Ben Chasny: Interview
Think What You Want to Think
If all interviews were as friendly and
personable as Ben Chasny, I'd never be nervous again. I was offered a hand,
handed a beer, and taken for a ride in a great conversation. Not once did this
feel like an interview or a chore. And after the interview, as we stood in the
tavern in which he was about to play, we talked about Sir Richard Bishop,
Some Kind of Monster, and day-to-day living. Of course, when the tape was
rolling, we talked about the perception and process of music. You may be
interested in Ben's take on Metallica in therapy, or how awestruck he was
following Sir Richard Bishop night after night, but that was just a conversation
between two people.
Later in the evening when Ben took the stage, it was hard to look at him as a
musician and that may have made his music shine even brighter. He took chances I
never expected, and had the full attention of the crowd--which ironically
included Greg Anderson of Sunn O)))—eating out of the palms of his hands.
I've noticed your recent tour has been just you. How have the song dynamics
I didn't know how different it was going to be until last night (May 14th)
because I usually don't practice when I'm by myself, so I just have to kind of
throw myself into it. I kind of missed him, but it's more dynamic when I do it
by myself. When you're touring with Chris [Corsano], you can just kick back
during some point, put your sunglasses on, drink a martini and just let him take
the set to a point where people say 'Oh! This is good!' Then, you know, join in
again--you're like 'Thanks Chris.' He was a total secret weapon.
Do you know what Chris is up to now?
He's touring a lot at the moment and then he's planning on moving to the UK. So
he's probably going to be playing there a lot.
Oh, so since Chris will be in the UK, do you still see him as a part of Six
Organs of Admittance?
He's always welcome to play. Six Organs has always been about just whoever is
around. But now that he's over there, you just scratch your chin and be like
'Maybe I can get over there and do a tour with him.' Everything's pretty much up
in the air and open.
What influences do you carry into Six Organs? I know you're in San Francisco,
but you don't have that finite California sound (The Byrds, Beach Boys, etc.),
but more of a dark, old western soundtrack feel (Neil Young - Dead Man).
I'm not really a Beach Boys fan, though I respect them, I just don't listen to
them. It's funny you said that because recently [after Dark Noontide]
I've been more into western-sounding soundtracks like Pat Garrett and Billy
the Kid. So I kind of wanted to do something like that eventually.
Being a part of two innovative bands (Six Organs, Comets on Fire), does that
drain on some of your creativity?
I don't know how innovative either band is. Comets is just get together, drink,
throw a few punches and hopefully some riffs came out of it, and then either
have a big group hug or tell each other to fuck off and see each other next
week. It's not a creative strain at all; it's more about time.
What is your recording process about? Do you take an idea and run with
it, or do you have the songs ready to go?
All the records up until this one (School of the Flower) have been
recorded at home on the four-track, so I'd come home after work and do it. The
last one I just had a few ideas in my head, but I wanted to write it in the
studio. So I just went in there and flushed it out.
I had the chance to review the new Jandek tribute.
Yeah. I like Jandek--I can't explain it.
Of course I heard your track. How'd you get involved?
They just contacted me, and no disrespect because I love Jandek, but how the
fuck do you cover his songs? You're just screwed either way. You just can't--you
going to do a ska version if you're a ska band? That's horrible. Certain people
on that tribute were able to do their own thing. Brother JT took the song I
wanted to do. I wanted to do “Message to the Clerk,” and they said no, you can't
do that--Brother JT took it and I thought he did a great version. I didn't want
to make it sound like Jandek, but it's really tough. So I thought the best way
to be true to the song was to hardly practice it all, go to the beach and do
some recording, and there's the song and not think about it too much. It's a
really good compilation and I'm really happy with it.
You seem to give a lot of support to drone metal and avant artists such as Om,
Wolf Eyes, and Sunn O))). Is this a scene you want to contribute to or feel a
The thing is, people try to make a distinction between different scenes. These
people are folk scene, and these people are noise scene. The fact of the matter
is everybody's friends and everyone goes to each other's shows and everyone just
parties together. If I said 'Everybody go check out this folk person,' it'd be a
little redundant. Wolf Eyes and Sunn O))) just played and it was a fucking
awesome show--it was amazing--and I just wanted to give a little shout out.
I don't blame you; both are amazing. I like how bands tend to stick by their
friends or at least stop themselves from feeling 'Oh, I'm a pop musician, so you
should go see this pop musician.'
A lot of people do that anyway. I do it too. That's the music that I listen to
at home. I don't really listen to acoustic music at all at home. That's just me
being a fan boy.
Which begs the question: Do you hate being labeled?
Everybody does, but I'm just happy people are even paying any attention
whatsoever so I can't complain. Label--I don't give a fuck. Think what you want
to think, you know?
Any new releases from Six Organs/Comets on Fire/other on the horizon?
The next thing coming out, we're calling the band August Born. It's
collaboration with Hiroyuki Usui, and he was in Ghost before they were Ghost.
The Ghost DVD that just came out, the early footage of them freaking out, he's
the guy that's playing the drums. He was in
for 6 years and he was in Marble Sheep. He's
just been in tons of bands but then he dropped out of the music scene altogether
and he's a landscaper now. We just got in contact. He put out a record under the
name L, that's
been one of my favorite records of all time. We just started doing a by-mail
project. That's going to come out in August.
Are there any future plans with Hiroyuki beyond this release?
I want to get him over here but he can't really leave. He's got a job and he
tells me he can't leave his cat and he's got no one to watch his cat. So I don't
know about touring, but I just might go over to Japan. I'll imagine we'll make
music forever--it's just so much fun.
Ever been to Japan before?
No, I want to go really bad. So many of my biggest influences are from Japan, so
I want to go just to hang out see these people play, and meet them.
What's left for you?
I think I'll probably just do some more touring and then try to record
(hopefully) in the wintertime. I'm not too sure. And Comets is trying to write
music for a record. We don't have plans--we don't write music very much, so
we're trying to get in there and write some music.