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One word,  one track, one instrument at a time
Waukesha native’s self-produced electronic music keyed for visual collaborator

BY TOM BADGER - Special to TimeOut

April 13, 2017

 
                          

Ben Knapp’s “Chaos” focuses on the changes and chaos in his own life. Formerly of Waukesha, he now lives in Kentucky. Knapp goes by the name of Sweeb when he performs.
CREDIT: Submitted photo


WAUKESHA - Like most 24-year old musicians, Ben Knapp has a lot to say.

It’s just that he doesn’t say all that much in his music.

The Waukesha native, who goes by the music handle of Sweeb, is taking a rarely-used road to musical notoriety by producing a collaboration of 10 instrumentals - mystic and melodic music without the clutter of words.

In fact, all 10 of his songs have one-word titles.

“At some point I had to narrow down what I was trying to accomplish and I found that I had two different genres I was trying to accomplish,” said Knapp, a University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and University of Minnesota graduate now living in Lexington, Ky., where he works for Quad/Graphics. “One was these heartfelt singer-songwriter type songs based on acoustic guitar or ukulele, with a strong emphasis on the lyrics. The other, notably, was this experimental electronic sound that I fell in love with.”

Titled “Chaos,” Knapp’s experimental electronic sounds stems from chaos in his personal life. His song list includes titles like “Hope,” “One,” “Chance,” “Circles” and “Goodbye.”

“Oddly enough, parts of this album have been recorded in three states, and I think that embracing change is one of the main themes I wanted to convey with my music,” Knapp said. “2016 was a year where I went through a lot of life changes, including living in three different states.”

Without words, Knapp does his talking through his fingers, using up to nine different instruments. The project took over 20 months to complete. During the production and mixing process, Knapp said some songs got up to 30 tracks of different types of keyboard sounds.

“I want the listener to also be an artist,” he said. “By empowering the listener to also be an artist in their head, I hope that I can find a way to connect with an audience.”

Waiting to connect

Knapp is also hoping to connect with filmmakers and music library managers, as he has a strong interest in music synchronization licensing - a license that permits the holder to sync up his or her music in the backgrounds of film, televisions, ads or even video games.

“A lot of the feedback I have gotten is that this would go great in an indie film or documentary,” Knapp said. “I would love to have the ability to use my art to empower others in creating art, such as video. It is a hard niche to get into, but I am hoping that if I send enough emails, the right person will hear my music.”

Knapp realizes his music doesn’t fit in at the prototypical live performance venues, although he hopes to take his music to the stage some day. Knapp revealed a strong desire to play a future Friday Night Live and eventually a Summerfest stage.

“The biggest compliment I have gotten is that I am creative,” Knapp said. “Even if I am not the best in the world, I take pride in creating something that is new.”

In the end, he hopes his listeners will have a lot to say after hearing his album.

“There is a lot that you can say with words but there is also a lot that you can say in the absence of words,” Knapp said. “I don’t really have a set end goal of where I would like to end up as a musician, but being placed in a film is a current goal. I hope to continue to work hard at both my electronic and acoustic music alike, and hopefully find a way to use it in a positive way to impact those around me.”

Knapp’s music is available for streaming on Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud. His album can also be purchased on iTunes. For more information, visit www.sweebmusic.com or facebook.com/sweebmusic.