Benny Blanco was still in his underwear when I arrived at his New York apartment for an interview. But just a few minutes later the freshly showered music producer—responsible for 14 No. 1 singles, including Katy Perry's "California Gurls," Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," and, most recently, Ke$ha's "Die Young"—emerged from his bedroom fully clothed and ready to talk. Sitting on a bright-orange divan next to Disco (his French bulldog), the 24-year-old discussed his rapid rise in the music industry and why he never washes his jeans.
DETAILS: You're only 24. How young were you when you produced your first track?
Benny Blanco: My real first credit came from Jonathan Shecter, who started Source magazine and was also behind these soft-core-porn movies called Hip Hop Honeys. He listened to my track and was like, "Oh man, this is pretty dope," so he threw it in there. I was like 14 or 15 at the time and he gave me $500. I was like, "I never have to work again!" When the DVD got sent to my house, my mom wouldn't let me watch it.
DETAILS: How did you react the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
Benny Blanco: It's the same every time I hear one of my songs. I'm like a little kid. I turn it up even if I've heard it a hundred times. It has nothing to do with the money. For me, it's like, "Holy shit, this is on the radio!"
DETAILS: Do your parents get as excited as you do?
Benny Blanco: They used to call me up every time they heard one. My dad will tell people, "My son did that song where you put your hands up in the air." My mom thinks that I know every famous person in the world. She called me up the other day and was like, "You know, I was watching Jimmy Fallon the other day. He's so funny. We should have him over for dinner."
DETAILS: Was it fun working with Ke$ha on her new album, Warrior?
Benny Blanco: Dude, Ke$ha is her art; there is no curtain you peel back to find the real person. And with Ke$ha, you never know what to expect when you're in the studio. Sometimes it's a tame day. Other days she'll come in wearing sunglasses with elephants on them and before you know it a bottle of Jack Daniel's is completely gone and you're writing a song with underpants on your head.
DETAILS: Is that what a typical night out with Benny Blanco is like?
Benny Blanco: We usually start by coming here, which I'm sure my neighbors don't appreciate. We hang out for a little bit and pregame. I'm not a club guy unless I'm going to see a concert or one of my friends is DJing. I like dirty, grimy parties. I like this bar Cabin Down Below, which is underground and fits only, like, 50 people; any more than that and I start shvitzing. It's funny, most of the places I go to don't play any of my music. When I do go to a place that does it's fun to see incredibly drunk people dancing and singing along to it.
DETAILS: What about when you're working in Los Angeles?
Benny Blanco: I'm not a huge L.A. fan, but I go there for the winter every year. We usually rent a house and have massive house parties. I'd rather have a house party with people that I know than deal with some douchebag at a bar who probably wants to beat me up. Let's face it, I'm not winning a fight with anybody—unless it's against someone like Larry David. [Pause] I hate Los Angeles so much, I'm sorry.
DETAILS: Okay, then! What do you wear when you go out?
Benny Blanco: Whatever is closest to my bed when I wake up. Sometimes washed and sometimes not washed. I actually believe that you should not wash your jeans ever. In Japan, they actually put them in the freezer. That kills the bacteria and makes them not smell anymore. I haven't done that yet, but next time you come over I'll offer you some fresh jeans from the freezer.
—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn.
• • •