Interview with LSA Tutor Ben Smith!
Ben goes by the artist name of S.M.I.T.H he is a London based DJ/producer with a style of house with that minimal rolling groove and influences of soul/disco. His style sets himself aside from the rest with unique mixing transitions and track selection, plus he performs with a twist of vinyl. Every time he gets on the deck's you are sure to be impressed with the technical fluidity of his mixing, ranging from summery house through to up beat tech and minimal. He has performed at many venues across London beyond including Studio 338, Ministry of Sound, Egg London, Lightbox/Fire, Work Bar (DJ Mag), Shelter, We Are FSTVL, Eden (Ibiza) and Sankey's (Ibiza).
He has become comfortable playing alongside big name headline acts such as Steve Lawler, Michael Bibi, Darrius Syrossian, Franky Rizardo, Lee Foss, Tommy Vercetti, Chicks Luv Us, George Smeddles, Ellie Cocks, Alexis Raphael, wAFF and many more. S.M.I.T.H is a name to look and listen out for in the near future with absolute vibes across the dance floor in his DJ set's, but also with his own music production. In his sets you will hear him playing the majority of his own music including unreleased tracks.
In terms of production, Ben has always been influenced and inspired by old Jazz/ Soul/Funk which you can hear elements of in lots of his tracks helping to create his unique groove. Now with a few EP release’s under his belt and a spot on a number one VA with Shanghaied, don’t be surprised to see him heading for some bigger labels, collaborations and appearances. His highest achieving EP release on Music Related Records reached number 31 in the coveted tech house Top 100 Beatport Chart and made it into the overall Top 100 Beatport Chart at number 90. Aside from his music career he co-owns a record label, turning one of Londons well established parties, that being Domus, into not only an events brand but a fully functioning record label called Domus Music, which has now had countless Top 100 Beatport Chart releases. Be sure to keep track of this label as their future releases include some huge names that you will not want to miss out on.
Please tell us the subjects you teach at LSA and the music genres you love yourself?
I teach both DJ and production right from beginner all the way through to advance level. I mainly work with House music, but like all kinds of dance music and often teach with other genres like techno, garage and D&B. The genre I love most though has to be just standard House music, nice and musical, bit of vocal, upbeat vibes.
Tell us about yourself as an artist?
Myself as an artist, I love House music, I know that can be a very open ended topic with all the sub genres being thrown around these days, but if I had to narrow it down: I focus mainly on an overall upbeat vibe, has to be musical, I’m also a sucker for a female vocal, and I love tight drums with a glitchy element to them. I love to play out and DJ when ever possible but I find recently I have been putting way more time, energy and focus into producing my own music as I have found a fully fledged sound that clearly represents me as an individual and that allows people to recognise my music, which I feel is so important. I want to push forward as much as I can with that while I’m happy with it. Plus I absolutely love the creative process of making music and get fully lost for hours in it as I love the idea that its completely limitless with what you can create, that aspect fully excites me, and thats why as an artist I focus on that more than anything.
Can you give us a timeline of your biggest achievements to date?
Biggest Achievements, not sure if I can do a timeline, maybe a list.
Top 100 Beatport release (overall)
Top 30 Beatport Release (genre specific)
Part of a No.1 selling VA on Traxsource
Starting a record label
No.2 spot with our DOMUS Music ADE Sampler on Beatport
Getting over 100k streams on Spotify on one of my tracks
Playing the terrace at Studio 338 for Abode
Playing for Steve Lawlers brand Viva Warriors
Playing at huge clubs like MOS, Egg, Fire & Lightbox
Playing in Ibiza at clubs like Eden and Sankey’s
Playing in my favourite city Amsterdam at AIR
Getting a position with LSA and being able to share my knowledge
What do you love about teaching one-to-one lessons at LSA?
I love getting to know people on a personal level, it really helps me figure out the right way to tailor my teaching methods. I also love seeing people grow and giving them the opportunity and the help they need to set them on the path of achieving their goals. But most of all I love the friendships I have been able to make with people.
What is your favourite kind of student? What traits make a great student?
My favourite type of student is someone who has crazy passion and just loves music and is willing to listen and take everything on board, just someone who’s only reason for having lessons is for the love.
What is your teaching style and what makes you a unique tutor?
I think as tutor I’m very hands on and involved with my students as I like forging great relationships, I feel its then much easier to get my point across and I have also been told I have a really good way of explaining things to make them understandable, I do love a good analogy haha.
How do you balance teaching and creating?
The simple answer…….. I don’t sleep hahahaha. In all seriousness though, I really don’t know how I fit it all in, I think time management is important, and also drive is key, rather than sitting down and watching TV when I get home I head straight to the gym to liven up, then it’s off to my studio, I take advantage of any spare time I have, I also think that teaching helps with my creativity as when I finish a days work the chances are I will have lots of ideas floating around from hearing different styles of music that students have been playing all day.
What methods do you use to increase creative productivity?
Theres lots of different ways I try to unlock more inspiration or creative productivity, the main methods I use though are, listening to different types of music other than the style I work with myself because often I hear things and it makes me look at my style in a way that maybe I wouldn't have thought of before. I have also been getting into spirituality lots recently and I find that meditating is hugely beneficial to the creative process as it really helps clear the mind of the mundane clutter that is constantly bouncing around up there freeing up room for more creativity. Personally I think the most important thing for good creative productivity is freeing your mind, so if you can find a good way to do that it will help for sure.
What traits do successful students of yours have that we can share?
Successful students are always the ones that do it just for the love and the passion. I find most students with different agenda’s often don’t go as far as they get frustrated. It’s all about the love peeps. Also students that are really driven and are just happy to do what it takes often go the distance. Also people that are willing to listen, take on board everything and speak up and ask questions if they don't understand things.
What have you learned from teaching?
I have learnt so much from teaching, I’m constantly learning new things everyday. I think as a teacher I have had to make sure I am on top of my game at all times, so it’s really encouraged me to push myself and learn new techniques so that I can make sure I’m passing on as much as I can to my students. It’s taught me to push harder with my own journey so that I can set a good example to my students.
Is there any other wisdom you care to share with us?
I think the best advice I could give to anyone starting this journey is to ask yourself why! Why do you want to do this? Make sure that it’s something you love to do more than anything else, even if you are just doing it for a hobby, just make sure that you do it because you love it and no other reason. If you are looking to go down the road of this being a career path, just be patient and stay humble, remember where you started and always appreciate even the smallest of achievements. Never loose sight of the reasons you want to be involved with music and the industry. Stay passionate, stay humble, be a nice person and most of all, work your arse off! haha. Nobody makes it anywhere without the graft.
What do you do within the industry outside of LSA?
Outside of LSA I do lots, the grind never stops. I do my own gigs, my own production and I also run my own record label and events brand called DOMUS Music.
Tell us a bit about DOMUS Music.
So we are a record label and events brand, and I say we because it is run by not only myself, but 3 other close friends, Lewis Burke and 2 that in fact came through LSA, Michael Ball, who is LSA admin staff and an ex graduate, and one of my more recent graduates David Lundy. The brand was started initially by Lewis as just an events brand and I got involved shortly after. At first I was just playing for the brand regular then Lewis invited me to help him run it and to help launch the label. We have now been running as a label for nearly 2 years, with some great success, we have had numerous releases in many different Beatport charts and still continued to put on great events across London and in Ibiza. About a year ago we invited Michael to get involved as we needed a 3rd pair of hands to help the brand grow and he was already playing for us as a resident so it was an obvious and easy decision to make, he is now a Co-Owner. Then we met David and instantly he was just one of us and fitted in perfectly and was the perfect person to come on board and help us with A&R for the brand. We are now putting out regular releases with great artist’s wanting to get involved and we are also always looking to help new up and coming artists by giving them a platform to release their work, we have had a fair few LSA grads release on the label too.
Finally, down time. What do you do to relax and what other interests do you have outside of music?
Well as most people know I recently became a dad to my little girl Maisie, so I don't get too much down time haha, but that for me is my down time, turning the phone and laptop off and spending quality time with her is my favourite type of down time. I also have a few other hobbies that I get involved with if I find some spare time, I like to go to the gym and go swimming to keep fit, and have also been getting into a bit of spirituality and meditating recently too, I try to keep health high up on the priority list. I also like to play golf and have done since I was about 13, and finally, I love cars, I used to be a mechanic after leaving school, and always loved messing around modifying and fixing them, so cars and motorbikes still have a special hold on me, I must admit I'm still a bit of a petrol head.
If you would like to take lessons with Ben, aka S.M.I.T.H you can book any level of our DJ course, including Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced and our music production course on Logic! All lessons with Ben take place in our Camden Town studio in London. You can also click here to contact us and ask any questions!