...’ That’s where the journey began!"
Above all else, Walsh’s parents have helped him the most in getting him to where he is today. But, as Walsh and his DJing partner got booked to play at more events, he soon realized that he’d need something bigger and better to practice on.
“I think I got finance on this RX2 controller. Financing was helped by my parents, but at the same time having a bedroom where you could play music until whatever time, practice at all hours, every single day… some people don’t have that opportunity... I owe them a big thanks.”
Unlike some parents who discourage their children from pursuing a career in music, Walsh’s parents have always supported his ambitions.
While his first foray into being on stage was a great learning experience, it wasn't his final destination. “The duo was a really exciting time. I still look back, and I’m always gutted that it didn’t kick off. The buzz that we had, what people were saying about us. If we’d have pushed the right buttons and worked harder, it could’ve gone somewhere.”
Instead, due to personal reasons, the duo went their separate ways. The split created a challenge for Walsh, as he initially had no experience producing music independently. “I always dreaded the day, if it happened, because I knew that in this scene, to try and breakthrough, I’m going to have to produce.”
“People knew who I was through the duo; the problem is I had nothing to back it up other than I could DJ.” Faced with the complexity of Ableton, Walsh luckily received support and advice from fellow DJ and producer, Kinnerman.
“Just before we split, for a couple months we had a couple of sessions with Kinnerman, who I’m still good mates with. [I still] continue to have lessons now and again with him.”
Kinnerman also gave Walsh resources that he continues to use today. “When things started coming together, that’s when I found the motivation to put even more work in. I was getting good feedback, good support, some labels were interested, and it just started building from there.”
A big step forward in Walsh’s career came in 2021 with his debut release, “Freedom,” on Solardo’s label, Sola.
“The moment I got confirmation [on the release] is a moment I’ll never forget. That was the moment when I was like, ‘Right…it’s happening.’”
Solardo have always been big role models for Walsh and helped to expose his music to wider audiences. The duo dropped “Freedom” in their live sets in Miami and on the Elrow Live Stream at Tobacco Docks.
“The release came about a month after COVID [restrictions were lifted in the UK] which timed in great, because the track was called 'Freedom!' It was a massive achievement.”
Walsh has come a long way in a short space of time, warming up events headlined by Jamie Jones and Amelie Lens. “It’ll never feel normal. I’m the type of person who always remembers where I come from.”
Keen to avoid the egoism that can sometimes accompany this shift in a DJ’s career, Walsh prioritizes humility. “I’ve seen DJs where they get on these lineups, their head blows, and in a couple of years you don’t hear from them because they’ve got so ahead of themselves. My manager’s been really good at helping me stay level headed. I’ve seen it’s not an attractive look, and it can go the opposite way.”
Yet as surreal as opening for a superstar DJ is, Walsh has found that playing headline slots at smaller shows is equally rewarding.
Things have come full circle for Walsh in the past 12 months. After attending Creamfields for many years, Walsh was ecstatic to hear a friend of his, who opened the Arc Stage at Creamfields 2021, bang out his track “Freedom” during his set.
“Back on the Sola release, the voice on that was Leah Rose, who I’m really good mates with. That was our second track together, we’ve got our third one in the making at the moment.”
Similarly, in December 2021, Archie Hamilton played two of Walsh’s tracks at the iconic Manchester institution, The Depot. Walsh was in attendance at the event alongside plenty of his friends.
Today, Walsh’s music bumps in club venues and pool parties worldwide. “I got sent one [video] the other day from South America. It was in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Argentina. My track was being played, and everyone was loving it.”
Walsh didn’t know the DJ who dropped the track but has since reached out to thank him. “It’s always an unreal feeling. It’s a big sigh of relief.”
Words by: Luca Rizzello