Dub FX 2016
The 'Dub FX' Crew is on Europe Tour, again. And we've took the chance for an interview with Ben Stanford, before he entered the stage for an amazing, furious bass concert @Huxleys, Berlin.
Fanny: Ben, we know you‘ve got to do your soundcheck. It‘s just a few hours before your concert tonight but could we still ask you some questions?
The last two weeks you’ve been touring Eastern Europe. Did you notice any differences with regard to your audience? Did they react differently? Have you had your tour highlight already?
Ben: I’m finding my fans wherever I perform, they all react very similar, they all behave quite similar. Some places are a little bit more reserved, but Eastern Europeans are pretty fiery people. Germans, I don't wanna say they're as crazy as the Eastern Europeans, but they definitely get into it. Like if I say 'Put your hands up!' everyone puts their hands up. I guess in Germany they are more intensely living that moment, whereas Eastern Europeans may act somehow more coolly but go crazy eventually. They’re more extreme.
Well and I, I've got that latino blood but some Anglo-Saxon blood too, because my dad's side is all white English...
Fanny: ...interesting mixture!...
Ben: ...Yeah, I‘m like one half crazy Latino and the other half quite structured, you know, almost German.
Fanny: So basically your family roots are European?
Ben: Yes, my mum's side’s all Italian. My dad grew up in Australia, but that goes back maybe six generations.
Fanny: Was this background one of the reasons why you came to Europe in 2006 and travelled with/ lived in your camper?
Ben: Totally! I originally came to visit my mum in Italy. And also because I was sick of Australia. As always, I was trying lots of different bands. I was playing Reggae with some people, had a Jazz and a Heavy Metal band, and was experimenting with a Hip Hop group. I was doing acoustic solo stuff in bars and I was also MCing with DJs over Techno and House in some clubs. I was doing that from the age of 17 till I was almost 22. And my mum was always like 'Come to Europe', and one day I was like 'Yeah, why not!'.
So I thought, well I‘ll go to Europe and do some busking meanwhile trying to get signed by an Australian record label as well. Just wanted to be a 'pop star' like Justin Timberlake...(laughing)
Fanny: ...Yeah, you’ve got the face for it...
Ben: ...Oh well, thank you! Certainly I wasn't trying to be super commercial, I just wanted to be on TV, that was my dream as a teenager. (laughing)
So, when I came to Europe and started busking I just thought: Ok, I’ll be doing this for a year and I’m gonna have amazing experiences and live through some amazing stories, and then I'll be able to write a BIG album – it’s gonna be huge, you know. That was the idea. In the end, those street performances set a whole lot of things in motion. I wasn’t trying to come across as a pop act. It was rather some kind of art – in the streets. I was searching and I was trying to find something, and I realized that I didn’t have to be a pop star – I just needed to be myself. That's my whole pilgrimage of learning and becoming...
Friedel: ...Yes, trusting yourself...
Fanny: Was there that one special moment in your life when you knew 'I’m going to be a musician right now'? Or have you always had such a feeling inside and it was rather a matter of figuring out?
Ben: I was lucky in that my parents and family never tried putting me off that idea.
There was never any of that though my mum's mum told her 'You can't be a musician'. Whereas my dad's mum told him 'You can do whatever you want, you can be an actor, be a musician...'. And so all my uncles, all my dad's brothers and sisters, they’re all artists: an actor, a musician, a photographer, or a tap dance teacher...
Fanny: ...One of them joined you on the new album...
Ben: ...That's right! Justin, he’s the musician, a percussionist. He also owns a club in Melbourne and performs every night.
But even my mum writes songs and she plays music. Her brother plays piano in a church. So there’s always been plenty of music around thanks to my uncles, aunties and parents...
Fanny: ...Wow, a whole family of musicians...
Ben: ...The reason why I wanted to do music, was because I felt like I wasn't good in anything else, basically. And I am not really good in anything else, really. (laughing)
Fanny: But hey, you do really good music!
Ben: That's enough, right?! (laughing)
Fanny: Absolutely, just the right decision! You‘re on tour with a band this time. We just met Andy V and Evan (Tweedy). Please tell us a bit about these two guys. Who are they and what do they do?
Ben: So, before I started off as 'Dub FX' I was always in different bands. These guys where musicians that I played with. So we've known each other for a long time.
I used to have a band called 'The Sound Waves', and it was kind of like freestyle Jazz. You know 'Swag Jam'? I used to do something very similar to that. Those guys are into a more Future Soul Hip Hop thing mixed with that kind of 'JD Style'. We had a different approach, the idea was some sort of two-hour jam session live on stage. And it was Soul, Hip Hop, Reggae, Jazz, basically, and it was basically Andy and Evan’s band.
I met lots of different musicians, performed with different bass players, but I always wanted to work with these two guys. And there are other bands from that time I wanna work with like the 'Cat Empire', really big in Australia. I used to jam with these guys too, so we’re all part of the same network...
Fanny: ...sounds like similar to your network here in Berlin.
Ben, you’re still independent as a musician and you’re collaborating with the 'Convoy Music Group'. Please tell us more about Convoy, Cade's part, and how they support you in the way you do your projects.
Ben: Well. Actually, 'Convoy' is my own label. Cade’s the agent, my manager, he organizes all the logistics to do with the touring. We’ve also got a distribution deal through 'Membran', which is a German label. I guess one of the major European independents. They specialize in Jazz, World, and classical music. And I do think they are a great label, because they are not commercial in any way.
First, they wanted to sign me as a musician and become my major. I said 'Well, I do lots of different projects, so why don't you sign my label?'. When I showed them the album, I was like 'What do you think'? They were like 'Whatever, it's fine. Whatever you wanna do, it's fine!'. They totally trust me...
Fanny: ...That's real independence...
Ben: ...It is indeed. I am actually sort of signed, too. But they are still very uncommercial. They are definitely not into pop singles, and that's fantastic for me. And because of their background, Membran do an amazing array of different kinds of things. And they are from Hamburg, you know, straight, very clever, very clean, everything is very well organized. That's a great label.
So, Cade now makes sure that everything's working out smoothly with 'Membran'. And all I have to do, is focus on music and create new one.
Fanny: The last concert will be on 30th of December this year. Do you already have any plans for next year?
Ben: Not yet. Except, I'm having a child, that's the only plan! (smiles)
Everyone: Woohoo, congratulations!
Fanny: Just a last question. You live in a treehouse in Melbourne. And for me your lyrics reflect this very natural, meditative environment. How does it feel writing songs/lyrics so close to nature and then performing them on big stages in very urban surroundings?
Ben: Well, I actually do a lot of my writing when I'm on the road. That's where most of my lyrics are written. Like 'Thinking Clear', 90% of the lyrics were written on the road.
But when we went back to Melbourne and I jammed with Evan and Andy in the studio amongst the trees, that's where we came up with the music. So we just jammed, tried different grooves and ideas. At some point, we had tea, sat there, meditated on trees and music a little bit. And then we got back, listened, added more things...
'So are you' on the other hand was different. I wrote that at home, not on the road. Only the verse arose on the road.
Another special process happened with the lyrics of 'Road to Babylon'. I wrote the first verse on tour in 2014, but the second verse is from 2002. It was in Cade's house, he had a studio and he showed me this website 'rhymezone.com'. Cade was like 'Check this out for writing raps, it's so easy'. And I thought 'Wow, ok'. So I put that verse on rhymezone and it stayed there for ten years! In 2012 we discovered it again, but another four years passed before I recorded it...
Friedel: ...You are your own ghostwriter!..
Ben: ...Yes, exactly! I love that. (laughing)