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  • Writer's pictureRubber Monkey

An Interview with Benjamin Mack

Benjamin Mack is an artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He placed third in the Rubber Monkey Music Competition with his song "Let The Doorbell Ring"

How old were you when you started making music?

I started making beats in maybe like, year 11? So not too long ago. In my last year of school which was 2020, I took music to force myself to write some lyrics, then I wrote some songs and that was it.

Do you prefer writing music alone or do you like having other people on board?

It depends, I did parachute artist development last year and I really enjoyed working with people, that was my first proper taste of writing with other people in a quite intense environment, which was really really cool. So I think I like working with people more.

How did you go about writing Let The Doorbell Ring?

For this particular song, I was house sitting for my manager and I had to get some songs finished for the portfolio I had to submit at the end of the year. I went in the studio with Joe towards the end of the week and just let out how I was feeling to him, full therapy style. Then we kind of started getting some reference tracks going, and then chose some sorta basic chords and wrote some lyrics to it.

Who are some artists that inspire you, and what makes them stand out to you?

At the moment I've been listening to a lot of Kevin Morby, and for Let The Doorbell Ring we dove into Bob Dylan and Kurt Vile. But I’ve been listening to a lot of Kevin Morby at the moment and he’s great, he’s so cool.

What's an instrument you’d love to learn to play?

Drums. I can kind of hold my own on guitar, bass and keys, but for the life of me drums are tricky. I think it’d be cool to be able to play to a recording level, as basic as that sounds. I think a lot of my favorite artists are drummers first, this is going to sound cheesy but Kevin Parker from Tame Impala is an insane drummer, so yeah I think that'd be cool.

Do you think knowledge of music theory is necessary for writing a good piece of music?

Nah, I think if you’ve got a rough understanding of how a song works and you count that as theory,.. maybe? But for the most part if you’ve just listened to heaps of music and you can kind of break it down, that’s as much as you need to know. I don’t know heaps of theory- I know chords but I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to read music.

How much of a difference do you think proper studio recording makes?

Not much I don’t think. If you’re in a studio you’ve probably got an engineer that comes with the studio, so it would probably be a better sound at the end of the day, but if you just get your own chops up you might be really good on your crappy little interface. I’m lucky enough to have a studio in my house with quite a nice interface and mic, so I’ve got no real excuse to not make good stuff at home. But if you think Clairo recorded a bunch of her first stuff just on her iPhone through an earphone mic or whatever- she’s huge! If you’re writing good stuff and can connect to an audience, that's the most important thing.

Do any other art forms outside of music inspire your songwriting?

I’m not sure if you’d call it an art form but I really enjoy surfing. Recently in the last year or two I’ve been like “Oh this is something I'm definitely not going to be a professional at” so I’ve kind of taken a different approach to it. Just having a more relaxed approach to surfing- or to life is just so much more gratifying. I just wanna hang out with some mates, so I think that's a nice art form to draw from.

Do you think making music gives you a different perspective when listening to music?

Yeah, I think so. It’s interesting I work at Holiday Records so I listen to music for my job, so for the most part I'll try to find the good in it as opposed to being like “Oh this is terribly produced” or mixed or whatever. I think a good example in the past year I got super into 70s rock, it just sounded so much fun to play. But then also more recently in the past month, diving into CHIC and Nile Rodgers and all the work he did through that kind of stuff I was thinking “Oh this is so cool!” and then I started doing heaps of funk strumming patterns on guitar, so I think it definitely inspires creation. I often get bored of making the same stuff so if I listen to something I'm not used to listening to and I'll think “Oh this is cool” and then I'll try making a similar kind of beat.

Check out more of Benjamins music here


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