Editorial volunteer Emily Scott interviews one of RFB’s latest hosts, Benjy Barnett. Photo of Benjy: Emily Scott; Artwork: Rafael Fuchs.
RFB: So I understand you’re from the UK originally—what brings you to Brooklyn?
BB: I got a job at NYU once I finished my graduate studies in England. It was just an excuse to get out of England, live in New York for a couple of years. Yeah, it was just a stroke of luck, really. I was scrolling through Twitter when I should have been revising for my exams and I saw this job advertised. So I just applied, and then one thing led to another and I ended up getting it. It was pretty serendipitous.
RFB: So what’s the job, if you don’t mind me asking?
BB: I’m a researcher in a neuroscience lab.
BB: Yes, it sounds fancy, haha. I do research on the way that gender stereotypes affect our perception of men and women.
RFB: Cool! So, your new show on RFB, “The Non-Resident Alien Show,” offers musical selections from around the world. How do you find the music you play?
BB: It’s a little bit of everything, really. Record shopping is a big one and I’ve found a couple of great shops—there’s one right around the corner from RFB: from Superior Elevation Records. And there’s another kind of close to where I live in Brooklyn, called Human Head Records. I’ve found a lot of good stuff at both. It’s just, like, digging through the $5 rack and if any album covers catch your eye, buy them and then go home and play it. I then see if there’s anything else by them on the internet…and that just leads you through a wormhole. Before you know it, you’re on YouTube and you’ve got all the recommended stuff. And then I look for articles about them, and see any other bands referenced. You end up learning a whole lot about different scenes and different times. So my starting point is records, research, and radio shows.
RFB: Nice! What radio do you listen to (besides Radio Free Brooklyn, of course)?
BB: My radio idol is Gilles Peterson, who’s on BBC Radio 6—so bringing a little bit of England over with me! And his radio show is just amazing, just three hours of music from all over the world, no straight genres.
RFB: Is there a connecting thread in the types of songs you choose to play? Clearly, any style goes… (smiles)
BB: I try and have jazz as a uniting theory. It has influenced a lot of music
worldwide, so it’s quite easy to find things that are jazzy. Other than that, just good music, really!
RFB: Any music out there that you think people need to listen to?
BB: Alice Coltrane’s album “Journey In Satchidananda.” There’s a great album called “Wait For Me” by Roger Damawuzan, who is considered the “James Brown of Benin.” It’s really funky, but it’s also got some quite melancholy tracks with a nice Afro influence—very cool. And finally, one of the first real albums I bought was called “East Meets East” by Nigel Kennedy and the Kroke band. Kennedy is English and trained as a classical violinist, but he did this album with this Polish gypsy group (the Kroke), and they make Eastern European traditional music. It’s really great to hear his talent from classical music transfer across to this other domain, and the music is just very beautiful.
RFB: Any parting words for the RFB audience?
BB: Please listen to my show! I hope it doesn’t disappoint. There’s such a wide array of music that I’m pretty sure that anyone who listens will find at least one song that they like, so it’s worth tuning in just for that.
Catch The Non-Resident Alien Show every Wednesday at 11am.