It was solidarity against the lunacies of rave culture, and a love for dusty vinyl, that brought Ben Allen together with Jonny Cuba to form Dynamic Syncopation Productions in college during the early ’80s. Along with an extensive touring schedule with Cuba and two innovative albums [which highlighted an ability to recognize fierce underground talent], Allen established a residency at Rob da Bank’s Sunday parties and toured with Stereodogs.

What was your initial draw to music?

My dad was very into music – when he was in his teens he collected a lot of music. He listened to a lot of jazz – saxophonists and pianists. Quite a bit of soul, too. I was born in ’71, so I was just starting to become conscious to music in the middle of the disco era: The Grease soundtrack, driving around in the car, things like that.

How did you first discover hip hop?

I was listening to a lot of electro. It was weird, I was more into breakdancing, and a lot of friends were doing graffiti, but I never saw the connection to hip hop. I just heard it on the radio sometimes. Then I was at a party and my friend put on Public Enemy’s first album, and I remember thinking, “What the fuck is this?” I had to look it up. Paid in Full, from Eric B. and Rakim, really brought it home – I think it was in the Top 20 or 10 at the time. I can remember walking home with that record under my arm thinking, “This is it.” In retrospect, that record started me off on a whole load of things. It also made me rediscover a whole lot of my dad’s music. When I realized some of the samples I heard in Paid in Full were from those old records, I started looking at a bunch of things differently.

When you did college radio, were you mainly spinning hip hop?

It was really just broadcasting to the common room, but we spun a lot of early Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Public Enemy, De La Soul. I was never really into the agro, and I wasn’t into the breaks or soul or jazz. Though Jon had knicked some tapes off his sister, and she was really into funk and soul.

You and Jonny Cuba got together to form Dynamic Syncopation Productions through the radio station. How did that happen?

Before we did college radio together, we both went to the same secondary school. He was in the year below me, but we knew each other. At that time a lot of people were into big raves and acid house, and we were like "Ugh. Shut up."

Where did the name "Loop Professor" come from?

It was kind of forced upon me. At the time, I was getting really into raiding my dad’s record collection. It fascinated me how that music that I loved or borrowed or stole or appropriated had all this history to it. So I started raiding all my dad’s jazz records and would try to sample the sound, hit pause, loop, record. Of course then you’d go back and have a listen and say, "Ah, well that’s really annoying."

Did you ever give other art forms a try?

I actually studied art up to about 18 or 19. I was quite into it, especially watercolors. My dad’s very artistic, and my brother as well, but I got tracked into the sonic thing. It’s just what inspires you, what grabs you, what makes you want to explore more. I want to listen to records that excite me and then research them. The thing about a lot of dance music is that once you start getting fascinated by it, and realizing the fine line between an alright record and an amazing one, and what makes that difference, you start thinking, “I could do that.” I think I probably looked at my art at some point and thought, "Meh, maybe not so good." You have to pick your battles.

In The Red, from ’02, has a really stellar cover. Who designed it?

My brother, who’s in the art and design collective The Light Surgeons, designed it. My dad took the photos. The first album, the grey one, was inspired by the library of albums we’d collected. They were vinyl LPs of source music for TV and radio, these big publishing houses, action movie albums, but some of them were very interesting, arty, quite abstract.

What makes a good album cover?

The interesting thing for me, from a geeky record collector point of view, is that I quickly realized, starting off blind, that the era of music I liked in terms of jazz and funk was ’69–’75. Of course, there are exceptions. I found after ’75, and then since I’ve discovered ’77, and then rediscovered ’66 [laughs], but the other thing I realized is that with funk records there’s a certain bad design ethic, an unpolished look, about good records. You’ll think, “That looks crapping off, and it’s probably really really funky,” and it’s really hideous.

Are there any musical acts or musicians that you think had amazing cover art that illustrated that?

There’s one. I think the name’s Generation 66, and somebody’s in a dodgy neckerchief, or it’s the fact that they look like they’re sitting on a huge pile of shit in a forest. Also John Barry.

Are there any DJs you especially admire?

I really like Z-Trip because he fucks with people with records they know really well. I love it when a DJ takes a record everyone knows and turns it backwards and manipulates it. Cut Chemist and Shadow. Ollie Teeba from Herbaliser. Jonny Cuba, of course. I like people who put on more of a show.

What about visual artists?

I always admired Mode 2. He pioneered good characters. I also always liked impressionists. You see them in person and are impressed with how immense they are, how one person can have a vision that enormous.

What’s the most live, creative place in the world for you right now?

I guess I’d have to say London. It’s nice to play to people who know their music, who have some recognition when you drop it. It seems in Europe in general people have a slightly longer memory for music.

What makes a nice set?

One that takes you from A to B, takes you on a journey. It stops in a few different places, but it picks you up from where you are and drops you off in a better place.

What’s your signature dance move?

I was into the popping and locking as a kid. I couldn’t really do the floor because my legs are too long. I’m about 6'3". It wasn’t anything serious anyway, just something you did when you were at school.

Ben Allen