Incubus - Talking with Ben Kenny
Fridays are the best days to skip. No more school, work or studying and an early start for the weekend always make me feel fine. Especially when I’m supposed to go to Amsterdam and have an interview with a band I’ve been following for quite some time now. The latest album of Incubus received positive comments and the single ‘Love Hurts’ is entering the national charts around the world in no time. Incubus is hot. Metalrage is hot; perfect combination for an interview with bass player Ben Kenny.
Hi Ben, how are you?
‘I’m good, good. I woke up a little late because I slept all day. We had a great show last night in Cologne, Germany. Ten seconds after we started playing, all of a sudden our crew ran on stage, starting to grab us. We were wondering what was going on but then we looked up and saw three spotlights with men controlling them hanging in the air. Now, the chairs became unbalanced and the men hang upside down, above us. They couldn’t fall of course because they were attached to the framework but they just hang there. We had to stop for a few minutes because of that and afterwards we could continue the show. We’ve got the best crew though, and they got it figured out really quick’.
And those were your own guys?
‘Yes they are. We don’t think it will happen again because these men are really into safety. They check and double check everything.’
Right now, ‘Love Hurts’ is in the charts almost everywhere in Europe. Is that something you expected to happen with this song?
‘I think you never expect it, that it would actually be arrogant to expect something like a hit to happen. It means that a lot of people are listening to the song. You do hope for it, at best.’
And if it should have been one song on the album, you think it should have been this one?
‘Honestly, well the record label released ‘Dig’ as a single in the States. They said to release ‘Dig’ over there and ‘Love Hurts’ in Europe. The cool thing about it is, we’re proud of every song on the album, so it’s cool to have success with different songs at the same time’.
That’s funny because a lot of people are asking for ‘Dig’ to be the next single. Is that going to happen?
‘Maybe, we do have a video for it though. We had a contest for it in which we had some footage of us made available for people to edit and make a video for it. And then a guy in Portugal made a video without even using the footage we provided. He used his own stuff and made an awesome, delicate video for the song.’
Which is also showed on MTV?
‘Yeah, it is. He flew over to Los Angeles where we had a presentation with him. He is a really cool guy and he’s working for children’s programming on television so he also knew how to handle the editing.’
Light Grenades is supposed to be the most intense record you’ve made so far. Can you explain that a little bit?
‘That’s mainly because it was a different experience making this record, compared to the previous ones. We used to come together, started writing and the next thing we knew, we had a record. With this one, we started writing and then stopped to take some time off. Then we came together again after a month, talked about what happened, what everyone wrote about and continued to record some songs in the studio. And every couple of months we came together; recorded some songs and stopped. Recording, stop. And we continued until we felt like we had enough songs to make a total album. So this time, we really took the time for the album and as a result it brings it a little further down the road. I don’t know if we’re going to continue in this way but there is more time in every single song than before.'
So it’s not like you’ve been continuously surrounding each other for a year?
‘No, there were times when we decided not to call each other for two weeks or so in order to continue the process I just mentioned. Well, actually that goes up for the recordings only, we did meet of course outside of the studio but then it did not have anything to do with the recordings. We came together at Mike’s house to record a bunch of songs and then entered the studio in Los Angeles. After that we decided to not continue for a couple of weeks and personally I can be very lazy. You’ve got to come over to my house to see me. Or well, *laugh*. I intend to go skateboarding or surfing or be at home writing some stuff, recording with other bands. I don’t leave my house that much.'
So you have a big house?
‘No, I intend to have a lot of people on a very small space.’
And this is also where you keep yourself busy with your own label?
‘Yes, I do, but those are really small projects, nothing big and basically I work with friends and try to help them move forward. It’s just something that I’m grateful of being able to do. This band gives me the opportunity to help others move forward a little bit.’
Well, after the release of A Crow Left Of The Murder the band said that this was the album they wanted to make after S.C.I.E.N.C.E. And also on stage there was more variation visible with the drum solo and ‘Drive’ being played on piano. What do you think you have changed after your entrance?
‘For me that’s a tricky question because I don’t know how it was before I came in the band. Everybody is excited but I don’t take any credit for it. I’ll just try the best I can do. Everybody gets along very well and it works but I don’t know what has changed. I do know that Mike pushes me as a musician and I try to really come with it. It is so hard to say unless I was there in the time before.’
But whose idea was it then to do the drum thing on stage during the tour?
‘That was actually me and José. I play drums as well, that’s actually my first instrument so I really developed a relationship with him as a drummer. Then we talked to the band and asked: ‘Hey, shall we bring another drum kit on tour?' And they were like ‘well, sure.’ And that’s when other ideas started. But that drum solo originates from the relation with the drummer. We both are excited about new things and talk about doing this, doing that etcetera. If you’re in a band and you are the only guy who plays your instrument seriously you’re on your own. But if you can share that, it changes the dynamics. Personally, I am not anymore in the audience watching the show. Since I’ve joined the band I haven’t been to an Incubus show of course. A lot of my life has changed. I used to be watching and now I’m on stage, which is so different.'
I recently heard of Battering Ram, a heavy metal project which consists only of members of Incubus. Can you tell something about it?
‘Wo, there are probably a dozen side projects inside Incubus. We’re like: ‘Let’s start another band and do this, let’s start another band and do that.’ That’s because there are so many creative guys in the band.’ But I’m sure that every year you’re going to hear something different in terms of side projects. Simply because there are so many ideas. And we sincerely want to be busy with that but there is no time for it.'
And you don’t feel like Incubus is able to combine those different styles together?
‘Well, we do, we don’t play straight up metal or simply rock songs.’
Then our final question. What is your favorite Incubus album you did not play on?
‘Then I would have to toss between Morning View and Make Yourself because I was introduced to Incubus when Make Yourself came out. Back then I was in The Roots and thought it was amazing so I would go for that one.’
After the traditional thank you section, the tour manager took care of Ben and we left the building to have something to eat. Later that night, we were witnessing another wonderful show by a band that seems to be continuing their thing for quite a long time. Personally, I’d say that’s a blessing.