Excerpt of an interview with Ben Harper…
Your breakthrough Welcome to the Cruel World came out 15 years ago …
It happened. I was just thinking the other day: if you make it when you make it, you find yourself when you’ve arrived. There are bound to be ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and valleys. But who would have expected a 15-year run?
Now that you have a new backing band, Relentless7, how did you break the news to the guys you were working with in the Innocent Criminals? Did you say you’d get back to them later on?
Yeah, for the most part, it was the framework of what I told them: I’m gonna stretch it out, take some chances on a couple new things. The hardest part about it is the friendship, the kinship, the camaraderie and the brotherhood that was in the Innocent Criminals. Those guys are extraordinary. We’ve made a lot of music together. And we’ll make music together again. No question.
Does the creative process differ from album to album, though? For the new one, White Lies in Dark Times, it sounds like you vibe with these guys. They’re your boys. You get new energy because it’s fresh and you’re plugged in — you vibed and rocked out.
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. We went into a studio to see what was there, and it was waiting for us just as much as we made it happen. Going into the studio and working with these guys, with no thought to making it a proper band, resulted in a record that wasn’t even on the table. We wanted to pick up where we left off on the song “Serve Your Soul” from Both Sides of the Gun – yet it was even more than we could have imagined. You couldn’t just leave that sitting on the table.
Given how you’ve been signed to Virgin Records for 15 years, what’s it like at a record company these days?
Right now, Virgin/EMI feels the best it ever has. Oddly enough, with the record industry climbing and the financial state that the world is in, the company feels the best it’s ever felt. There’s a super-fresh perspective, great attitude, and enthusiasm and excitement. Most importantly, there’s a love and passion for music. I was just in England, sitting with the worldwide head of the company, and we were Googling and YouTubing music – it was strange.
A lot of live footage from your new album is also online. Do you take the attitude of the Grateful Dead when it comes to filming live shows?
Pretty much, man. The more live shows that are taped the better. That’s a whole different community, really, the tape-trading scene. The heads that usually check YouTube is another crowd entirely, but YouTube is still defining itself – it would be great if someone could edit and filter the videos that are double and triple uploaded. There’s still some dusting off to do with that whole process. But it’s still great. Click a button and you’re doing a show around the world.
What kind of venues do you expect to play on the next tour?
I’m not sure yet. I’ll let the record come out, and kind of watch it, because I don’t want this band to overstep its reach before it has been earned. I’ll follow the direction the album takes and play things accordingly.