Let’s Make Sweet Music Alone

One-man-band Ben Sharp, who performs as the prog metal act Cloudkicker, walks us through his unorthodox journey as a bedroom musician adopting studio-grade technology during its emergence in the mid-2000s.
(1:38) Mitch introduces Ben Sharp, the force behind progressive metal act Cloudkicker. (3:09) Ben reflects on the influences and innovations that shaped his "bedroom music" hobby -- a classification barely old enough to drink, as it references the 21st century transition from traditional lo-fi homemade music to the studio-grade technologies that place the means of music production almost entirely within reach of anyone owning a home computer. Among other influences, Ben cites the creation of EZdrummer (an application allowing for drum sounds and tracks to be programmed via computer) as a major stepping stone towards his independence as a one-man band. (7:27) Mitch plays a 20-second Cloudkicker clip to emphasize just how readily the music comes across as a 4 or 5-member group in a studio, when in fact it's just Ben and his laptop. (10:49) We address the democratization of music production over recent decades, as Mitch pegs a traditional studio album in the low-to-mid five-figure range. Ben, by comparison, estimates he spent less than $500 to produce (and effectively, distribute) his 2008 album "The Discovery". (12:56) We consider how much of stereotypical musicianship is gained, lost or changed when an artist circumvents the traditional tribulations of being in a band -- whether it's the local scene you absorb, the people you become linked to by chance, the touring and gear hauling, etc. (21:05) We break into our undergrad philosophy bag to debate what counts for creativity and artistry, and whether any objectivity deserves to be a part of the conversation. (24:55) Mitch's hot take, dragged up from his naive 19-year-old perspective attending psuedo-art school: the purest artist, hypothetically, is the one devoid of any external influence. Ben quickly pops the bubble by pointing out that virtually all art is motivated by emotions and experiences, hence the hypothetical uninfluenced artist wouldn't have much reason to create art at all.