Dub Fx on crowdfunding, composing and Cubase
By Nils Wiere, May 19, 2014
Dub Fx is Melbourne-based loop recording whirlwind Ben Stanford. Known for his unique street performances, Stanford has toured dozens of different countries, played some of the world's biggest festivals and has sold 100,000+ records. Besides being an incredibly innovative performer, Ben is also a talented producer. We talked to him about how he goes about writing his songs and arrangements, how crowdfunding helps him to realize his projects and why Cubase is his DAW of choice.
For everyone who's not familiar with your musical approach, could you describe the “ingredients” of your music?
My ingredients would primarily be my face! I make all my beats by beatboxing, I then layer harmonies to make chords or pad-type sounds, and I also sing through a synth to trigger bass noises.
And how do you start off with a new song?
I usually start with the guitar and try to write a song that works acoustically. I find this very important, because if you don’t have a solid base to start with, you end up just trying to fluke the song with sound design, which can be very draining.
Where do you find inspiration?
I don’t look or find it; it usually finds me. I could be doing anything and an idea just pops into my head, usually it’s just a hook or a melody that stays in my head — that’s when I take it to the guitar and work it all out.
You’ve played some of the world’s biggest festivals, including Sziget, Coachella and Glastonbury, and keep touring the clubs. On the other hand, your initial popularity is credited to your street performances. What do you consider the difference between the street and the festivals/clubs?
The street is where Dub Fx was born, all the ideas, the sounds, the concepts I bring were inspired from all my shows on the street. It became a place for me to work shop ideas and develop my style as an artist. The clubs and festivals is where I take this unique sound and display it properly on a stage with a real sound system. I love performing in all types of environments to keep myself sharp!
Your latest album, Theory of Harmony, is crowdfunded. Please tell us a little more on that decision and the challenges.
Crowdfunding is a great concept. I gravitated towards it in order to be completely independent and not to have a machine working for me to publicize my new album. It makes sense for me to use this method because every single album I have sold has been sold from me to the fan directly. We already have a personal relationship. The main challenge has been fulfilling all the promises we made!
You’re completely independent from record labels (except your own one) and said with YouTube, Facebook and all the possibilities of the Internet there’s no more need for a label. Do you have any advice for musicians looking for a bigger audience?
Social media and street performing really is the way to build a fan base from the ground up, and crowdfunding is the icing on the cake! I think the most important thing is to have a solid product to begin with. This is impossible to create in a bedroom or a jam room. You need to play your music out to people in different scenarios to find what is wrong with it. Street performing is the perfect way, you literally get paid to practice and refine your performance. Not only that, but people film your performance and spread the word themselves if they really like it!
You need to play your music out to people in different scenarios to find what is wrong with it. Street performing is the perfect way, you literally get paid to practice and refine your performance.
When was your first encounter with Cubase?
Yes, it was my second last year of high school in the year 2000. It was part of our course to record a song from scratch. I made it super easy for myself and made an acoustic track with guitar and vocals.
How does Cubase fit into your production process today?
I mainly use Cubase to track and sequence my music. Most of my ideas and inspiration come from jamming out live on the loop station. Cubase is vital to taking that live sound and reworking it for an album context. Originally what drew me was the bang for your buck factor! Now I am so used to it, and I like the way it looks. I know there are plenty of other competitors out there which are great for playing with loops, but I prefer doing that on my live gear and tracking my songs in a more classic way. It helps me finalize the music as opposed to endless tweaking.
So, what’s your favorite tool in Cubase and why?
I can’t say I have one favorite tool, but I definitely love the new processors in the channel strip. I use the saturation plug-ins a lot! Magneto is awesome! I put saturation on a lot of my tracks to get them a bit grittier.
Crowdfunding is a great concept. It makes sense for me to use this method because every single album I have sold has been sold from me to the fan directly.
This year you’ll be touring with a whole new concept. We heard there’ll be horns and percussion among other acoustic instruments. Can you tell us a little more on what to expect?
Yes, I have a musician by the name of Andy V who is a monster musician. We have known each other for ten years. We used to do jazz gigs together back in the days. He is like my Swiss army knife! He plays keys, saxophone and back up vocals, as well as using a loop station to record those elements live and mix them in with my loops. We also have Cade, who is my manager. He does back up vocals and uses turntables to scratch in FX and loops. We are also going to do some awesome video production to take the show to another level.
And what are you currently working on?
I just finished my new album, but I’m already writing down ideas and recording bits and pieces for the next one, which I hope to complete in 2015 some time!
Is there a special place where you always wanted to give a show, but haven’t yet?
Actually I’ve played in some pretty random locations. On an airplane would be fun! Better yet a space ship!
Surf to dubfx.net for details on Dub Fx.
Back in December 2013 Dub Fx released his second studio album, Theory of Harmony. The album was completely crowdfunded by fans from 45 countries.
Feel free to listen to the complete album online here.