Ben McGarvey is Minute Taker- an innovative artist who has just released his latest album Last Things. Take a minute to discover the genius behind the music, as AMBY not only got the scoop on Last Things, but we also spoke with Ben McGarvey about hilarious gig moments, traveling, and how he can type 60 words per minute!
AMBY: Hi Ben, cheers for talking to AMBY! What have you been up to lately?
Minute Taker: Well I’ve been busy promoting my new album Last Things, working on my live set for upcoming gigs and also writing songs for my next album which I plan to start recording very soon. Besides that, drinking lots of wine! hehe
AMBY: Let It Go is such a tune! What’s the inspiration behind the song?
Minute Taker: Thank you! The song is basically about my searching for the right partner / soulmate. From an early age I’ve had an idea in my mind of that ideal partner, both in terms of looks and personality, as I guess a lot of us do. Let It Go is really about questioning whether someone who fits this ideal is really likely to come along and whether you’re essentially passing up chances of love with others who don’t quite “fit the mould”. The question is; is it better to love someone (real) half as much as you could’ve love a ghost?
AMBY: You have just released your album Last Things. Which tracks are your favourites?
Minute Taker: Well it changes really. I’m attached to them all in different ways and I’ve spent so long working on these songs they really all feel like little fragments of my life. At the moment Let It Go and Wait For Me are probably my favourites but for a long time my favourite was Coma which was inspired by Douglas Coupland’s amazing novel Girlfriend In A Coma (which was of course named after the Smiths song). Coma starts off with a feeling of general exhaustion from the daily grind and longing to sleep for a period of time with the aim of then waking up and feeling refreshed. I suffer from insomnia so this is quite a recurring theme for me! As the song goes on the term “sleep” is used as a metaphor, as Coupland uses it, for not living life to our full potential, i.e. spending life just getting by, doing the bare minimum and escaping into TV and night-life whenever we get the chance, which of course it can be so tempting to do! The danger is that you may never wake up from this coma and your life is wasted. So I guess the song haunts me and motivates me to keep working away to make more songs.
AMBY: What’s the funniest thing to happen to you at a gig?
Minute Taker: Once I was playing in a piano bar. There was a lady sat at the bar who seemed to be having a nice time but she was getting progressively drunk as the night went on. At some point she took a shine to me and before I knew what was going on she got underneath the piano and tried to undo the zip of my trousers, causing the mic stand to swing round and hit me in the tooth. I was in the middle of a ballad and voice jumped about an octave in the wrong place! The manager of the bar had to intervene and escort the young lady home. It was quite a shock but very funny in retrospect!
AMBY: Where did the name Minute Taker come from?
Minute Taker: Well I’ve worked in admin a lot over the last few years and have spend a lot of time taking minutes for meetings. I was drawn to the name because to me it sounds kind of simultaneously mundane and fantastical. It could be someone taking minutes in a meeting or an almighty time lord reaching down from the sky to steal time, or a song that eats away minutes as you listen to it. I like the idea of making magical and otherworldly things out of dull, mundane things that would normally just get me down; this is something I try to do with my songs. In I Draw Lines and (A Homage to) Generation X on the album I actually sampled lots of sounds from offices such as computer beeps, mouse clicks and the humming of a photocopier as it scans. A lot of the concepts for the songs are inspired by quite mundane things too. Tin Box for instance was inspired by going up to the office in an elevator with other business-like people, all standing so close and not speaking, clutching brief cases and coffee cups. All our souls were squeezed into this tiny little space yet we could not feel more separate from each other. Like the elevator itself we are tin boxes; cold and hard on the outside but with so much humanity within. The song then spirals into a daydream that we all break into song, harmonising together as elevator takes off, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory style, and we ascend into the stars. Haha!
AMBY: Which artists have you been listening to lately?
Minute Taker: Well I tend to go through phases of being quite obsessed with listening to a particular artist all the time before moving onto someone else. I recently had a Frank Sinatra fad after someone kindly bought me a record player and I hadn’t had one for years. I had inherited my uncle’s Frank record collection when he died several years ago but had not listened to them until recently. I’ve since moved on to a Tori Amos fad. I’ve been a big Tori fan since I was a teenager but have not had a fad of listening to her for quite a few years. Her last album Night of Hunters is just incredible. I’ve been listening to it on repeat in bed every night and just completely disappearing into the songs.
AMBY: Which three of your influences would you love to hang out with for a day?
Minute Taker: Do they have to be living? If not then Billie Holiday would be my number 1 choice. She’s one of my all time favourite singers and her tragic life fascinates me. Then I’d pick Karen Carpenter, who is also an all time favourite voice of mine and I’ve always been fascinated with what really went on behind the Carpenters shiny façade! I bet there was a darkness to her character that very few people actually saw. Finally it would be a toss up between Kate Bush and Tori Amos, both of whom I just love. I’d probably pick Kate actually as, with her reclusive lifestyle, she’d probably be the least likely to ever actually hang out with me (besides Billie and Karen! haha). Also, she always seems like such a lovely, grounded person for someone’s who’s music is often so off the wall. I like the idea that you can go to those places with your art and still be very regular on a day to day basis. Plus I know she enjoys a lovely cup of tea!
AMBY: If you could tour anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Minute Taker: I’d love to go to the states. When I was bored in the office a while ago me and a colleague used to play a game to memorise the name of every state in order and I used to sit there dreaming of going to these places one day. I did try to save up to go traveling there but I ended up spending all my savings. Unfortunately I can’t save to save my life! There’s always a new musical gadget to buy or a night out to be had! Anyway, if I was to tour there then I’d be able to travel and play music, amazing!
AMBY: What’s the best song of the year so far?
Minute Taker: Hmm, I love the song In The Water by Swiss Lips, although not sure if that was later on last year. I only heard it this year anyway so I’ll go with that!
AMBY: What has you excited for 2013?
Minute Taker: Well in terms of the things I have going on I’m very excited about continuing to develop a concept album I’ve been working on for a year or so now. I’m also writing the music for a very dark stage musical called Hoax by graphic novelist Ravi Thornton. I’ll be creating the music live beside the stage by looping up piano, glockenspiel, synths, etc and the actors will be singing as part of the narrative.
In terms of other artists, I’m hoping for a new PJ Harvey album this year as she is about due. Also, looking forward to Goldfrapp’s new album and seeing them live at Manchester International Festival with full orchestra. Can’t wait!
AMBY: And last but never least, what’s something about Minute Taker that nobody knows?
Minute Taker: I can type 60 words per minute on a good day!
Thank you Minute Taker, for giving us your answers!