Ben James Wood
Artist, maker, tour manager, driver, other.
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I write articles, memoir, project profiles and travel journals

Encyclopedia, not the book

My ultimate dream in 2001 was to play in a band that toured in a van. Nothing more. My heroes were the UK punk bands that came to play shows in Yeovil - Howard's Alias, Lightyear, Five Knuckle, Pickled Dick and even though I knew I was nothing like them (I couldn't think of lyrics like theirs, figure out their chords and melodies or have their energy and apparent lack of inhibitions), they were my definition of success. I was determined to achieve the same.

I met my friend Oliver in college (High school for the Americans). For three years we started bands and wrote songs which, though sometimes enjoyed in Yeovil, rarely reached beyond my small hometown. After a while nobody else wanted to sing so I reluctantly became singer by default. It was embarrassing.

When my friends Joe and Dave booked the American punk band Squirtgun for a show at Flicks Bar in early 2004 I wanted to be in the support band so badly that I told them Oliver and I had a new band, that it was called Encyclopedia and that we were ready to play. They agreed we could do a short opening set. We had two weeks to write some songs and figure out what Encyclopedia was.

Encyclopedia was a miniature, orange, Creative Zen MP3 player, two loud, distorted electric guitars in dropped D tuning and two awkward, shy guys. We sequenced backing tracks with general midi synthesisers in the free version of Cubase and sang sentimental love songs about the years 2001-2004. I sometimes sang my dubious lyrics in a desperately regrettable, faux-American accent. We recorded and self-released an album and joined MySpace just as it was becoming popular. People actually liked our band and in 2006 we went on tour, in a van. (Loads of other great stuff happened too).

Oliver and I after an Encyclopedia show at The Vaults in Brecon, mid-Wales.

Some photos from the early days of Encyclopedia, taken by Tiff Thomas, Steve Lamond and I.

Some photos from the early days of Encyclopedia, taken by Tiff Thomas, Steve Lamond and I.

Encyclopedia completely changed my life, brought me closer to one of my best and oldest friends (Oliver) and directly lead to everything good that has happened in my life since (And some important bad stuff, too), but for the last seven years I've been secretive and somewhat dismissive of that whole time. Embarrassed that those songs no longer represented who I am and that nothing musical I'd created since had achieved anything like that modest level of success, I didn't want new friends to think I was still that guy. I know, it's weird.

In September, the label that released our (And their) first single in 2006, Alcopop Records asked us to reform and play their ten year anniversary party, in a cruising boat on the River Thames in London, opening for our favourite band Tellison. We agreed and on Sunday played our first show for years, surrounded by some of our sweetest friends and family. It was wild, there were so many people singing with me and I think there are video and audio recordings to prove it, not to mention hundreds of photographs.

Our first rehearsal in forever, no amps or mics necessary.

Our first rehearsal in forever, no amps or mics necessary.

Encyclopedia live on board ship, October 2016. Photo by Matt Cox.

Encyclopedia live on board ship, October 2016. Photo by Matt Cox.

There may never be another Encyclopedia show, I'd hate to become a nostalgic parody of myself, but thirty minutes with an electric guitar and my closest friends reminded me where I came from and who I want to be. I've no desire to relive the last ten years, but I remain 100% confident that I still want to be in a band that tours in a van.