by Oskar Cox-Jensen
Ben Hudson, of Library fame; singer, guitarist, rapper; possessor of a routine 2:1 from St Anne’s and a small scruffy dog called Dave. We meet up backstage in the venue he persists, like most of us, in calling the Zodiac, he searching for his flat cap, I keen to make the most of a ten minute interview. Neither of us gets what we’re after. Unhappily, the cap is lost. On a brighter note, we walk his dog for a good two hours, taking in the University Parks, his old college, and some glorious unseasonable sunshine.
Ben hasn’t seen Oxford in six years, and tonight will be his ‘first ever gig’ in the city, so he’s understandably keen to reminisce about the old place. He comes across as a typical arty Oxford student. He dabbled in plays, starring in a take on The Merchant of Venice, but when he was asked to direct A Clockwork Orange he backed off – ‘I felt I was in too deep.’ This erstwhile dilettantism still irks him; ‘I feel like I should have got a First or a Third’; and his one significant act at Oxford, he feels, was a JCR motion to buy St Anne’s a decent PA system. He admits that ‘I never really went clubbing; I found those people obnoxious’, nor to gigs; ‘what gigs was I gonna go to? Funk nights at Po-Na-Na’s? Travis?’ Instead, he stayed in, listening to Bowie and Joni Mitchell.
It seems to have paid off. He started playing songs for fun, taking a ‘Gap Year’ dossing in London after graduating, and refreshingly, always saw ‘The Record Deal’ as just something that happened along the way. Now, ‘we’re famous, but only at our own gigs.’ He plays ‘mostly by ear’ and never writes things down – ‘If something’s important enough, you’ll remember it,’ he observes wryly, since I’d forgotten a Dictaphone. But he finds himself supporting Amy Winehouse (‘she’s a good girl’) and, two nights earlier, The Police, at the Millennium Stadium. ‘It was so big and ridiculously important that I just wasn’t nervous at all.’ Their live show that night has all the fervour and joy of an Arcade Fire gig, but far more style. To explain the transformation, he lapses into cliché for once. ‘I realised that I had to wake up every morning like a man possessed, and give it 100%, if I wanted to make it.’Ben always feared being stuck in an office, raging at DeLoitte and the milk round; a fate he seems to have escaped. But for such a focused, contented man, who stresses how important it is to ‘move on from Oxford, and let the new undergraduates have their fun,’ he’s awfully keen on chasing up old porters in the Lodge and staring fondly at his first year room. The guy’s a genius, and fiercely independent. But like so many of us, he’ll never truly escape Oxford.