Ben Kweller is currently on tour to promote his new self-titled album. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Daze.
Daze: You worked with [famed producer] Gil Norton on your eponymous album. How did you meet and why did you elect to join forces with Mr. Norton for this project?
Ben Kweller: I’ve always been a fan of the work, the albums that he’s done: so classic. Whenever I go into making an album, I usually put together a list of producers that I think would be good for the project, and his name was on the list. That was 20 producers, and he was my favorite. We just decided to do the album together, and it worked out really good.
Daze: Who else would you like to collaborate with in the near and far future, producers, artists, anyone?
BK: I’d like to collaborate with Tom Petty at some point, also Jeff Lynne—a great producer, and maybe Steve Lillywhite.
Daze: Speaking of which, what’s going on with the Bens? How well do you keep in touch with those bandmates?
BK: Well, I still talk to those guys a lot, and we have plans of doing another album or something. We’re going to do something in the future for
Daze: What separates your self-titled album from the rest of your body of work?
BK: I think that this album is really personal, really autobiographical a lot more than the other albums that I’ve made. I think that kind of fits the part—it’s a really honest sort of piece of work that really lets you into my world.
Daze: Is that why did you decide to self-title the album?
BK: Yeah, exactly. I thought it was so honest and upfront.
Daze: Why did you decide to play all the instruments on this album yourself?
BK: That was actually Gil’s idea. He thought that because the songs were so personal that if I played every instrument, it would have my fingerprint on the whole album and he thought that would be really unique and really true. So we went for it.
Daze: How many instruments do you know how to play and what are they?
BK: (Laughs) Um well, I pretty much know all of your basic rock ’n roll instruments. I probably can play 20 instruments. No classical instruments: violins or cello or woodwinds or flutes or anything like that. Pretty much any keyed instrument: piano, organ, keyboard. Bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic, 12-strings. Stuff like that—drums, percussion.
Daze: Which is the first one that you learned?
BK: The first instrument I learned was drums. My dad is a drummer and he taught me when I was about seven years old how to play the drums.
Daze: And which one do you enjoy playing the most and why?
BK: I love playing the bass guitar. You know it changes from time to time. It depends a lot what I’ve been playing a lot of lately. Bass is a really fun instrument. You have a lot of control. It’s rhythmic and also is melodic. I really like it.
Daze: Since On My Way was so sparsely produced, how important was production on this album and what specifically did you do to achieve the record’s sound?
BK: I wanted to make something very different from On My Way, and I wanted it to be something really layered and lush and really beautiful. You know, the beauty in On My Way is through its spontaneity and through its rawness, but for this one I really wanted to make something that was really beautiful sounding.
Daze: What gave you the idea to do “One Minute Pop Song with Ben Kweller?”
BK: Well, we had all this footage of me in the studio, and I didn’t want to put out a DVD. So I just thought, let’s do little one-minute clips and put them on the internet. YouTube had just come out, so it seemed like a fine way of utilizing that technology. And it was a way that we could have our own little TV show. It was fun.
Daze: The opening to your new album, the first few bars of “Run” is quite reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen. Was this purposeful? Does this perchance have anything to do with your connection to Nils Lofgren?
BK: I grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen my whole life, and he was one of my favorite artists as a kid. I idolized him, so that, I think it’s finally seeped into my music a little bit.
Daze: Who have been your favorite artists to tour with these last couple years?
BK: The Strokes have probably been my favorite, The Violent Femmes, and the Flaming Lips are probably my favorite.
Daze: Does that have anything to do with the type of audience?
BK: The audiences overlap. My fans like all those bands. The main reason I like touring with a certain band is I get to watch them every night, and to watch the Strokes—that’s really inspiring.
Daze: What exactly happened during your Austin City Limits set?
BK: Oh god, well (laughs) it was an hour before the show and I just got this nosebleed out of both nostrils. And it wasn’t from anything! I didn’t pick my nose or snort cocaine or anything! It was just like a freak accident. And they said that Austin has the highest allergies in all of America, so maybe
it had to do something with that.
Ben Kweller will be playing dates in Rochester on Sunday, March 4, Toronto March 5, and New York City March 8 and 9. His album, Ben Kweller, is available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and in most major music outlets. Visit www.benkweller.com for more information.