Magnetic Man: "I was so out of my head that I stripped naked with the hippies!"

Dane Cobain sites down with Benga, Skream and Artwork


Austria Austria | by Dane Cobain | 03 March 2011

Magnetic Man seem comfortable and relaxed, tucked in the corner of a restaurant for a series of interviews, which reflects their growing popularity. They laugh and joke between questions, seeing what they can get VF to believe. Artwork “dreads playing Cairo this week,” a slight detour from their dates in the north of England, while Benga reveals that Katy B “is Skream's cousin - not many people know that.” Skream laughs, unaffected by the trauma he experienced, “the time [he] got kidnapped in Tobago.”

Formed by long-term friends Benga, Skream and Artwork, who met at the Big Apple Records shop in Croydon, Magnetic Man is the 21st century's equivalent of The Highwaymen or The Traveling Wilburys. “It came about when we were messing around, making tracks together four or five years ago,” explains Artwork. “We decided that we wanted to do something a bit strange, a bit more experimental.” Benga suggests that any teething problems were purely technical, and Skream agrees: “It just felt natural. It's a different situation with us than with most people. We've known each other for over ten years.”

Hotly-tipped by critics, the trio released their debut album, 'Magnetic Man', in October of last year, featuring a host of guest vocalists including Skream's “cousin”, Katy B, who supported them on their last tour because Prince was unavailable, apparently. The veteran pop singer is an inspiration to them it would seem, and the artist they'd most like to collaborate with.

They’ve just completed the NME Awards Tour, which took them across the UK with fellow rising stars Everything Everything and The Vaccines. When forced to choose between them, Skream picks the former, adding: “I'll tell them that to their face as well.” Of NME, he says, “Fuck them! They didn't give us an award,” prompting Benga to jump in: “Say Skream said that.”

The group, who describe each other as “mental”, warn fans to “be prepared for carnage” at their live shows and to “wear the right type of shoes”. Pressed on the strangest thing they've done at a festival, Skream and Artwork refuse to answer because it's “unprintable”. Benga, however, is more open: “At Shambala, I got so out of my head that I stripped naked with the hippies when they told me to. At the time, in my head, I believed it was the correct thing to do, to get naked and rub this crystal ball with them.”

Artwork details more of Benga's antics, including the time he streaked “in front of 16,000 people” and when he pretended he was dead until a hotel cleaner found him. “She got quite worried and then he jumped up on her and grabbed her,” he explains. “She burst into tears and I think she had to have counselling.”

Magnetic Man's first festival appearance of the year is at BLOC Weekend 2011 next weekend, co-headlining with Aphex Twin. Skream admits that last time they had a chance to see him, “he was in another room and he had that surround sound shit. We actually went in the room when he was playing, we just wouldn't remember.”

Every year, BLOC has a fancy dress theme - fittingly for Magnetic Man, this year it's 'heroes and villains'. Skream says, “I've still got my Thor outfit from my last fancy dress party,” while Benga would “probably go as Blackman.” Artwork can't decide, so Skream chooses for him - Stephen Hawking because “he's a hero for science.” Look out for them at Butlins in Minehead, “getting absolutely trolleyed”. Skream “generally [gets] found in the arcade because [he] likes the lights.”

After the success of 2009 and 2010, this year will be a busy one for the group. Of their steady climb to fame, Benga admits: “The billing that we're getting around all the festivals makes me feel like a superstar. We haven't gone through a year staying at the same level, we've always kept on rising.” Artwork observes, “We never plan ahead, it's day by day,” and Skream adds, “America's next, I guess.” U.S. President Barrack Obama is already following him on Twitter: the American invasion has begun. What's next, David Cameron following Magnetic Man? No chance - “We'd block him,” they say.

The band will headline Beach Break Live 2011 alongside Tinie Tempah and White Lies with plenty more on the bill as well.

Weekend tickets are available now at £99 for the weekend plus camping.

Click here to buy Beach Break Live tickets.

Magnetic Man are part of Virtual Festivals' Ones to Watch in 2011.


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