Ben Thompson talks Toto, Two Door and touring the world
Since studying at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM), Ben Thompson has become the live drummer for Two Door Cinema Club and a range of other famous bands. He recently took a break from playing shows and festivals across the world, to tell BN1 about how it all happened…
Can you tell us how the skills you learnt at BIMM transferred into the professional world?
‘BIMM always taught me how important it was to be professional. I learnt very early on in the music industry that this business is about who you are as a person, as well as your technical ability. So being easy to get along with and a nice, reliable person will get you a long way. BIMM also regularly mentioned the importance of networking with people in all situations. This industry relies so heavily now on word of mouth, you’ve gotta be good at it.’
Why did you get into drumming? What was your inspiration?
‘My family have always been very musical so I’ve always had music around me. I first wanted to play the drums when I was about 12/13. My Dad showed me amazing inspirational musicians so I instantly had good role models. Jeff Porcaro, Bernard Purdie, Simon Phillips and Steve Gadd were my main guys. My Dad gave me a challenge and said to me: “When you can play Rosanna by Toto, I’ll get you your first drum kit.” (No pressure Dad, cheers!!) So I locked myself in a room for a few hours and worked it out and shouted down at my Dad: “I’ve done it!” Much to his shock, he was a man of his word and down to the music store we went. For my birthday, my parents surprised me and booked me onto one of the BIMM Summer Schools to get a taster. It was the most amazing experience; it really made me want to consider music as a career.’
Can you tell us about your experiences in the industry?
‘I went to BIMM at 16 and knew exactly where I wanted to be by the end of my time there. I think this is my best bit of advice about going there. If you just think you can rock up and walk out famous… It’s not going to happen. You’ve got to work hard to reach goals and network to get to where you want to be. They have the connections in the industry to help you… You’ve just got to show them your passion to succeed.
I finished my first year diploma at the age of 17. I’d worked hard and the Head of Drums at the college introduced me to a London agent. She went on to offer me an audition with Two Door Cinema Club. From the day of that audition I literally haven’t stopped! Two Door and I really clicked and worked really well together. I ended up doing both World tour album campaigns which lasted over five years, at 250-300 shows a year worldwide. Two Door Cinema Club are taking some time off to write a new record. I got a call to work with Producer/DJ Hudson Mohawke at the beginning of this year. He’s produced a lot of artists, from Kanye West and Drake to Pharrell and Mark Ronson. I’ve been touring around the world with him for six months now and love playing some dance music. It involves a lot more electronic triggering of samples etc, so is nice to have a challenge. In the last month I got asked to play some shows over the summer with Gorgon City as well. So have my first show with them in a few weeks, which I’m really looking forward to doing!’
So what about the rigours of touring? How difficult is it to fit into an established group of musicians?
‘People think of touring as a holiday and a party. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing fun and you see the world doing what you love, but it is a very physically exhausting job. The travelling involved is crazy, and don’t forget all the jet lag jumping from country to country. So you’ve got to try and keep on top of being as healthy as you can in order to physically being able to play for an hour and a half a night, six times a week, sometimes in six different countries!
I’ve always been good with new people. I love meeting and working with new people and they develop into strong friendships over the years.’
Any hopes/aspirations for your career?
‘I feel so lucky to be where I am now. I’m just going to continue working as hard as I can at doing what I love most. Being able to say I make a living from music is amazing and I will continue to do so for as long as I possibly can! In terms of artists I’d absolutely love to work with – it would have to be Stevie Wonder!’