Ben Walsh On ‘Remix Experiment’ & The Art Of Improvisation
1 October 2016
New Delhi’s going to witness a very special performance this Saturday night with experimental percussionist Ben Walsh, who will be flying down all the way from Australia to present his improvisational solo show – ‘Remix Experiment’.
Walsh is probably known best for his live drum n’ bass act The Bird, which has been running since the late 90s and sees him on percussion and partner Simon Durrington on keys. Their shows are intense experiences, suited far better for the dancefloor than as sit-down events.
The ace live performer is bringing his frenzied, high-energy percussion styles and experimental multimedia showcase for a special show at Bandstand this week on 8 October, with support from Big City Harmonics and Tarqeeb. Following that, he’ll be moving on to Jodhpur RIFF.
We got in touch with Ben to ask him a little bit about himself and his new show before he came down. The performer recently returned home after 3 months in Europe playing summer festivals – “Back in Australia I live in a fantastic art studio in Byron bay... but I don't get enough time to be at home as I'm travelling a lot. Right now I’m in Sydney.”
Ben fist gives us a little insight into the diverse range of music he plays: “I have been drumming all my life in various projects. I play bizarre percussion instruments I build myself. I am also heavily into electronic music production and music making. I mainly do music that is instrumental and artistically charged and try super hard to avoid commercial music or corporate inspired art as I'm very allergic to it. My art is my life and I try to be very conscious about it.”
This isn’t the first time Ben has performed in India. He’s been before a number of times and last performed a five-city tour in the country in June, 2013. He’s had a positive experience here so far, saying that he’s been lucky to hold shows in the Motherland have been nothing short of “incredible” – “Every time I come here I see and hear new things. It's a large gap between the very ancient and the modern, and India really has a lot to offer at both ends of the spectrum”
Walsh will be performing at RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival’) in Jodhpur following his Delhi show, where he’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with Rajasthani master percussionists – on the dholak, the khartal, themorchang, the dhol. We asked him if he was looking forward to the experience – “Absolutely, beyond words. What these experiences add to my life, no one will ever know. I have such a deep respect for Indian folk and classical music, and it's an honour to be amongst it as an Australian artist.
‘Remix Experiment’ is going to be a very unique show – jazz influenced, reverberating basslines will meet turntables, drums and synthesised vocals presented in a completely improvisational manner, (which is why no two shows of remix experiment can ever be the same). It’s a complex barrage on the senses, and when we asked Ben what to expect, he says “Just that, but some bizarre techniques that I'm sure no one has seen before. I play electronic music live in a way that highlights improvisation and human elements. Particularly my live drumming, which allows me musical freedom from click tracks or pre-composed musical ideas”
He goes on to tell us a bit more about ‘Remix Experiment’ – where the idea came from and what he hopes to achieve with it – “It started with a feeling of dissatisfaction from current technology and I ended up dreaming up a project in which I could control my music in a way never seen before. After years of trial and research about what was possible, I built my own units and found out how to get what I wanted out of my computers. I also wanted to make something as a solo performer that would allow me to include as many of my musical interests at once.”
Interestingly enough, Walsh’s own ‘units’ are literal inventions he’s created specifically for his live setups. Most notable in the upcoming show is the ‘gravity scratch’, a device that allows him to scratch as fast as he can drum with incredible precision.
But everything else aside, what really lies at the heart of Ben’s shows – despite the varying influences – is a foundation of rhythm and percussion - “I write and perform complex rhythms even if it's dancefloor friendly, that's why India likes my music, because some of the most complex rhythms come from your country. So you’re used to complex timings and drum virtuosity. It's a joy to be heard in this light - the west is not used to seeing drum music past a basic drum kit.
I'm generalising but I've lived here a long time and travelled a lot. And unfortunately any incredible drumming that you can find in the west has to be searched for much harder. You won't find it on the radio, or in our classical music. I'm known as world jazz or experimental…so that's where I live!”
Walsh’s penchant for improvisation doesn’t just extend itself to sound, even his visual accompaniments are customised to fit into the entire experience –“I love VJ culture so I make visual content to match music and scratch visuals also where venues have projectors and are set up for live feed. It's another love of mine.”
As for what he’s looking forward to the most in his trip to Delhi (aside from the gig), Walsh has a particular fondness for our public transport – “Taking a rickshaw around the city. I love it, and it’s definitely my preferred method of travel. I want to see what India thinks of my show and hopefully make people dance like crazy and lose themselves in the music.
“What's the point of all these gadgets if it doesn't make us feel as good as humanly possible?”
**Ben Walsh will perform ‘Remix Experiment’ on 8 October, starting 9pm at Bandstand in New Delhi. The event is presented by the Australian High Commission in partnership with Wild City. Head over to the Facebook event for more information and updates.**