Ben Soundscape Celebrates 20 Years of Intrigue

From a fortnightly party in a low-capacity club to being widely renowned as one of the most recognisable events in Bristol’s bustling drum & bass scene Intrigue has come a long way over the last twenty years. As well as being synonymous with their groove-driven nights the brand also comprises a record label which sticks to the same musical ethos- deep, different and full of funk.

To celebrate the momentous anniversary Intrigue will be throwing a party at their Bristol home, the world-famous, award-winning music venue- Theckla on February 17. The show will see local legend Roni Size make his debut at an Intrigue event and be joined by Dynamite, LSB, Riya & Collette Warren to name a few. Later on in the year Intrigue will release Intrigue 20- the annual celebration of their sound in various artist, long player form.

Today we take a deep dive into Intrigue’s origins and some of its key moments as we have a catch-up with the man behind it all DJ, producer, and promoter- Ben Soundscape. 

20 years of Intrigue! Big Up! Before we start talking about what you’re doing this year to celebrate. Can you take us back to the very beginning?

I started Intrigue with one of my oldest friends, Joe Wills when we were 19 as a small midweek venture every two weeks on a Wednesday. The inspiration was Fabio’s night Swerve in London because there wasn’t really anything like that in Bristol that put on the deeper, more soulful end of the drum and bass spectrum. So we started it together back in 2003. That sounds wild- 2003. It’s 2023!

We ran it together for about a year or so, then Joe didn’t want to take risks anymore with booking the bigger acts and stuff like that. So we had a conversation, and he would still be part of it, he would come and play the nights with me as The Insiders. He didn’t really want to be involved in the running of it anymore, so I took it on on my own and I’ve kept it going since then, growing it from being a midweek night to moving into weekends and building up a following. It’s changed quite a lot over that time really. 

Yeah, it’s been a long time. I imagine it would have been harder not to change over 20 years…

Absolutely. We’ve done several different clubs over the years, tried to try to take a few different ways and we settled at Thekla, which is a really sick club on a boat in the centre of Bristol. We do four nights there a year as well as some collaborations with different nights as well. So it’s still exciting after all this time.

How do you keep it exciting? Just moving around?

Yeah, exactly. I think that the key thing is to try different things, working with different people and trying different venues. For example, this July we’re doing a thing with these guys called The Blast and they’ve got  Fabio & Grooverider and  The Outlook Orchestra, which is an amazing show, they’ve got Gardna, David Rodigan and a few other people down at the Amphitheatre in central Bristol, which is a huge outdoor arena, right by the river. And they’ve asked us to do an Intrigue stage for their room two area. It’s things like that, that will keep it exciting, different and moving forwards. I think you have also got to think about not always booking the same artists, I try to bring people in who might not get the opportunity elsewhere, and bring through new talent which has always been one of my focuses.

You’ve also got a celebration album this year.

Yes, the album is called Intrigue 20 to celebrate 20 years of the night. We’ve been doing those albums for 10 years now, we started with Intrigue 11 and then we just thought- let’s keep it going. So from 11,12, all the way up to 20 and originally when I did it, I thought It’d be really cool to have an extra track every year, Intrigue 11 was 11 tunes and then 12 was 12  and so on. It got to 18 tunes and I thought ‘that’s probably enough now’. So this year we’ve gone back to 13 tunes and it’s a really eclectic mix of new and established artists and a really good range of music. I asked Lynx to contribute and he’s made me a track called ‘Golden Ticket’, which is very similar to what he used to make in the early 2000s. I’ve got Alibi, I’ve got Myth, and then loads of people who are coming through. Lurch, Octo Pi, Creatures, Dan Structure, Mosaic, Bipolar & SMP are on there, as well as rising star Lilac and some international talent like Joakuim, Knowmans and Jaybee. So it’s a really exciting project and I’m really proud of it. There are 4 singles before the album is released in full on April 28th.

And from night to label, was it just a natural evolution?

It got to five or six years and I thought I wanted to take it to the next level really. At the time, I kind of wanted an outlet for mine and Joe’s stuff as The Insiders. I wanted a regular outlet for that as well as kind of bringing through new talent. It started out as a primary vinyl record label, it was in the days of vinyl still. So we were pressing up, getting amazing artwork done and, as it went on it just became clear, that the scene was changing and it wasn’t really a sustainable model anymore.

We transitioned more into a digital label which then gave us the freedom to put out more releases and find more new artists to put on there. So yeah, I’d say it was a natural progression. It was always something I wanted to do when the time was right. It took a few years of getting the right tunes and finding the right distributor and then it just fell into place. So since then, I’ve been working hard on it to try and build it up. It’s so hard to get a label noticed these days because there’s so much out there you have to try and be different and be super on it with the quality control. 

How would you describe Intrigue’s sound? 

When we first started, it was just about the liquid, deep and soulful sound. Now I’d say it’s still the number one focus but it’s also a bit more all-encompassing. As long as the music’s decent quality and still has soul to it, then we’ll support it. The album reflects that- there are some deeper, more liquid tunes on there and there are some harder tunes but they’ve all got funk and soul. 

Do you have the same ethos for your lineups?

Exactly. We’re all about really good quality and also trying to represent something that’s a bit different to what’s out there having a certain sound that doesn’t just sound like everything else out there. A bit more of a groove and funk to it.

Over the last 20 years you’re obviously probably proud of everything and all that you’ve achieved, but have you got any standout moments? 

I thought you might ask me this, it’s always a tough question because it’s been over such a long time and there’s been so many. In recent years, it’s been doing the colab events. In 2021 we did a night in collaboration with Shogun at Thekla, which was the first night we’d done for a couple of years because of lockdown. That was just absolutely amazing because of the energy of everybody coming back raving after a couple of years. The place was absolutely packed and just that atmosphere of everybody just going for it and being really excited and happy to be back was insane.

We followed that up about a month later with Hospitality Bristol who gave us a stage Motion. It was beautiful weather and our stage was packed throughout the whole day. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. More recently, we did a Metalheadz show which was just so exciting because all of the music was totally different. Everyone we booked went in and played the Metalheadz tracks which you don’t hear very often these days. 

The times when Marcus Intalex played for us back in the day were really special, he was one of our regular guests over many years. The vibe at these nights was incredible, tune selection was on point, with DRS hosting too. Definitely one of my all-time favourite DJs – RIP brother. Those were some of our best nights for sure. 

Going back further there’s always the classic memory of Andy C headlining our fourth birthday. We were at this little club called Dojo Lounge, which is only about 250 capacity and I remember him playing there and it was just absolutely packed to the rafters.  They let way too many people in there, but the atmosphere was insane. It was this basement club. Everyone was on the same level, no stage, and he absolutely smashed the place apart. That will always be one of my standouts, he didn’t play what he would normally play, he took it, a few different ways playing a lot more deeper stuff and it was absolutely unbelievable, really, really good. 

When you started speaking about the things you’ve done, your whole face lit up…

You don’t necessarily always think about it. But when someone asks you, you think back and realise and feel proud of all you’ve done. All the people who must have met each other because it’s like a community as well. You made that happen, you put this event on and everybody’s coming together and people have met friends there people have met people that they’ve got married to there. I’ve heard all of these stories over the years and it’s just a really nice feeling.  

Tell us about how you’ve planned to celebrate this year.

We’ve got our 20th birthday on the 17th of February. And for that one, we brought in Roni Size, he’s never played Intrigue in all this time. I wanted to book him. But I’ve been saving him for the right time. And this is the right time. 

I gave him a call and he was “Ben, I’d love to,  let’s do this” and he’s super excited about it. He’s been posting all these videos about the show and he’s gonna play a lot of older stuff as well. He’s gonna go in and play some Full Cycle stuff. Roni and Dynamite are gonna play for an hour and a half and close the night off. Before that, I’ve got LSB, he’s one of my favourites for deeper sounds, and Riya and Collette are doing their live set together.

 So we’ve got a really good range of styles on the night, something for everyone. Of course, I’m gonna play  with Joe as The Insiders to warm up the night and we’ll be playing some of our favourite tunes from the past 20 years since we started the night. 

Grab your tickets here.

That sounds great, are you ready?

Yeah. I can’t wait! I’m ready, I just need to try and finish up a few new tunes that I’ve been working on. So I just need to finish them off and get the mixdowns done, which is the hardest part for sure. 

Is it at Thekla as well?

Yeah keeping it home. We’re looking at doing some other potential anniversary shows this year as well. So we’ll see what happens with that but I’m just conscious that I don’t want to do too much. It’s always a tough balance between promoting shows and writing tunes and DJing. Although 20 years is a massive year, I’m trying to not do loads and loads of stuff as I want to make sure I have enough time to write music too.

Have you got any festival collabs coming up or anything else that we can look forward to this year?

We’re probably going to do a couple of day parties. We’re doing our Intrigue Live our live stream on the 29th of April at a  place called Lost Horizon in Bristol. That’s gonna be a smaller show where it’ll be Collette and I, and then a bunch of locals, and some new DJs. We’re also gonna have a DJ competition there, where people can send their mixes in advance and then we’ll pick the best one and give them a slot. That’s quite exciting. As far as myself goes, I’m planning a US tour with Collette for the summer as well because we do that every year. So it’s now time to start planning this one. And we’ve got a couple of gigs coming up in Europe too.

Obviously, you work with Collette quite a lot. Do you ever have little lover’s tiffs about what you’re going to play?

Sometimes there might be a tune that I really want to play that she doesn’t like the other way around. Usually, because the tune might not be suited to live vocals! But generally, it’s pretty straightforward.

It must be quite nice like working with your partner because you get to enjoy the good times together too, for example, you get to go raving together…

Yes. It’s amazing. I feel quite blessed to be able to have that and enjoy all those things and have someone that actually understands what it’s like with all the late nights and the parties and the travelling. Even on the production side, you have to work late studio nights sometimes too, it’s not normal hours. It’s not a normal job so you need to have someone who understands that.

Tell us about the music you’ve got coming out.

Yeah, I’ve got quite a busy year, which I’m really excited about. I spent a lot of time in the studio last year and it’s really nice to see these finally coming out. I’ve got a few things with Dispatch, I’ve got an EP on my own- ‘The Shapeshift EP’, and then I’ve got a track with X Bar Theory called ‘They Don’t Know’. X Bar Theory for those that don’t know,  is Fokus and Medic’s new project. It’s really cool. It’s like those two going back and forth with each other on the track, it’s half-time so it’s something a bit different for me.

 I’ve just had some other good news- I’ve had a track signed to Sofa Sound with RoyGreen and Protone who are some of my best friends who live out in Vienna. We’ve had this track on the go for a while and we just finished it recently, gave it to Jay and he’s really into it. He’s putting it out on their next album ‘Sofa King Sick V’ which is coming out in May. Then there’s a single on Innerground and some bits on Liquid Lab, including a new track with Collette. And I’m finishing off an EP for Intrigue with Samie A (previously of Superior Selectionz) which we’re both excited about. A bunch of other solo projects to finish off too as well as my radio show with J:Sauvé which is called The Sub Hustle. So it’s going to be pretty busy this year!

Yeah, very busy…

There’s one more thing, actually. I’ve just started a Patreon. So if anyone out there wants to support me on Patreon there are different levels you can subscribe to that give you access to lots of different things. At tier one, you get a tune a month and discounts for Intrigue. And then with the top tier, you get feedback on your tune, an exclusive monthly live stream and added to the Intrigue promo list as well as other stuff. There’s quite a lot there for people who want to get involved. I  thought it was a good thing to get a bit of extra support from people every month. And I noticed that quite a lot of artists are doing that at the moment.


I think it’s been tough for artists since streaming and people buying less music, so anything fans can do to support is a great thing…

Yeah, that’s what I thought. And it’s kind of a cool way of connecting with fans as well, and it’s going back to that community thing. Just wanna say thanks to everyone for their support with it so far.

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