From Grange Hill to Gains­bourg

The colour­ful lives of KPM’s li­brary­mu­sic he­roes Brian Ben­nett and Alan Hawk­shaw

UNCUT - - In­stant Karma - PIERS MARTIN

“Serge gains­bourg? I wouldn’t call him he­do­nis­tic, he was ac­tu­ally quite a shy guy. Only trou­ble was he wasn’t very eco-friendly, smok­ing and drink­ing all day, that was the hard part. But we had some fun.”

Now 81, the ven­er­a­ble York­shire mu­si­cian Alan Hawk­shaw has worked be­hind the scenes with some of the best in the busi­ness, in­clud­ing Bowie, gior­gio Mo­roder and Donna Sum­mer, be­com­ing gains­bourg's go-to ar­ranger through­out the ’70s. “If I got a whis­per of a song from him I could de­velop it into a piece,” says Hawk­shaw. “He liked that.”

A key­boardist and pro­lific com­poser who also wrote the Count­down and grange Hill theme tunes among many oth­ers, Hawk­shaw’s most en­dur­ing part­ner­ship has been with drum­mer Brian Ben­nett, and their friend­ship is still go­ing strong. Ben­nett, 78, is an­other suc­cess­ful ses­sion player, who started in The Shad­ows in 1961 at the age of 21, writ­ing hits such as “Sum­mer Hol­i­day” as well as pop­u­lar TV themes for the likes of rugby Spe­cial and BBC golf.

Hav­ing met in the early ’60s on the the­atre cir­cuit in great Yar­mouth, Hawk­shaw and Ben­nett would go on to flex their chops in the ’70s and ’80s on a se­ries of pro­gres­sive li­brary records for la­bels such as KPM and Bru­ton, com­pos­ing and play­ing ev­ery­thing from smooth jazz to elec­tronic odd­i­ties – what­ever the brief dic­tated. These al­bums were not in­tended for sale; in­stead the mu­sic was widely used in ad­ver­tis­ing, TV and film. “We didn’t do li­brary mu­sic to get pub­lic recog­ni­tion,” says Ben­nett. “We wanted to please the client within the in­dus­try.”

To­day, orig­i­nal vinyl edi­tions are sought af­ter as the li­brary genre has be­come fetishised by con­nois­seurs such as Jonny Trunk and Andy Vo­tel, as well as rap pro­duc­ers hunt­ing ob­scure sam­ples. “The mu­sic is more pop­u­lar than ever be­cause it’s been ex­posed via the in­ter­net to a younger gen­er­a­tion who have no pre­con­cep­tion of li­brary mu­sic,” notes Hawk­shaw.

All of which bodes well for the pair’s lat­est re­lease, a new al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial for KPM as the la­bel cel­e­brates its 60th. On the ap­po­sitely ti­tled Full

Cir­cle, the pair roll out Hammond funk joints and at­mo­spheric synth pieces as if time has stood still since ’76. They cut much of it, along with a big band, in a large room in Ben­nett’s farm­house near St Al­bans – Hawk­shaw lives a 15-minute drive away – and en­listed Ben­nett’s son War­ren, a li­brary man him­self, to pro­duce. “War­ren tight­ened it so we didn’t fly off and in­dulge, mu­si­cally,” says Ben­nett. “It has to be highly use­able. But it sounds good, so it’s com­ing out on gen­eral re­lease. Peo­ple are ex­cited. Isn’t it nice for things to be hap­pen­ing for peo­ple at our age?” While Hawk­shaw and Ben­nett might claim to be from an­other era, their mu­sic, much to their amuse­ment, is hip­per than ever. Ben­nett was pre­sented with a plat­inum disc for co-writ­ing Drake’s 2016 smash “Sum­mer Six­teen” af­ter its pro­duc­ers used a slowed-down sam­ple of his ’75 KPM cut “glass Tubes”, a Tubu­lar Bells pas­tiche knocked out in a Soho base­ment. “Forty years later, Drake picks it up. Amazes me more than any­one.”

Hawk­shaw is used to be­ing sam­pled – the funk break in “The Champ” by his ’60s group The Mo­hawks be­came a blue­print for block-party hip-hop in the late ’70s – but ad­mits he’s not au fait with the mod­ern-day rap game. “I got an email say­ing we’re try­ing to con­tact you for a piece of mu­sic we want to put out for a well-known rap­per,” he re­calls. “I read the email to my daugh­ter and said, ‘Have you heard of a guy called Jay Zed?’ She said, ‘You’re an id­iot, dad. That’s Jay-Z – he’s a big artist.’”

Full Cir­cle is out on Septem­ber 28 on KPM/Be With. Hawk­shaw and Ben­nett play live with The KPM All Stars at the Bri­tish Li­brary, Lon­don, on Oc­to­ber 6

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