SMiley inUSA is the electronica project from Pittsburgh artist Ben Smiley, creating music with new and different rhythms. A drummer himself, his ambient songs are taking music to a new level as he creates tunes that are their own plane of existence. His latest release from earlier this month, Choose Compassion Instead of Battle, is available on all musical platforms. I want to thank Ben for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain was an influential album for me. My dad actually got it for me. The long trumpet sounds over the beautiful textural backdrop of sunsets and Spain was deeply moving. It helped shaped what I really like doing with music, creating new worlds.
Your last album bought?
Hiromi – Alive. There is some amazing themes in this one. The title track is one of my favorite with the crazy fast rhythms, and multiple parts. The fusion of rock and jazz is amazing and always makes me feel like this is the future of music.
Favorite album of all time?
Ooh… the hardest question there is. I definitely have one favorite in each genre. I can narrow it down to two. Junta from Phish, since it is their first album it is a great collection of amazing live pieces, with a huge variety of genres and parts, plus fun and comedy like on the song “Fee”. Second Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett. Learning to improvise from nothing has always been a basic tenant of how I make music and this most popular selling piano album is the apex of that one full album of improvised tracks.
Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Can I decline to answer? Music is personal in a lot of ways and I feel like everyone likes something different. So therefore labeling it as worst or disappointing belittles the attempt the artist made. Just because I am not their target audience doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who likes it.
First concert attended?
I got wrangled into playing a battle of the bands, I had just started playing congas and the band needed some extra percussion, so they got me and two of my friends to join last minute. We played the “Starship Troopers” last movement from Yes and “Eyes of the World” from the Grateful Dead. It turned out great from having no experience and the audience loved it. Unfortunately, we didn’t win.
Phish in Pittsburgh, always great although nosebleed seats suck. It was great to see them live. They jammed out a bunch of songs to a great length and found new and interesting ways to engage the audience through both music and light shows.
Favorite concert ever?
Maybe not my favorite but a great one was when I saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in Maryland. The amazing musicianship and the way the bass bounced of all the walls made this a concert to remember, not only that but they got to play with a bunch of great jam bands.
Least favorite concert?
Woodstock 2000 a total cash grab. We actually ended up going because my friend was trying to find his dog. We arrived at five in the morning, on the second day, there was no one awake so we just walked in through the medical bay on to the main stage. The bands there were great but it definitely wasn’t a peace and love feel. Also, it was a heat wave on concrete and they started charging like 12 bucks for a bottle of water people were dying from the heat and generally not interested in the bands. Really only the headliners kept people going. Also we didn’t find the dog. 🙁
Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
In general people are friendly in Pittsburgh, that is what I like most about this place. I feel like if everyone can learn from what Mister Rogers taught that we should all care about each other and lift each other up our town will only grow with love.
Thanks, Ben. I believe this is the first time someone’s first concert that they ever attended they actually performed.
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