Before Ben Ash graduated from The Brit Academy’s Trinity College, where he was studying music, he sent hundreds of letters to labels and creative companies offering up his services as a songwriter for free. Only one company got back to him. He spent the summer interning before jacking in his degree to work on music full time. Since then the Londoner has kept himself busy DJing, writing for I Blame Coco, remixing Birdy and working on his project Two Inch Punch. The name is a twist, not on the kung fu move, but rather a nod to the old format of recording: the two inch mastering tape. The record-crackled cuts of digi-soul from his debut EP recently caught Diplo’s ear and he decided to include not one, but two Two Inch Punch tunes on his recent Mad Decent World Wide Radio mix.
Check out the video—a world premiere– for “Love You Up” above. This is also the first time Ash has ever shown his face online. Normally he hides behind the Two Inch Punch artwork created by his flatmate, Ollie Clarke, the man behind Realness Creative.
I’ve been snooping on your Tumblr and it reminded me to watch more Space Ghost. I also deduced that you love Stevie Wonder. I do love him. The most important things for me are always vocals and the songwriting and he’s got the best balance of that of any songwriter. Donny Hathaway has the most amazing voice and the Beatles are amazing songwriters, but their voices aren’t comparable to me to Stevie Wonder. If someone has a really bad voice I tend not to listen to it. It can be a really great song, great production, but if the voice isn’t great it’s lost on me.
So how do you feel about your voice? Are you confident with it? You do manipulate it a lot. I don’t always sing, I often use samples. I’m pretty selective and I think I’m quite a good editor. I wouldn’t say I’m hugely confident as a singer. I’m definitely not! I’m confident as a producer.
There’s a lot of love vibes on your “Love You Up” EP. It’s nice. You must be a romantic. Yeah I suppose so. It’s kind of a cliché, but the songs that hit me and resonate with me are love songs so it’s just natural that that comes out in my music. I think a lot of soul and R&B lends itself to that, and that’s what I’m into.
Is this your parents influence? Is your family very musical? My younger sister is amazing, she sings on “Forgive Me For Messing Up,” and my dad was quite a big session guitarist in London in the ’60s who played with Desmond Dekker when he toured over here and Jimmy Ruffin. But in the ’80s it was all about synths and the session guitar players weren’t getting much work so he started a restaurant and became a chef. My mum used to sing in a gospel choir and she brought me up on a lot of soul—Keith Sweat and Prince.
What’s all this about your writing for Lil Wayne? His manager came to England and we had a mutual friend. Lil Wayne was coming out of prison and he wanted some new ideas so I gave them some beats. When Wayne came out of prison, aside from, I imagine, picking up loads of girls and stuff like that, he was doing lots of writing. I think his manager said he wrote like 100 tracks in the two weeks after he got out and mine was one of them. They played it to me down the phone and it sounded amazing. It was my beat and him rapping, but they never sent me a copy because they were worried about it leaking. To this day I’ve only heard it down the phone. It was such an exciting moment though.
Are you interested in working with lots of shiny pop artists? Not particularly. Straight up, no. But I think there’s something really clever about producers who can make shiny pop artists sound good. I remember when I first heard “Cry Me A River.” I was like, This is the guy from N*Sync and I actually like it! I’ve got so much respect for that. DJ Premier is amazing and he worked with Group Home who are the worst. Melachi the Nutcracker is probably the worst rapper I’ve ever heard. I can freestyle better than that! But DJ Premier made him sound amazing. I think there’s a lot to be said for a producer who can make something that’s not seen as cool and make it actually good. I don’t want to work with pop artists, but if the right thing came about and I had an angle on it and I could make it something of mine then go for it.
I like that you call your music LoveStep. Are you the only artist in the LoveStep movement? I think so. Actually there’s a luvstep compilation that came out in America. Was it music like mine? Kind of. That was quite weird.
So did you name your genre after that? No! It was kind of a joke the LoveStep thing. There’s all these terms at the moment, future garage, post-dubsteb, I was going to call it Royal Mail dubstep. It was a tongue in cheek thing. People make such a big deal out of genres. I’m over it! I don’t give a fuck! I just like good music and that’s it.
The “Love You Up” EP is available from PMR Records now.