RTR FM’s Fremantle Winter Music Festival


“I guess that would be a fear I have, to be considered really boring; I could be called rubbish, but boring’s not very flattering.” It’s a calm Sunday afternoon as Benjamin Witt, former The Chemist frontman, talks  about what drives him to create music, ahead of RTR FM’s Fremantle Winter Music Festival this Saturday, June 28, across Railway Hotel, Mojo’s Bar, Swan Hotel and the North Fremantle Bowls Club.

After calling it quits and playing their final show at The Bakery late last year, the boys from iconic Perth rock band, The Chemist, made an amicable separation and have gone on to bigger and better things.

For brooding frontman, Benjamin Witt, the split has been a springboard to launch his eponymous solo outing, as well as working on a cavalcade of projects with other bands, including Sean O’Neill and Kučka, playing session guitar for the likes of Empire Of The Sun and being the zen master of astral synth, alongside Tame Impala frontman, Kevin Parker, in the Perth band, Kevin Spacey (aka AAA Aardvark Getdown Services).

Now, with an EP on the way and a tasty slot on the RTR FM Winter Music Festival line-up, Witt opens his imaginarium to the public and discusses writing and his plan for the show.

“It’s just to kind of exorcise these creative ideas I have, that are kind of like leeches on the brain,” Witt says of the mysterious new EP. “It’s just a kind of lo-fi, trippy folk thing… I tried to record something galactic over the top to subvert the aesthetic. So they’re just simple songs recorded intimately and provided with an element that kind of de-normalises it.”

The EP, which Witt says draws heavily from the influences of Beck’s One Foot In The Grave and the works of Daniel Johnston, was largely recorded at home with a nylon string guitar and microphone, before being shipped off to The Panda Band’s Damian Crosby for tweaking. “He’s just gonna tweak the mixes. I’ve got about 15 tracks, but I’m sort of just carving a bunch of them off; it might just end up being 10 songs”

There’s a sense of experimentality that radiates while he talks. Whether it’s trying out subversive DIY recording techniques or learning and incorporating African rhythms into his guitar work, Witt has an almost manic erraticism in his approach to music. “It’s still me; it’s sort of just forcing myself to start from a different place and pushing myself doing something I haven’t explored or done before.

“In terms of the rhythm, it’s like the maths of it; thinking how notes would fall on a page and using that to break away from pretty catatonic white boy rhythms.”

Despite this year being largely about songwriting for Witt, he’s performing at the RTR FM Fremantle Winter Music Festival – a gig that The Chemist also played way back in 2011. When talking about the setlist, Witt still seems a little unsure.

“I’ve been working on a bunch of different projects, so I’ve got all these different songs. I’m thinking about just doing a 30-minute kraut rock jam with some loop pedals and a drum machine, or something. I’m still undecided; I might end up doing a bit of both.”

At the moment, Witt isn’t taking things too seriously. It might sound unusual for the frontman of a band as popular as The Chemist, but there seems to be a conscious effort to keep things simple and maybe a hint of some of the factors that led to his old band breaking up.

“When you’re touring and you’re working with labels and management and stuff it can get a bit tedious. I’m just trying to get back into the pure zone and enjoy the actual process without having anyone else to worry about. For now I’m just sort of indulging in the process, really.”


Shaun Cowe


For the line-up and playing times for the RTR FM Fremantle Winter Music Festival head here.