How To Write A Musical During Lockdown: Benny And The Greycats

A Chat With The Composers

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Maya Productions were one of many companies presenting work at the Migration Matters Festival 2020, but in spite of the piece being postponed to the 2021 programme the writing and composition continues in lockdown. We asked the composers to answers a few questions so you can get a sense of the geniuses behind the music.

 

 

Riz Maslen

Riz Maslen – Composer, Benny and the Greycats

What’s your migration story?
My grandmother came to the UK from Burma during the Japanese invasion in WWII. She never talked about it much as it was a very traumatic time for her. She was of Indian descent. An incredibly strong and stubborn woman who we admired greatly!

What attracts you to composing Benny and the Greycats?

I had worked previously on another project with Suzanne and got my first taste of working in a theatre production. Suzanne then approached me to participate in the new project Benny and the Greycats. I loved the story and one that is close to my own cultural roots as my Great Grandfather worked on the Burmese Railways, my Grandmother was also Anglo Indian too.

What have you enjoyed about the process? Tell us the best bits.

Having come from a very different musical background it was a challenging opportunity to work in a new genre of music. I love a challenge and have always enjoyed pushing me out of my comfort zone. It has been an amazing team effort and working both collaboratively and solo I feel has moved me forward in my growth as a composer, in a genre I would never have considered before. Writing the opening number was daunting but one of the best moments for me really taking on board the way these musical numbers work, it might not be quite there yet but it has definitely given me a huge confidence boost.

How has composing in lockdown been for you? What have been the challenges in composing for Benny?

For me this has been probably one of the busiest times, and no different to my usual day to day as I work primarily in my studio on my own. We have adapted well as a team and check in each week for our weekly updates on Skype. In all new projects there are challenges but having the weekly chats has helped and made things clearer after discussions with one another.

Who’s your favourite Benny character? Why?

I think it would be Benny at this point as he really is the one we don’t really get to know in the first act. He is a troubled soul and as is with many of our revered Jazz musicians many of whom had troubled lives, yet created the most innovative and moving music of our time!

What record or piece of music changed your life?

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

 


 

Mike Gorman

Mike Gorman – Composer, Benny and the Greycats

What’s your migration story?

I left Sheffield to study in Manchester aged 20, then moved to London at 25. Since then have lived in the south of England, but I still feel like a northerner.

What attracts you to composing Benny and the Greycats? 

As well as being intrigued by the story because of family connections, it’s great to come at composing from a different angle from my normal approaches. i.e.. Having to think about character and dramatic pacing etc.

What have you enjoyed about the process? Tell us the best bits.

I’ve enjoyed many aspects but working with specific lyrics has been a good challenge in that it makes you think outside of your normal box melodically and harmonically.

How has composing in lockdown been for you? What have been the challenges in composing for Benny?

Composing in lockdown has been a challenge as there’s very little quiet time when everyone is in the house. Family always around, young children and my studio space is not behind closed doors. So I’ve been composing with the TV on a lot in the background. It’s helped my concentration although my family has unfortunately had to listen to me singing demo vocals on the songs.

Who’s your favourite Benny character? Why?

Tricky is the most developed and complex character so far. He has ambition and conflicts and the potential to do the wrong thing, but the humility to not always think he is always right.

What record or piece of music changed your life?

Too many to mention. But I think what more changed my life is the realisation at around aged 17 that whether I like a piece of music doesn’t necessarily reflect on it’s worth or artistic merit, but rather that I may have to work harder or take more time to perceive and understand the art or merit in there. Once I realised that it was like opening the door to so much music changing my life.