It’d be hard to beat Ben’s life in the background

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Girls Aloud, Leona Lewis and Shayne Ward don’t know it, but part of their success owes a lot to The News.

For it was through an advertisement in this paper that drummer Ben Kennedy started to realise his ambition.

Stubbington drummer Ben Kennedy Picture: Adam Prosser

Stubbington drummer Ben Kennedy Picture: Adam Prosser

‘My first kit was for Christmas at the age of 11,’ he says. ‘It was a battered old kit which was picked up from The News Free-Ads. It was the best gift I’ve ever received.

‘I had such an incredible buzz from my first time on that kit.’

Now 27, Ben is a sought-after session musician who, in addition to those named above, has also played and toured with Will Young and Ladyhawke.

He has appeared on the X-Factor and made numerous TV and video appearances, albeit in the background, such is the lot of drummers.

Not bad for a lad from Peel Common Junior School and Crofton secondary at Stubbington.

He has just returned to his roots to live at Stubbington, near Fareham, having left Battersea in London. ‘I prefer it on the coast. I found London too hectic and the commute back there is never too bad,’ he says.

He might have got that first kit courtesy of The News, but it was his late grandad Derrick Rogers who provided the inspiration for life behind the skins.

But that only came after developing an interest in other instruments.

‘I started with trumpet and then progressed to piano at Peel Common juniors. I enjoyed them both but became interested in drums when I went to Crofton.

‘I started drum lessons in year 7 with teacher Jon Hammond. From the minute I sat behind the kit I never looked back. It was noisy, fun and just all round very cool.’

He adds: ‘I’ve always had an ear for music in general – my grandad was a great jazz upright bass player, so I think it comes from him. Starting drums was a last attempt to play an instrument.’

Ben’s a great believer in having an all-round interest in every musical genre. He might cite Chris Sharrock’s energetic live performances with Robbie Williams as a strong influence, alongside John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl (Nirvana) and Dominic Howard (Muse) as inspiration, but it was legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich who first caught his attention, thanks again to his grandad.

‘He passed away at the age of 70 and he was never around to see me play as a professional musician.

‘But when I was about six I remember him giving me a cassette with buddy Rich playing live on it.

‘I didn’t stop listening to it and my love for music not only grew from there, but also seeing him play bass and piano helped. He was a massive influence and I just wish he could have come to one of my gigs.’

And then there was Phil Collins, the ex-Genesis drummer who forged a hugely successful solo career.

Ben admits it might not have been trendy to listen to his music but it was all part of learning his trade.

‘I’m just a fan of good songs whether it be pop, grunge, indie or rock.

‘To be a session player I think it’s essential to be open-minded as you can get a call to do any style of gig.

‘Kids can be narrow-minded in what they listen to as it’s not the coolest thing to go in to school and tell your mates you’ve been listening to a Phil Collins’s record.

‘But I’ve always paid attention to play drums for the song. A lot of young musicians seem obsessed by playing fast and having fancy licks and fills. That’s not what being a professional musicians is all about.’

So how did he get that first break? Ben cringes. ‘It came from a video casting call from an agent.

‘I turned up, had no idea who it was for and was asked to play drums in front of a camera and flirt with it. I almost walked out. It was all pretty embarrassing.

‘But I got a call later that evening to say I had the gig and it turned out to be for Girls Aloud.

‘I couldn’t believe it and shooting the video for The Promise was the best Monday I’ve ever had in my life.’

And how does he cope with life on the road?

I’ve had some surreal moments from flicking popcorn at Cheryl Cole to getting drunk with some of my favourite bands.

‘I do enjoy touring. The longest I’ve been away is two months, had a short break and then back out again.

“Then I’m ready for home comforts.

‘But I almost turned all this down because of my huge phobia of flying. I used to get in a complete state before embarking on my first tour because I had to fly. The doctor gave me some pills and the more I flew the easier it became and I finally overcame it. Now, I don’t think anything of it. It’s really bizarre.

Generally it’s important to be in good spirits and be a nice person to be around. Things can get pretty tense, especially with touring.

‘A lot of the time it really isn’t as glamorous as it seems – lots of airports, waiting around and lack of sleep.

‘But I’ve got some great memories which keep you going through the quieter times.’

Watch the video with this story to see Ben in action and for footage of him with stars ranging from Girls Aloud, Leona Lewis, Shayne Ward and Ladyhawke, go to benkennedydrums.com/video.php