Sure we’ve heard about you before, but we think it’s time for Tone Deaf to get to know you a little better. Slip in to something comfortable while we put on some music, pour us a couple of drinks and turn the lights down low.
Who are you and what do you do in your act?
My name is Ben Wright Smith and I play the guitar, harmonica and sing in the Ben Wright Smith Band.
‘Fess up. What records have you stolen from your parent’s record collection and why?
My dad’s record collection was always quite strange and eclectic. He builds stereo’s and amplifiers and was always into ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmers’ and lots of classical music. Although I have managed to get my hands on some amazing old Vinyl’s from my girlfriend’s dad. His collection is huge! At the moment I’m listening to Bounced Checks by Tom Waits, London Calling by The Clash, and original Beatles Magical Mystery Tour, Led Zepplin’s Houses of the Holy and Computer World by Kraftwerk.
What’s on heavy rotation on your iPod right now?
I’ve been delving back into some old favourites like Crosby, Stills, Nash and young, D.R. Hooker, Gil Scott-Heron , Spaceman 3 and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. I’ve been getting into some great new stuff too. There’s a group called the Punch Brothers who are an absolutely insane rockabilly group from the states whose new album is great. I’ve been listening to Julian Lynch too and Kurt Vile’s new album Child Prodigy too.
‘Home taping is killing the music business was the catch-cry of the record industry in the 1970s, but it managed to survive until now. What do you think is the difference between mates taping copies of friend’s records back in the 80s and 90s and file sharing now?
I guess the difference is the ease in which music can be shared between friends now and the huge amount of music which can be sourced now days. That being said none of it particularly worries me. I’ve been giving away all my music for free up until this point and if it means more people will come and see my play live shows that’s great.
You must answer this question honestly or we steal your rider. What was the first gig you went to.?Where was it and what was the venue?
I used to get taken to the Port Fairy Folk Festival as a little kid all the time. We’d go and camp and see all sorts of bands there. I was really young so it was all very confusing. I have memories of seeing Peter Coomb, Lou Bennet and Christina Anu.
What’s your favourite site to download music from and do you ever pay for it? Can we find any of your releases there?
We sell all of our music through Missinglink.com. The Missing Link store has always been a hub for great music in Melbourne. I remember going in there in the 90’s trying to get my hands on cd’s from ska groups like H-Block 101 and Commissioner Gordon. They were my favourite bands as a young teen and it was the only place you could find that stuff. When they approached me wanting to sell my EP in the store and online I jumped at the opportunity.
What artist made you want to pick up an instrument and/or sing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing songs but it was The Buena Vista Social Club who inspired me to play the guitar. I saw the remaining members perform quite a few years later and after seeing the Cuban guitar style I was changed forever. I think Nick Drake was another big influence in me wanting to pick up the guitar.
Have you ever been arrested?
I’ve never been arrested. I try to stay out of trouble as much as possible. That being said, I have been threatened by a corrupt police officer with a gun. I was living in Peru at the time and he was angry because I wasn’t wearing any shoes.
Do you have any particular ritual before you go on stage, or even a lucky charm you take with you?
I don’t have a ritual but I do have a lucky charm. For my birthday a few years ago my friends Bulldog gave me his wisdom tooth attached to some rosary beads. I wear them just about everywhere I go. He’s living in Mexico at the moment so I’m particularly diligent.
What’s been your most outrageous rider request?
I’ve never requested a rider so I wouldn’t know.
Because it’s more fun to do things together, which living Australian artist would you most like to collaborate with? Tell us why?
I think it would have to be Warren Ellis, although I think he lives in France or something now. He’s such a great Violin player and I love everything he’s released. Another one would be Gareth Liddiard. He’s album Strange Tourist was great and I’ve love to steal some of his tricks.
Right, let’s get really intimate. Tell us what releases you have that we can listen to with the lights down low, or even better, where we can see you play in person next.
At the moment we are working hard on a debut album, which we’ll be finishing up in the next month or so. My acoustic Ep ‘Benny “The Kid” and Other Moonlight Ballads’ is available to download or purchase on the internet at missinglink.com. We’ve got some cool shows coming up too with some great bands, which is really exciting. Were playing this coming Saturday (14th) with Tessa & the Typcast, Ryan Meeking and Crooked Saint at the Workers Club, which should be a lot of fun. There’s another show coming up at the Workers Club on the 22nd with one of our good friends Planet Love Sound.