After a night on the town, saxophonist Ben Castle was interrogated by Charlie Anderson.
Gary Burton recently complained that he gets asked the same questions in interviews: how did you start? why do you play the vibraphone? tell us about your new record, etc. So, Ben, just to be different, why do you play the vibraphone?
“I like playing the vibraphone as I like hitting things but I don't like hurting things. Every time you hit a vibraphone with your mallet it cries beautiful notes of joy which get higher or lower depending on where you hit it.”
What do you find are the big differences between playing ‘pop music’ and playing jazz?
“The size of the audience. I try to get involved in the more creative side of “pop music” if it's on a long-term basis. I enjoy playing any kind of music that is made with passion.”
“I used to feel guilty about playing blatant commercial music but a lot of the time it can be fun or it will help pay for one of my own projects. I'm a bit like Robin Hood except I don't rob the rich, I'm just employed by them and I don't give the money to the poor, I give it to strange music. In fact, I'm nothing like Robin Hood.”
You’re appearing at The Verdict in Brighton on Friday 31st January with Bryan Spring, Mark Edwards etc.
(“etc.” = Dan Sheppard).
Can you say a little bit about each of them, what you like about their playing, plus any comments about their personal hygiene.
“I've been playing with Mark Edwards for over 20 years and he still makes my jaw hit the floor when he plays. His style is unique. He's a true musician, whatever genre he's playing. His playing is exciting and beautiful at the same time.
Bryan is also a one-off. An incredible musician and human. His commitment and energy are outstanding, he's so good to play with as he hears everything and follows you wherever your going (musically speaking) and takes you in directions you don't expect.”
“I am excited about working with Dan as I've heard a lot of great things about him.”
Tell us a bit about The Verdict in Brighton and why you like playing there (assuming that you do).
“I do! I love playing in Brighton anyway as people seem really open-minded and it's great to play at the Verdict as it's nice and intimate. It almost feels like the audience are in the band.”
You’re also playing at the Hastings Jazz Club on February 11th, again with Mark Edwards. You must like working with him.
“He's all right I suppose! Mark and I have worked together very closely on so many projects, covering many different styles of music. He always adds something so special to anything he's involved in. How could I turn down the opportunity to play with him? (Ideas gratefully received)”
What advice can you give to musicians who are just starting out?
“Persevere. Music is so rewarding at whatever level you're at. Take every opportunity you can to start with and whatever you do, find a way to engage the audience. You don't have to water down your music but you must make some sort of a connection with it. Draw them into your world, however strange it is.”
A lot of the jazz audience are from an older generation. Do you have any handy tips for them?
“I was given some nose hair trimmers for a recent birthday. I don't have a problem with nasal hair; it was more of a witty statement about my age. This isn't really advice but I suppose what I'm trying to say is… would anyone like to buy some nose hair trimmers? (only used once)”
Your last album, Blah Street, was released ten years ago this year. Any plans to record another one?
“I'm quite good at recording albums but I'm rubbish at releasing them. Mark and I have just mixed an EP we recorded nine years ago! I've also been working on an album with my new band The Tombola Theory which will be coming out soon. It's ‘pop music’ but inspired by 1930s trad jazz played on clarinet, tuba, banjo, piano and drums with me singing. It's obviously what the kids are crying out for!”