Ben Christo

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Ben Christo
Ben Christo playing with The Sisters of Mercy in Berlin, Germany
Ben Christo playing with The Sisters of Mercy in Berlin, Germany
Background information
Born22 March 1980 (1980-03-22) (age 40)
Bristol, England
GenresIndustrial rock, alternative rock, alternative metal, gothic rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Associated actsThe Sisters of Mercy, Night By Night, Diamond Black, AKO, Nathan Gray, Pig

Ben Christo (born 22 March 1980) is an English rock musician, guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, lyricist and session musician, he is best known for his tenures with The Sisters of Mercy, Night By Night and Diamond Black.

Early life[edit]

Christo was born in Bristol, England and began playing music at seven years old, performing in a number of rock, metal and punk bands in his early to mid-teens. At 15, his school group, Balanced State, won the South West of England's regional battle of the bands, leading to his first TV appearance.

AKO[edit]

He first saw national success in the hardcore punk/metal/rock band AKO, which he co-founded in 1998, whose debut album received favourable reviews in Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Total Guitar. The band's unique combination of punk, hardcore, nu-metal and melodic rock caught the attention of Tony Iommi’s management, who gave Christo one of Iommi's old Laney amplifiers and arranged for the band to meet with renowned producer Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper, Shinedown, Rob Zombie), to discuss collaboration on their second album. However, 9/11 severed trans-Atlantic links to such an extent that the plans were shelved indefinitely.

AKO released two more EPs and toured in support of Alkaline Trio, AFI, Stiff Little Fingers, Avenged Sevenfold and Stonesour, amongst others, and were featured on Mike DaviesBBC Radio 1 show The Lock Up at Maida Vale Studios. The AKO song, "Tread Easy" was used on BBC 2’s "Football Diaries".

The band's final show was at the 2005 South By South West Festival in Austin, Texas. AKO decided to call it a day shortly thereafter and Christo moved to London.

In October 2020, Cherry Red Records began re-releasing the back catalogue on worldwide digital platforms, including previously unreleased single "The Death of Us", which includes never-before-heard B-sides from the "Tomorrow Night's Regret" sessions.

The Sisters of Mercy[edit]

Ben Christo with the Sisters of Mercy
Ben Christo playing at the Camden Roundhouse with the Sisters of Mercy

In 2006, Christo joined The Sisters of Mercy, as lead guitarist and backing vocalist. He has toured extensively with the band,[1] headlining festivals worldwide such as Sonsiphere, Fuji Rock, Nova Rock, Tuska OpenAir Metal Festival, M’era Luna, Greenfield Festival, Spirit of Burgas, Amphi and Soundwave Australia. The 2019 – 2020 world tour showcased a number of new songs that Christo had co-written with Andrew Eldritch and new guitarist Dylan Smith.

Night by Night[edit]

In 2008, Christo founded Night By Night, where he was lead singer, guitarist, primary songwriter and key lyricist for the band. Their first EP, "Just Tonight", was produced by Paul Tipler (Idlewild) and released in 2009. Later recruiting an additional lead singer and expanding to a 5-piece, Night by Night's debut album, "NxN", was released to critical acclaim in 2014.

Produced and mixed by Romesh Dodangoda (Motorhead, Funeral for a Friend) and John Mitchell and released on Sun Hill Production/Cargo Records the album was publicly applauded by several musicians including those from Def Leppard,[2] Kane Roberts, Harem Scarem and Firehouse, claiming 6th place in Fireworks Magazine’s Top 10 Albums of 2014, alongside Mr. Big and Night Ranger. In his review,[3] Classic Rock Magazine’s Geoff Barton scored the album 8/10 and made a point of commending both Christo's lead playing (comparing him to Neal Schon) and lyrics.

In addition to substantial touring across the UK, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland, Germany and Switzerland (including shows supporting Alannah Miles, The Quireboys, Lord of the Lost and Jettblack), Night by Night was selected as sole tour supports to both Europe and Y&T, and also appeared at Download (2013) and Hard Rock Hell (2012 and 2015) festivals. In June 2015, the band announced that they would be on hiatus until further notice.

Diamond Black[edit]

In 2016, Christo established dark-rock quartet, Diamond Black,[4] with Finnish singer J.I. Turunen and Finnish producer Jaani Peuhu (Swallow the Sun, Lord of the Lost), with artist & bassist Adam Lightspeed joining shortly after to help create the band's identity. Renowned dummer Jan-Vincent Velazco (Pendragon) was recruited soon after, completing the group. The debut single was released on 20 October 2017 and received public praise from Metal Hammer, W.A.S.P. and Deathstars, with Piggy D of Rob Zombie and Mark Thwaite of The Mission sharing the video on their social media. Sony Pictures Television channel Scuzz set the track on rotation and Bass Guitar Magazine ran a feature on the band. On 12 December, a limited-edition physical copy of the single was released from the band's website, selling out in 2 hours, which included Christo's hand-written lyrics as part of the CD package. In March 2018, Diamond Black toured the UK as sole support to Cellar Darling, to positive feedback from public and press. Soon after, the sophomore single, Ghost in the Glass was released, gaining public acclaim from Therapy?'s Michael McKeegan and scoring the band rotation on one of Spotify's new music playlists, seeing the band's Spotify plays shoot to 70K+ in a number of days. In June 2019, the band signed to Cargo Records, and with first release with the label, The Scarlet, publicly hailed by Michael Rainbow of The Birthday massacre and with the promotional video clip winning first place in both the New York Cinematography Awards and Paris International Music Awards. This activity caught the attention of live booker, United Talent Agency, who signed the band, leading to a support slot to Finnish rockers The 69 Eyes. In June 2020, during worldwide lockdown, the band released single If You Kill My Demons.

Session and other work[edit]

As a studio session guitarist and vocalist, he has recorded with Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers), Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Pixies), Raymond Watts (KMFDM, PIG), Steve Lima (Corrine Bailey-Rae) and Bob White of NFD. He also works as a lyricist and music mentor for various artists at Play Soho, London.

In 2002, Christo was selected as one of eight songwriters, alongside Jonny Kalsi, chosen from thousands of members of PRS for Music for their The Song's The Thing workshop, led by Boo Hewerdine. Around the same time, he appeared in a promo feature for Roadrunner Records.

In 2004, Ben co-wrote and directed a comedy short, "Sold Out", with fellow University of Bristol graduate David R. Watson, featuring Ninian Doff (Kasabian, Royal Blood, Miike Snow, Chemical Brothers, Get Duked!) as the D.O.P, Nick Gadd (Sherlock, TV Series) as starring role and John Heffernan in a cameo. The short won a Dazed national film award, selected by Rhys Ifans.

From 2008 to 2016, Christo has featured as a live guitarist and backing vocalist with Richie Faulkner, Therapy?, Mike Tramp, Chris Dale, Doogie White, Stephen Gilchrist, Chris Catalyst, Jon Poole, Boysetsfire, Claytown Troupe and members of Uriah Heep, Breed 77, Rachel Stamp, Ben and Jason, DragonForce, Cradle of Filth and Sikth.

In 2011, Christo wrote and performed live for Lauren Harris’s band, Six Hour Sundown, when previous guitarist Richie Faulkner, who left to join Judas Priest, personally asked Ben to take his place.

In 2014, Christo composed and played guitar parts for Anzi Destruction’s "Black Dog Bias".

As part of The Sisters of Mercy and as a session guitarist, Christo has also played alongside Depeche Mode, Metallica, Placebo, Editors, Strung Out, Serj Tankian, The Cult, Faith No More, Marilyn Manson, Tricky, OMD, Machine Head (band), Linkin Park, Rob Zombie, Iron Maiden, Skunk Anansie, Manic Street Preachers, Prophets of Rage and Limp Bizkit. He is also musical director, performer and promoter at Shot Through the Heart, a monthly rock club night in at The Lounge in London.

In June 2018, Pig released full-length album "Risen", on which Christo co-wrote and performed. The album also features En Esch, Tim Skold, Marc Heal and Mark Thwaite. The album release promoted by a US tour, including a 3-week support slot for Killing Joke on the U.S.A. leg of their fortieth anniversary world tour.[5] In May 2019, The Revelation, a song Ben co-wrote and performed with Raymond Watts was featured in DC Comics' Legends of Tomorrow, as John Constantine prepares to battle demons in the night club ‘Hell’.

April 2019 saw Christo invited by Chris Dale to perform a special show in Sarajevo, Bosnia, commemorating 25 years since Bruce Dickinson’s band, Skunkworks (featuring Dale on bass), had played there during the war (as documented in the award-winning movie "Scream for me Sarajevo"). The show was a sell-out success, filmed for national television and with Dickinson himself in attendance.   

In May and August 2018, Christo accompanied Nathan Gray (Boysetsfire) on his solo tour of Germany as guitarist, backing vocalist and keyboard player, the recordings of which were released in February 2019 as a live album and DVD. The physical copies of the album sold out in just 4 days. A European tour followed in March, with many shows being sold out. Ben then co-wrote and performed guitars and backing vocals on a number of Nathan's new recordings, featured on the 2019 EP Split (with Jesse Barnett of Stick to Your Guns ) and the 2020 album Working Title, both produced by Pete Steinkopf of the Bouncing Souls, the new songs from which were debuted on a February 2020 European tour.

During lockdown 2020/21, Ben composed and performed parts for Lev Kerzhner and Noa Gruman's Together On Our Own, a remotely-recorded collaboration featuring members of Kamelot and Subway to Sally. He also appeared on Rob Lane's Straight to Video podcast, joining a roster of guests that includes members of Steel Panther, Slash and the Conspirators and The Alice Cooper Band.

Equipment and endorsements[edit]

Christo uses Gibson & Fender guitars, Kemper amplifiers, RotoSound strings, DiMarzio pick-ups and InTune guitar picks, with clothing endorsements from Alexander McQueen and Dr Martens.

Recorded work[edit]

The following represent the body of recorded work with which Christo has been involved:

Date Band Title Format Label
1997 Disrupt D.D.K. E.P. Clocktower
1998 KAT>DNA 13%/Myrrh Single (Self Release)
1999 AKO Cover My Eyes E.P. (Self Release)
2000 AKO Fragments of Reason E.P. (Self Release)
2001 AKO Find Yourself Album Trash City
2002 AKO Tomorrow Night's Regret E.P. Naked Ambition
2004 AKO The Last Goodbye Single Naked Ambition
2005 Ben Christo At The Brink Single (Self Release)
2008 Night By Night Just Tonight E.P. (Self Release)
2009 Night By Night Can't Walk Away E.P. (Self Release)
2013 Night By Night Tune Out the Static E.P. Sun Hill Production
2014 Anzi Destruction Black Dog Bias Album Chemical Music Enterprises
2014 Night By Night NxN Album Sun Hill Production/Cargo Records
2014 Night By Night A Thousand Lies Single Sun Hill Production/Cargo Records
2017 Diamond Black Sorrow Single (Self Release)
2017 Pig Prey and Obey EP Metropolis Records
2018 Pig Risen Album Metropolis Records
2018 Diamond Black Ghost in the Glass Single (Self Release)
2019 Nathan Gray Live at Dechenhöhle Iserlohn Album End Hits Records
2019 Diamond Black The Scarlet Single Cargo Records
2019 Nathan Gray / Jesse Barnett Split EP End Hits Records
2019 Nathan Gray Never Alone Single End Hits Records
2020 Nathan Gray Working Title Album End Hits Records
2020 Passion Passion Album Frontiers Records
2020 Noa & Lev Together On Our Own Single LMH Records
2020 Diamond Black If You Kill My Demons Single Cargo Records
2020 AKO The Death of Us Single Trash City/Cherry Red Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Der Kult aus der Nebelwand – "The Sisters of Mercy" on Tour". worteffekte (in German). 28 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  2. ^ "NIGHT BY NIGHT – NxN – Screamer Magazine". Screamer Magazine. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Melodic Rock Round-up: Summer 2014". Classic Rock. 18 June 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  4. ^ "The Sisters Of Mercy Guitarist Ben Christo launches Diamond Black – HighWire Daze". HighWire Daze. 15 October 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  5. ^ "PIG Announces Fall 2018 Tour With Killing Joke Shares "Chosen Few" Video -". mxdwn Music. 5 June 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.

External links[edit]