A Master of Kung Folk: a Conversation With Benjamin Taylor

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If Benjamin Taylor had made one album and it was 2008's The Legend Of Kung Folk, he would have fulfilled his creative contract with the music gods. The project featured unusually good songwriting and performances, but then, one would expect no less from the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon.

Virtually abandoning the old physical CD configuration with all its old school marketing trappings, Benjamin Taylor currently is all about his new, lively website that interacts with fans and visitors by inviting them to participate in musical decisions while offering free weekly downloads, a sense of artistic community and continuity, and much more.

Benjamin gave the following interview that discusses all of the above in detail, his new recordings, and of course, his famous family in more than a casual way.

(photo credit: David Montgomery)

MR: Hey Ben. Calling you from an Iowa rehearsal hall for the musical Hair. Ever think about getting into musical theater?

BT: It's a completely different world. I was just talking to Yusaf Islam who was formerly known as Cat Stevens, he was trying to make his early songs into a musical. And we were just talking about the idea that subtlety is one of the great tools that he uses in his early songs. It's hard to figure how exactly that translates into a Broadway sensibility.

MR: Exactly, plus musicals really are all about pushing the visual imagination and spectacle of it all.

BT: Walloped upon the head with a platinum-plated sledgehammer.

MR: (laughs) Paul Simon tried it with Capeman, and Harry Chapin tried it a couple of times. But you're right, the subtleties were missed, and people actually had to think while they were being entertained.

BT: It's difficult to be subtle in that context, and it's also difficult to know how to come across in a variety of different ways.

MR: Let's stop here so I can test my recording process. An extremely loud RF noise toasted my recent Peter Frampton interview which totally traumatized me.

BT: One time, I recorded Jamie Cullum on a track of mine, and we went to do three takes really quickly. When I got back at the end of the day, I went back to it and it was some horrible bit rate translation problem coming from my converter and it just sounded like mmmmmmmmmmm. He's one of the most incredible gentleman and nicest fellows you would ever like to run into.

MR: Jamie Cullum definitely is one of my favorite latest artists. If it were just based on his talent, he would be more popular than he is. His latest album is killer, although I'm not as big a fan of his earlier works that seemed tailored to Michael Bubblé's fans. It just seems that no one knows what to do with intellectual or intelligent singer/songwriters anymore.

BT: He was talented enough to know that it was a starting place for him. It was almost like a compromise he had to make at first to get his point across. And then once he had everybody's ears, he started doing his own thing. Everybody was happy.

MR: Still, it's so obvious that a label's marketing an album or keeping an un-recouped group on its roster for more than a minute are done.

BT: I think that those days are pretty much over, at least in this country. There are some traditional record labels that are left in different places, like in Europe and in Asia, that are slow to follow. I think that, for the most part, over here, those days are over forever. No matter how exciting the marketing grid and music ever became, it was catalog artists that made the bulk of the money for the record labels. As a result of having artists like Joe Cocker or my folks, people like that and their repertoire, labels could afford to take gambles on artists and such. But I think the time for that is over, and frankly, the time for catalog artists to find their own autonomy and make their own way is becoming a reality. A lot has changed in music over the past couple of years, for sure.

MR: Which leads us perfectly into Ben Taylor projects. First of all, did anybody ever forward you my psycho HuffPost review of your album?

BT: No, they didn't or if they did, it was among the pack of 300 emails I didn't read that week. I'm sorry.

MR: No problem, but I had a lot of fun with it. I reviewed The Legend Of Kung Folk back when you released it. I really went all over the place with that one, there were songs on there that just killed me. "Wicked Way"? I mean, that's one of the best guy songs I think I've ever heard.

BT: Thank you. Most of the songs that you go back on and say, "Oh, that's a really good song!" are ones that just wrote themselves. It was just an oddity at that point in time.

MR: "It's Only Love" and "She's Gone," more sonic candy.

BT: I got myself in trouble over "She's Gone" because that was the only song I've ever done that I couldn't actually play and sing live. It was promoted as a single in Europe, and they wanted me to play it on the radio, which is the most nerve-racking gig I get. I just couldn't get my pinky to play ball.

MR: You're touring the world now, aren't you?

BT: Yeah, it's an ongoing process that sort of never stops, and now that I've stopped actually releasing physical albums, I kind of go back and spend a couple of months in the studio, then I go out and spend a couple of months on the road and back and forth. It's an extended world tour.

MR: Now you're approaching new media. How are you using new media and social networking to create that direct communication for sales and to build your audience?

BT: For me, it's always been uncomfortable to market myself in the traditional way. To put an album out, service it in the territories you've released it in by hiring a promotion person, a marketing person, a radio indie... And then go around, following the steps, jumping through the hoops, it always seemed like spreading myself too thin, and I really wasn't comfortable being in that position. Also, being an independent artist, I could only get to one territory at a time.

Typically speaking, for me, it's several years between albums every time it happens. Where I am now, I'm just studying what was kind of going on in the visual world by social networks and people marketing themselves on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace ,and everything like that. It wasn't, you know, just to cultivate popularity in that format. You need to service your audience with new content, even if it's just a Tweet on a much more consistent basis than what I was doing.

So, I was looking for a way to get out of the responsibility of having a big expensive push once every couple of years. Also, I was looking for a way to keep my fans engaged on a more regular basis. So, I've been recording for a long time getting ready to put out Kung Folk 2. In the process, I recorded an album of covers, and two albums of originals. They were all so different--both from a production and content perspective--that I decided none of it was thematically cohesive enough to go on one album. Instead, what I'd do is release songs more regularly, and the model I finally settled upon is to do two songs a week--one cover and one original. They're free for the first week of their release, and we release them and distribute them exclusively through my website I'll record different versions of a song and then over a month I know that they'll all come out. It's fun to decide when and where, or how to put out what's next.

MR: How about CDs?

BT: We haven't actually manufactured any physical product.

MR: You did a Sadé cover.

BT: "By Your Side."

MR: What was the original with that one?

BT: The acoustic version of "America."

MR: Let's talk about that. I listened to "American Dub."

BT: That was the most recent one. You got "American Dub" with a sort of live version of "Spell On You."

MR: Very nice alternate version.

BT: I'm glad you liked it. I feel like with cover songs, if a song is good enough to want to cover, you really want to stay away from the production that the original one employed. So with "Spell On You," that was the sort of version I worked up with the ukulele for the longest time. And then we morphed a taste of "Master Blaster" and "Jammin'" into it as well.

MR: Is "American Dub's" topic mainly about keeping an eye on America so it doesn't backslide into the devastating policies of the eight years pre-Obama?

BT: Well, yeah, and it was a song that I wrote just because I was feeling like "what have I been given to be able to make my country a better place?" This is something I ask myself about my actual local community on a daily basis, "How can I help the schools with their music system or how can I do a concert for a local charity that I believe in, in order to help them raise some cash and awareness."

I started thinking about the country on a global level because I started reading the newspaper. Usually, when I do, I'll start thinking, "What do I actually have the power to do?" And for me, it was to write a song about the way I felt about my country. And the song put it pretty clearly: I feel as if America is this incredible, beautiful, Native American woman who's been badly taken advantage of and how, if I can have anything to do with it, I will change things.

MR: That's a big topic. There's so much damage that's been done due to our horrible history with Native Americans. It seems very hard for our country to admit fault let alone deal with its historically dubious decisions.

BT: It really, really is. And it's hard to disassociate yourself from history and to wipe the slate clean when the echoes are so painfully clear. But it's important to do it. You know, you can start with an apology, but then the idea is to move forward. It's hard to move forward and backward at the same time.

MR: Do you have any other socially conscious new material?

BT: Yeah, there are a couple that are political songs as such.

MR: Have you thought about going long with that concept?

BT: No. For the most part, I write what I know, which is not really global politics. What I really know is stuff that happens to me on a personal level and stuff that happens to my family on a personal level--the heartbreak that I endure, the nephews that get born, that kind of thing.

MR: Any particular favorites in the batch?

BT: In the next few weeks I'll put out a song called "Turn On The Lights" that I wrote from the perspective of my sister's son while he was still in her womb because he was late coming out, late to be born. We tried everything, even spicy food to try and make him come out but he just wasn't coming out. It bothered me that they were going to try to induce him chemically, so I wrote this song from his perspective to try and make him see that it's time to come out.

MR: Did he listen?

BT: Well, yeah. She was about three weeks overdue, so something was going to bring him out. We produced a really cool version of it, so I get to see him dancing to it now. It's pretty nice.

MR: Very cool. How old is he?

BT: Two, so I've had this song kicking around for a while. And traditionally, it's been a couple of years between every album.

MR: You know it's funny because you can tell you've been looking at the whole functionality of making music since your Ben Taylor Band days. What will future releases be like?

BT: I'm going to release multiple versions of songs. If you go to "America," there's the first one that's pretty much solidly acoustic, and the second one which was this "American Dub" version. It's so electric. Hopefully, at the end of maybe a year of doing this, we'll have three albums worth of material where the same song doesn't go on an album twice, but you have three albums of the same songs too which are thematically cohesive from a production standpoint. This is a cooler way to do it because I'll just be able write the songs and record them however I feel like they want to be recorded. Then maybe have a live version of them.

I'm a big fan of the idea that if the song is good, it will stand up on its own, just by the virtue of the lyrics and the melody themselves. I'm also a big fan of the idea of trying a whole bunch of different ways. Sometimes you get to the end of trying a song three different ways and then you go to record the song and it's nothing like that one, and you say, "How am I ever going to fit this on an album?"

MR: On The Legend Of Kung Folk, you had a team working with you.

BT: I did, but right now, there's my buddy Ben Thomas who I call "Beatzy" because his name is also Ben, so I turn into "Breezy" and he's "Beatzy." Our sort of accessory in crime is David Saw who's been making music for a while. Yeah, we've just sort of been holed-up in the studio trying to figure out what the day feels like more than anything else.

MR: You guys all had a heavy hand in your mom's latest record, Never Been Gone.

BT: We did. Sometimes maybe we were too heavy-handed on that one. The one that she did just by herself in a studio is my favorite track on the album.

MR: I'm a fan of her album The Bedroom Tapes. I know she was going through personal crisis at the time, yet she bravely put that project together herself. Song-wise, it's a really personal record.

BT: Her stuff is so amazingly, sometimes painfully personal and introspective, it really is. She's the person I take after when it comes to putting all my business in the strings of the guitar, letting everybody hear it.

MR: Probably my favorite Carly Simon album is Another Passenger. In its day, I wish somebody at Warners had the vision to promote "Half A Chance" into a hit. The same goes for your dad with "You Make It Easy." What an incredible track from his Gorilla album.

BT: It is an incredible record. Oddly enough, it's what triggered my mom to write the lyrics to "You Belong To Me."

MR: Sorry, you've gotta forgive me, I'm also a huge fanboy of your parents' recordings.

BT: Don't worry about it. I'm totally proud to talk about them--I'm extremely proud of both of my folks.

MR: I haven't interviewed your dad yet, but your mom was super-proud of you in the piece I did on her for HuffPost. You know, beyond being fashionable or culturally intriguing, James Taylor and Carly Simon were and still are among the greatest singer-songwriters. It's strange to think that each of them has now released over twenty albums. And your dad recently has ramped-up his own album schedule.

BT: He is a very consistent worker. He is the hardest working man in show business. In spite of what people say about James Brown, James Taylor has been on the road every year out of the last forty, almost for at least six months a year.

MR: Along with Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King, your parents were part of a class that not only graduated with honors, but also taught everybody how else to do it. They influenced culture for a generation, and I think people have been using them as role models ever since.

BT: I couldn't agree more. It was really still a time when an artist could come out with a new album or a new song and if they got on a television show or if they got played on the radio, the odds were that a great high percentage of people in that area were watching together at the same time or listening together at the same time. They do really shine to me--and it's not to say that I feel the same about myself, because I think I've got a lot of learning to do, and sometimes, massive footsteps to follow in. They stick out to me as shining examples of how to be true to your music and how to stay consistently pure somehow without having been diluted by the marketing craze that happened.

MR: Let's get back to the marketing of your record. How are you finding Twittering and using Facebook working for you?

BT: The results are immediate. You get feedback as soon as your fans get there, and as soon as you put something that they can reply. You get feedback immediately from them which is really valuable. But for me, on a personal level, I can't afford to have another excuse to spend hours upon hours every day gazing into a window of artificial light. I've never really actually maintained my Facebook and my Twitter accounts. I've had other people who've done it for me from time to time saying hey Ben's out there. It's only over the past two weeks that we put the new Ben Taylor music site up and started releasing new songs that I've actually been on Facebook or Twitter. Recently, only over the past day or so, have I actually been personalizing it, putting some of my own crazy philosophies and random haikus up there.

MR: Do you find them user-friendly?

BT: Every time I have a thought that's good enough to want to share with people, it's too many characters for their fields. They want fewer characters from me. I have to either split it up into little sections or find a different application to put it out there. But it seems to really be geared to people who are less long-winded than I am. I guess it's good exercise, especially considering I'm a songwriter, to try what I have to say things in as few words as possible.

MR: So, you think Facebook and Twitter will kind of help you in your songwriting craft?

BT: I'm hoping so because some of my favorite songs are definitely by my favorite songwriters. One of the things that I would say about them is they know how to take a complex idea and put it across in a simple way. That's the reason I love Neil Young as much as I do and the reason I love, certainly, my father's songs as much as I do. He'll take a very complex idea and put it across in a verse that doesn't have a lot of words. But that's still too many words for Twitter.

MR: Who are some of your other favorite artists? You mentioned Neil Young and your dad. Who else?

BT: Who else do I love? I love Saul Williams and I love Mos Def. I love John Forté, and that's just mostly speaking about current artists in terms of people who know how to take a complex ideas and put them across. I love David Saw who I get to work with a lot of the time. Classically speaking, I love Bill Withers. I love Cat Stevens, I love Paul McCartney, and I love Donny Hathaway and Nina Simone. The list really goes on forever, I guess. I think there are also a lot of artists who I didn't list because it's more on a song-by-song level that I really appreciate their music. It's not a lot of artists that I appreciate for their entire catalogs, but the ones that I just listed, I really do.

MR: Wow, you brought up Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers, one of the overlooked greats!

BT: I think he's maybe one of the best troubadours of all time, and he gets overlooked because he's in that category. He is so deeply soulful and so deeply funky that he gets lumped in with all these sort of R & B artists, all these funk artists, or something like that. But as a singer/songwriter, he's definitely one of my top ten. Yeah, people get lost like that because of the genre that they get put in.

MR: Dobie Gray is another artist like that. It seems that everyone has to be categorized for the masses.

BT: It's hard for them not to be, even I resist it as hard as I can. It's always the first question I ask somebody once they tell me they're a musician. I ask, "What kind of music do you make?" It helps us to be able to classify things, and it helps to understand them that way. Before we actually hear the music, we want to know what's it like, who else they sound like.

MR: Right, not everybody's on the same level. It's less offensive than simply a need for the brain to process information.

BT: That's why when people ask me who I sound like I usually tell them I sound like Bruce Lee.

MR: What are your hobbies other than music?

BT: I like Kung Fu a lot. But even my Kung Fu practice has become so musical nowadays that I would almost say that I didn't have any other interests other than music. That's what my girlfriend tells me. No, it's hard, I really don't like to do anything else except for playing music and listening to it and recording it. It really can take up all of your time. I can sit there on the internet just freaking-out, listening to things that people whose taste I respect have suggested to me and it would take up my whole day.

MR: You can be the adviser to someone else's career.

BT: I've become a reasonably competent engineer and producer. It really is when I stop or get too sick of listening to myself, I can be refreshed by having somebody else's musical perspective and producing somebody else's project.

MR: So, you're doing did a private concert soon in New York with your mom?

BT: For one of the songs we produced for her last record Never Been Gone, she did a video contest. There's going to be a party at the Tribeca Film Festival for it. And we're going to play a concert there.

MR: How long is your concert going to last...a couple of songs or maybe more?

BT: I don't know. It is hard for me to stop playing until someone tells me to, so I'll play as many songs as they ask. I think it's going to be a good hour-long concert.

MR: Your sister Sally had three really fine records, but then she took a pause.

BT: She was making an attempt to forge her own musical identity and be an independent artist, really, before all of the tools were in place for people to own their own music and do it. And then she did a lot of legwork, put in a lot of really hard hours before it was really possible to do it. I think that she just got frustrated by it. I think that if she had stuck to it a little bit longer, it would have paid off a lot more than she feels like she was actually rewarded for all the work that she did.

MR: So she's not working on a music career?

BT: No, recently she's not really been nurturing her musical self. She's mostly been taking care of this baby and this baby is worth taking care of, he's a very good boy. But at the same time, I hope that when he goes off to kindergarten or preschool or whenever they get their first major baby hiatus, I hope she starts focusing on her music. I think that she has a lot to offer. The next cover song is called "Tomorrow" from the movie Bugsy Malone that we always loved when we were kids. I had her come by the studio a few months ago and record a vocal, just to be playing guitar on it, and then I made a pretty cool track around it. I made a big production of it with huge amounts of harmonies. It's a harmony circus, but I think it's my favorite one of the covers. She sounds so beautiful. I think that being a mother has done something different to her voice, she sounds like I never heard her sound and better.

MR: On The Legend Of Kung Folk, you two sound wonderful together. Besides genetics, you guys have chops and make terrific choices.

BT: Wait until you get a load of how she sounds on this track. I think maybe we'll put it on the week after next. Again, I'm trying to stagger the acoustic stuff, or rather, I should say the more traditional and the more modern productions between the originals and the covers on a week by week basis. I haven't figured out exactly what we're going to do next week. We got a couple of new songs that are originals. The week after next, we'll do "Tomorrow." I can't wait for people to hear it because she sounds better than ever.

MR: Of course, you know about the Carole King and James Taylor Live At The Troubadour release.

BT: I was hoping to be involved a little bit more on this Carole King, James Taylor tour than I finally end up being. I was hoping to open up some shows for them. But in the process of sort of us trying to figure out if that was going to work or if that was going to be too much of a circus, my dad and I decided to do a father/son tour for at least a handful of dates after he gets done with it. That's cooler for me, I look forward to it.

MR: A few years back, your mom released an album of covers titled Into White that featured a cover of your dad's "You Can Close Your Eyes." It featured the sweetest three-part harmonies from your mom, sister and you. Still, I couldn't help but feel there was an obvious missing voice.

BT: It was really nice to do that song and even though his voice wasn't on the song, I tried to sound as much like him as I could. Actually, his voice was on it because he wrote it. We all do love each other on some level. I really liked that three-part harmony and piano rendition of it. "...Close Your Eyes" is one of my top three songs my dad's ever written, and my mom and sister feel the same way about it. When I came to my mom about doing an album of covers, there was no way that song was not going to go on.

MR: In the '70s, your mom and dad recorded an unreleased video duet of it at Warners that's proliferated on the Internet. It was just them harmonizing to acoustic guitar, and it was sublime.

BT: My mom and my dad shared their opinion with me that you always have to separate the art from the artist because otherwise, you wind up disappointed. I think their respect for each other's music has always been obvious and shines through in any event.

MR: Can you sum up in what ways Ben Taylor will be marketed in the future?

BT: You have to go out on the road, promote the stuff, promote the site by handing out flyers, give people codes to download the show they were at the following morning by going to the site. In this day and age, the valuable thing isn't necessarily people's dollars as much as it is their e-mail address's and their loyalty. The idea is to just strengthen the site and put as much content up there as we can, and then go out and promote it just the same way you'd go out and promote an album.

A record, in a traditional way, is really just a record of an artist's music over a period of time. We're going to stay true to that, we're going to promote, we'll do an onslaught of three months where we just keep on refreshing the site on a week-by-week basis, two songs at a time. And then we'll go out and promote that into an album. We'll actually manufacture CDs of the content. The question of 'if it should be sold at the show', I haven't gotten to think about that yet. Maybe it's not important to do that as much as it is to get the people who are there interested in going to download the show that they were just at.

MR: That makes sense because it will keep your site lively and it won't just feel like a big fat advertisement or a shopping cart.

BT: It's what I hope to do. Right now, we're just doing two songs a week and putting them up on the music page. But eventually, especially if I have so many versions of the songs, I hope to have a page for every song which will include several different versions of the song that you can download. Also maybe have a video of me playing it, and a description of why I wrote it, how I wrote it, who I wrote it for. Along with contributions from people, from the patrons that I have that listen to the songs that mean something to them, I'll have a little forum where they can discuss it, and part of the page where they can post pictures. They can draw pictures about it or whatever they want. I want to actually fill the site based around the songs.

MR: A strong song is pretty undeniable.

BT: And what is it that people really like about the music they're listening to? Is it that everybody else likes it? Or is it the video? What is it? At the end of the day, I think it's really going to have to come back to the song. Even me--and I love when people put out great albums with the whole thing is listenable from start to finish--but generally speaking, I'll go iTunes and I'll just download the three songs that I want to hear from that album. I won't even download the whole album. I think that in terms of singer-songwriters wondering why we're doing what we're doing, in four or five years, is it going to be marketable? I think it's the idea of us just going back to saying how can we write a really good song and put it out there. It's going to be easy this way.

MR: What's your about advice for new artists coming up in the ranks?

BT: It really is getting back to singles. The single market has been dead for such a long time. I feel like, for the independent digital artist, the single is where it's at. I think the good news is that it's not very expensive to make a recording of a song if you can write a good one. All you have to do is put it up on Facebook or You Tube or one of these sites, and you have the potential for a lot of people to hear it. The question is how to generate revenue from that attention because that's not really well defined. There aren't many good examples of that. Quite the opposite. There are a lot of examples of people who have millions and millions of hits on YouTube, but they can't figure out how to turn that into a success because it's too fickle and it's too day-by-day. More good news is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get it done anymore. And you can at least get it out there.

MR: What about after it's out there?

BT: The advice that I have is hold on to as much of it as you can because nobody's got the answer. You have to make your own, and nobody's got a model out there that will work for everybody. It's going to be different for everybody. So you may as well just personalize it and make it your own from the music itself to the business. And then the other advice I find myself giving people all the time is that the technology has become so incredible that anybody can sit in their room and make a track that you might have heard on Britney Spears' or Lady Gaga's latest album or on the radio or on a commercial station.

The technology is available for everybody for a relatively cheap cost. The question again is, can you actually write a good song? Within five years, any kid that's sitting in study hall is going to be able to create a song which will be competitive from a production standpoint. It's already getting too easy. So, you got to back to getting on stage and playing the guitar or playing the piano, actually make it through a performance. But that will be an unusual thing.

MR: It's true. There's a mentality out there that playing an instrument is more about samples, effects, all that, and not really about the instrument itself.

BT: From the standpoint of somebody who spent ten years just trying to figure out how to make the right shapes work to accompany himself, that does make you feel curmudgeonly and resentful. And I don't mean to date myself, but the way forward is really to study the fundamentals. The unusual thing is to be able to do it organically because everyone in "show-and-tell" is actually going to be pouring out some ridiculous kick ass DJ-ing.

MR: Including your nephew very soon.

BT: Without a doubt. I've already got him working on the decks. It's the first thing that we've been able to get him to do? But he can't play the guitar yet. It's going to take him awhile.

MR: Is Uncle Ben going to teach him?

BT: We'll see. Right now I'm focusing on teaching him how to play the drums because I don't know how to play them well enough and I figure I'll confuse him unless there's an opportunity to learn what I don't know rather than what I do. One of the things I like in Kung Fu school is that they always say in order to learn something, you need to see it once, practice it once, and then teach it once. That is the way that you learn things. Until you've completed all three steps, you won't have learned it. I feel like that's the greatest thing about having kids around. You get an opportunity to further what you know by teaching it to them.

MR: Beautiful. Speaking of relatives, I'll say it. I love Livingston, the man and the music. What is he up to lately?

BT: Livingston remains one of the best performers I've ever seen. He really has the performance thing down to a science. He teaches a performance class at Berkeley in Boston. My sister and I sat in on it the other day to see what it was like. His class is a performance. He's teaching other people to do what he does so well, and thus, become even better at it himself.

MR: What did he show you as a kid?

BT: He showed me how to be irreverent and had to. He was the first person who really made me question my own parents' authority, so he was more helpful on a social and a real life example than he was as a musician. I don't think we ever talked very much about music until last week when my sister and I sat in on his performance class. But man, was he insightful about it. He said make eye contact with the people in the back because those are the people who you fix and lock because as soon as you lose them, you'll lose the rest of the crowd. I said, wow, that's something I never even thought about. I get up there on stage and close my eyes and get lost in my songs. I've got a lot of room on the performance level. I think this is true of him too. The most I have to learn about performing, I will learn by starting to be a good audience. I don't have enough practice with that, I've got to be a better audience.

MR: Nice. Advice from both Ben Taylor AND Livingston Taylor for this interview!

BT: That's right. (laughs) My whole family are people who will sit you down and tell you one thing or another. The cool thing is that everybody has their own way of getting their own music across, and for me, the reason I started doing this thing independently is both of my parents proving it time and time again in the conventional way. In an expensive studio, with a great producer, you know putting their stuff out on the radio. So for me it's way too intimidating to try and do that. For me, the way for me to do it is on a laptop over the internet. I can't see being a conventional artist because it feels....there's too much pressure.

MR: And it affects the art when you're always thinking marketing and big budgets, doesn't it?

BT: The most important thing about recording is just make sure that the tape is rolling when the magical take happens, and we seldom have the magical take happen when you're in an expensive studio. You just assemble the musicians and you get everybody together there, and it's all riding on the three-day session in the studio. But it's usually when you're at home at 3:30 in the morning, and you're just sort of playing through a song; if you had the foresight to actually hit record before you played, you might have ended up with some magic.

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Oh, You Think You're Done, Do You? Keep Goin'...:

Nope, Still Not Done. Here Are Some Parting Words From Ben For The Goodly Readers Of The Huffington Post:


There is no dictionary definition for this word. so I have only my imagination to work with, which left to its own devises, conjures vacuum cleaners and (for some reason) high fashion. Now when I combine the two, I am at quite a loss for anything except images of models in French maid uniforms (obviously I don't know a lot about high fashion).

I also don't want to bore my readers with the same comparative assessment of competitive Hoovers as they could so easily find in the latest volume of consumer reports. However, if I stay abstract, I find I don't have far to reach to find "Saracha". It is a chili sauce made in California by the Huy Fong Foods company. Aside from having steadily gained popularity for the past decade until it has almost become as popular as Tabasco (which for the record is recognized by the auto-spell check on my laptop where Saracha is still not), it is remarkable because it has the single, least functional applicator tip/cap of any condiment on the market.

The sauce has a wonderful, slightly chunky texture, which can only ever flow through its stingy, little, green, "easy-pour" nozzle for a fraction of a moment before it clogs uselessly. There seems to be two ways of dealing with this clogging, the most reasonable of which is simply not practical in an actual saucing situation. So I, like most impatient saucers, wind up squeezing as hard as I possibly can until the blockage gives, and the pressurized sauce comes splattering out all over my new designer hoodie, to say nothing of whatever expensive nonsense my dining companions happen to be wearing. The only reason I can come up with for such a successful company not to have changed its applicator tip is that most high fashion is still made in China (see Huy Fong) by (often) under-aged people working in sweatshops under perfectly unconscionable circumstances...

Am I the only one connecting the dots here people???

It's revenge. And it's subtle and clever, and almost ethical by way of universal, poetic (in)justice

Buy it anyway! It tastes great and it's a great way to give back to the tiny children who make your beautiful clothes.


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