From Angus Young Impressions to The Pin-up Sessions: an introduction to my Roots blog.

Last week I had a message from Chris asking if I’d like to join the writing team at Roots. Whilst I’ve become a bit sick of late night dissertation writing marathons this year, a head scratch lasting about 0.5 seconds led me to say ‘absolutely mate!’. Although I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable bragging about my own artistic/producing ventures, I could rattle on infinitely about the talent around these parts. Before doing that however, I thought I better start off with an introduction to myself, what I do, and what I love about music.

Like many, my musical career started by telling people I could play guitar when I was about 10. Unfortunately for me (and my impending school talent show) this was a complete and utter fabrication of the truth; the truth being that I spent most nights pretending to be Angus Young in front of the mirror whilst blasting classic rock tunes stolen from my Dad’s CD collection. After being caught in the middle of a ‘duck walk’ too many times to brush off, it was put forward by my parents that I could actually try and learn to play guitar FOR REAL. After some apprehension, I agreed and set myself a goal: learn one ‘sick’ guitar solo which I could impress people with, and then retreat to playing the Xbox and picking my nose.

At this point however, I was introduced to an eccentric guitar teacher who unquestionably changed my life forever. He taught me all of my favourite songs with a focus on enjoyment instead of theoretical aspects like reading music, and before too long I was hooked. No longer was one solo enough – I needed more. Much more.

I was lucky enough to have parents who encouraged me every step of the way, and a teacher with patience and passion: though not essential, in my opinion these building blocks are invaluable in any music community.

The teacher’s name was Phil Brock and although I’ve lost touch with him a bit, I still see his crazy luminous green transit van knocking about from time to time, and I’m sure he’s still a guitar wizard (I endeavour to catch up with you soon Phil if you’ve finally got round to getting the internet!).

Me not long after breaking out of the bedroom (note terrified disposition: is this a chord? Am I in the right key? Is this jumper/polo combination really working for me?!)

Though I need to crank an amplifier to remind myself of it sometimes, the joy I get out of playing guitar is ethereal, cathartic and unsurpassable (apart from scoring a mint goal at 5-a-side obviously). That joy fundamentally drives me to write, perform and produce music and also dictates what I want to do with my life and career. Although it comes in different guises, I’m sure that this same passion is present in everyone involved in the artistic community and it’s why this whole ‘music’ thing is so important for us humans.

“So why are you recording music now Benjy?” I hear you ask.

Well, Roots readers, my passion for recording started with my first original (and current) band The Fine Art Society. After rising from the ashes of a school prom performance and going through a few members, me and my best mates Matt and Max wrote a bunch of songs. We had no money and were too busy going to ‘Mosh Mondays’ and being 17 to even consider approaching a ‘proper’ recording studio. Max was studying at Confetti and had some basic recording gear, so we decided to record and release our tunes ourselves. We stayed in a sweaty band room for nights on end until the sun rose. We got noise complaints. We smoked too much and tried to sing high harmonies we had no right reaching. The result was a handful of songs which sounded a bit ropey, but contained all the honesty and gusto you’d expect from 3 lads who had nothing to gain; no X-Factor judges to impress, no record deals to gain and no fans to consider. Just the reward of getting OUR songs recorded and out into the world. Like a footnote or a piece of graffiti on a school desk – a little memento that we were here together and we created something we were proud of.

You can actually still listen to these tracks on Sound Cloud if you’re brave. Check out how different Matt used to sound – ha!

It was at this point I came to the realisation that capturing and releasing a song was an amazing achievement. From nothing, a small idea you have in your head can become tangible. Like catching lightning in a bottle – a little bit of your soul can be kept, shared and enjoyed again and again.

After a few more professional outings learning this dark art became my mission. Over the past few years its led to me spending all of my money on gear (an occupational hazard for us muso’s) and leaving a sturdy office job to study the trade at university. Again, taking this step was much easier with the encouragement of the music community around me.

(a special note here to my girlfriend Lara here who has been forced to listen to more mixes than any human should reasonably be expected to endure and still continues to support me).

Whilst I’ve got a few more skills now (and continue to gain them at a rate of knots) I’m still fundamentally a chubby air guitar champion who loves putting that passion into helping people capture their music. I’ve been lucky enough to record some amazing artists so far and am proud to have founded a pretty cool live session called ‘The Pin-up Sessions’ which showcases some mind blowing local talent. The D.I.Y ethos is strong, and we share a lot of parallels with the roots community:

Let’s encourage and brag about every ounce of talent we have around here and have a blast doing it.

You can check out all of the artists we’ve featured so far by subscribing to the channel at the link!

I hope to spend future posts chatting about the artists I get to work with, music I think deserves your attention and maybe even some recording tips to help you get the best results for your budget and demos.

Thanks for the invite Chris and I hope I can write some interesting bits for you all to read in the future!

Ben Marshall

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