June 6, 2017 Interview – Ben Flanagan of Black Map
Black Map appeared on the music scene in 2014 with the release of their debut album …And We Explode. A musical supergroup by definition, the band is comprised of The Trophy Fire’s Ben Flanagan (bass and vocal), Dredg’s Mark Engles (guitar), and Far’s Chris Robyn (drums). The guys recently released their second full-length album, In Droves, on eOne Music, which delivers more diverse and dynamic songs than …And We Explode, switching up styles and industry expectations for Black Map. At Carolina Rebellion 2017, we had a chance to sit down with Black Map frontman Ben Flanagan to talk about the road so far, In Droves, and the deep learning curve that success brings.
CrypticRock.com – Black Map has been quite busy. You put out a new album, have been touring, and find yourselves on Carolina Rebellion 2017. How have things been going, and what is new with the band?
Ben Flanagan – It’s been great. We put out a record called In Droves, it came out March 10th and we are really, really proud of it. I think it’s the best thing this band has done. Well, it’s only our second album, so not too big of a sample size yet, but we’re really proud of it. Just since 2017, we started the year with a tour with Chevelle and Dinosaur Pile-Up, and now we’re out with Nothing More and doing some festivals. It’s been a really busy year at the start of it.
CrypticRock.com – That is very positive. As you stated, you released In Droves in March and it differs considerably from 2014’s …And We Explode. What are some of the biggest intentional changes you made between records?
Ben Flanagan – The only intentional thing was to not have any rules. …And We Explode kind of had one Hard Rock direction, and In Droves ended up going down some different musical paths, but we didn’t really talk about that. What we did talk about is if it was a good song we put it on the record. We didn’t care if it was Heavy Metal or if it was a more “poppy” song; if it’s good, it’s good. We basically just put the best collection of songs together. It ended up working really fluidly, I think, but we weren’t set out to make a Hard Rock or Metal record.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. So, definitely not wanting to be genre confined?
Ben Flanagan – Yeah, and we didn’t start the band wanting to be genre confined, but people were confining us. They were saying what genre we are. It’s fine for people to talk about what kind of genre we are. We know that’s going to happen, but it was kind of liberating to go to some live shows and not really care if it’s not all really heavy drop C riffs.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) So, you guys have toured with Highly Suspect, Chevelle, and Bush now, what was the best part of being on these tours, and what did you learn from the other artists?
Ben Flanagan – A lot about…this is my first time being in a band where I’m playing to these kind of big crowds on this level, so I think Pete in Chevelle and Gavin Rossdale of Bush, just seeing their level of confidence and the way they get through a show. It’s pretty inspiring and there was a little bit of a learning curve for me when this band first started and getting on some huge festivals. I’m not saying we weren’t ready, but maybe I wasn’t quite ready yet. So, watching those guys and the way they conduct themselves, as well as the way they interact with the crowd…those two in particular were really inspiring and educational.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. Now musically, you have shifted gears from the work you were doing in The Trophy Fire, if you were to do something radically different as a side project, what would it be?
Ben Flanagan – Good question. I really love all sorts of melodies. Like we have this interlude on our record called “Transit 3,” but it’s just me on my piano and this weird vocal effect. Yeah, I’d love to do a really mellow, ambient album with different instrumentation. Something like that, a lot of piano, a lot of guitar. Just kind of sleepy, dreamy, and ethereal.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, kind of like a Team Sleep thing?
Ben Flanagan – Yeah, but maybe less beats and more like a Boniver meets Depeche Mode kind of thing. They have good beats though, so I like them.
CrypticRock.com – Ah! So you are a Depeche Mode fan?
Ben Flanagan – Yeah! I’m a huge, huge Depeche Mode fan, particularly. They’re one of my favorite bands.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome! What is the future of Black Map? More focused, what are your plans for the coming year?
Ben Flanagan – We’re really just gonna support the hell out of this record. We have this tour with Nothing More, then we pick up again with Chevelle and Dinosaur Pile-Up in July and August. Then, we’ll be out again in October and I can’t say who with, but yeah, it’s gonna be really good. That tour will run probably October through November, and that’s our whole year. Then I’ll take a breath and yeah, take a breath. It’s good. It’s all good, to be active. We’re working our asses off and it feels good.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly seems to be paying off. Finally, at CrypticRock, we also cover Sci-Fi and Horror. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites.
Ben Flanagan – Good question. Putting me on the spot like that. Um, I mean it’s pretty cliche, but I’d say The Shining (1980) will always be one of my favorites.
CrypticRock.com – That is a classic.
Ben Flanagan – Yep. Then also, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, I always enjoyed reading, and that’s available to both Horror and Sci-Fi. So, yeah, huge Stephen King fan.
CrypticRock.com – Oh yeah, they are making a movie of that, right? Starring Idris Elba?
Ben Flanagan – Yeah, and Matthew McConaughey. He’s dreamy (laughs). Also, I am a huge Fifth Element fan, in the Sci-Fi world. It’s super campy, but really a fun, good Sci-Fi movie.