The following questions were submitted by Rhys Hawkins:
First of all, I want to say a massive thanks for taking the time to answer questions for the Wicid.tv community. For those who might be unfamiliar with your work, would you mind giving a brief introduction to new readers/listeners?
I am the all-conquering, all-encompassing… Haha!! Just kidding… I’m a UK independent self-contained artist, I started as a producer when I was 17 creating and writing music for other artists. It was in Japan where I debuted as an artist myself in 2009 and continued to have a successful career. Since then I’ve independently released my music all over the world and I’m about to release my 9th studio album called “Unravelling” on 2nd June.
For me personally, I remember hearing about and becoming a fan of your work since ‘Dreams of an Absolution’, which was the theme of Silver the Hedgehog (best hedgehog by the way) in the Sonic the Hedgehog gaming title, ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’, aka ‘Sonic 06’. How was having your work featured for a gaming franchise such as Sonic the Hedgehog on this, and other occasions?
It was a severe learning curve! Even now my careers as a composer and artist don’t co-exist easily. Some game studios have been wary of working with a commercial recording artist and, likewise, record labels that I’ve worked with (and been signed to) have deliberately ignored my soundtrack work because they don’t consider it “cool” or counterproductive to what they’re trying to achieve. For a while now I’ve been very selective about what franchises I want to be linked to and have composed several projects without being credited. It’s a shame it has to be like that, but it’s necessary right now to allow me to progress forward in all fields.
During your appearance for this game and other tracks, you started out using your real name, ‘Lee Brotherton.’ Is there a particular reason you go by Bentley Jones now?
I was a member of a group that was called Bentley Jones. The group disbanded and shortly afterwards I signed my debut album in Japan. The label loved the name because it sounded like a British superhero so it stuck!
One of your biggest breakthroughs came when you made a change from the UK music scene to the wonderful world of J-Pop (Japanese Pop), which your first major album ‘TRANS//LATION’, was created with the EMI Music Japan label. Other than knowing quite a bit of Japanese yourself and being fans of the likes of Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki (great inspirations by the way), why the fascination with Japanese culture? Why did you want to work in that market at the time?
I like to make things difficult for myself!! Haha! I fell in love with the Japanese sensibility for melodies and progressions. It was another world compared to Western music at the time. I had been working with Japanese musicians for a few years too which led me to work with more musicians and artists including Ayu, for which I was very honoured.
One thing I have always wondered with regards to your fans; you have given them the moniker of ‘TRUTHSt4lk3rz’ (Truth Stalkers), of which I am part of by proxy. What does this term MEAN exactly, where did it come from?
One of my songs is St4lk3r from the Finally Free album. And if my mantra should be summed up in one word it would be “truth” – because the truth is never wrong. My fans actually started calling themselves my st4lk3rz. “Truth” was added when an album I was working on at the time was tentatively titled “Truth”. Even when plans for that album changed “TRUTHst4lk3rz” seemed to stick. I consider myself a st4lk3r of the truth in many ways and I think that’s quite a positive way to view the world.
You are also known for creating remixes of MANY different songs and other artists’ tracks. These can be re-arrangements from video games, anime, and remixed songs by the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and other big names in the music world, the latter of which was under the alias ‘Phunkstar’. You still do this even to this day – where does the love for creating remixes like these come from?
I love the collaborative aspect of it. Someone giving you their song, allowing you to put your stamp on it and interpret the song through your own mind. There’s a surprising amount of creativity in remixing that isn’t always recognised. These days I’m also enjoying reversing the process – hearing other producers remix my songs. Hearing another interpretation of your own work is fascinating.
Now enough about the past, let’s talk about the present and your focus on your more recent studio albums, like The Rebellion, and of course, your newest album, Unravelling. What makes your more recent work different from your past work?
I’m constantly trying to better myself in every way. That includes trying new things musically with every project. From song-writing and arranging to my studio and software setup and even my image – things are constantly changing and evolving naturally. And I think that shows in my work.
You have gone on record to say that this current album is one of your most personal ones. Could you explain this further? Is there an underlying theme we should expect to see? Maybe pay attention to particular songs for hidden meanings?
Last year was truly a low point for me. The death of my father was the fall, then discovering he’d been hiding things from me was a swift kick when I was down, followed by another kick when I had joint surgery almost straight after. I was overwhelmed and struggled to deal with things which led to a period of deep depression during which I wrote most of the album. The title track “Unravelling” is the accumulation of all that… “BWutUWantM2B” is about never living up to my Dad’s expectations… “T.I.T.E.” is about the effect all this had on my relationship… “Ascension” is a reflection on death and legacy… and “Vortex” is about bereavement and my personal experience of grief and depression. “Parachutes” is a song I wrote about and for my st4lk3rz as they were one of the things that pulled me through last year.
Looking back at your career since you began, did you think it would turn out this way? How do you think you have progressed as a music artist, and more generally as a person?
I actually never had any intentions to be an artist to start with. I was quite happy staying in the studio. It’s all been a bit of a dream come true to be honest (sorry for the cliché). I’m very grateful and proud of all the things I’ve done and managed to achieve. As a person? I’m definitely wiser at least… I try not to let that inhibit me from taking risks… I definitely don’t feel like I’ve grown up though!
As this website is one targeted at young people aged 11-25, we will have readers who either are or want to get into the music scene/industry. While no single path is ever the same, do you have any advice to give to these people looking to follow a similar path to yours?
I feel I benefited massively from starting as a producer and learning what goes on behind-the-scenes first. Particularly on the business side of things. Now more than ever artists and musicians also need to be businesspeople so that they can protect themselves while also using that knowledge to progress their careers. The music industry is still struggling to survive in the digital age – no matter what the major labels may say – so now more than ever there are lots of people willing to screw you over so that they can move themselves forward. Be smart, be savvy and be innovative.
And lastly, what are your plans for the future? What concerts/tours do you have coming up?
Right now we’re focusing entirely on the album release. We have a couple new videos in the works which I’m really excited about. I’ve already done some new soundtracks which will be out later this year too. Also a couple of big projects lined up that I don’t want to talk about just yet – you’ll have to watch this space.