There’s no ignoring Ben Taylor's musical lineage: With James Taylor as dad and Carly Simon as
mom, Ben's prowess in songwriting and performance is proving itself to be as impressive as his parents’. Yet his unique style is less hippie and more hip-hop.
Ben's set to open up for mom tonight at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. What a night to witness both past and future share the same stage, especially considering it’s Simon’s first ever performance in Miami.
New Times had a chance to exchange couple Q&A emails with Ben in advance of the show. We discussed his upcoming album, The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1: the Killing Bite, his stance on downloading music, and his famous parents. Oh -- and not to mention his much talked-about remix of Snoop's "Sexual Seduction.” Now that's rock and roll. -- Esther Park
Ben Taylor performs with Carly Simon Friday, May 16. The Gusman Center, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami. Show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets cost $150 to $5,000 and benefit CHARLEE Homes for Children and GAP: Girls Advocacy Project. 305-374-2444, www.gusmancenter.org
New Times: How old were you when you picked up a guitar? Was it natural instinct that propelled you to play or was it something that you learned to love? Why not the turntable or tuba?
Ben Taylor: I finally started playing the guitar when I was 11 so that I could become a more musical person. I think the reason I chose that instrument was for its versatility and portability. It's no fun trying to lug a piano around...
Explain a little bit about your upcoming album title: The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1 - the Killing Bite? a.) What is Kung Folk? b.) Name me a Kung Folk master? c.) What can we expect in Part 2?
Kung Folk Possible explanations:
1: Work with folk. Or for that matter, metamorphic folk as it happens in nature (musically and otherwise).
2: Folk with a kick!
3: A complex but pleasantly breezy blend of music, love, and Qi Gong.
4: Laughing at myself is proving to be very good Kung Fu.
The Killing Bite: The killing bite is a preprogrammed, predisposition, sequence action pattern that all predators are born knowing how to perform. they are Carnivorous animals who need this instinctive knowledge in order to survive (they were born to do it).
Instinctive behaviors like the killing bite and the mating dance (which may end up having to be the name of Kung Folk Part 2) are like code written into an animals DNA unlike so many learned behaviors which may seem like instinct, but are actually passed down through life lessons from one generation to the next.
On this album I wanted to act out of my own innate understanding of music, and try not to listen to hard to my own or any one else's overactive analytical intellectuality.
Too much going with what you've learned can be rather dreary. Going with what you were born knowing. Now that's sexy.
I've lately classified your music as "hippie turned hip-hop.” At first listen, I automatically get this hip-hop vibe and saw that you enjoy artists like Mos Def and the Roots. Do you think hip-hop is as "Americana" as, say, folk music? Any thoughts of future collaborations with such artists?
I am looking forward to collaborating with every one. Musical vocabulary is my favorite way to converse and I'm always happy to make new friends.
On the topic of hip-hop, did you peep the new Roots album yet? Your thoughts?
My head has been buried in my own album recently. I didn't even realize they had a new album. I'm downloading it as we speak.
Ever wanted to just break away from the whole guitar thing and do, say, techno?
Sure. especially if there are dancing girls involved in some capacity.
On your song, "America", you have the lines: "How can we keep dreaming after what we've been through? It's a pretty poignant look at the state of affairs right now. What were you feeling when you wrote this song?
I feel like we as Americans stand on the edge of a vanishing chance to redeem ourselves not only to the global community for our double standards and dirty power-play, but more importantly, to the spirit of the land which has sheltered, nurtured and protected us as we grew fat, selfish and insolent. Now it is our turn, and like the song says: "even if she's been through Hell with scars and lines she's still so fine".
Seeing that it's an election year, any endorsements?
McCain is my last choice. Ron, Hillary and Barack all have excellent qualities.
Your success in the music industry is almost quite organic. It’s very home-grown, DIY , accomplished by building up your audience via no-traditional means like MySpace and playing at smaller, intimate venues. So noting that, why this way? You probably have a lot more resources in the music industry than, say, Joe Blow in Topeka, Kansas. Did you feel like perhaps like too many resources almost hindered your ability to succeed in the music business?
No, I just feel like music should be as free as possible. the more heavy handed a campaign becomes, the more pressure. My music is allergic to pressure.
I have to ask this. Since "Taylor" is such a common last name, when you play at random cities throughout the country, do folks ever just come up to you and say something like, "Wow, you sound like James Taylor!"? If so, what’s your answer to such a question?
Totally depends on my mood. and I'll say anything at all for the sake of minimizing the monotony of being asked the same question again and again, but I am always polite to anyone nice enough to tell me I sound like James Taylor or Carly Simon.
What are you currently listening to?
Coco Sumner, David Saw, Mos Def, MC K-OS, Rafael Sidique, Amy Winehouse, cary tree, Stevie Dread.
Are you an iPod guy or a vinyl guy?
Speaking of iPods. What’s your take on the downfall of album sales and the upside of the Internet? Would you be mad if I downloaded your entire discography illegally?
No not at all. go. Just tell your friends.
What’s your favorite album of all time -- you know, the album that makes you
cry, the album that you wish you wrote.
Sorry to be cliché but Songs in the Key of Life.
Future plans aside from singing and songwriting? Any non-musical talents that the world should note when speaking of Ben Taylor?
I heard some pretty good rumors, but I don't' like to toot my own horn.
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What made you want to remake Snoop's "Sexual Seduction"? It's brilliant, by the way. Any other remakes in the works? Maybe an acoustic version of Rick Ross' "Hustlin'"?
David Saw and I are working on a cover album this summer. Interpretative music is very important to me as a writer and performer. Who's cooler than Snoop?
Finally, playing with your mom, Carly. Less pressure? More pressure?
Playing with my mom is an honor and a breeze.