BEN WATT'S TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WHEN IT ALL JUST SEEMS TO BE TOO MUCH
As if collaborating with partner Tracey Thorn on countless Everything But The Girl classics (including 1995's club anthem “Missing” and 1996's Walking Wounded album) isn't accomplishment enough, Ben Watt's the prime mover behind the Buzzin' Fly empire. Established in 2003, the independent label has built a reputation for producing polished club music with a strong melodic edge by Watt himself and a small pool of others, including Justin Martin, Kayot, Darkmountaingroup, and Mlle Caro and Franck Garcia. Following up the fabulous 2006 and 2007 mixes (Buzzin' Fly III and Buzzin' Fly Volume 4, which were selected as textura's top mix selections in the 2006 and 2007 year-end lists), Watt and company are currently serving up the triple-disc set Buzzin' Fly - 5 Golden Years In The Wilderness, a showcase for classic cuts and new material. Watt's also got DJ gigs lined up at The End in London and We Love Space Sundays in Ibiza, and produces a weekly Buzzin' Fly Radio Show. Did we mention he also runs the alternative-indie imprint Strange Feeling? That's the one where you'll find the off-kilter pop of Figurines' When The Deer Wore Blue. No wonder he chose to write about survival strategies for the overwhelmed.
1. Identifying Birdsong
Hours spent listening to music can wear me down sometimes, especially when I have artists' productions, new demos and new promos to listen to, and DJ sets and a weekly radio show to prepare. My grandfather was a naturalist and radio broadcaster in the 1930s and 1940s who was in love with the English countryside. I have absorbed his affection for birdsong. There is nothing sweeter than the sound of an English garden at daybreak or dusk.
2. Writing With Ink Pens And Pencils
We are all laptop-addicted. I am, for sure. It is a permanent workstation at work, in bed, on tour. But I also keep notebooks and write with fountain pens and well-sharpened pencils. It helps focus the mind and my notebooks become a personalized aesthetic artefact to cherish in the digital age.
3. Learning Urban History
London is a place I will never leave. I am fascinated by urban history. Buildings, roads, districts. When I get time off, I often stay in London and visit old buildings. The End, which is the home of Buzzin' Fly's London club night residency, used to be stables for the post horses that took the mail under the streets of London through a maze of tunnels. I recommend the Geffrye Museum, Sir John Soane's House, and climbing to the very top of St. Paul's Cathedral.
4. Eating Marmite Sandwiches And Drinking Sweet Tea
Fractious afternoons or post-gig hangovers can be softened by a mug of sweet English breakfast tea and a white bread sandwich made with softened Welsh butter and marmite. Quintessential English comfort food.
5. Reading Articulate Pop Writing
I am a sucker for articulate books that define and socially contextualize moments in pop. I would reach for John Savage's England's Dreaming, Michael Bracewell's Remake/Remodel, Tim Lawrence's Love Saves The Day, and/or Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music.
6. Walking To Work
With car travel averaging twelve mph in London, it makes sense to walk. I allow myself an extra twenty minutes and it is a great way to clear the head. Look up, not down. Architecture tells a story on every corner.
7. Sipping Gin And Tonic
Old-fashioned but classic. Squeeze lime juice over ice cubes and listen to them crack before adding a 50/50 mix of gin and fresh tonic. I recommend Blackwood's gin from Shetland, and Fever Tree tonic. Stir quickly and serve outside at sundown.
8. Wearing Tempur-Pedic Eye Masks
Catching up on sleep is essential. Whether it is four hours after a gig or an extra hour on the plane, I cannot contemplate rest without this eye-mask that I discovered at Brookstone's. It moulds to the face, blocks out all light, and somehow rests on pressure points above the cheeks. I find it totally relaxing and it solves all problems of leaking curtain-light in hotel rooms. Yes, you look like a fly on steroids, but, hey, sleep is sleep.
9. Watching Werner Herzog Movies
If I ever worry that I am a crazed self-obsessed maniac, I remind myself that there is always Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog's stunning film about a wild-eyed trader who pulls a steamship over a mountain in Peru to access fertile rubber plantations. Not only is it a crazy story, it was made by a crazy, and starred another crazy, Klaus Kinski.
10. Playing Jazz Standards
I am still enthralled by the chords and harmony of the great jazz standards, and can immerse myself in attempting to play tunes like “My Foolish Heart” and “Blue In Green” on the piano, admittedly in a rather hit-and-miss way, for hours. I learned a lot about chordal harmony from my dad, a bandleader and pianist, but stopped short of really being able to solo fluently. When no one is listening (except my very patient family), I try to make up for lost time.