I consider myself very lucky in my capacity as a music writer for altblackpool to get the chance to meet and feature some inspirational young people who work very hard to shape their own future and make an impact on the music scene.
Our town, unfortunately, has had some damning press lately regarding there being little hope for the future for young people in the area, due to the lack of opportunities for work. I believe every story has two sides for balance, so for every negative story of gloom and despair, along comes one of hope and encouragement.
One such story is that of the very talented and hugely motivated Ben Marshall (aka. DJ Marshall) who kindly invited me along to his place of work at Rock Hard Studios in North Shore for a chat. I didnt want to take too much of his time, because he’s a busy fella, but such was our in-depth conversation covering lots of ground, we ended up chatting for two hours! So this particular feature will be split into two parts, with the second part coming up next week. Part One will explain how he started out as a DJ and how he has progressed to where he is today and for me particularly, it gave me an insight into the life of a DJ.
Ben feels right at home at Rock Hard Studios, surrounded by mountains of the latest music technology which assist him to not only be a master of his first love, of being an esteemed and well-travelled, respected DJ, but also as an accomplished producer and composer. As a young DJ, Ben has got a good few years’ experience under his belt already. He picked up his first decks at the age of 15 back in his home town of Milton Keynes. Beginning by using vinyl records to mix his tunes, you could say that Ben started out the way most good DJs do, by learning his craft the old-fashioned way before progressing onto the more advanced media they use today.
So my first question for Ben was quite obvious really. I asked him how it all began?
“At 15, I started out with decks and vinyl records and spent all my car wash money at record shops. I miss vinyls now, because I loved the graphics, the artworks and the smell of the records! At that time in my area, not many people could mix records well, it was a skill. Things have progressed since then and it made the job a lot easier once CDs came around.”
I asked him how things developed from those early days working with the vinyl and how did the ‘bug’ bite?
“Two things happened really. When I was at school I was given a cassette tape by a mate and he told me to listen to it. It was a session recorded at a place called The Sanctuary in Milton Keynes. I was too young to get in, but this was the next best thing. The place was iconic for raves, but this was a drum ‘n’ bass mix and at the time I was into Hip Hop and Indie and stuff like that. I didnt really like it at first, but I gave it a chance and it grew on me. Then something happened and that was it!
One particular track stood out and hit me. It was a track by an artist named Logistics called Together and I thought, ‘Wow!’ It was beautiful liquid drum ‘n’ bass and a real feel-good sort of track. From that moment, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Ben was fascinated by how the whole concept worked and was excited to delve deeper. He was listening to the likes of Judge Jules and thought, “How do you do that?” He was amazed! So, aged only 16, he decided to take the step of getting tuition on the decks to develop his skills further. He obviously saw that this would benefit him longer term and he was right.
“I realised how tough it was and a challenge,” said Ben, “I thought I could mix well and then I broke a few records trying to learn!”
Ben’s own influences and taste don’t just begin and end with dance orientated music and his scope to work with various styles come from the fact he has a very wide taste in music and particularly likes guitar driven sounds, but he confessed his favourite instrument is the piano and he does also listen to classical pieces.
“When I’m producing I start with piano based compositions, then that moves on to synthesisers. As far as my taste goes, I like to listen to everything, but as a DJ I love to work with house music and drum ‘n’ bass at the moment, but I can work with most styles. My main aim is to produce tunes that make people happy. That is what its all about,” said Ben.
“I’m all about good vibes, I play to make people feel good. What I’ve learned from travelling, is that you can play anywhere if you play good vibes,” he added.
This philosophy has stood DJ Marshall in very good stead. His DJ sets take him to some of the best UK and European clubs around and his work is recognised widely and highly regarded. So much so, he is now a member of the team at Brazilian Label DNBB Recordings as well as having tunes released by The EDM Network and True Box Records. He has also recorded dance mixes with local songstresses Karima Francis and Jess Harwood, keeping him connected with local musicians. He has further plans to work with other musicians in the area too, as Ben’s talents don’t just lie in his skills as a DJ.
“Everyone knows me as a DJ, but for the last eight years I’ve been producing and songwriting also. I want to become known for that too and broaden my horizon,” said Ben, “I love doing that side of music and want to develop that further,” he added.
Ben is quite obviously an adopted ‘local lad’ who has done terrifically well for himself, through hard work and determination, but more so for the love of his work and what he does very well indeed. The two hours I spent with Ben chilling in his studio flew by and it was an enlightening interview. We will bring you part two next week with his thoughts for the future, the hope and fears for youngsters in the area, his thoughts on people, life and his motivation. It’s a very worthwhile read.
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