For the uninitiated, Cloudkicker is one Ben Sharp from Columbus, Ohio. By day, Ben is a salary earning career man, by night a musical mad scientist. Cloudkicker’s percussive, polyrhythmic progressive metal is put together entirely on Sharp’s computer, with all instruments (and drums programmed) by the man himself. Cloudkicker’s music cost Sharp diddly squat to record.
Sharp releases short bursts of Cloudkicker’s music, given away free, to little fanfare. Currently there is 1 album and 3 EP’s, the latest of which is called ]]][[[ is both a continuation of Cloudkicker's trademark 'melodic Meshuggah' cacophany and a progression into both heavier and more melodic territories. Tracks 1 and 2 (which in keeping with the theme of grammatical symbols are named # and %) work as a single sprawling post-rocker, while track3 $ can only be described as post-thrash - frenetic, complex and stunningly original. Mr. Sharp kindly agreed to give me an interview.
Most would describe you as post-rock/metal, but you really stand out from the usual long song, slow build monotony. How would you describe your music?
I would describe it as "listenable". Anything beyond that is up to other people's musical sensibilities.
Do you consider yourself to be a part of any ‘scene’?
I consider myself a part of the "contributing member of society" scene, which is pretty exclusive as far as bands go.
You released 2 EP’s in a 12 month period. Was it a conscious decision to do that rather than release a full album?
I prefer putting out shorter releases more frequently. I get bored listening to an hour of instrumental music, and this way I always have something relatively new out.
Each of your releases has a distinct personality. Is this by design, or perhaps a reflection of your mood at the time?
Definitely the latter. I'm really moody when it comes to writing music, and I don't want to get caught up in some sort of creative rut where I'm ALWAYS writing within the confines of a certain style. Honestly, I'm getting bored of writing what amounts to being melodic Meshuggah but I still enjoy writing in odd time signatures, so I think applying that to some different styles will be interesting.
The title and song names of your current EP ]]][[[ only contain grammatical symbols. What is the significance of this?
Just mixing it up a bit. Usually I get a theme in my head or I'll be interested in a certain subject when I name songs but I wanted the music to be the focal point on this one. Also laziness.
Who’s the guy on the cover of ]]][[[ and why did you put him there?
I did a Google image search one time for the word “Black” and his picture popped up. I saved it on my computer and haven’t been able to find it since. I have no idea who he is, he could have committed mass infanticide for all I know. He just seems like a pretty solid dude, so why not put him on an album cover. I did color his garb though.
Your music almost seems defined by its rhythm. When you’re writing, is rhythm created before riff?
Sometimes. I’ve written some drum parts in the shower, but 70% of the stuff I come up with while noodling around on the guitar.
Have you considered releasing your music on physical formats and charging for it?
Eh. Sounds like a lot of effort. Some people seem to get really bent out of shape about the fact that they can’t buy a physical copy of the CD, and I think they’re probably somewhat OCD about it. I think it would be funny to sell CDs but have the artwork make it look like a regular blank CD-R.
Have you/will you ever consider making Cloudkicker into a full band?
I used to play shows back when I first started writing music for Cloudkicker in 2005-2006 and lived in Los Angeles. Since then I’ve taken on a career and moved to Ohio; I haven’t yet felt the need to hunt down capable musicians, practice, and put shows together. Instead I put that time and effort into writing music.
Well that’s good enough for me. Sharp’s chosen method of distribution, and the fact that he gives his music away free of charge, affords him this flexibility – the fans have no ownership over Cloudkicker, Sharp doesn’t need us, and thus artistic expression is allowed to flow unaltered by the malign influence of money. While the music industry bleats about loss of their poorly earned riches and foretell of the death of culture, Sharp and his ilk are out there proving that we no longer need these corporate wastes of space.
Cloudkicker’s entire back catalogue can be downloaded in its entirety for free here.