A Long Nasty Road: Benjamin James Green

IF YOU ARE UNAWARE OF BENJAMIN GREEN YOU MIGHT BE A THOUGHT-FREE INDIVIDUAL COMPLETELY INFORMED AND IDIOTICALLY INFLUENCED BY COMMERCIALISED INFORMATION, OR YOU MIGHT BE A FREE ROAMING ANIMAL, OR FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY OTHER THAN AUSTRALIA, IN WHICH CASE YOU’D BE EXCUSED. HE WAS A ROUSE-ABOUT IN THE 90S AUSTRALIAN UNDERGROUND MUSIC SCENE. OFTEN WEARING A GIANT AFRO WIG. USUALLY SKATEBOARDING THROUGH FITZROY IN A TRACKSUIT. HE FRONTED A TWO PIECE BAND CALLED THREE AND VOMITED CHARISMA WHICH HAD NO GENDER. AFTER THAT HE BECAME OBSESSED WITH TURNTABLING AND WAS A QUIET NOODLING GENIUS IN THE INCREDIBLY UNDER-RECOGNISED SUPER-GROUP HIGH PASS FILTER. BEN HAS GROWN INTO A RIPE GRUMP WITH BULLSHIT-FILTERED OPINIONS AND CONTINUES TO MAINTAIN A LUSCIOUSLY SATIRICAL, PESSIMISTIC VIEW ON, EVERYTHING. HE NOW PLAYS BASS IN A BAND I DON’T LISTEN TO AT ALL CALLED CIVIL CIVIC.

Thanks for choosing me for inquisition Señor Macaroni. I’m kind of Civil Civic’s Press Secretary, so I’ve done a bunch of interviews representing the band, but I think this might be the first time in my long life I’ve been interviewed representing myself. Didn’t see it coming.

YOU’RE A SELF-PROCLAIMED RANTING GRUNTING GRUMP CUNT. DO YOU THINK YOU’VE BECOME THIS BECAUSE OF THE INEVITABLE BALDING MOST MEN HAVE TO COME TO DEAL WITH? OR HAS LIVING IN SPAIN MADE YOU A HAPPIER PERSON?

Going bald young certainly made me very angry, it really didn’t gel with my vanity regarding my girlish good looks. And ten years living in the tourist district of Barcelona has really taught me to hate happy, ordinary people who can afford holidays and like to stroll and eat ice cream with their boy/girlfriends. I just want a crushing sense of fear and despair to descend on them like a shit-coloured cloud of gas while I watch and laugh.

But when it comes down to it, hating the world and everyone in it is more of a hobby, a distraction from my own inadequacies and failures. I read around a dozen articles and essays about various political and military conflicts every day and that really helps to keep the frown on my face and stops me from being angry at myself for not releasing lots of great records.

WHY DID YOU PISS OFF TO EUROPE?

Moving to Europe was initially supposed to be just three months working in Berlin. Me and Simon Walbrook and John Lindland went and lived in Kreutzberg to mix Return Of Dr Octagon and start work on our own record. We ended up staying there for nearly two years. Then John got sick of the weather and the Germans and said “We’re moving to Barcelona”.

I wasn’t that keen. I mean, it didn’t take me long to love the shit out of Berlin. This was 2005/6, and all the people who moved there in the nineties would tell us how much it had changed for the worse, how lawless and creative it used to be. But to us it was incredible. It was like getting ten early-90’s St. Kilda’s and sticking them together in a swamp in Brandenburg, all covered in graffiti and dog shit. The best night of your life was always just around the corner. What a town.

But I went along with the Barcelona move, for various reasons. Ten years later I’m still here, even though I talk about leaving all the time. It’s a beautiful city, of course. There’s the beach, the architecture, the cheap intoxicants. I live in the Barri Gottic, which is full of tourists but it also has this totally village atmosphere for the people who actually live here. I shop like a small town grandmother, going to the butcher and the baker and the greengrocer, chatting about the weather (que calor, eh?) all within 200 meters of my front door.

It’s a hell of a nice place to live, but the music scene is not good. Few bands, fewer venues. Primavera and Sonar are these enormous circuses that come to town and leave nothing behind. I’m thinking of moving back to Berlin, now that it’s population is 12% English-speaking “creatives”. I can spend all day slobbering drunk telling them how great it was in 2005 and how they’ve ruined it for everyone.

Can’t say I’m not very relieved to have been disconnected from Australian politics over the last decade. I prefer to live in an austerity crisis zone with 30% unemployment than have to see Australian politicians on the TV every day. Disgusting.

three-1

YOUR 90’S BAND, THREE (WITH AJAX MKERRAL ON DRUMS), HAD YOU SINGING WITH YOUR STRAINED, TORTURED, WHEEZING OLYMPIC VOICE. DO YOU MISS SINGING OR EXPRESSING YOURSELF MUSICALLY WITH LYRICS? I GUESS YOU GET THIS OUT WITH YOUR BLOG RANTING EH… ?

I used to love whining about my feelings in Three. I was a little metal-hippie from the suburbs and I thought my feelings were basically The Whole World. But all that stuff was mostly about this one bad acid trip I had and this one crushing break-up (from my first true love). Once I got over all that stuff I started singing about being a cowboy and shit. That was fun too.

Recently I’ve been working on a pet project where I do a lot of whining. Surprise, it’s a break-up album! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be over forty and have your heart smashed to pieces. It’s incredibly embarrassing music, pompous and melodramatic, but even so I’ll probably make a band-camp page and try to make people listen to it. Why not?

THE GROUP YOU’VE PLAYED WITH FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS IS ALSO A TWO PIECE, SANS VOCALS. DO YOU LET OUT RIPPING SCREAMS DURING CIVIL CIVIC SHOWS?

I actually do now. If you’re about to hit a BIG CHORUS, I think it helps everybody involved if you stare at someone in the front row and just scream at them like an animal for a second before the BIG CHORUS hits. Let’s people know you’re on board. I’m so old and rickety, but these days I try to dance like a goon for every second of every show. It nearly kills me every time, but I think it’s important to show a crowd that you’re convinced by what you’re selling. Which I actually am, wholeheartedly.

WHAT IS CIVIL CIVIC?

It’s party music, and I’d be happy if people called it techno, but it obviously isn’t. It’s drum and bass beats with an odd mix of punk and prog layered over the top. Shit, who cares? It’s the MOST fun to play. I enjoy Civil Civic gigs on a whole other level to just about any band I’ve ever been in, which is saying a lot, and is also why I yell at people and dance.

PLAYING IN A TWO-PIECE BAND SEEMS TO PERMIT AN ALMOST INSTANT CHEMISTRY OF INTUITION AND COOPERATION. WITH LARGER GROUPS THERE ARE MORE BRAINS TO DEAL WITH. KIND OF LIKE MONOGAMY VERSUS POLYGAMY.

There’s something really special about playing in a duo. Everything about it, from big artistic decisions to where to get the Tees printed, it’s all dialogue. Two competing/complementary ideas, a very pure situation in some ways. It’s pretty intense in terms of personal relations, so luckily me and Aaron get along pretty well, no fist fights, maybe a testy word or two here and there.

Regular groups with three to six members, that’s a very different situation. I always felt a bit detached in larger groups. Not in a bad way, I love playing in all kinds of outfits. But I’ve never muscled up and tried to be a leader in a larger group. Never “owned” the band, I suppose you’d say. I become more active and pushy the less people are involved.

The biggest group I’ve ever played in was The Greg Kingston Big Band, naturally. Being in the GKBB was a real honour at the time, it meant being accepted into a very strange and demanding musical clique in Melbourne, the improv/noise mafia of the day. I respected those people very much and it meant a lot to me to be accepted by them as a musician.

ESOTERIC QUESTION: IS THERE A POINT WHERE SOMEONE LIKE YOU HITS THE JACKPOT, THE APEX, THE SPHINCTER, AT WHICH POINT THEY KNOW THEY CAN DO NOTHING BETTER, GREATER, AND THAT THEIR GOAL IN LIFE IS COMPLETE, ACHIEVED, WHERE “EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED”? ?

When I was a young whippersnapper I was always satisfied with what I was doing. I thought I was a kooky genius, and that really fucked my ability to develop musically and do something lasting. I was so high on everything I did that I never bothered to really develop an idea and push it and work it until it was something really worth paying attention to. Only dissatisfaction can truly satisfy, my friend.

The thing I was most proud of about my musical life in Melbourne was how I was everywhere, doing a bit of everything. Noise, hip-hop, sludge rock, techno, dub, performance, production, ad work, theatre. I stuffed a finger in every pie I could reach, joined as many bands as I could, said yes to everything. The broader music community was so fantastic, it was easy to lose yourself in it and never really focus on making a lasting impact with one thing. Participation was it’s own reward, but it left me with very little to show.

I’m really proud of Civil Civic artistically, but I’m more like a contributing editor in CC. I have a creative role, for sure, but Aaron is the one with his hands on the wheel, artistically. If he decides to drive Civil Civic off a cliff, it’s my job to make sure it’s a fucking huge cliff and we drive off really fast.

I haven’t ever come anywhere near producing something that I could sit back and say “Well, that’s the one. I’m retiring now”. I like the idea a lot.FRUSTRATES

I DESPISE A LOT OF MUSIC. ARE THERE THINGS YOU DESPISE ABOUT THE MUSIC WORLD?

The music world is actually one of the few things I don’t hate, along with egg on toast and pornography. I’m at an age where most people, even a lot of musicians, have tuned out and are looking backwards through time for their music. But I still have regular binges where I’ll download a dozen really current, talked about records and try and see what’s good about them.

I roll my eyes a lot, but I also regularly get shocked by how creative some groups and individuals are. It’s years ago now, but the first time I heard Death Grips is a great case in point. I was getting bored with everything and then that shit comes along, totally lawless, fresh and uncompromising. Good things keep happening!

Take the worst thing out there right now, blockbuster EDM. The fact that it exists is actually the symptom of something good, which is that electronic music is now a fully mature form with a full array of expressions, from the most abstracted and exploratory stuff you can imagine to David Fucking Guetta and back again!

I guess the only thing I really hate about the World Of Music is that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a successful musician. Still working on it, check with me later.

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LASTLY, WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A MUSICIAN AND ARTIST?

Productivity, curiosity, community, humility, honesty, enthusiasm, these are all things I struggle to dredge up in the name of MUSIC and ART and usually fail. I also have a responsibility to update Civil Civic’s social media, which I never do, and to not drink two thirds of the rider at every show, which I always do (Hi Azza, mate! LOL!)

In terms of political responsibility, obviously we’re in the middle of a very long and pronounced de-politicisation of music, generally. Unfortunately identity politics have wreaked havoc in the music community, as they have in the wider liberal world. No-one is talking about political unity or mass movement. It’s me me me me wah! straight down the line.

The conditions are kind of right now for political musicians to start talking genuinely big picture stuff and capture peoples imaginations, but it’s hard to see where they might come from. But that’s politics, and if I start I won’t stop.

BEN GREEN’S ACTIVITIES IN THIS UNIVERSE CAN BE FOUND AND IDENTIFIED IF YOU WISH TO LOOK HARD ENOUGH AMONGST THE RUBBLE OF THE INTERNET.

HIS CURRENT MUSICAL GENIUS CAN BE FOUND HERE: civilcivic.com

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