Ben Copperhead is a New York City-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist whose compositions, performances, and arrangements offer a unique, contemporary vision informed by an unlikely range of influences, traditions, and collaborations.
Copperhead expresses his folk roots through his “otherworldly” banjo style and ethos of political protest. The influence of free jazz and figures like Coltrane, Coleman, and Monk can be heard in his contrapuntal improvisational excursions and alternate tunings. Polyphonies inspired by European classical and North African Berber artists inform his modal and tonal explorations, while the use of samplers, processed drum machines, tape loops, and handmade electronic instruments were inspired in part by the experimentalism of Musique Concrète.
In his former incarnation, Baby Copperhead, Ben Copperhead released music on Tin Angel Records and toured throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. He was commissioned to compose music for Jace Clayton’s (DJ/rupture) Room 21, a performance piece that premiered at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. He acted as an arranger for MacArthur Fellow and tap dancer Michelle Dorrance at Danspace with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, and collaborated with visual artist Brian Zegeer on Pull My Daisy, a multimedia video performance work presented live at the Queens Museum and various NYC galleries.
Ben Copperhead’s other projects include The Zolephants, a punk/surf/spaghetti-western instrumental electric trio, and his chamber group, The Stringed Serpents, featuring: Tom Swafford on violin, Jessica Pavone on viola, and Brent Arnold on cello. His former improv group, A.C. Unit, with Mike Pride and Jonathan Moritz, released two records in the early 2000s and received critical acclaim from All Music and All About Jazz.
Copperhead has also collaborated and performed with the legendary Mavis Staples, Darryl McDaniels (DMC), Michael Bearden, Hozier, Ed Askew, Mary Lattimore, Emily Manzo, Nona Hendryx, Eugene Chadbourne, Arnold de Boer (Zea/The Ex), Gizachew Habtemariam, and Devon Sproule.
In 2023, Copperhead will release his new album, Wailing Viridescence, on Kramer’s legendary Shimmy-Disc label.