BENJAMIN STANDFORD, THE ONE-MAN TRAVELLING BAND BETTER KNOWN AS DUB FX, SHARES SOME OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FESTIVAL STAGES WITH NO-ONE. HE TELLS RIP NICHOLSON OF HIS LONGING FOR BANDMATES.
Dub FX interviewed @ 15:45 AEST Thursday, 20th August, 2015
For Street Press Australia [READ HERE]
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
What had started in 2009 for Benjamin Standford, busking a loop station on Burn City streets, has, six years on, seen him amass his live talents into a worldwide bass-culture following for which Dub FX is widely regarded as a beast among bass-hitters. He’s only recently been able to roll out his new live three-piece and a comprehensive UK tour saw Standford play 41 solo shows in 80 days. Alas, he still feels exuberant about his upcoming Australian dates.
“When I first conceived the idea of what I was going to do in music, it was going to be with a band. But I just couldn’t afford it,” admits Standford. “Now I can start bringing other blokes out on the road and start making something that I was originally trying to do, which is kind of UK bass culture beats done live with added soul and jazz.”
Listing Fat Freddy’s Drop as a benchmark when envisioning morphing his dimensionally gifted talents into a bass-heavy band, Standford explains: “that’s what I’m working for and eventually I’d like to have a band”. “At the moment it’s so uncool,” he jokes, “just me and two guys.”
And a drum machine has always been so much cheaper. “Yeah!” Standford admits. “When you play by yourself you can actually live off your music. So, if I hadn’t started by myself I wouldn’t get to the point I’m at now where I’ve got something where I can start taking people out on the road with me.”
“It just goes into another level because the bass player can ride out over the bars and change where suited, keeping it interesting.”
Standford’s latest album, Theory Of Harmony, described as a hypnotic trip through bass, had invited many guests on board, including Tiki Taane, Eva Lazarus and MC Xander, but it was those he worked with when adding the live instrumentation who helped push the dream.
“When I was recording the new album, I started to get a bit more colourful and using more instruments in the music, like keyboards and sax. So I decided to bring in a guy that I use in the studio who did all the saxophone on the album. Then, I decided to also get a bass player involved and it makes the live aspect so much better. I still open the show, so you get to see the whole ‘me making the music all by myself’ and then I get the boys on and it just goes into another level because the bass player can ride out over the bars and change where suited, keeping it interesting. It’s, like, a very musical show. It means I don’t have to spend half the show building up the songs, I can just go straight into top gear.”
Live, Dub FX provides a visual feast featuring a unique chorus of beatboxing with vocals and loop pedals. Finally having a three-piece live incarnation — adding keyboards, sax and backing vocals — Standford is grateful. “Working with amazing musicians, I get to put on even better shows, which means fans who come to my other shows can see something better each time and it will eventually get bigger.”
Conversation with Dub FX
RIP – You’ve just done 41 shows in 80 days. Damn! Does the audience change as you play in different cities, countries?
DUB FX – My fans seem to be the same everywhere I go whether it’s Russia or New York, it’s kinda the same crew, a lot of conscious, neo-hippies, they’re the new-school hippy kids and it’s the same, everywhere I go I see the same faces.
Your performance with Chali 2na on ‘It’s Another Life’ was crafted so well. You guys had energy. That whole day in the art studio being creative with Chali, how was that?
So, I’ve met him quite a few times in the past and I play a lot in Canada and the US and I’d seen him a few times at festivals and we’ve always talked about making something together. And it just so happened that he was in town with J5 in Melbourne and he wanted to do some painting somewhere because he’d been on tour for months.
It was really just one of those organic happenings, I rocked up on the day and I had just written the hook on that jam the night before. One take, first go we really clicked and made it happen.
It sounds like he acquiesced to you. That’s fantastic.
He’s a very elastic man and he’s able to adapt to whatever’s put in front of him.
Speaking with Thundamentals recently, he was explaining how sometimes when rehearsing studio work for a live show it can be a process of recreating the music again. How does the translation from recording to live sound work for Dub Fx?
There is never really one way, i usually start off hearing the song on the guitar and then ill go to the loop station and ill start jamming the melody and lyrics out and i’ll play it out live in loads of different contexts over hip-hop, over rock, over reggae, drum n bass, breaking whatever, until i find something that locks in with what makes that melody, and what gives that lyric shine, you know? Once I’ve got the live version I’ll usually either record that or if it’s a song that’s designed to make people dance then I’ll probably test it out love more just to make sure that it’s getting people dancing. Otherwise, if it’s an idea that’s designed more for a chill-out vibe then sometimes it starts in the studio and later when I make it live I don’t try it a chill-out version, I remix it and make it more dancey for the live version. So what you make in the studio and what you design on CD is usually gonna be played in the car unless you’re making DJ tunes and I don’t make DJ tunes. So, I’ll try to make what sounds good on your stereo and then when I come to play it live sometimes I will remix the shit out it really but there is not right or wrong way here I just try to make music any many different ways as I can.
I can imagine you’re not the type to do the same thing twice if you can help it.
You’re a beast of creativity you’re looking to keep the ball rolling in inventing music.
The thing is though, funny you say that, because it is like that in the beginning but after a while once you start finding the best way to really form that tune, it does eventually lock in. Like, a lot of the tunes that are on YouTube, I was doing them in lots of different ways, at that particular day they got filmed was the version that ended up going viral and all of a sudden people wanted to hear it that way and that was just one way that I did it that day. And eventually that makes it more official, I guess. It becomes a popular thing, you know? So the show I am doing now is the best version of what I can give. And it sorta is turning into a show that is becoming a bit repetitive, you know? Because we’re finding the best way to put it out there. It started off fresh and live and just changing it up.
Went out for groceries this morning. Your posters are on every post. You’ve got a strong street team working for you in Brisbane. You could be one of the first few acts to perform at the venue newly rebadged as Max Watts.
I’ve gotta say, Hi-Fi at West End has been one of the best venues in Australia that I’ve played at, really.
Explain what the new three-piece setup is for your upcoming tour plans?
Yeah so I’ve been doing this for around nine years and up until March, when I recorded the new album, I started to get a bit more colourful and using more instruments in the music like keyboards and sax. Well I’ve always had saxaphone and horns in my music but not so much live-based. So I’m thinking how am I gonna do this live and basically I decided to bring a guy that I use in the studio who did all the saxophone on the album and just to come live and start looping with me and that was last year. Then this year, I decided to also get a bass player involved and it’s so much better. Like, I still open the show and play a bunch of tunes by myself so you get to see the whole-me making the music all by myself and then I get the boys on and it just goes into another level because there is only so much that a basic loop over four or five bars that can make you really groove but the bass player can ride out over the bars and change where suited, doing the same loop but keeping it interesting. He’s cool, he really holds it down in the pocket, you know? And the keys player is deadly with looping up saxes and they’re both doing backing vocals so it’s like a very musical show. It means I don’t have to spend half the show building up the songs I can just go straight into top gear.
Is that an important aspect for your show, get a couple of guys out to really become a real, live band? Is that what you’re aiming for?
Totally. When I first conceived the idea of what I was going to do in music, it was going to be with a band. But I just couldn’t afford it. I was 22 and I wanted to work with my mates but they were snapped up by older blokes, who were my age now, and they had the better gigs and could afford to pay. And I couldn’t afford to work with my mates, basically and they didn’t really take me seriously because I didn’t really have my shit together then. So, I went and worked by myself and kinda made a name for myself around Europe and now that I can afford it, I can start bringing other blokes out on the road and start making something that I was originally trying to do, which is kind of UK base culture beats done live with added soul and jazz and Fat Freddy’s Drop who is easily by favourite band in the whole world and they achieved that by mixing a little bit of the electronica but with a lot of soul-influenced instruments and the amazing vocals. So, that’s what I’m working for and eventually I’d like to have a band. At the moment is so uncool, just me and two guys.
A drum machine has always been so much cheaper.
Yeah! When you play by yourself you can actually live off your music. So, if I hadn’t started by myself I wouldn’t get to point I’m at now where I’ve got something where I can start taking people out on the road with me. So many bands just lose money, never make money and just break up whereas I’ve never lost money because luckily I do something unique, by myself.
So you’ll do it the other way round. You’ll lose money with the band now.
Funny you say that, it’s happening. I’m not getting paid any more for having those guys with me I’m just spending money having them there, you know? But, the gratification I get is I get to work with amazing musicians and I get to put on even better shows and it means the fans that come to my other shows, like, every year in the past, can now come and see something slightly better each time I come back. And that was just a natural progression, I needed to eventually wrap shit up to where I got musicians and eventually it will get bigger and bigger.
You keep evolving man, and that’s the ticket.