“I enjoyed every minute of making this record,” declares Ben. “I wanted to stay true to the heart and soul of the music, but give it a little bit of a makeover. In Britain, we do it in our own way. A lot of people still think I’m some ignorant little ASBO kid off a council estate. I think they’ll be shocked that I can actually sing. And write pretty cool songs.” ~Plan B
So when I received the mass mail out from Warner Music that Plan B was finally hitting this side of the pond...well let's just say I was ridiculously happy. No more BBC Radio 1 surfing to catch their songs...I could finally buy the album on iTunes.
Because UK music + Consuelo = happy girl.
With over 1 million copies sold in the UK alone, Plan B is now ready to take on the shores of North America with it's album, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks.
So who is Plan B?
Plan B or Ben Drew, is a British rapper, singer-songwriter, actor and film director from Forest Gate, London. And for Plan B, his journey in the world of music has been dictated by two things: his first musical obsession and trying to fit in all while being true to himself...
And cue Ben hearing Michael Jackson for the first time at the age of seven. Ben instantly connected with the videos, the voice, the dancing and the artful blend of soul, funk and pop...the way Ben describes it, “He was my first idol. I was obsessed with Michael Jackson.”
As he got older Ben was into the hip hop, The Prodigy and punk, and wanting to be a rebel like Johnny Rotten. There was trying to fit in at school and never quite succeeding, then learning to put on a hard front to protect himself: “Growing up in London, you’ve got to be pretty tough, you’ve got to let people know that they can’t fuck with you.”
But a part of Ben always stayed faithful to the soul he’d first heard. He loved listening to classic Motown tunes on the radio, or singing along to cheesy R&B acts like Boyz II Men. “I just found I could sing that stuff naturally, so when I first started writing songs seriously, and teaching myself how to play guitar, it was soul song after soul song. Just pure love songs. I was 14, I’d never been in love, but I had a good understanding of what love might be. And almost every song had the word ‘love’ in its title!”
Ben wanted to be heard, but no one wanted to listen to a white boy from Forest Gate singing silly love songs. He began to rap, but that didn’t fit either: “I went down that whole route of just rapping about myself, saying my name and talking about how great I was – all that bravado rap. But it was shit. No one cares where Forest Gate is and all that. I don’t sell crack, I’m not a pimp – who’s going to be interested?”
Then a guy named Eminem came along, and taught Ben that it was OK to be himself, to rap in the voice of a white boy from London’s East End. “He was brilliant, he changed the whole game. He didn’t just influence white rappers, he influenced everyone. He showed that hip hop that didn’t have to be about the rings and the money and the hos.”
And it was this merging of the seven year old boy who was all about soul music to his inner core and later the teenager who became obsessed with the lyrical rhymes of hip-hop and rap that gave birth to Plan B. After all his soul searching he created an urban fairytale that stayed true to his surroundings and upbringing. Ben Drew fused together the sounds of Motown, Michael, Smokey and Eminem has never looked back since that day...he finally found the voice that was uniquely his own. And he does it so damn well.
Plan B's The Defamation Of Strickland Banks entered the UK charts at #1 and hit the Top 10 in France, Germany, and Ireland while also currently ascending the charts in Australia.
Told from the perspective of the fictional title character, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks has received huge praise from critics for the story telling and soulful music vibe.
Bottom line. It's brilliant stuff.
“He’s a version of me, an alter-ego,” says Ben of his creation. “Strickland is my age – 26. He looks like me, and he’s from the East End. But he’s a bit more on the sensitive side, whereas Plan B is quite dark. He’s a chance for me to not have to be so serious, to go with my love of soul music. It was about creating a character that I could destroy, as well. So that I could still do my whole storytelling thing. This guy Strickland Banks is obsessed with the 60s and dresses like he’s a Motown star, so if I came on stage wearing a hood it would confuse people. When I come on stage as Strickland Banks I am going to be suited and booted. This is a film man. It’s all entertainment. It’s allowing me to have some fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to rap for as long as I can rap. I’m going to rap until someone goes, ‘Oi! Mate, give it a rest’ But singing soul just feels the right thing to do now. This is who I am.”
The Defamation Of Strickland Banks is now available on iTunes.
Go. Buy. it. Now.
So a little blog idea poaching today on the Bsides...so scandalous I know.
I got this idea from the blog, 'Cut The Crap Movie Reviews' by Aiden R....
And I quote..."The idea behind this little ditty is that I’m stuck on a desert island with enough rations and hard liquor to last me a lifetime, but I’ve only got one CD with 12 choice tracks on it and a good ol’ Discman with infinite battery power to last me the rest of my days."
The rules as set out by Aiden...
- No instrumentals. Not my style. Sorry, Jonny Greenwood, Clint Mansell and Trent Reznor.
- Can only choose one song from a given movie.
- No repeat bands.
- The movie can’t suck.
So here are my picks....whether the movies I picked are good or not...that I suppose some are debatable...but I like them so there.
1. David Garza - Slave (Great Expectations)
2. The Cure - Burn (The Crow)
3. Edwyn Collins - A Girl Like You (Empire Records)
4. The Velvet Underground - Oh! Sweet Nuthin' (High Fidelity)
5. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - If You Leave (Pretty in Pink)
6. Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me) (The Breakfast Club)
7. Pearl Jam - State of Love and Trust (Singles)
8. Stereophonics - Don't Let Me Down (I Am Sam)
9. U2 - All I Want Is You (Reality Bites)
10. Iggy Pop - Lust for Life (Trainspotting)
11. The Soggy Bottom Boys - I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
12. Al Green (feat Booker T & The MGs) - A Change Is Gonna Come (ALI)
So what 12 songs from the world of movie soundtracks would you pick?
Ever since my radio days I've always had a soft spot for the independent bands and artists - if nothing else because I can appreciate how incredibly hard it is to get noticed, get that big break and 'make it'.
So in the spirit of Record Store Day this past weekend...I'm going to start featuring independent bands that I come across in my web surfing travels that I think are totally worthy of checking out. (this way totally justifying the time I spend trolling for new music...).
And to kick off this new weekly feature I'm going to highlight a band from Ottawa - cause a girl has gotta represent her hometown. Word.
Band Name: The New Records
Single: Faster and Faster
Influences: John Mayer, Coldplay, Kings of Leon, The Beatles, The White Stripes
Record Label: Unsigned (Members of Shine Studios)
Members: Cameron Wyatt (Lead guitar/vocals), Keith Hoddinott (Rhythm guitar/vocals), Zach Hofley (Bass) & Chris Labelle (Drums).
‘The New Records’ was formed in 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario. The band has been recording original songs since 2009 and has most recently released a single called "Faster and Faster". The band is currently working on two new songs to be recorded and released later this year.
Things the band wants you to know about them:
*We've gone through 5 different band names over the course of its existence and has only recently settled on the name “The New Records” - we promise we won’t change it again.
*Three of the four members attend Ashbury College in Ottawa and have been in a band since Grade 9.
*The band is now on its fourth drummer - hopefully this drummer will stick around. We really like drummers we do.
*Our band was previously called ‘The Warblers’, but after Glee used that name we felt that we needed a new one - damn Glee stealing our band name.
*The song ‘Faster and Faster’ took approximately two months to record.