Interview with Ben ‘Breach’ Westbeech on soundtracks, skating and success
Bristol-born Ben Westbeech’s electro alter ego Breach had clubbers shrugging off their cares to ‘jack’ all summer. But an invitation from Sony allowed him to indulge his teenage love of skateboarding and swap ‘let’s jack’-ing for ‘let’s soundtrack a really slick skate film we’re making at the Dungeness sound mirrors’-ing.
Ben collaborated with skater Lucien Clarke and film maker Winstan Whitter to create the three-in-one film, which acts as the official launch pad for Sony’s new headphone range WH- Walkman Series.
An avid skater in his youth, Ben would have been more likely to be found kickflipping and wheel grinding while listening to hip-hop, not the pulsing house he created especially for the project. It is likely though that his younger self would have begged for the chance to skate inside the World War 2-era structures, the nation’s forgotten ear horns, that stand along the Kent coast.
How did you come to be involved in the project with Sony?
We got approached by them to make a piece of music for the skate video and I checked out who was involved. I saw Lucien was involved, who I know is a really good skater, Winstan Whitter, who has a lot of heritage in skate movies and Wig Worland, who was taking photos on the day and whom I’ve respected for many years as a skate photographer.
Had you been to the Denge Sound Mirrors before?
Funnily enough, I had. I did a photo shoot and made a short film for my second album (as Ben Westbeech) called There’s More To Life Than This but we never actually got to go into the mirrors. This time it was really special because we actually went into the sound mirrors, climbed into them and that was amazing. You don’t actually get to do that as it’s a place of heritage and they don’t allow people to do that unless there’s a guy there watching you so that was a really special experience.
Did visiting such archaic listening technology inspire you in any way?
Yeah it’s inspiring – the reverb on the walls was amazing, how you could have a conversation at one end and hear each other right at the other end of the wall was pretty inspiring. It’s an inspiring place as well – it’s pretty chilled out and you can hear all the birds, there are a lot of birds round there, and the natural sounds that were around were inspiring to make the tune from.
What were your first thoughts when you saw them?
When I first saw them, years ago – the architecture is amazing, you think that the technology that was used when they were built, I think in the 1920s, was so ahead of its time, that was really impressive. It’s quite a dark place if that makes sense, they were built to hear the planes coming over from Germany in the war, and you can get that sense of not fear, but some weird, strange atmosphere to them.
Do you still skate, and if so what do you listen to?
I sometimes skate. I have a skateboard still but I listen to a lot of hip-hop when I skate, particularly a lot of old Nineties hip-hop is what I used to listen to and that’s what I grew up listening to when I did skateboard. I tend not to really listen to that much music when I skate these days as I like to be aware of people around me and stuff, you can get hit by someone if you’re wearing headphones.
How did it feel to be working on such a glossy skate film?
A real honour to be working with people like Winstan and Lucien, and being involved in the whole project. It’s a really amazing film and they did a really good job. It was a honour to be asked to write the music for it.
What are you working on for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year, I’m working on my DJ Kicks compilation that comes out in November as well as my next single Everything You Never Had (We Had It All) [feat. Andreya Triana] on November 10. I’ll be working on original Breach music and an EP for Aus Music, I think, in the coming year and then maybe making some new Ben Westbeech material.
So you are planning on two lots of musical output?
Yes, I’m going to make music as Ben Westbeech for sure in the near future. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and came to Amsterdam to do in the first place. However, I will be doing a lot of Breach stuff as well and try to keep the two running alongside each other.
What’s been the most surprising thing you have learnt about yourself during your work on the Sony project?
The most surprising thing I learnt about myself being involved in the Sony project was working towards something that was visual and using field sounds from skateboarding and Dungeness. It’s something I’ve never done before. Sony were kind enough to give me a field recorder so I think from now on, I’ll be using that and getting sounds in and around Amsterdam onto my tunes.
How do you prefer living in Amsterdam to Bristol?
I prefer living it, it’s a different vibe here. I don’t know if it can be slower paced than Bristol but it’s a lot more chilled out. There are some really amazing people here, the architecture’s great, the vibe of the city is really warm and all the museums are really inspiring. It’s a different vibe for sure and the sound of the music they make here is a lot different.
Were you surprised by the success of Jack?
Yeah, completely. It totally came out of the blue, having been released for two months and then Atlantic coming to sign it was a real blessing. I never saw it coming, it’s been a total surprise.
How do you hope to emulate its success with future releases?
I don’t know if I hope to emulate its success, I just want to release music like I’ve always done and if it’s successful, it just gets successful. I’m not going to be wanting to write top 10 hits as Breach really, as I see it as an underground moniker. Maybe if I produce a band or something and then we can do that sort of stuff or write pop songs for other singers which is something I can do, but for Breach, I kind of want to go back underground with it.
For more information about Sony’s WH- Walkman Series, visit sony.co.ukTagged in: Ben Westbeech, Breach, Lucien Clarke, skateboarding, Sony, WH- Walkman Series, Winstan Whitter
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter