"Cloudkicker is a music that happens when a person named Ben Sharp sometimes uses a computer to record and sequence instruments. Since starting to do that in 2005, he has created many compilations of songs and they don't necessarily sound the same as other compilations of songs that he has created. In fact, writing and recording music is something he does when he isn't working at his job." I got in touch with Ben Sharp to bother him into answering some questions… These are the questions and answers. Invoke!
• • •
1) Let's kick this off with something engaging, tell us something about Ben Sharp that
BS: I own several guns.
2) The name Cloudkicker was derived from Kit Cloudkicker from the radical 90's cartoon show "TaleSpin"… What other cartoons were a big part of Ben's salad days?
BS: That whole lineup… Darkwing Duck, Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, Duck Tales. Also Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That might cover it!
3) There appears to be a lot of intrigue surrounding you Ben, a man of mystery. Do you think this has to do with the fact that you stray away from the 'norms' when it comes to your music? Which questions are you most sick of hearing by now?
BS: It's kind of odd to me because I don't feel very mysterious, I just feel like me. I'm pretty sure I feel like what most people feel like when they are people. I guess I'm not exactly keen on the idea that once you become even a minute person of interest you are obligated to share every waking moment of your life, but then I'm not even that way with my friends and family. I answer questions that people ask and I answer them honestly but I think most people are interested in the technical aspects of what I do and couldn't care less about what kind of restaurants I go to. I'm not "sick" of answering questions like; "Will you ever play live shows?" or "How did Cloudkicker start?" or "What kind of thing do you use for a part?" because each person that asks that is asking it for the first time.
4) Cloudkicker has always been your hobby. Money, personal glory, record labels, etc. never seem to be of any interest or importance. But being as it is a hobby, do you ever feel the pressure of expectations and eagerly awaiting fans? Does this ever suck the life/fun out of what you once personally loved?
BS: I do know that there are people that might be curious or maybe eager to hear more things I've made, but to me that's an incredibly positive thing. I don't even know if I would still be making music if not for that! But I filter that knowledge through my own motivation to make something worth listening to. There's no sense in getting all anxious about making music for people that want to hear it if it's just going to be a waste of their time. So no, it absolutely does not suck the fun out of anything, but I choose to use it as a tool more than anything.
5) What is the best thing (for you personally) that has come out of Cloudkicker?
BS: Connecting with an incredible amount of people in a way that I never dreamed I would experience.
6) You've always done things by the DIY bible, stating that it's mainly due to 'laziness', but did a big part of it come down to wanting full creative reign of your own work? What did this free reign ultimately translate to? And are there any aspects of your own work your disappointed with?
BS: Yeah of course, I guess I kind of think that goes without saying. But that's almost the entirety of it. It's pretty simple what it means for me actually, it means I get to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. Fully and uncompromisingly and for better or not-as-better. Ultimately the responsibility for anything happening and the quality of whatever is produced comes back to me only, and I like it that way. Am I disappointed in anything? No not at all, of course I can look back at things in hindsight and think that I would have done some part of it differently now--but that's not what this is about. I deal with that by continually aiming to do the best I can do at whatever I'm doing.
7) Being as DIY to the core as you have been/are, how difficult was it bringing Cloudkicker to fruition, or more importantly to where it is today? And how surprised are you with what Cloudkicker has now become?
BS: It was the easiest thing in the world. I made music and people liked it and they told other people about it. That's about all that has happened and that's what continues to happen. I'm blown away at what Cloudkicker has become. Try to think about it from my perspective; I'm sitting in my apartment making music and uploading it to the internet and after a couple years of doing that all of the sudden people from Japan and Russia and Pennsylvania are emailing me about how I helped them through a rough time or helped them understand something bigger than themselves. I don't even know if there's a word for how much of a mindfuck that is.
8) Let's switch gears here, I want to know your favourite of the following; Movie, Album, Food, Past-time (besides Cloudkicker)
BS: I don't really have favorites of things so I'll just tell you the kind of thing that I really dig and maybe you'll know what I'm getting at;
(Movie) The last few movies to make me feel incredibly intense feelings were Looper, Drive, The King's Speech, Inception, and A Serious Man chronologically. I walked out of each of them with very distinct emotions.
(Album) As I type this I'm listening to "Allelujiah! Don't Bend! Ascend!" by GYBE super loud because I just discovered it for myself a few days ago and I think it's incredible. In the past week or so I've been kind of kicked in the head with music. It's been really fun. "Waking Season" by Caspian is living in my head right now also.
(Food) Anything my wife makes for us to eat. Everything she does is delicious.
(Past-time) I've been on kind of a space kick for a couple months. I'm beyond fascinated by looking at the sky from dark places and trying to get at it. Like really get at what I'm looking at. I have a lot of little tiny hobbies because everything is a hobby if you're trying to get better at it. I like reading books that take a dogmatic idea and destroy it. I like unlearning things that we're all just supposed to accept as truth.
9) I'm going to go out on a limb here, or a well educated guess, you're a sentimental dude aren't you? Past experiences don't seem to wash over you with no affect… I ask this because Cloudkicker has this immense evocative quality that invokes, well, feeling. So, is Ben Sharp a sentimental dude? AND does this translate into the music?
BS: When I was a kid I think I was out-of-control sentimental. Like too sentimental for it to be good for me. Things were really heavy a lot of the time because of that. In my early 20's I kind of restarted in a lot of ways and part of that was figuring out how sentimentality can be good. So I definitely consider myself a sentimental person but now I enjoy it in the same way that you enjoy a glass of red wine and close friends--you let it wash over you and feel happy until it passes. Does it translate to the music? Yes absolutely, it's a fundamental part of who I am.
10) "Let Yourself Be Huge", "Loop" and the most recent "Fade" have incontrovertibly seen a more dramatic shift in the sound of Cloudkicker, have you seen a lot of people abandoning the Cloudkicker ship, or has there been an embrace by new and old fans alike?
BS: No not at all. Maybe there have been but if so they've been replaced with new people at a greater rate. In fact, Fade and Let Yourself Be Huge got an even bigger response than Beacons in terms of downloads.
11) Have you received any fan mail from girls who tattooed "Let Yourself Be Huge" as a tramp-stamp yet?
BS: I've gotten tattoo emails but no, not that yet…
12) Alright let's get hypothetical; You come home from work to find your living quarters ablaze, you have enough time to grab three things. What did you grab?
BS: Wife, acoustic guitar, external hard drive.
13) If a giant meteor was heading for earth and you had ten minutes to jot down your seven favourite albums released in 2012 thus far, what would be on the list before you're crushed into Cloudkicking nothingness?
Dan Deacon - America
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujiah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Caspian - Waking Season
Yosi Horikawa - Wandering EP
The Shins - Port of Morrow
Four Tet - Pink
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
14) It's clear that Meshuggah played a huge role in the inception and sound of Cloudkicker, but what influences did you draw from for the ambient aspects?
BS: For older stuff it was bands like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai but more recently it's shifted towards Tycho or Four Tet and Steve Reich or Philip Glass but also incorporating the older influences because that's where I came from. It's really hard for me to say where things are going now.
15) Time to end this thing on a serious note… Have you ever conceived a riff while in the nude?
BS: No actually I really dig clothes. Not in some puritan way but in the utilitarian way that they wick moisture and odor away from my body and help my skin breathe better. I don't know why I would ever not wear clothes.