Philip Allen recently met up with Scott Hendy (Boca 45) and Ben Salisbury (DROKK) of DOLMAN at The Canteen on Stoke’s Croft for a coffee and to chat about how they came together for the project, DOLMAN.
The conversation included a discussion about DOLMAN’s football roots as well as their music roots and how the duo came together and make music.
As an added bonus, before we jump in, Louderthanwar are proud to present the first viewing of the new video by DOLMAN for the track, ‘Black Castles’.
The video was directed by Tia Salisbury for Fyra Films…
Louder Than War: Where did the name DOLMAN come from?
Scott: We met playing football, well, trying to play football on a Monday night. We met a best part of twenty years ago and we were both Bristol City FC supporters, Ben and I are season ticket holders…
Ben: When you got kids, to then say on a Saturday that you’re going to the football, well, I just can’t do it. There’s a stand that we both had season tickets in called the Dolman stand. (Harry Dolman was a well-known Bristol businessman and the chairman of Bristol City FC between 1949 and 1974. He designed the first set of floodlights installed at Ashton Gate Stadium in the early 1950s and was fundamental in the design and build of the Dolman Stand which opened in 1970 – PA.)
Scott: We wanted it to have a football reference somehow, we were going to go under the name of ‘Tinman’ because there was a top player when we used to go a lot called Brian Tiniun, and his nickname was ‘Tinman’ but we did a Google and there are loads and loads of Tinmen so when we chose ‘Dolman’, we were like, ‘Dolman sounds good!’
Scott: My background is through djing. I started making music simply because I was a dj. I started buying records when I was 10 or 11, electro albums and first wave of hip hop, totally blown away by it. Didn’t know what it was at the time but knew that there was this thing called ‘Hip Hop’ where there’s 4 different elements of it and I wanted to do it all. The Graffiti, the B Boyin’, the MCing and the DJing. I basically bought records from that point, mostly hip hop records all through my teenage years.
For my sixteenth birthday, I got a set of Technics turntables and just didn’t look back! That was it, I had records I could go out and dj with and played around Bristol, all the little bars and whatnot. The Blue Mountain club was always one I would play at least once a month. The Thekla was one as well, the original version of it…
Ben: …And weirdly I went to all these clubs. Even so our musical backgrounds are different, I almost definitely heard Scott djing without knowing who he was.”
Scott: Then there was another place I djed at called ‘The Dojo Lounge’, which is still going now. It’s a late night thing now, but I was one of the original residents there. It was 10 til 2, so literally 4 hours and there was a queue to get in at ten o’clock. This was before the smoking ban and the licensing laws all changed and it was absolutely fantastic!
The generation above me always talked about ‘The Dugout’ being important, but for me, for atmosphere wise, I realised what you can do with a box of records, in a sense of what reaction you get so, that was a really integral place to me and I djed there through to 2002 / 2003 – for like 5 years.
I realised in the late 90’s ’cause I worked at a record shop called ‘The Purple Penguin’, which was predominantly a hip hop store, we imported records from the States. It was on Colston St, it closed in 2000. So, all the customers that came through, I got to know pretty much everyone, so all the local promoters and all that sort of stuff, I realised that there were lots of people coming though, who I would be selling records to, who were djing outside of Bristol, and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I not getting gigs outside of Bristol?’ And the penny sort of dropped … aaahh, I need to make records, how do I do that?
Luckily, the guy who owned the record shop was making records on a local label called ‘Cup Of Tea Records’ and he sort of took me under his wing really and showed me the ropes. How to use a sampler, how to sample records. The first sampler I had was an Akai S2000 and an Atari 1040 to sequencer everything, and a ADAT, and a little bit of outboard, then a MPC would come into it.
I Started making music with Andy Smith, who was the tour dj for Portishead and that had a good level of success in certain territories. So, we did really well in Australia. I wanted to make music to dj out with, very much cut and paste. I am not a musician, I can find my way around a keyboard and I can work out what goes with what on a Bass, little bits of guitar but very much all by ear. Polar opposite to Ben.
Wolfgang Dauner – Just Bring It Out (Andy Smith & Scott Hendy Remix)
Ben: You’re putting yourself down because the last thing we recorded you put the bass on! There’s a lot said for not being an expert but being able to pick something out. I force myself to play instruments I am not very good at. I am a piano player and I am a guitarist to a certain degree but I’ve got this old Mandolin with 3 strings on it I found it in a charity shop and I haven’t even tuned it properly because I don’t want know how it works. I wanna just be able to pick it up and play something interesting, and then that can free you from all the things you learn.
Scott: There’s a track on the Dolman album called, ‘Rainbows’. A lot of these tracks we would start with a beat or a simple chord and I actually play drums on it because I borrowed my friends drum kit. Most of the tracks on the album would take different incarnations.
They would start as a simple thing and then it would build and build and then we would mix it. We got the piano chords down and I put the drums down and then Ben finished up on the strings. Whilst mixing at the place where the strings were done and the guy knew of me from Purple Penguin and he has all like, “Who played the drums on this?”
Ben: How do you get that sort of ‘Portishead’ sound? He was pestering and I said, ‘well, it’s someone who can’t play drums and records it in his shed in his garden… I digress, but it is an important part that Scott isn’t a musician in a traditional sense and I am.
Scott: It’s those two worlds colliding. I look to Ben to open up certain things, where I would hit a brick wall. I would get a vibe but it would need opening up and that’s where Ben would come in. Recognising your strengths, that’s where Dolman works.
Boca 45 ft. Stephanie McKay – “In The City”
Scott: I did the stuff with Andy, realised that doing stuff with the tour dj of Portishead had its issues in a sense that you would turn up to gigs in far flung places like Calgary and think, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ So I started doing the Boca 45 stuff and met Ben through the football. Ben did some strings on a Boca track on the second album in 2006. We co-wrote a Boca track also that didn’t make it on to the album. (As Boca 45, Scott released his debut album, Pitch Sounds and recorded two online mixes for Ninja Tune’s weekly Solid Steel show and a second album, ‘Vertigo Sounds’ on Unique Records in 2006 – PA.)
Ben: It made the Japanese release.
Scott: That’s right. At that same time in 2005, I was pretty much writing Malachai at the same time. (Malachai (then as Malakai) released a 12″ ‘Fading World’ on Geoff Barrow’s Invada Record label and 3 albums with Domino Records, gaining great critical success – PA.)
I would write the music and Gee would write the lyrics. We would occasionally swap but 90% of the time that’s how it worked. Ben wasn’t too far away, I would often go over to Ben’s studio because he had different monitors to me and I would play it to him, he was one of my trusted allies really. Early on he was really into the Malakai stuff and was like, ‘you gotta persevere with this!’ He did some strings for ‘Fading World’, the first single, released in April 2007 on Invada Records, and then the second album Ben did co-writes on 3 of the tracks. So, my second Malachai album we were already working very closely and I think that morphed into Dolman really.
Ben: We did write some new tracks for the 3rd Malachai album but we weren’t sure and then suddenly we had 5 or 6 tracks and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s keep doing it and it might become something’, so it started from co-writing.
Scott: We were quite regimented about it, so it was every Tuesday, Wednesday and I would get on my bike a ride to North Bristol from South Bristol, and we would sit and I would have little ideas. I’d have my MPC and my Space Echo pedal and we would bash it out. We had a good working process.
Ben: It was a way of filling times before jobs, instead of sitting idle I would call Scott and say, ‘I got a couple months with nothing on, let’s crack away on some tracks’. We had no real thought as to what they would be and they were all very different because they would be as the mood took us.
Scott would come over and say, ‘I heard this thing on 6 Music the other day, do you think we can play more that way, and I would play something on the piano and Scott would go, ‘Yeah, that’s great!’ It really was us doing what we wanted.
The album is quiet eclectic in the way it goes from one thing to another, quite extreme in that way. When we realised we had a body of work that might make an album, we started thinking serious about it. Which should have vocals on and which shouldn’t.
DOLMAN – ON STONEY GROUND (PT.1) Directed by Tia Salisbury, Fyra Films.
Ben: I was having piano lessons as a kid, I wasn’t studying music in school, in fact it was sort of my secret, no-one knew I did it, honestly no-one knew. When I got to 17, 18 thinking about university, my mum said to me, ‘Why don’t you try and do music?’, and that got me doing it at ‘A’ level in night school for a year, and then a music degree. I joined the pretty standard classically trained route then but I hadn’t, up until that point, done anything like that so it was all very new to me. University music is very traditional, or at least it was when I went there. And not many people using the recording studio, in fact it was me and one other guy in there, in this brand spanking new recording studio, using all the same gear Scott was using, the Akai’s and the Atari’s, and I dived into that.
I’d always been into film and always wanted to be a film and tv composer, my dad worked in television and I sort of grew up with it. Bernard Herman, Jerry Goldsmith, John Carpenter, film music was weirdly my gateway drug, hearing Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet Of The Apes led me to listening to Stravinsky. Tangerine Dream’s ‘Risky Business’ got me into Steve Riech.
By the time I met Scott, I was already working pretty hard doing natural history series and David Attenborough things. (Ben has been nominated for an Emmy and won numerous other awards for his scores – PA.)
My dad worked there so that helped me find out, he couldn’t ever get me a job but he could tell me, ‘Look, those guys are looking for music at the moment’. So, I was able to send out Showreels.
I did work with my Dad on a series called, ‘Life In The Undergrowth’ and the BBC were dead against it. I wasn’t even allowed to be NAMED in the pitching process. IT WAS A blind pitch, all the unmarked envelopes, about 10 in all were sent to the head in London for evaluation, scariest pitch I’ve ever done!
I started off playing in bands in Bristol or playing piano in pubs and being part of the ‘rock and roll’ scene for want of a better word and I desperately wanted to get back to that. I was also getting type cast as a ‘Natural History Guy’, I love it but there is very rarely any edge to it. So, meeting Scott and Geoff (Barrow from the band, Portishead) and doing stuff with those guys, suddenly I was able to do something…
Scott: “…here’s the rough kids.” Hahaha.
Ben: Yeah! working with the rough kids. I was able to hang around with them, and be cool!
Geoff and Scott came to Monday night football together, and I knew them for about 7, 8 years and I never had any idea any of them did music. We just played football. It gradually dawned on me that they probably did but I didn’t know what. We got a terrible football team but if we got anywhere, we could write a pretty decent Cup single.
DOLMAN – ‘Monobrow’ Film directed and animated by Jaime Pardo.
Louder Than War: Where was the album recorded?
Ben: Mainly at my studio. Whenever I did a string or piano session, I would go to Christchurch (christchurchstudios.com) and chuck them some money to add some time on to the end of my TV session. I was always thinking can I get something done for Dolman here.
Scott: ‘On Stoney Ground’ was done at my studio and it would be like, you do a bit, chuck it Ben, he adds a bit, chucks it back to me, and then we work off stems. Most of the mixing, I probably ended up doing but it was whatever worked.
Louder Than War: – How did you come to working with the vocalist you chose for the album?
Scott: Very organically. It’s always people that I knew, or knew off. Danny Coughlan (ohcrybaby.co.uk) was a friend of a friend and I loved the CryBaby album and desperately wanted him on a track and that’s how, ‘On Stoney Ground’ came about. Danny didn’t tell me what he was going to do. He had an hour, so literally I set him up and that’s it. The song is an anti-war piece, he had loads of different bits and he wanted me to take it and treat it as a sample. He didn’t know what bits I would take but it worked.
Ben: People would say, ‘Where did you get that sample of that old crooner?’
Scott: I transferred it to Serato Scratch and put it through a few things and it’s got that pull and push to it, so it sounds like an old record, and Danny wanted me to treat it that way, as if it was something found, which I thought was great.
Scott: Alison from The Fauns, is local and works at Invada Records. On ‘Flight 22’, she ended up doing this sway of vocals as a sketch, the rough idea with no words, and I thought that’s brilliant, that’s exactly what we want. I was like, ‘That’s done!’ It is absolutely perfect. She was like, ‘I need to write lyrics’ and I was, ‘No you don’t!’ It didn’t need a message, the message is in the melody really.
Scott: We wanted there to be a really strong visual representation of the music because we think it lends to that.
Here’s The Rainbow by Dolman … it was the first video off their new album, premiered on Crack Magazine…
DOLMAN can be found online here: thisisdolman.com.
All words by Philip Allen – apart from the ones by Scott and Ben. More writing by Philip on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.