Producer Ben Lamdin remains something of a mystery to those who have come across the expanse of experimental sound that is Nostalgia 77’s catalog, but possess little to no knowledge of the man behind it. Lamdin recently released The Sleepwalking Society on Tru Thoughts, the fourth in a series of studio recordings featuring his own Nostalgia 77 moniker, and this time around, the vocal stylings of Josa Peit.  Lamdin also fronts his own label Impossible Ark that focuses on the work of some of the more cutting edge artists in jazz and experimental music in the UK.

Moving past the welcome distractions of innovative sound, clever aliases, and relative anonymity in which a number of talented producers take refuge, The Revivalist pulls the curtain away to expose the wizard, in an attempt to discover the man behind the machine that is Nostalgia 77.

Before we delved into our conversation with Ben, he graciously decided to share an exclusive mix with The Revivalist featuring tracks from his Impossible Ark label and other goodies. Feel free to download and share!

Nostalgia 77- Exclusive Revivalist Mix by The Revivalist
Dewey – Mr Upside down -Impossible Ark
Finn Peters – Sung Li – Babel
Nostalgia 77 – Golden Morning Live – Tru Thoughts
Dewey – Hunting Lalo – Impossible Ark
Examples of Twelves – Nocturn – Impossible Ark
Josa Peit – Unsteady Road – White
Rory Simmonds – Rooms and Houses
Twelves Trio – Spiders – Babel

What made you get into production as a means of expression? Was there one particular event or piece of music that triggered your descent into music?
I like the idea of a descent into music! There was no particular motivator, just a slow building interest and curiosity about producing records. My friend Nathaniel ‘Natural Self’ Pearn was the first of a group of friends to get the computer set up for recording, and hearing what he did made me know I needed to try it. Along the way I think you just meet people who open your eyes to new or different possibilities, and then it’s up to you if you want to take a step down that path.

When you began working on The Sleepwalking Society, did you already have a vocalist in mind for the production or did you happen upon Josa Peit and find her sound fitting?
I had a type of singer in mind when I was writing all the songs but I didn’t know Josa at this time – actually not until nearly everything was written. She actually got in touch with me, asking me to check some demo’s she’d been working on. I immediately loved the vibe of her voice and the intensity.

Nostalgia 77 – “Simmerdown” from The Sleepwalking Society

Ben and Josa Peit Acoustic Version of “Cherry” from The Sleepwalking Society

How were you first introduced to Keith and Julie Tippett? What was the experience of recording Nostalgia 77 Sessions with them like for you? Did you bring any specific ideas to the table that they were able to help you execute or was the recording process more organic?
Riaan Vosloo, the double bass player in Nostalgia 77, who was teaching a workshop that Keith was running at the time, initiated the Tippett sessions. We’d both been big fans of both Keith & Julie for ages, so we couldn’t resist suggesting a collaborative recording and were very excited when they agreed. We wrote a few tunes for them, collaborated on one and they brought some material they had been performing for a while.

You have an ear for very unique and striking vocal talent. Are there any vocalists you have not worked with yet, that you would like to?
I’m sure there are but I’m not sure who they are yet.

What has been your most memorable studio experience thus far? What has been your most memorable stage experience?
I have lots of different memories. Sometimes the most memorable aren’t the best though!
One particularly memorable session was the first Octet recording… we went to Wales and built a studio in a small barn. It was cold and we had to light the fires an hour before we played. On the last night, once all the tracks we’d prepared were done, everyone decided to play a little after dinner. The drummer, Graham Fox, was asleep on the couch 5 minutes before we started. We just hit record and the next twenty minutes of music turned into a record called The Impossible Equation.

What were the five most influential pieces of music (album or individual song) for you growing up, and how have those recordings informed your sound?
That’s difficult. I‘ll give you four!
Mingus’ Ah Um was the first Jazz LP I put on endless repeat. Everyone goes on about Van Gelder, and don’t get me wrong the sound on A Love Supreme is one of the heaviest, but there were a lot of heavy engineers and Columbia’s were great. A guy named Roy Moore engineered Ah Um and I think it is one of the best sounding Jazz records you’ll ever hear.

DJ Shadow’s “Hardcore (Instrumental) Hip-Ho”p was the first downbeat thing I had really heard and that was a big motivator.
There was also Eddie Bo’s “Hook and Sling.” The New Orleans funk was always a cut above the rest in style and sound. It always sounded joyous rather than cheesy. They also had some drums to aspire to. If I record one album with drums as raw as Hook and Sling, I’ll die happy.

The Beatles’ Abbey Road has been influential, as well. While I always loved this record, I never really got why everyone went on about the sound of the Beatles. After trying to track more old style pop tunes, I began to understand the achievement of putting together records like this on four tracks of tape. Amazing.

You wear many hats as a professional musician, but instrumentalist is not one of your official titles. Did you play any instruments growing up? If not, do you tinker around with any acoustic instruments now?
I play the guitar with the band live and a little keys or percussion if I have to, in the studio.

Your music bears overtones of Jazz, Folk, and Blues. How has each of those genres, respectively, influenced the way in which you hear and ultimately compose?
I think these influences share a sort of providence and as such, in each genre you can find the same feeling: the bitter sweet.

How did the Nostalgia 77 Octet begin to form? Has the experience of recording and performing with a large group of musicians been a challenge for you as a producer or has it made translating your vision a bit easier?
The original octet came about with the help of my friend and long time collaborator, Riaan Vosloo, who plays bass in Nostalgia. He’d worked on some recording with me and we built the octet around a regular trio he had with Graham Fox and Ross Stanley. Graham then helped recommend horn players. It was definitely like jumping in at the deep end for me, sharing a stage with really great musicians, but it completely opened my eyes to the amazing things you can achieve recording live when you let people bring their personality, expertise, and talent to a project. Their generosity and good will was a great gift.

Aspects of life that are not necessarily musical often influence musicians. Are there any outside forces you find yourself drawn to or concerned with when you create?
Of course, I think everything plays a part – environment, friendships, and relationships. I think all of these things have emotional resonance, which gets translated into the music you want to make.

What was it like to be recognized by Gilles Peterson during the 2006 Worldwide Awards?
How instrumental do you feel his show is for musicians such as yourself, in terms of exposure and potential collaboration with like-minded artists?

Getting a little recognition is always nice. Gilles’ show has for a long time been a great platform for a whole range of little left field scenes to get worldwide exposure. I think that with the internet as it is now, there’s more room for people to explore and we have at our fingertips the kind of access to different music we could only have dreamed of fifteen years ago. People will always be drawn to a trusted endorsement of someone’s music, but I think it’s important that people make up their own minds and support music they feel moved by.

Are your productions usually concept driven or do you begin to create and allow the pieces to take you wherever they may, with no clear-cut idea of the destination?
I used to like the idea of concepts, but I never found that this translated well. I generally find with the things I like, that I experience a strong emotional and very personal feeling. From there, originality just comes out of the air.

What kind of music are you listening to in your spare time? Any recommendations? Do you find being a DJ as satisfying as being a producer?
I still listen to a lot of Jazz in my spare time. I’ve also been in love with the Rumba Blues compilations from early R&B artists. The Soundway compilations continue to deliver fantastic discoveries, as well.

With Everything Under The Sun and The Sleepwalking Society already under your belt, what kind of music can fans expect from you in the coming year or two? Any tricks up your sleeve or pet projects you are excited about?
I’m hoping to do a couple of new Nostalgia LP’s this year. One of Jazz and one of new songs
I’ve been writing. I’ve also been working on a record with a friend and a load of old Ghanaian musicians who live in London. On our label Impossible Ark, we have new records from Riaan Vosloo’s Examples of Twelves, James Allsopp’s Quartet, and a piano trio with Mathew Bourne.

What advice would you give to aspiring DJ’s and producers interested in doing the kinds of bridge building work you are doing with multiple influences and instruments as tools to create a distinctive sound?
I’m still looking for advice, myself!

What do you envision for Nostalgia 77 in the future?
Apart from the records I’m already working on, I have no idea! I’m sure something is going to happen!

Get your copy of Nostalgia 77’s new album The Sleepwalking Society here.
For more info on Nostalgia 77:

Interview by Karas Lamb


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