Interview Ben Smith

Ben Smith is a super friendly and positive guy, fantastic drummer who’s played for LZ7, Matt Redman, New Wine Worship, Shackleton and other bands & artists. Ben and I met at OneRock Festival in Germany in 2013, where Ben was playing with LZ7. We connected afterwards and we’ve been staying in touch ever since. As we haven’t seen each other in real-life, we thought it would be a great idea to do an interview via e-mail. Have fun and learn from Ben, as he’s got a lot of great stuff to share! – Ruud

Name: Ben Smith
Plays for: Matt Redman
Played for: LZ7, New Wine Worship (UK), Martin Smith, Shackleton, Nick Herbert, Ben Cantelon, Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor

Kit: Ludwig American Maple Classic
Snare: Ludwig 402
Cymbals: Zildjian K’s
Sticks: Vic Firth
Pedal: DW 9000

Favorite drummer(s): Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, John Bonham, Steve Jordan, Dave Grohl, Peter Erskine etc…! So many!
Favorite band: Steely Dan
Favorite album: Too many to pick one!
Favorite book: Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

When did you start playing drums and who inspired you to?

– I started playing when I was 14 and they were giving free lessons at school! I learnt the basics and then I was off! I managed to get hold of some drums from someone at church and started making lots of noise at home. My brother would listen to Nevermind by Nirvana in his bedroom super loud and then that quickly became the album of choice to play along to.

Can you share something about your journey in becoming the drummer you are now? Did you study drums, what styles of music did you listen to growing up?

– I grew up listening to lots of rock music. Bands like Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Led Zep, Radiohead. I would listen to their albums and the drum parts and try to replicate them on the kit! I also started playing in church most weeks and so would listen to lots of christian music which influenced my playing. I got a bit older and started listening to and discovering a world of music out there. Funk, Jazz and Latin music I had never listened to before but I was loving discovering it! Steely Dan, Toto, Tower of Power were bands that stood out and the drumming on these albums is unreal. I studied Drums at the Academy of Contemporary Music near London and had great tutors in Mike Sturgis and Pete Riley and I learnt so much here. 

You play drums for LZ7 (rap & dance music), and for Matt Redman (worship music). How do you approach the different styles of music and how does that effect your playing?

– Playing with both these guys is really great fun! They both have a real heart for Jesus. LZ7 can tend to feel more like a performance when we have a full stage… dancing, dj, hype, singers, outfit’s, the works! I’m trying to convince Matt he should do that too! Maybe I’ll get him to wear a cap for the next event! Ultimately though they are both serving God and people through music, it’s great! 

Ben playing with Matt Redman

Can you tell us a little bit about the process of becoming a part of LZ7 and ‘team Redman’? 
Well I started playing with Matt through a mutual friend, Jorge, who was been singing with Matt for a long time. He was basically after some UK based musicians as he had been living in the US for a few years and has a US band too. I knew Lindz (LZ7) as he’s kind of family! We were doing a tour in the UK with Matt Redman, LZ7 were on the tour too and they didn’t have a drummer. So they asked me to sit in on it and that’s how I started playing with those guys. 

When you play with Matt Redman, how can you be creative in your playing but still serve him and the songs?
I certainly think there’s room for creativity in whichever environment you find yourself in. Matt has so many great songs and there is lots of room for creativity in them. I tend to say be as creative as possible but always remember to play the song first. I may try new grooves/patterns in songs and if they are working then great! Being on tour can be a great opportunity as we have more time as a band to work on different arrangements and try some new ways to freshen up the songs. 

Metronome: best friend or worst enemy?
The metronome is really useful, honestly! It really helps to keep the band together especially when playing with backing tracks. We don’t actually use click with LZ7 which can be a challenge! I tend to make sure I have the track pretty loud in my mix! When playing with the click I tend to think don’t have it too loud. If you can’t hear it you’re probably on it. It’s much more fun listening to the others in the band than to the click.

You are married and you have two beautiful daughters. I can imagine you miss them when you’re on tour and they miss you as well. Do you combine touring and family life?
This is a tough one! I think everyone has a different opinion on it but for me, my family time is so important to me. I prefer not to go away for longer periods of time, so I’ll go and do one or two, maybe 4 shows in a row before coming home again. I’ll never be on the road for weeks, months on end. That just wouldn’t work for me. Therefore I would say it can work, as long as you plan your time well.

What’s the best advice you would give to the next generation of drummers?
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus! I’ve been in many touring bands throughout my career so far and can honestly say that’s the best advice. God wants to see his children that he has gifted flourish and they will. Remember to keep having fun and go for it! 

Ben Smith playing with Matt Redman – Live From Trafalgar Square
Ben Smith playing with New Wine Worship – Spirit Fall

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