Whoever said 'don't meet your heroes' clearly hasn't had a big night out with Benny Hahn
On Benny's suggestion I meet him on a Saturday night, in his natural environment - the VIP bar of a world famous nightclub where he'd later be playing a headline set to a sold out crowd. When I arrive, I find him behind the bar, drawing the whole room's attention with his mixology acrobatics. He's making up a batch of what I'd learn he calls "All Hahns On Decks" - his signature cocktail which seems to involve a shot of almost every drink in the bar, a lot of fire and some backflips.
The mob suitably wowed and our glasses freshly charged, we settle down in a booth to start the interview. I ask Benny how an international superstar DJ also has such impressive bartending skills. "When you spend as much time in nightclubs as I do, you pick up a few things, you know?" He replies with a modest shrug. After a quick sip of his drink he follows up with the surprisingly candid; "you have to be careful with the partying though, it's important to detox every once in a while. We've lost some good guys over the years from partying too hard." As he trails off, his quiet contemplation is interrupted by a gaggle of ecstatic fans requesting selfies. Benny snaps back into superstar mode and enthusiastically obliges.
After a blur of selfies, number exchanges and pecks on cheeks, an assistant arrives to inform Benny it's almost time for his set. We're led through the crowd into the back corridors of the club, up into the booth where a row of glittering CDJs and mixers await. The support act is finishing up and the crowd erupts as Benny walks into the booth, his distinctive form silhouetted by the thousands of LEDs behind him. As the wall of lights switch to spell out Benny's name in six foot lettering, a deafening roar reverberates around the cavernous club almost drowning out the opening beats of Benny's first tune.
After a blinding set that takes in the highlights of his sizeable oeuvre, an A-Z of dancefloor weapons and virtually the entire history of dance music distilled into two hours, Benny closes with his most recent venture - Format B's massive tune, "Chunky", the video of which stars Benny as a voodoo summoning bongo player. The track proves a hit with the crowd and after a few gracious bows, Benny exits stage left to the overly familiar chant of "One More Tune, One More Tune".
"When I'm lying in bed at night, that's what goes through my head - 'one more tune, one more tune' it follows me around, that chant, everywhere I go" says Benny once we finally get some private time in the green room. Cutting an impressive figure in a high backed leather chair, Benny looks more dignitary than DJ.
I ask Benny how the Format B guys managed to secure someone of his celebrity for their video. "Well, I've always been interested in helping out the little guy, you know?" he says, earnestly. "I mean when you've been in the game as long as I have - and I've been in the game since Tiesto was in short trousers - then it becomes important to lend a hand to the new generation."
"It's not just a new thing though, I've always wanted to help out the new guys. Back in '87 Oakie and Rampling, they wanted to go to Ibiza on holiday, they could only afford the flights, so I put them up in my villa. Likewise in '99, Paris. I met Thomas and Guy-Man, they'd queued for hours outside my show to meet me. They told me they wanted to be DJs and I said to them, I said; 'you guys don't have the looks for this business, maybe you should think about wearing masks." And Norman, I told him, you need to lose the weight if you're gonna do the DJ lifestyle, you can't be a DJ if you're a fatboy, you need to be slim."
As my time with Benny was coming to an end, I decided to do something I've never done before. By the nature of my work I meet big name DJs all the time, but I don't usually go in for the celebrity selfie. But in this instance, I felt compelled to capture my brief time in the company of a true legend. Benny, like a pro, joyfully obliged.
Selfie taken, Benny's people arrived to whisk him away to an exclusive after party. As the door opened and his legions of adoring fans swarmed for a photo op with their hero, he paused and turned to me. "People always ask me, 'Mr Hahn, you seem to have all the answers, tell me, what came first - the chicken or the egg?' And you can put this in your article, kid: in Benny Hahn's world, the hens ALWAYS come first."
And with a cheeky wink, a chuckle and a flourish of feathers he disappeared into the hysterical mass.
*Benny has since corrected me that he's "a megastar... not a superstar".
Format B - "Chunky" is out now. Get it here.
12 Nov 2015