The return of Benji Wild – the demise of Astroid Boys, the death of DJ Stagga and the Cardiff protests

Benji Wild

David Owens

As a mighty statement of intent, Benji Wild’s new single ‘Onjob’ hits hard.

The track is accompanied by a powerful music video which features footage of the recent protests in Cardiff following the death of Mohamud Mohammed Hassan, who died just hours after being in police custody.

It sees the former Astroid Boys frontman back to his enthralling and provocative best.

“I was deeply moved by the circumstances surrounding Mohamud’s death,” says the MC. “It was something very close to home as I’ve had my own issues with South Wales Police on a number of occasions, so I’m more than aware of misconduct that can happen in the police force.

“I saw a clip that Greg Cain posted on his Instagram and I just knew that the footage would make for a powerful music video.”

Despite the single carrying a purposeful and powerful message, for Benji the single is filled with poignancy and sadness.

Benji’s trademark lyrical swagger works in tangent with atmospheric production from Welsh underground legend, DJ and producer Stagga, who’s recent sudden death caused shockwaves across the Welsh music scene.

Stagga was a guiding hand and an inspiration to Benji. Understandably, his passing came as a hammer blow for the musician.

‘Mentor’

“Stagga’s death hit me hard,” he says. “He was my mentor and friend for many years and it’s just so hard to get my head around.

“The fact that he was so young really puts life into perspective.

“We are so lucky to be here while we are and like Stagga, I hope I never take my life for granted.”

The return of the enigmatic MC comes after a tumultuous few years that saw his former band The Astroid Boys disband.

He admits it was tough trying to come to terms with the end of the group – a ferocious live outfit with a fervent fan base, who mixed grime, punk and metal.

The outfit was tipped for big things. Signed to the Music For Nations label, they released their critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Broke’ through Sony Music in 2017.

However, by 2019 the band had disbanded and Benji’s mental health had suffered through Astroid Boys falling apart.

Astroid Boys live at Reading

‘Tough’

“It’s been a tough few years since the demise of Astroid Boys and I wasn’t ready to get back on the horse with music just yet,” he says. “I’ve been taking some time to look after myself and keep my mind occupied with positive things.”

When pushed on the reasons surrounding the disbanding of the group, it appears the pressures of the group’s public rise and an unforgiving industry played its part.

“Astroid Boys’ ending is complicated,” says Benji. “We became suffocated. By each other and by the pressures of the industry.

“Looking in from the outside we were flying high, but for us it didn’t feel like that. We had lost a lot of the excitement that drove us in the beginning.”

As for whether we will ever see Astroid Boys back on stage again, Benji says: “I don’t think it’s ever over as such. Personally, I think it will have its time again but for now, I’m focusing on myself and this album.”

‘Onjob’ is the first release from Benji’s forthcoming album. It appears he is a man refocused and re-energised.

“‘Onjob is a statement of intent,” he says. “It’s about grafting and working hard in whatever you do.

“For me, it’s about knuckling down in life and with my music career and showing people that a high work rate can literally save you.”

A sign of the belief others have in Benji’s new music is his recent signing to the newly formed Welsh music talent agency BLOCS, joining a roster that also includes such Wales notables as Adwaith, Bandicoot and Kidsmoke.

“I’ve been operating alone for a while but around a year ago I got talking to (BLOC’s) James Prendy who has since become my manager and good friend,” says Benji. “He called me one day saying that there were a great bunch of guys starting their own agency who were keen to have me involved.

‘Excited’

“I don’t think they were aware that I had a full album for them to sink their teeth into, but we’re all hugely excited and they seem really pleased to have me on their roster.”

As for that aforementioned album it looks like it will be another sizeable stepping stone for this conviction musician, who never does anything by half measures.

“I’m going to roll out a few singles over the coming months with the aim to release the 15 track album at the end of the summer,” he says. “The album is a very eclectic project. There’s a little something for everyone and I’m proud of it. I’ve got some great local artists featuring and also some well known UK artists too. I hope it will be received well.”

It’s good to see Benji in ebullient form once more, but like many musicians, he admits lockdown has been difficult.

“Lockdown has been tough. I’m used to living a very active lifestyle and that’s been taken away.

“I’ve worked hard and kept myself occupied with positive things and I think that’s a huge benefit. Perhaps even a blessing in disguise but I’d do anything for a week in Ibiza at this point!”

Find out more about Benji on Facebook and Twitter. A memorial crowdfunder has been launched for Stagga’s family. You can donate here.

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