The Secret Machines: Interview
Smoke Signals and Tiny Ninja Stars
The first time around listening to The Secret Machines' Now Here is Nowhere,
it's easy to write them off as a generic rock band. But then you listen to it
again and something happens. A third time around will solidify the fact that
this band truly kicks ass. Ben Curtis, explosive drummer for the Dallas-based
band, embraces this description and hopes that the music is captivating enough
to garner multiple listens. The first track definitely tests that theory as it
clocks in at exactly nine minutes. The band's video for "Nowhere Again" was
picked by MTV as a buzzworthy video and the band finished recording a cover of
Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks." Curtis took some time to speak with us briefly
about the band, four Japanese women, and the least comfortable place in the
Have you heard of people listening to your album over and over again, and not
really getting into till the third listen?
I've noticed that is the reaction from people after a couple of listens. It's
hard to get people do listen to your record again and I do think it ages well.
Hopefully in 30 years, you're gonna love this.
The first track is "First Wave Intact" and is nine minutes long. Did you set out
to write a song of that length or did it just happen? And how did it end up as
the first track?
The beat that the song has is so good that we never realized the song had gone
on for so long until we finished and we were like "Good God!" It is a lot of fun
to play though. We never really timed it. The order of songs you see on the
album is the original order we gave to the label. We were surprised they allowed
it to be the first one.
When did you know you wanted to be in a band, play music?
We loved shows that afterward would have you reconsider everything about your
life. We wanted to bring that to our audience. We want them to have an epiphany
when they see us play live. That inspires us too, the different reactions people
have towards us and our music.
When did you first learn how to play?
I had piano lessons at a really young age. I played drums forever. This is the
first band where I played guitar. I got my first guitar and amp at a flea market
where people bought switchblades and those tiny ninja stars.
Those ninja stars are cool. What kind of shows have given you a recent epiphany?
OOIOO. No one's really heard of them. They are four beautiful Japanese women
that play the sickest psychedelic rock music ever.
What kind of reactions have you been getting from fans?
People have no clue where we are coming from. They'll come up and say that it
was really interesting. But then other people will say that it was so completely
depressing and they loved it. It's really inspiring to play one song and get all
of this. It turns me on, people saying that the music is simultaneously
depressing and uplifting.
In the song "The Road Leads Where It's Led" there is a lyric that talks about
communicating with semaphore, which is with flags. Have you guys ever done that?
Do you talk with flags to people?
Yea we got flags lying around, ready to be used. (laughs) We actually really
considered this whole flag situation and talked to an artist about using a
different flag for each song. But then the issue took a different turn. Maybe
we'll do a smoke signal instead.
Have you been working on any new songs lately?
Actually, we just recorded a cover of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" that might
be used in a movie or something. We've been playing it in a couple of our shows
and have gotten a really good response from it, so we decided to record it.
What inspires you to write?
It can be from shows we see or even some films. We're all really close friends.
So, even through shared moments or going to shows together... somehow we apply
that to rock and roll music
What do you think of the video for "Nowhere Again" being picked by MTV as a
The video being on MTV has connected us with a bunch of people. It's definitely
not helping to sell a bunch of records, but talk to me in a week and I'll let
When you moved to New York City, was there a plan in case things didn't work
out? Or did you never think it was going to be a bust?
No we were always really, really confident. But yeah, we were totally out of our
element. I think we just wanted to be inspired rather than being in another band
in Texas. We wanted to see if we could do this out of the comfort of our home...
and New York City is the least comfortable place in the country.