Guitarist. Bassist. Vocalist. Nobleman!? This edition of Fistful of Questions goes to Slowpoke’s very own Ben Chapman-Smith.
What is your full name?
David Benedict Chapman-Smith esquire the third
Do you have any aliases?
No, but one of my favourite nicknames I’ve ever been given is Music Theory Chad.
If you had an alias what might it be?
Let’s go with Music Theory Chad on that one.
What bands are you actively involved with?
I’m currently involved in two bands. I am the bassist and Vocalist in a doom/punk/psychedelic band called Slowpoke.
I also have a solo acoustic project called Benedict Drinks which plays an eclectic set that includes southern gothic/neo folk, some country stuff, some jazz, some soul. It’s great, I’ve had a small tour with this project this summer.
What was the first instrument that you played?
Recorder, or maybe xylophone. Guitar was and is my first love. I started with an acoustic when I was around 13 and graduated to electric shortly after.
Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
I remember when I was about 10 I was starting to become an active participant in developing my taste for music. I remember around that time my older sister really liked the pop punk band Treble Charger and their song American Psycho came on much music all the time. I didn’t care for it at first but over time it grew on me and turned me towards punk rock and heavier music. As far as I can recall that was the first band I took an active interest in. I’ve enjoyed music for as long as I can recall but that was the first time I can remember thinking - “I need a copy of that.” That was also the first time I realized I can shape my opinion on music if I make a conscious effort. I can find something I like in just about anything.
What was the name of the first band you were in?
Depends how you look at it, I don’t really consider it a band unless it gigs. With that being said there’s kind of two. Molly Doll (Grunge/rock) - First gigging band. Wrathriot! (Punk) - first experience in a band that actually practiced and wrote songs etc. Wrathriot! gigged too but it took us a bit longer to get a set together.
Tell me about the genesis of Slowpoke.
Before I moved to St John’s from Nova Scotia I posted online looking for musicians so as to have a potential project when I came to town. Cameron Legge ended up responding to it so when I got into town we jammed and it went well so we started writing material. We started looking for drummers in 2019. We auditioned a few drummers and eventually found Adam Young. I remember our first jam was great right off the bat, he didn’t know the songs or anything but he listened well, played with a great feel, and brought some great ideas to the table. I remember being immediately impressed at how he approached the songs.
What inspired the name Slowpoke?
I hate that I have to say this, but no It wasn’t pokemon. When we were coming up with names for the band I’d just write down every remotely cool sounding name that fit into the genre and Cam and I would vote on them basically. There were easily 2 dozen, some of them solid, some of them half a joke. Slowpoke was one of the jokey ones but I liked the play off the sluggish pace of some of the riffs and the kind of doomy element of the band. We thought it was kind of silly but in a self aware way that didn’t overdo it. I mean a doom band called slowpoke? Come on, that’s funny. From the punk angle it's a juxtaposition because a lot of what we do is uptempo. And then from the psychedelic pov it has that flavour of being kind of a goof/burn out.
How long did it take you to write and record your debut album?
Writing the main parts of the songs was actually really quick. Maybe 3 or 4 months to get like 80% of what we used. The lyrics took some time and some of them were written during the recording process. A good chunk of the additional guitar tracks were also written after our main tracking sessions.
We spent 4 days tracking the bedrock of the album in a small building that’s used for individual private music lessons. We put both our amps into small rooms, mic’d them and closed the doors and then put Adam’s kit up in a drum room. This gave us some sound isolation and allowed us to still all perform in a way where we could see each other and have a live feel to it.
Between applying for grants, doing our own pre-mixes, finding a good engineer to mix, mastering, and all additional tracking it was a long time. I think it was about 5 months of premixes and adding guitar solos, extra percussion, keys, lyrics, etc. If we include the time waiting for grants and mixing and mastering it was about a year and a half.
If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?
I don’t know, I never really got the urge to join any legendary bands. I’m happy bands like Zeppelin, DFA1979 and QOTSA exist and I love playing their stuff but I just want to be making my own music. I would LOVE to play guitar in a blues band though, with a big horn section and maybe do some backing vocals but mostly just play lots of improv guitar solos.
Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it? If so… What was the song and artist?
I haven’t. I’m inspired by all kinds of tunes and despite them having a substantial impact on me but I’ve never wished I wrote them. I’m usually just content that someone created them.
Scratch that. So Sentimental by Violent Soho.
Do you have any non-metal musical inspirations?
Oh you bet. I draw from everything, that’s how you keep from sounding like everyone else, you just open yourself up to musical possibilities and go after the ones that appeal to you. My favourite artist is probably Aesop Rock, I love jazz guitar, I listen to everything and I kind of try to channel that all through a marriage of riff rock, punk and whatever feels right.
What’s a non-metal song that you'd like to do a cover of?
Well we’re already doing a doom metal cover of I feel good by James Brown. I always thought he would be a phenomenal artist to turn metal.
Also a grindcore cover of the first minute of Method Man by Wu-Tang off Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) would be awesome.
What band have you played with that has really impressed you with their live show?
Teleportis back in Toronto. I still remember the guitarist just stomping with every hit to the point where you could feel it come off the stage. Dude Killed.
Do you have a favorite venue to play at?
I can’t say I do. I find different places have their own atmosphere and I like the different experiences. If I had to choose, I really liked playing Dildo Brewing Co as a solo act, but with a band like Slowpoke I wish Distortion was still open.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had at a live show?
I remember when I was a teenager at one of our first shows out of town in Wrathriot! We played this community centre kind of thing in London Ontario. There was this homeless couple who had a reputation in the area for stealing things and pawning them for drug/beer/whatever money. So there we are, playing this gig and had to have someone basically on look out the entire time to make sure no one was making off with our gear. Then when the band that played after us - The Corporation (Ska/Punk) played that all stopped. Ian Wilkinson’s ska punk bass riffs were so good he won the couple over and they kind of hung out in the centre of the room transfixed with Ian the rest of the night.
More recently when I was hosting an open mic a random person came in, pretty clearly high on mushrooms or something and stood about a foot away staring at me while I was trying to play a set. It was really awkward.
The year is 2012. Where are you at and what are you listening to?
I’m working at Scarboro Music Co LTD as a repairman/sales/studio hand. I’m listening to Queens of the Stone Age, Deftones, RJD2, EYEHATEGOD, the Black Keys, Wilco, Orange Goblin, Kyuss, Aesop Rock, Jeff Buckley, System of a down, Miles Davis and Lenny Breau
What advice would you give musicians that are just starting out in the music business?
Work on your own songs. If you can’t find anyone else that's willing to commit or put in the same level of effort just work on your own songs. It is so easy to stall on things but if you really want to get things done and develop as a musician then you have to be willing to work on your own stuff. Also, start doing stuff beyond just writing the music ASAP. There’s a lot to master.
What is an absolute band killer?
Poor communication. If there's a difference in everyone's level of investment. Ego.
If you were to start your own music festival what would be the name of that festival and who would be the three headlining bands?
If I were to start a music festival I’d probably make a venn diagram of what is lacking in a specific area / town / religion, how much people want that kind of thing, and how much I enjoy that style of music. I could honestly enjoy setting up a blues festival, a stoner rock festival, funk, punk, or gypsy jazz. So I’d probably just care about the quality of the festival haha.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?
Not that long, maybe there’s been a point where I’ve gone a week but I’m an everyday kind of person.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
My first name is David
Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?
I can’t say that I have 10 favourite music podcasts, but yeah I’ll give a spot to Fistful of DOOM for sure!
Do unicorns sleep standing up?
Unicorns are capable of photosynthesis and have no use for sleep. I’ve heard that like albatrosses they can sometimes rest their eyes while flying.
You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time. What album will it be?
Damn.... The Impossible Kid by Aesop Rock? That’s hard. Exile in Oblivion by Strungout…. Maybe Waco by Violent Soho.
You are writing a book about your life thus far. What is the title of that book?
What are two things that people need to know about St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada?
They have live music in some supermarkets! Or they did before Covid hit…
It needs a Korean BBQ spot.
What is your favorite song by Drake?
Sleep or High on Fire (if you had to choose)?
Oof.. If there can only be one...Sleep gave us Dragonaut.
Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?
Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?
Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?
Favorite band t-shirt you own?
I have a shirt with Trogdor the Burninator made out to be a faux metal band. That’d win.
High quality Ramen noodles.
I recently got through the music lesson by Victor Wooten which was great. Wouldn’t say I have a favourite though.
Romero’s Trilogy of the Dead.
Hard to really say but Exile in Oblivion by Strung Out is a solid contender.
Massive thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate it. Slowpoke’s self-titled debut release is available for your listening pleasure on August 22nd and believe me when I say that the pleasure will be all yours.
~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson host of the Fistful of DOOM show)