Exclusive Interview: Ben Havok Talks Crashing Parties and Finding His Sound
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Ben Havok has been a touring member of a variety of bands since 2012, but this year he’s finally going solo. His newest single, the cock rock throwback “IDWK,” and a couple others have helped him build an independent fanbase on top of the one he’s gained as a member of FUTURE FEATS. I got to sit down and talk to Ben about his new music, “sampling” AC/DC, and crashing college parties on tour.
Us For Once: So I’ve listened to both of your singles [“All the Way” and “Wasted Time,” which had been released at the time] and they’re both great.
Ben Havok: Thank you.
UFO: But they’re also very different in terms of sound. What kind of vibe can we expect from your upcoming EP?
BH: So, the EP is definitely going to be more aligned with “All the Way” so it’s for sure going to be more rock. Like…(laughing) basically, what happened is I made this EP and it has “Wasted Time” on it and my buddy listened to it and was like, “Hey, you should let me re-record this. I can make it sound better.” And I was like, “Cool.” So we started doing that, but we never finished it and that was after I had released “Wasted Time.” So then I started working on this rock music that sounds more like “All the Way” and some other work that’s coming out at the end of August. Now I feel like I’ve kind of found my footing and that’s kind of what I really want to be putting out. I guess I could put out two EPs with “Wasted Time” on one and all the rock stuff on the other. I don’t know if that helps or if that’s more confusing.
UFO: No, that makes sense. I feel like a lot of artists who are coming into their own and making their own stuff kind of have to experiment.
BH: For sure.
UFO: What’s your favorite lyric you’ve ever written?
BH: So, this lyric is actually from the EP that “Wasted Time” would be on. It’s from this song called “Lie to Me” and the line is “sending texts / instant regrets.” For me, it meant a couple things like when you send a text to someone and immediately regret it like, “Shit, why did I do that?” But “instant regrets” is also a play on words for sending texts because texts are “instant” messages, right? And no matter what you send, you’ll regret it anyways. So call it a text message. Call it an instant regret. Whatever you want.
UFO: So you’ve had some experience touring as a member of FUTURE FEATS, who’s also about to release some new music. What’s the weirdest thing to happen to you on tour? What’s the story that gets the best reaction at parties?
BH: Hmmm….(laughing). My favorite one is…uh….(laughing again). So I think we were in, like, Texas and we decided that we needed to drive through the night to at least halfway to where we needed to be the following day for a show. We pulled up Google Maps and decided to pick a place at random to stay. So our drummer Zach [Zoellner] taps the map and it ended up being this place called Arkadelphia, Arkansas. We were out of…um…I don’t know what the PG level on this is, but we were out of weed and wanted to find some more. We ended up at this gas station and we ran into these college kids and they took us to this frat house. These guys knew we were on tour with The Kooks and they knew who The Kooks were and they were freaking out because it’s this small town and no one ever comes through there. So we just wound up partying with these random people and they were so nice and so fun and I would go back there in a heartbeat.
UFO: Obviously, your whole thing is that you play guitar, but are there any random instruments you want to learn how to play?
BH: So I played piano for a bit and I played drums for a bit and I’m terrible at both. But there’s one instrument I really should’ve learned and still hope to learn is the harmonica. My dad is actually a blues harmonica player and he’s incredible. So I’ve listened to him play my whole life so for me that feels like something I should learn. Mainly because I want to but also because I want to keep the tradition alive. It means so much to my dad, which makes it mean a lot to me. So I would say harmonica is the one. Like, if there was one I could just sit down and learn, it would be harmonica.
UFO: What can you tell me about the first song you every wrote?
BH: It was really bad…
UFO: What was it about? How old were you? How bad was it exactly? BH: I was like eleven or something like that. Me and my friend were in a band called High Voltage and we were obsessed with AC/DC. We were basically ripping off AC/DC riffs and writing different lyrics over them. So just imagine a really bad AC/DC song with even worse lyrics and that was my first try.
UFO: I mean, you can always call it sampling.
UFO: That’s it for my questions. Any parting words for the readers?
BH: Do great things and be nice to people. That’s the key to success. Being nice.