Good Questions for Benjamin Shaw

Benjamin Shaw’s 2011 debut There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet was the Brooklyn-based indie label Audio Antihero’s second release; the wonderful remastered/expanded edition, available now, is its last. The Melbourne artist graciously reflected on the record, Audio Antihero and more in SOMETHINGGOOD’s latest Q&A.

The new release sounds amazing. Can you tell me about the remastering process? What went into it? Who was involved?

Shaw: Thank you! I was worried it would sound even worse after I was finished with it. So yeah, just me I’m afraid. Sitting on my bed with headphones on, frowning. I’ve done a few mastering bits and bobs for people over the years, but doing your own music is a bit different. You can’t really get an objective view of the music and where it sounds good or what needs changing, etc. Because technically you’ve just made all of those decisions while mixing it. That’s it, done! Everything’s perfect already! So yeah, we should really have got someone else to do it, but at least with this album I’ve had 10 years of avoiding listening to it, so I could come at it with slightly fresh ears.

Is it hard to revisit an album, especially your debut? Do you question previous decisions? Did the experience change your perspective on the album at all?

Shaw: It’s kinda weird yeah. It takes you right back to all those moments of stress and frustration and joy and discovery; where you were when you wrote those words in your phone, or what you were thinking about when you recorded that bit of piano. It also smacks you hard in the face just how bad at mixing you were 10 years ago and why were you so stubborn! It was an exciting time though – stressful, but it felt like we were doing things.

The original version was the second album released by Audio Antihero and the remastered version is its final release. How has it been working with the label over the years?

Shaw: Working with Jamie at Audio Antihero has been amazing. We met in a warehouse in north London around 2008 I think, packing CDs for longtime purveyors of punk rock Southern Records. I think both of us being emotionally repressed ex-goths, we hit it off right away. One time when I was enjoying a quiet coffee at work, he came up to me and said “doesn’t coffee give you heart disease?” and I have never fully enjoyed a coffee since. When he told me his plans to start a label though, I quickly said I would help build the website in an attempt at guilting him into releasing my music. It worked, he fell for it, and suddenly 12 years have passed. He’s now about the best friend I have. Even if we are on different continents. If this is the last release on Audio Antihero Records I’ll be sad to see it go, but it’s been a constant pleasure, even during the unpleasurable times. Godspeed! Audio Antihero.

What’s next for you? Any new music in the works?

Shaw: Yep. A bit of a change for me I think. Nothing drastic, and really it’s a change that’ll have little consequence to anyone, but I’m going to be making music under the name ‘Megadead’ from now on, because I’m an adult. With Audio Antihero winding down, and the re-issuing of my early albums coming full circle, I wanted to change things up too. I’ve always been super stressed about releasing music – especially under my own name – like everything I have to do has to be my freaking masterpiece. So much energy and expectation and ego goes into it, and when inevitably it doesn’t go as well as you’d dreamed, it’s like the end of the world. I feel like a change of name might lighten some of that pressure I put on myself, and just allow me to enjoy it all a little more.

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