Damn, another blog? Perhaps this regular posting thing is getting old. I'll chill it after this one.
However, I had the good fortune of chatting with Mr. Ben Marwood over the interwebs recently in conjunction with a journalism assignment, and it was a little bit cool. He's a little bit cool. Figured I'd post it up, for kicks and whatnot. On Word it had a picture and interesting use of fonts, but blogspot let me down. But that's just detracting from the Big Picture. Read it, or something:
Ben Marwood is a far too little-known musician found regularly in Reading – or in an assortment of bars across the UK where he performs and drinks with his righteous supporters. After a smattering of EPs, Marwood released his debut album 'Outside There's A Curse' earlier this year as recorded entirely in his bedroom, despite being signed with Xtra Mile Records. Now how’s that for artistic licence? Currently in the middle of his ‘Something For The Weekends’ tour, he chivalrously took a moment out to answer some questions.
I was first introduced to your music by a friend who saw you at a Frank Turner gig in Bath earlier this year. I'd say your music shares that Angry-British-Man sound, but of course it's what appeals to me. Would you say Frank is someone who has influenced your music, or are you just inherently similar in outlook?
[Laughs] Angry-British-man is a highly under-acknowledged genre. I'd say it's inevitable that Frank has influenced my sound - he must have, and rightly so because he's a great songwriter and a good friend. The Frank Turner/Franz Nicolay tour in May was just superb - people don't realise how much it takes to have a tour run smoothly, and Frank's team were pretty flawless in their running of the shows, especially tour manager Graham Kay. To have that opportunity is something I will never forget, especially because for a while it looked like it would never happen. Touring with people you admire and get on well with is like taking a road trip with friends doing something that you like.
To talk about your own music - what sort of thought process goes into your lyric writing?
I really wish I could divulge the secret formula that I use to write all my lyrics, but in truth I don't really know how these songs end up getting written, they just tend to fall into place naturally over time. What I can definitely say though is that nine times out of ten I'll start with the music, then the melody, so by the time it comes to finalising lyrics the tempo and the meter and whatever else is already taken care of. Then it's just a case of crafting the words to try and make a point. Or I could just drop more references to 'Ghost' [the movie].
Such as in 'JJ Abrams'... is there an underlying message of your love for the movie or is that my misreading the connections? Subconscious desires being powerful and all...
I'm not a gigantic fan of that movie, but it was a very important one in the early 1990s and I'm fascinated with the pairing of Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze. Those scenes where Swayze is beating people up as a ghost is comedy gold.
There must be some real pressures of touring at the same time as doing nine-to-five work [Marwood also has a 'typical' job in Reading]. Is this something you find difficult?
In its own special way, it is a bit difficult. Not a 'working two jobs to stay above the poverty line and feed your children' kind of difficult, nor a rocket science type of difficult, but certainly this approach has its moments where it would be appealing to down tools and go off in a sulk. At the moment I'm doing shows mostly over the weekend, which is good because it doesn't require time off work, but bad because it means I don't see much of my family, friends or favourite drinking establishments. Still, I'm nearly done with the latest tour, and I'm nearly done with the year; and I'm sure as soon as I'm done with this I'll be planning the next tour or next step, so it can't be too difficult or I'd stop.
You’ve had some technical troubles with your guitar over the last few shows – not a dig, I promise. But has there ever been some kind of momentous disaster during a show?
Yes, my guitar is a bit of a nightmare! It's a lovely Art & Lutherie, but they just make guitars for beginners and I've pushed it beyond its means far too many times. Most of my mid-show monumental disasters do involve things not working, like PAs, guitars and lights and so on, but the most bizarre thing ever was when I was playing with a band, and I mounted a monitor for an end-of-set guitar solo freak-out... and the monitor wasn't secured to anything so it tipped back and I flew offstage directly onto my bum. Thankfully this was not captured on camera. I'm still living with the physical effects and I expect I will forever, but at least it's a good story to tell in interviews, right?
I have to say, I love your cover of ‘District Sleeps Alone Tonight’. I definitely prefer it to the Postal Service (no discredit to them) and I think it rivals Frank’s version (on-going debate with my friend here). I think it’s great when someone completely revamps a song with a cover, and there’s people saying ‘I love this guy’s song – oh wait it’s actually really old?’ But is there some song that you’d want to cover but feel like it’s this mammoth sacred piece that you’ll only ever reveal to your showerhead..?
Oh gosh, I'm sure there are loads of songs I'd love to cover but don't think I could do it justice. I'd love to cover Elliott Smith's 'Angeles' but I can't hold a candle to it. I do play it when I'm alone sometimes, but rarely in front of anyone! There are also some Johnny Flynn songs I'd love to cover but he has such a great blues tone I'm not sure what I could do to improve upon it. But I suppose that's the cover debate encapsulated in two examples - I could cover an Elliott Smith song (and do) without having to change it too much because what I do is not a million miles removed from what he did, but if I was to cover a Johnny Flynn song I'd have to change it considerably because of his voice, and the way he arranges songs. Ditto with the Postal Service. I'd have to make that my own because I couldn't do an accurate tribute! I'm not sure if the covers debate is limited to just 'tribute vs. originality' but I'm not going to move from my spot on the fence.
You are obviously a fan of social media [being a frequent tweeter (Twitterer?) and blogger], but what's your stand in the Great Debate: do you reckon this is bad for music with all the illegal downloads etc. yadda yadda yadda, or is it just a better way of getting more people to hear you?
Let's start with social media. Social media is important. I'm not quite sure how it came about, and I have no idea where it's headed, but it's the most useful tool for keeping in touch with people. It supersedes, or at least brilliantly complements, the likes of internet mailing lists and such, and I can't see how social media could be bad for music because it makes word of mouth advertising a billion percent easier than a life without, say, Twitter. As far as digital internet piracy goes, I've met people who have illegally downloaded my album or albums and they seem like normal people. No eye-patches or peg-legs or parrots. It's a shame because it detracts from revenue for the record labels, who in turn can't pass any money onto the artist. But even if the internet didn't ever happen, people would still just be borrowing CDs from people and copying them. The internet just made piracy more prolific, in the same way social media made spreading the word easier. In the end you have to say the internet exists: it has a good side and a bad side for music, and all you can really do is make it as hard as possible for people to exploit the bad side.
So - Vinyl man or digitalised?
That said, I'm a digital man.I don't own anything by Apple, but I have an MP3 player and don't own a vinyl player. I'm still faithful to CDs though, even if I have run out of space to store them. They're just stacking up now...
I guess it's a physical music history/soundtrack for your life, so I reckon it's worth the clutter. However, recently you wrote about a new record/work in progress in your blog. Is this something you can elaborate on?
I think you've summed it up pretty well already! There is new stuff in the pipeline. Things are mostly written but need finishing off, and when they're finished off they'll need properly recording and once everything is done, we'll see about releasing! I'm quite excited but at this stage I'm not going to look too excited because any new release is a long way off at the moment and if I started getting excited now, I'll be exhausted by the time it's ready for release..! Gotta pace yourself.
And finally, out of baffled curiosity - can you tell me about Avril Lavigne's significance...?
Hah. I've been telling this story every night on tour, so yes, one more time wouldn't hurt. My song that references her in the title [‘Tell Avril Lavigne I Never Wanted To Be Her Stupid Boyfriend Anyway’] isn't actually about her, but it's about a short librarian who I thought I was madly in love with once. It turns out I wasn't, but I did write a couple of songs: the Avril one and one from 2009 called 'You Can Hold On Once'. Anyway, around the time I wrote this particular song, Avril Lavigne's song 'Girlfriend' was always on the radio, and essentially it was her telling everyone how much better she was than everyone else- kinda like the Pussycat Dolls' 'Dont Cha' only much, much less sexy. In the end I was short of a title and annoyed at the constant presence of Lavigne on the radio whenever I turned it on, so I named a song to reflect my annoyance. Really that's it. Not a single lyric in the song is about her. Avril's sadly divorced since she released 'Girlfriend' though, so maybe her other half found out she'd been telling the whole damn world that they should dump their partners in favour of her. That's pretty poor form, Avril.
* Best band you've ever seen live?
Jetplane Landing, Future of the Left or Frank Turner. I can't decide. All for different reasons, but all truly great.
* Best get-psyched song?
'Surf Wax America' by Weezer would be right up there, as would 'Stereo' by Pavement. I recommend both of these songs, though they are pretty old now. But so am I! So that's my excuse.
* Bizarre fan things that have happened? Because I've been to gigs where people have mooned that band to show support...?
None of my fans have done this, I can report.
* If you could trade places with any other person for a week (living/dead/fictional etc.) who would it be?Could you trade places with someone who was dead? That would be pretty boring just hanging around in a coffin all day. Oh hey, but I'd like to have been Michael Jackson for a day. That would just be crazy. Decision made!
* Superhero power?
I think about this a LOT. It's definitely the power to slow down time. Not completely to a stop, just very very very slow. I just think it would be handy to have as a superhero because you could do things like dodge bullets and do super-fighting. Basically you'd be like Batman.
* Who are you listening to at the moment?
I have the new Jeff Lewis album, which is superb, and I bought the new Death Cab album lately. I was also surprised at how good the Foster the People album is. So... that.
Cheers etc. goes to Ben Marwood, obviously.
Now check out his album.