Little Histories - An Interview with Ben Sharp (Cloudkicker)
Hey Ben! Firstly I’d like to thank you for taking the time out from your day to do this interview with Manchester Rocks. It’s certainly quite surreal to be in this position after following your music for five years now.
For me it's a little surreal to be interviewed by someone named Ben
It’s a good name. I’ve been meaning to ask you if you ever considered naming your project the ‘Be Sharps’ instead of Cloudkicker at any point? (hope you’re a Simpsons fan…). Maybe barbershop could be your next musical direction!
I am a huge Simpsons fan. I never thought about naming the project that but I always thought it was cool that The Be Sharps was one letter away from being The Ben Sharps.
First off, you just released an album (or EP, I suppose) called “Little Histories”. Could you explain how or why you chose the title & track names for the record? I know the track-naming thing has bored you before, but you seem to keep coming up with intriguing stuff…
It would take a while to explain, but the long and short of it is that I wrote these songs in the months that followed the tour with Intronaut. The experience definitely seeped into my writing process, and the titles remind me about fun times on tour. For example, "Sky Guide" references the app of the same name. I blew the Intronaut guys' minds when I showed them how it worked one night and we had a nice conversation about the universe. Dave was reading a book called "A Little History of the World" that we talked about for a bit while driving once. "Hassan" was the name of a guy that worked at one of the hotels where we stayed. And so on.
Also I see that Charlie Wagers is credited for the album cover as with your previous work. Can you elaborate on any particular meaning it has for you, and how you think it represents the musical side of the record?
The only thing I gave Charlie as far as art direction was "minimal and blue" and the rest was him. He's always so good with the art that I wanted to see what he would come up with basically on his own. I'm sure he has his own interpretation, but I think the art represents the album in the way that it seems a little stark and somewhat cinematic, like the opening credits of a movie. It's very thoughtful to me.
Yeah it doesn’t give too much away, very open to interpretation. Will the vinyl be similarly blue?
Actually the vinyl is going to be “Milky Clear”
You mentioned earlier that your tour with Intronaut inspired the record. I was actually going to ask about how playing with Danny Walker inspired the drum programming for the record? I know you worked with a drummer on "Fade" and it gave that album a little extra something – this record is the same, it’s very ‘live’ and organic sounding.
Yeah, I wrote the album in between mixing and mastering the live album, which gave me a chance to really get to know Danny’s style as well as getting a reference for how a drummer of his calibre varies dynamically over the course of a song. I tried to incorporate that knowledge into the way that I created fills and transitions and how hard drum hits would be at any point.
Musically, I think “Little Histories” is one of your most diverse projects. Was there ever a time when you thought it would become a full length, or was the content written with the shorter format in mind?
After the tour in April I knew I wanted to release something before the end of the year to try to capture and memorialize the experience, and I thought an EP released around the same time as the live album would do that really well. Coincidentally, I was out of town for the months of October, November, and most of December for work, so I really only had May through September to write music, and this is what I was able to finish. I have a few ideas left over that could have been a couple more songs, but I’m pretty sure I was thinking EP from the start. I hadn't done one since before "Beacons" when I did three in a row, and after "Subsume" I thought it would be fun to do something pretty low key.
Understandable. "Subsume" was a pretty huge thing, and hard to digest (intentionally, I imagine due to the way you divided the songs up).
That’s true, my aim was to force the listener to view it as a whole rather than a collection of songs.
I guess I’ll throw one out there for the people into gear now. Did you use anything new on "Little Histories" (guitars, software, effects etc) that you’d like to mention?
In Boston I met a guy named Scott Miller who runs a company called Stonewall Pickups. He made me a few sets of pickups, two of which I put in my Les Pauls. You can hear those on “Chameleon” and “Digital Lightning”. Other than that, I think the distinction on this album was what I didn’t use, as I was really focusing on simplification.
I noticed on your blog that you mentioned a new method you were using for writing music [copy/paste 4 bars at a time & add/subtract based on feel]. Was the experimentation with this technique the basis for the songs on the album?"
It was something that I stumbled on while writing the songs so I would say that it was the album that was the basis for the technique.
Lastly, do you have any music to recommend for anyone looking to get into some new (or old) bands? Obviously I’d recommend Intronaut right off the bat – they seem to be fairly under the radar in the UK.
Lately I’ve been listening to Tortoise, Elbow, and Ben Howard a lot, as well as the soundtrack to Interstellar. I basically get my music from Dave and Sacha now because they know way more bands than I do.
Okay Ben, thanks so much for the chat! I hope this interview introduces your music to some more people & gives the old fans some fresh info. See you around!
Music & Merch - http://cloudkickermusic.com/