Interview with keyboardist and programmer, Dom Beken (Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets)
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Interview with keyboardist and programmer, Dom Beken (Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets)

As a programmer, arranger, producer and co-writer, Dom Beken has worked with artists as diverse as Rick Wright (Pink Floyd), Katherine Jenkins, Brian Molko (Placebo), Just Jack, Liberty X, The Spice Girls and Jonny Marr (The Smiths). He has also written and co-produced film scores in Mumbai for Bollywood films. His debut game score, for PixelJunk's “Shooter”, was BAFTA nominated for “Best Original Score”.

Dom is currently playing with Saucerful Of Secrets, Nick Mason's "re-awakening" of Pink Floyd's pre Dark Side of the Moon material. We caught up with him during pre-production for the band's US tour...

What inspired you to become a musician?

I fell in love with music at a very early age - no memory when! I certainly never considered doing anything else and my favourite past time was improvising on the family piano.

Who are some of your earliest influences?

My first music purchases were Motown artists on the one hand - I just fell in love with the groove, and obscure electronica on the other. I started on Jean Michelle Jarre and Vangelis before moving onto Isao Tomita and the hard stuff!

Before your current gig with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets who else have you worked with?

When I started I didn’t consider myself “good enough” to be an instrumentalist - I just wanted to be involved with the process - so I started out as a recording engineer and then branched out into programming as well. Lots of involvement with various “pop” records and a stint recording live with Manor Mobiles. Too many engineer/programmer gigs to remember, but a few stick for good reasons (David Bowie, Lulu, Catherine Jenkins, Placebo) and some less so! 

My first “professional” band project as an artist was called “Transit Kings” - that was me, Jimmy Cauty (KLF), Alex Paterson (The Orb) and Guy Pratt (touring bassist with Pink Floyd). Later, Alex and I started High Frequency Bandwidth and I also joined The Orb for a while. A New York rapper from Rhyme Syndicate and a close Zulu Nation associate called Dynamax guested on some of their HFB stuff and he and I also recorded an album under the name “Years of the Canine”.

Most of my work however has been scoring video games, TV and film projects.

For anyone not familiar with the band, can you explain the concept and the Pink Floyd material you are playing?

Nick and the band are 're-awakening' the pre-Dark Side of the Moon era of Floyd’s work which hasn’t been performed so much. Given Nick’s integral role in PF, and Guy’s close association, we’re definitely NOT a tribute act - in almost every way we are approaching the work with a sense of ownership (care of Nick) and playing them in the best way we can imagine now, with the benefit of modern instruments and a bit more experience! 

For example, having the C2D means I’ve got a Farfisa, a Vox AND a B3 on stage - I don’t think, even in the headiest days of stadium grandeur that Rick would have taken 3 organs?!

How did you get involved in the project?

Guy and I have worked together since around 1998, but I think the seed for the idea got planted with Lee at Guy’s 50th birthday party. Guy invited a lot of old friends including me, Gary Kemp, Lee Harris, David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera and Andy Newmark to a mass jam session. I’d also been doing some work with Rick Wright. Lee has a huge love for everything Floyd and approached Nick through Guy to see if I’d like to go back to doing some music and maybe re-awaken material that isn’t being played by Roger, David or any of the myriad of other PF tributes out there. This particular group of musicians met in a very basic rehearsal space for a bit of fun really and it grew from there.

...having the C2D means I’ve got a Farfisa, a Vox AND a B3 on stage - I don’t think, even in the headiest days of stadium grandeur that Rick would have taken 3 organs?!

Have there been any difficult lessons learned?

Rick’s monumental chord progressions, key signature defying “chord soups” and Syd’s trade mark disregard for time signatures in favour of lyrical integrity are all contenders. Nick however seems to breeze through it all as if he recorded them yesterday.

How have you integrated the Nord C2D into your rig?

It sits really at the centre: organ was fundamental to Rick’s work in this period but I didn’t want to be tied to one model and amp combination or the constant quirks and maintenance of taking something like a B3 and a Leslie. I also handle all the “sound design” and synth work they experimented with in the studio - much of which wouldn’t have been possible live at the time, so I needed something with a footprint that could sit amongst a bunch of other keyboards and effects, all off which are within reach all the time. Main Stage keeps track of programme changes and using a couple of Red8Pres I can route the C2D through everything from Moog Filters and a Wah Pedal, to Binson delays and a Ring Modulator. Rick also manipulated the draw bars constantly during songs to keep appropriate combinations of harmonics in the sound, so the physical drawbars are essential.

Would you be willing to share some personal highlights from your time in the band?

The whole thing has been a blast quite frankly - the five of us get on famously (!) and we have the most professional crew imaginable. Hard to pick a best band dinner, but Luxembourg was a memorable show last year - as we broke into the “Celestial Voices” section of “Saucerful of Secrets” I thought I’d accidentally re-routed the MIDI - as I played the C2D I could already hear my full choir patch playing. After a coupe of seconds I realised that the entire audience were singing the vocals perfectly and at one hell of a belt. That was quite magical!

If you could work with anybody who would it be?

Careful what you wish for! I think this bunch are right up there, but if we’re talking absolutely anybody I’d love to meet Claude Debussy.

In terms of the current music scene, who are you a fan of?

Maya Jane Coles and Emma Tricca.

What are your plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?

Hopefully when I get back from touring in the autumn I’ll have a new game score to compose and some film work. Fingers crossed!

Many thanks to Dom for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak to us. Follow Dom @dombeken. Find out more about Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets here.

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