Songs That Really Matter: The Gaslamp Killer

Too Short, Unkle and The Rapture are among the artists whose songs shaped The Gaslamp Killer's life.

The Gaslamp Killer performs at ACL Live at the Moody Theater for Red Bull Music Academy, in Austin, Texas.
Gaslamp Killer© Robert Snow/Red Bull Content Pool

When you own 13,000 records, picking and choosing isn’t the simplest of tasks. But Willie Benjamin Bensussen, a.k.a. the Gaslamp Killer, said he welcomed this opportunity to do something he never does: "Go back into my past." He plays the Red Bull Music Academy stage at Montreaux Jazz Festival on July 18.

The first piece of music to stop me in my tracks was…

Too Short - 'Freaky Tales.' "Everyone in class was listening to Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, but my sister was listening to this. It’s a 10-minute hip-hop song, literally just an 808 and a little synthesizer, and he’s talking about all the girls he’s been with and all the things they liked to do. I was super young, I’d never even kissed a girl. But I just loved how he delivered it – it was like he was walking down the street with you, telling you this story."

The first track that made me want to make music was…

Remarc - 'RIP.' "A classic jungle tune. I’d heard a lot of heavy metal and rock, but nothing that had so much sub-bass. I thought it was amazing how it got the whole warehouse jumping up and down simultaneously. I thought, 'Oh man, this is the best a song can do.'"

My karaoke track of choice is…

MF DOOM - 'Change That Beat.' "This would never be in any karaoke machine but I choose MF DOOM, 'Change That Beat,' because I literally know every word. I think it’s because his lyrics are so weird... 'Section 8 penthouse, maid looks like Faye Dunaway, most of y’all rappers are assed out like gay runaways…' That rhyme is so incredible."

The track responsible for my best mosh-pit moment was…

The Rapture - 'Confrontation.' "I think I was in Paris. I used to play that song all the time, and it was definitely the one that got people the most crazy. Their style is punk-funk-disco, and that song is really simple and really driving. It drives faster and faster and faster and harder and harder and harder. And the singer’s screaming all the time at the top of his lungs."

My ultimate Friday night anthem is…

Les DeMerle - 'A Day In The Life.' "It's this amazing big band jazz breakbeat thing that all of us record nerds were in to after New York rapper O.C. sampled it for his song 'Times Up.' It’s got this dark, tough guy vibe that gets me motivated for my Friday night. It’s a cool, calm, moody way to start your freakin’ weekend."

The song I steal the most from is…

Unkle - 'Guns Blazing (Drums Of Death).' "The instrumental, really represents the styles I’m involved with. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Kool G’s rapping, but I definitely was, and still am, blown away by the quality of production. It nails the music that I want to be making for the rest of my life."

My comedown classic is…

The Cinematic Orchestra - 'Dawn.' "Any moody music fan will agree that The Cinematic Orchestra's 'Dawn' gets you in a really nice introspective mood. Over 10 years already I’ve been listening to this song. Another track that helps me relax in a stressful environment is Jonny Greenwood's 'Prospectors Arrive' from 'There Will Be Blood.' It’s so different to anything he’s done before, but it still has the Radiohead signature next-level emotion in the music. It never ceases to amaze me how much they can catch their soul in the music."

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