Ben Cooper – a restless guy

Posted by Miriam On April - 3 - 20118,804 views

Ben Cooper was a member of the famous British neo rockabilly band Restless, back in the eighties. They have sold many thousands of records and have toured the world. When they announced to fold up the band in the autumn of 1998, there came an end to a great period.
But, as with all good things, we couldn’t let them go, so they came back! The original line-up playing their early material and with a new CD. However in 2007 (Ben already left the band for starting a solo career), it looks like it’s definitely all over again.
Luckily, Ben couldn’t say goodbye to the music business. Alongside an excellent musician (drummer, he played with the bands Frenzy and The Sharks, bass player, guitarist, singer), he´s also a songwriter. Since the eighties he wrote many songs for different bands.
With his own band The Ben Cooper Trio, formed in 2006, he continues the rockabilly revival tradition. On stage he plays (neo)rockabilly with influences from (of course) Restless, The Blue Cats, The Space Cadets, Gene Vincent, Sonny Fisher etc.
I’ve seen Restless as well as the Sharks a couple of times live in action (in my younger years), so it’s an honour for me to interview Ben and I’m looking forward to his gig in May in my hometown in the Netherlands. 

How did you start your musical career; are you home raised with rock ‘n’ roll/rockabilly music?
I started my musical career when I used to sit in on drums with my brothers Rock ’n’ Roll band. This was around 1973/74.
I heard a lot of Rock ’n’ Roll hits as a child but also early Soul, Ska/Reggae, and a lot of different 60’s and 70’s music. I discovered rare Rockabilly and Rock‘n’Roll around 1976.
I used to go to the Lyceum in London UK where the Wild Wax show used to play amazing rare records. Also this is when I first saw bands like Crazy Cavan and Flying Saucers for the first time. 

Can you tell us something about the period when you were playing with Restless?
As the original founding member obviously my time with Restless is very important to me.
We did incredible gigs all over the world and had some amazing times. There was a period when we could’ve got in the mainstream charts, but in the end I guess me and the other band members wanted different things, so that’s why I left.

Eventually, you wanted to start your own solo career, how did this happen?
By the time I left Restless in 1990 I had already been playing guitar for some years. It was how I was able to write so many songs for them. I did front two non Rockin’ bands in the early nineties and nearly got signed to a major label.
Around 1995 I went back to drums and at one point I was playing with five bands including The Sharks and Frenzy. By 1997 I gave up music but I couldn’t take it for very long specially when I got a call to rejoin Restless for their reunion in 2002. Being with Restless again was a hell of a ride. We went on tour with Little Richard and played with Robert Plant – it was great! Despite the good times I still really wanted to do my own thing again so I left early 2006.
I was really worried that Rockabilly fans wouldn’t be into me as a  front man. I decided to upload some tracks to Myspace to see what would happen. The response was amazing. Loads of people said great things about the songs and I had many offers from musicians to join the live band. People were very surprised I could sing and play guitar like I could. The songs I uploaded eventually got released on the Cherry Red album “Rockin’. This, my first album got a lot of worldwide airplay, got good reviews in magazines/fanzines. 

You’re a multi instrumentalist, did you learn to play all these instruments yourself or do you have a specific teacher?
I’m mostly self taught on all the instruments I play (guitar, drums, &  bass). I took advice whilst I was learning from other players but not so much I sounded like someone else. However, I did have singing lessons from a woman called Jean Marshall who taught people like Neneh Cherry, Linda Lewis, Nick Kershaw, and other famous Pop artists.

You’ve written many songs over the years, where do you find your inspiration for the songs?
I used to write the music, melody and words separately but I decided this was the hardest way of doing things. Now I write the music and melody at the same time. I play the guitar until I find a good riff, then I start singing until I get a good melody. I write the lyrics about all sorts of subjects but I try to make sure it is in the language of Rock ‘n Roll.
I am currently listening to a lot of Blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson & Doctor Ross. The bands’ music is starting to go towards a more Bluesy sound –  a kind of Neo Rockin’ Blues maybe?

In 2007 you formed the Ben Cooper Trio; did you already know the other band members?
No, all of the people in the four line-ups have been new on the scene apart from Ian Jennings who is a famous session bassist. The latest line-up of Callum Houston on bass, and Marc Vacher on drums is the one I’ve been the most happy with.

What’s the difference between the audience back in the eighties and nowadays?
I think in many ways there is no difference at all. The audience will either like or they won’t.
It’s our job as a band to make people like us by doing a good show. We have been very lucky so far as most of the gigs have been really good, and people have really liked us.


You’ve toured all over the world, is there a place you would really like to play?
I guess the place I’d most like to tour is the USA. Also it would be really cool to play China and India. These countries have huge populations and I’m sure there’d be a lot people who would dig our style of Rockabilly/Rockin Blues.


Can you tell us a funny incident during one of your gigs?
There are too many to mention lol >:o)

Is there a period in your musical career that you regret?
The only thing I regret is not fronting my own band sooner.


What are your plans for the future?
At the moment, me and the band are learning new songs for the next album. We will release the album once we find the right record company. The tracks for the album will be a mixture of original songs and Rockin’ versions of non Rockin’ songs. I believe the next album could be highly successful with the right backing, specially with the massive resurgence of interest in Rockabilly here in the UK presently.

Do you have any dos’ or don’ts on stage?
Do try and have the best time of your life on stage even if you are nervous. Don’t drink too much before you play, there will be plenty of time for that afterwards >;o)

Do you have a tip for new coming artists?
Do what you want to do, the way you want to do it, no matter what anyone says. The music will be better this way. Also don’t give up just because things get difficult. The ones who get somewhere in music are the ones who don’t give up – no matter what!

Is there anything you would like to tell?
Well, there’s gigs in the calendar, and an album on the way. Things are looking really good for the Ben Cooper Trio in 2011.


Up coming gigs:
Oxford Cafe 15th April Bethune-FR
Bacchus Cafe 16th April Geel-BE
The Rambler 17th April Eindhoven-NL
Cowboy Up Saloon 27th May Waardamme-BE
Innocent 28th May Hengelo-NL
Hoorn Rock ‘n’ Roll Sunday, 29th May Hoorn-NL
Bethune Retro 26th August-FR
Bethune Retro 27th August-FR


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One Response to “Ben Cooper – a restless guy”

  1. […] of the English neo-rockabilly band Restless (check the interview with Ben earlier on this website It was very nice to see him perform, very enthusiastic and the Restless-influences were very […]

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