A chat with Pragmatik's Bryan Benhaim...
Bryan Benhaim is a busy man. Born and raised in Paris, he’s spent time in London, influenced along the way by dancefloors in London, Ibiza, Berlin and many more. Now firmly based in Chicago, Bryan’s immersed himself into the scene there too, and runs the Pragmatik label and parties. Known for his discerning ear, the label has enjoyed a fine start to life, with VA releases featuring the likes of Lowris, Rick Wade, Bryz, Chad Andrew and more. The label’s latest is a real treat too, and comes courtesy of man-of-the-moment Chklte, who delivers with aplomb alongside remixes by Nu Zau and Miroloja. We tapped up Bryan recently to learn more…
Let’s kick things off by chatting about your early beginnings in electronic music. Outside of the amazing music of your label , what made it so special and enticing for you?
Thanks for the invite, much appreciated! My name is Bryan, I’m French and from Paris so my first real experience was at Rex Club for D’Julz’s Bass Culture parties when I was around 20 years old. From that point, I was hooked and began to educate myself, dig and lean more into the Chicago and Detroit House sound with the likes of Ron Trent, Brian Harden, Delano Smith, Margaret Dygas, Mike Huckaby to start.
Progressively through friends I was then introduced into more of the minimal house sound with Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano and Zip in Particular and started travelling to Berlin and Ibiza and explored a lot more of that culture with clubs such as CDV and Hoppetosse.
Finally I moved to London and parties like Fuse and Half Baked also shaped the creation and sound of Pragmatik which I started in London before moving to Chicago 7 years ago now.
You are based in Chicago. How aware were you of the city’s amazing electronic music heritage when you were growing up and what are your thoughts on it ?
I knew a lot of artists from Chicago but I only really realised here how much the foundation of Chicago House is huge for the community. I started to attend parties like “Queen!” at Smartbar and realised the depth of the Chicago sound and the impact of it to the music we promote. The sense of pride of being from Chicago to people as well.
Places like Gramaphone record store, (a true gem ) also contributes to keep the music legacy accessible for everyone and play a role on music education. Artists such as Derrick Carter or Honey Dijon are incredible ambassadors for the city and embrace the diversity and culture of our scene. I really think The Chicago House sound is timeless and influenced all the new sub-genres of electronic music we have today, no doubt.
You also run your own label, Pragmatik. What caused you to start the label? And where are you at with it all right now as you just released the 003 opus.
I have been organising a lot of parties in Chicago which I’m still doing, showcasing international artists with local artists always.
In addition to that, I wanted to create a platform that would represent my journey through electronic music with artists I love and respect. The three records are vinyl only. All 300 copies with no repress. The idea was to keep it intimate and rare this way and for people to really dig into records. I just released Pragmatik 003 through “Yoyaku” with a very groovy and sexy track from Chklte and 2 remixes from my good friends Miroloja and Nu Zau. Check it out !
The label’s featured some serious cats already, such as Rick Wade, Lowris, Bryz and Chad Andrew on the two VAs you’ve put out. How do you source music for the label? Is it through personal relationships or scouring for music online etc?
All through personal relationship I would say. It always feels very organic. Our scene is an incredible community of like minded people that embraces similar culture. Connections are easier and you start to know a lot of people through the years and travel. I exchange regularly with Chad, Jesus, Praymond or Lowris so it felt normal to have them on the label.
For Rick Wade, I actually reached out to him through social media a few times and told him about my passion for his music , the deep side of it and I asked him if he would be down to produce an original for the label which he gladly agreed.
Finally, Having Artists such as Chklte, Bryz, Nu Zau or Miroloja are a good representation of the sound we curently embrace. It was also great to have our Chicago resident Dani Marcu release its first original track for the VA 002. (Few copies left for this one too! :) )
Your latest release features the likes of Nu Zau and Chklte, artists I probably wouldn’t associate with traditional Chi-town sounds. A lot of the more minimal stuff seems to be really going down so well Stateside these days though - why do you think this is?
Yes for sure, through years and the boom of electronic music as a whole, there has been a lot of different genres that emerged and minimal got more exposure. People travel, are curious to know more and got exposed to that music as I was myself.
Pragmatik is very minimal House focused. It embraces the foundation of the Chicago House sound combined with the european minimal. The growth of the Romanian scene with RPR and the “Sunrise” crew to Berlin and the “Get Perlonized” parties and more is also a big part of why minimal got more exposure stateside in my opinion.
What are your thoughts on the contemporary electronic music scene by the way?
There is room for everyone I feel. From Techno to tech house and so forth.. electronic music touches every generation nowadays.It is a lot easier to access. You are exposed to multiple genres in one click with music platforms and the internet. I can only hope younger generations keep on digging through older music, foundations , and not just what’s in trend and then have a wider vision of the electronic genre.
What I am trying to do with thepragmatik parties and the label is to keep it more authentic with artists that are curious about music, that dig into different genres over the years and combine different influences but always stay real to the essence of what we could call the underground sound.I always enjoy intimate parties way more than a warehouse or festival. A 200 person party with extended DJ sets at an intimate venue is for me the best format to listen to the music I promote.
Aside from the guys on your label, what other DJs and producers really inspire you? What labels are some of your favourite and shaped the Pragmatik record label?
I like the French crew with Traumer, Janeret, Cabanne and Appolonia that are All producing great stuff. Ricardo, ZIP, Daniel Bell, Rick Wade and Soul Capsule are some of my personal favorite artists.
In regards to labels, Perlon of course is extremely influential. I also love releases on Sushitech and Minibar. They are definitely an inspiration for the label.
Lastly, to the uninitiated, can you recommend three of your favourite Chicago tracks, and maybe talk us through them a bit?
Chez N Trent - Morning Factory
Timeless groove here from both Chez Damier and Ron Trent Amazing artists. Pure class of a record.
Brian Harden - From Chicago to Detroit
The real deep sound here. The title says It all as well. Some acid influences as well. Love that record.
Boo Williams - Make Some Noise
Classic cut here. I heard this for the first time played by Zip and my good friend Pelle. incredible groove.
Keep up with Bryan Benhaim on Instagram @bryandeep
Keep up with Pragmatik on Instagram @pragmatik_sound
Buy/listen to Pragmatik's latest release, Chklte's 'Initials Please' (featuring remixes by Nu Zau and Miroloja here