Ben Woods has created a unique voice for himself. The very nature of ambient music lends itself to sounding similar between composers sometimes making it hard to differentiate between artists. Ben Woods’ music, however, has a timbre that is distinctive. Piano stretched, note attack diffused. Full orchestrations expanded through time and space. In the Halcyon EP, Ben delivers songs that don’t need blank rests to tell the story. The songs don’t need to come up for air, so to speak, they inhale and exhale simultaneously consuming the space around the listener.
Merigold Independent: When did you start composing music? What drew you to it?
Ben Woods: I’ve been in local Rock/Metal bands across the south of England on various instruments since I was around 16 years old. In these bands I definitely took on the role of composition and the arrangement of riffs and tracks so it was a very natural transition when working on my solo production. I started writing music intended for release in 2008 at a time where I needed to document my life in some way. For whatever reason I was wondering around the university campus on a half term break and a door to a room which was full of computers and keyboards had been left ajar. I’d honestly never played a keyed instrument before, neither had I any idea what I was doing but I went back every day for 2 weeks and at the end of it I had an albums worth of music (A Collection of Thoughts) I didn’t even know I was writing one, I just wrote because I needed to.
MI: Your newest EP release, Halcyon, seems to have taken the atmospheric aspects from your former work while adding some of the more straight forward piano sounds from An Attempt To Fly. Did you feel nostalgic towards your earlier work or is this how it naturally progressed?
BW: I didn’t really realise this until just recently but when writing with means to express something that is from the past, the more ambient the sound and if I’m writing with means to express something that’s current the tracks are much more simple piano/string arrangements. If I write an ambient track with a piano lead, it tends to be a way to express a fresh take on something, or a different (current) perspective on it. I never intended to work in such an illustrative way, however, it happens when you naturally listen and express a friction in an honest way.
MI: Going back in time, I believe I once heard that the album ‘Moments’ was recorded mostly by capturing reflections of the sounds from the piano, leaving the attack of the note out of the recording. Would you mind going into a bit more depth in how you achieved this? The finished product is very ethereal and has a distinctive sound that I haven’t heard anywhere else.
BW: Ambient tracks are recorded in the exact same way as the piano/string arrangements. They’re composed and recorded until finished and then re-imported back into the software stem by stem. I use a lot of very simple processes in Cubase to manipulate the recording such as reversing, time stretching, distortion and modulation.
MI: What inspires you to create? Do you pull from life events or your surroundings?
BW: I’m inspired by my experience with people’s circumstances in social situations and the connotations that may have with the world using natural symbolism.
MI: You believe in giving your music away for free (and you did so even before it was the popular thing to do.) Is there a philosophy behind this?
BW: I give my music away for free because the positive effects of simply sitting down to create far exceed any financial gain. In my opinion, all music and art that’s made with love should be given for free. I’m also really passionate about how music is discovered these days. Music is discovered in very much the same way it’s created, hundred of thousands of artists and bands around the world are recording albums in the intimate space of their home. Music is now being discovered in this way, and I wouldn’t put a financial value on my work to make sure that I do not hinder that initial discovery of it.
MI: Do you have any favourite composers or authors?
BW: I’m not much of a reader. But some of my favourite composers are Arvo Part, Clint Mansell, Max Richter and Thomas Newman.
MI: Researching the name ‘Kinookimaw’, the title of the second song on the EP, reveals that it is a place in Saskatchewan, Canada. Does this place hold special significance to you?
BW: Kinookimaw is one of my fondest memories and is a beautiful place with an immediate attack on the senses . My experience of Saskachewan holds a significance to me that I feel resonates in the whimsical tones of ‘Kinookimaw’. If you’re ever in Saskachewan, get some ice cream and have a walk around Kinookimaw.