NHC MUSIC Talks To Ben Martin - Jenny Tingle

NHC talks to Ben Martin, about his solo music project; Spacehaul, teaching drums in Glasgow, and playing on the Judge Dredd film soundtrack.

“My drum teacher said to me: there’s no such thing as bad music. You can get something out of everything. And I agree with that. I’ll get something depending on what mood I’m in, and what speed I’m walking at”.

I caught up with Ben at Bloc bar for his first gig as Spacehaul. As a drummer and one of Ben’s pupils, it was fascinating to watch him play an entire subgenre of drum-centred music.

“Potential” is the first word I would use to describe Spacehaul. Not because the music could be improved, or appears unfinished, but like a stem cell, the blend of all styles and techniques have the feeling that the music could lead to anywhere, go in any direction for any mood. The way that Ben plays is musical and organic with an improvised feel, but it’s also tightly controlled, each piece created to identify with a single specific emotion or feeling. Like the science versus spirituality debate, you could either listen to Spacehaul from a mathematical or emotional point of view. The outcome is the same, but each listener’s interpretation will be unique. Within each small subject frame is a huge variety of sound, not just from the electronic backing track Ben has created, but also the way each hi-hat tap, kick, tom groove and rimshot is portrayed. Ben could stray into any genre at any time, but each song remains polyrythmic and complex, but strangely far more listenable than you would expect from such niche music. As with most things new and unique, I guess that each listener will have their own first impression of it. However, this being Spacehaul’s first gig so far, and the project possibly the first of its own musical genre as well, opinions will probably be less biased. As far as I could tell, the audience of Bloc were riveted, some people perhaps unsure what to make of it, but the overall response was that we all enjoyed it very much.   

Spacehaul shows are a multisensory experience, including lights and a background projection show. Unfortunately the projector in Bloc wasn’t functioning that night. But the response so far I think is very good. Even for people uninterested in drums or Drumtronica, there is still the joy and interest of watching someone play who has mastered his instrument, and clearly enjoys sharing his love and enthusiasm for drumming.  

Where does the name, Spacehaul come from? How does it tie in with your sounds?

Ben: It’s just a made up word. I was trying to think of Band names. I was originally called Pinky and the Dark Side. But it was a bit of a mouthful, and a bit childish. Vicki, (Ben’s partner) came up with the idea. We were going through just random words that might work and that one worked! So Spacehaul is just a made up word.

You recently released your single, Sapling. Can you tell me a wee bit about that?

Sapling is a track that I wrote after all the other tracks. It’s based on growth. I always try to write a song with some sort of theme going on throughout. When I write a song all I’m trying to do really is recreate that feeling myself, with the music. So Sapling has a theme of growth and movement. Some of the other songs like t'twitch is dealing with that sense of anxiety. They all come from different states of mind.

It’s fascinating how all your music seems so loose and organic and free, but at the same time it’s so technical and- mechanical is the wrong word here- but it’s very tightly controlled at the same time. How do you think that comes about?

It comes from improvising. When I’m writing on the drums there’ll be my idea of the situation, but it’s too chaotic to ensure that it’s a good gig. The music is written in an improvised way, which ends up being controlled, if you see what I mean. All the drum patterns are different. It kind of ties in, so I think maybe that’s why it sounds improvised or loose with that being kind of complex, but I can improvise over and over again with the same loop.

How do you create the loops?

That was done in Logic. I’ve got tons of samples and ideas on the hard disc, so I’ll be using those ideas. It might be something from five years ago, and I’ll realise that I could have done this or that with it, and there’s a new sound that I want to use, or if it’s something that can become structured. It’s similar in a way to techno.

It’s quite visual as well. I like the way that the music comes out and you’ve got the backing behind you- it’s a multisensory thing you’re doing. It’s quite interesting!

Yeah well it’s only one person on stage, so you have to make a backdrop. I mean, drums are interesting to watch, but it needs to be intense as well. Unfortunately, the backing wasn’t working today.

Still, first gig though. It was good!

Yeah I’m actually quite happy it wasn’t working because I didn’t have to deal with it.

When you’re recording, do you start with the drums or with the backing track?

The backing track is always first. And then I end up with a drum part that’s very unusual to play. I have to work out how to play that on the drums. In a practice perspective, it’s quite nice.

You’re not just recording, you’re also producing and doing sound engineering and all that stuff as well.

I wouldn’t say sound engineering or producing really, I’ll leave that to other people! But I’m doing as much as I can by myself.

You teach a wide range of drum styles, and when you’re playing, you can hear so many different styles in it! Do you think that your project, Spacehaul, influences the way that you teach, or teaching influences your project?

No they’re two separate things, I think. Although I try to teach people to improvise when practicing, that would be as far as I go. I try not to influence my pupils personal style. 

That’s really good! So each person who goes to your lessons will still play like themselves, but a better version of themselves.

That’s the idea hopefully! I think some other teachers can be quite forceful technique-wise.

That’s really good! In lessons you didn’t just tell me, do this, do this, do this. You just kind of saw what parts of drumming I needed help with and brought me out my shell a wee bit. It really improved my playing.

That’s good feedback thanks very much!

You are a very versatile musician, but do you have a favourite style to play?

Anything I like the sound of. I do listen to all different sorts of music. There’s no one type of music that I would say is my favourite. I’m just interested in anything that really holds my interest. That could be anything from Apex Twin to The Cardiacs. Or Blur, or Sia. Even although it’s more simple, much less intellectual, in the same way it’s really well thought-out pop music.

“My drum teacher said to me: there’s no such thing as bad music. You can get something out of everything. And I agree with that. I’ll get something depending on what mood I’m in, and what speed I’m walking at”.

Have you changed your music over time? Or is it more as if you evolve constantly?

I just get a bit better at making things work. And my music used to be very atonal and rhythm lead. Now I’m getting a bit more confident with melodic stuff.

You played drums on the Judge Dredd film soundtrack. What was that like? 

That was really fun because the guy who was doing the music, Paul Leonard Morgan, he wrote the music for it and allowed me to interpret things how I thought they should be interpreted. And I even ended up writing a hook for it and they ended up going with that. That was really good fun!

What does the future hold for you as Spacehaul?

I’m hoping to get some more gigs. I’d really like to play the Hug and Pint at some point. The reason I’m doing this is to get some gigs out the way so I can go and record. Make sure I do the best recording I can. So the future is recording and mixing an album, and then trying to release that somehow. That could be years in the future, or a few months.

For drum lessons, how can people contact you?

If you search on Google, Ben Martin drum lessons Glasgow, you should find me. I’ve got a blog which is called BGM rhythms.

Who do you teach? Is it all ages?

All ages and all levels. Anyone who’s interested!

Is there anything else you’d like to say to NHC music?

Thanks for coming to the gig and for the interview! 

Thanks Ben it’s been great!

You can watch a live recording from Ben’s set at Bloc, and listen to his music at these online places:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY4b8uBwDJQ&feature=youtu.be

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=spacehaul

https://spacehaul.bandcamp.com/?search_sig=9f678fbddc13818b56f78aa012a54640&search_page_id=58478538&search_rank=1&search_match_part=%3F&search_item_id=3819126117&search_item_type=b

Ben’s blog, BGM rhythms is a great place to learn about drums and also contact him for lessons.

https://bgmrhythms.wordpress.com/

Ben is an amazing drum teacher for all ages, styles and abilities, so if you’re looking for lessons, give him a shout!