August 5, 2015 Interview – Ben Kenney of Incubus
One of Alternative Rock’s saving graces over the past fifteen years has been California based band Incubus. Combining their own mix of Funk, Rock, Metal, and even Hip Hop styling, Incubus burst onto the scene in the late ’90s with quality song that spoke to the heart and soul of listeners. Launched into super stardom with 1999’s Make Yourself, Incubus has not looked back since. Pushing the envelope with their sound from record to record and peaking in the charts along the way, Incubus remain strong to this day. Now a part of one of late Summer’s hottest tours in 2015, with co-headliner Deftones, Incubus are ready to captivate their fanbase once again. Recently we sat down with bassist Ben Kenney for a look into the history of the band, the idea behind their newest EP Trust Fall (Side A), touring, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Incubus has been going strong now for over two decades and has become one the leaders in Alternative Rock. You became a member back in 2003 after the departure of Alex. Tell me, what has your journey been like being a member of Incubus for over a decade now?
Ben Kenney – It has been cool, they are just guys dedicated to working and making something good that lasts. It has been fun. A lot of work, a lot of shows have been played, a lot of new places have been visited, but the ethic has definitely been the same. I am excited about it.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, you have worked with Mike and Jose on another project prior to joining up with Incubus, so you had some familiarity there. When you became the permanent bassist of Incubus, did the chemistry immediately click with you and the rest of the band?
Ben Kenney – Yes, from the bat, it always felt like it was the right thing. I do not know how else to describe it. We definitely support each other, engage each other, and try to bring out the strengths in each other as much as possible. I am lucky to be in an environment where the music comes first.
CrypticRock.com – Right, it is good to be able to get along with people on the stage, obviously, musically, but getting along off the stage is also a plus as well. Incubus certainly has built a strong fan base from the beginning. The 1997 record Science built a really strong following, but a lot of people look to 1999’s Make Yourself as really the breaking point into the mainstream and when the band really blew up. What do you think made that record so special at that point?
Ben Kenney – I would say there was just an honesty to what the band was doing at a time when a lot of people were trying to make things that sold. A lot of people were just coming out of the woodwork and trying to capture a sound and try and capitalize on it. I think the songwriting on the record speaks for itself, it is very honest, very clear, and real.
CrypticRock.com – It most certainly is, and that record definitely speaks volumes, it really launched the band to a new level as stated. You have been part of the band now through three album cycles and the latest EP, Trust Fall (Side A).What has the progression been like in the writing and recording between yourself and Incubus through the years?
Ben Kenney – We have just gotten to know each other even better. The guys who were in the band before me continued to develop the relationships creatively and, since I have been part of the band, that has been my journey as well. We have all just kind of tried to learn what we do, what we do well, and bring that to the forefront, at the same time, trying to attempt new things and go in new directions all the time. It really is about trying to be us and not be anyone else.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and that certainly stands true because when you hear an Incubus track, you know it is an Incubus track right off the bat. You mentioned you wanted to progress and such, that has really been another focal point of Incubus is that progression. The band is willing to experiment and not afraid to try new things. Is that something that you thrive on? That ability to wanting to experiment like that?
Ben Kenney – We have been fortunate that the band has been successful and a lot of people pay attention to what we do. That has made it possible for us to feel comfortable enough to experiment. That made it possible for us to feel that people are going to at least give it a chance when we try something new, and that is an opportunity you cannot really ignore. If you have a chance to say something that is your own, and you have the chance to have that evolve, you should take it. If you do not, you are kind of blowing it.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it is definitely a wonderful opportunity to have. Speaking of new material, the band just released the four track EP Trust Fall (Side A) in May. This is actually the first of two EP’s that are scheduled to be released in 2015. Was splitting up the music something that the band had decided on, to have that fresh new material to go out on tour with?
Ben Kenney – We did not want to spend all of this year in the studio. We are a live act and most of what we do is what we do on stage. We like being in a studio, we like working in the studio, but it is really about going out, touring, and having boots on the ground with the people that support our music. Splitting it up and not spending the whole year in the studio, and half the time touring – it has been great, inspiring for us. It has made us want to create even more.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. So there are plans for a full length record in the near future?
Ben Kenney – Yes, something. I do not know what format it is going to take because we are still figuring it out as we go, and we are still writing. We actually recently spent a week and a half in the studio and every time we get home from one of these legs of tours we are doing, we are going right into the studio and seeing where we are at and what we are doing now. A lot of the touring informs the writing and the writing informs the touring, they sort of go hand in hand. I do not know what is going to come out in what shape or form, but we are definitely stoked to be creating and to be in the gears of the thing right now.
CrypticRock.com – This is actually quite an interesting way you are going about it. As you had said, most bands take the time off, write a record, record the record, then are out on the road touring for it. What you are doing is allowing yourself the ability to be inspired in between the writing and touring, going into the studio at the same time in between, which is very different.
Ben Kenney – Yes, it is the first time we have ever done it like this. It has been a little intense because the rest of 2015 is already figured out for me, and we miss a lot of birthdays, weddings, and stuff like that, but it is all for the good cause.
CrypticRock.com – It will be interesting what the end of the year has in store. So far it has been a great year. You are actually in the midst of that Summer tour with Deftones. Many, when they heard about this tour, considered it one of the best tours this season perhaps. How excited are you about this tour?
Ben Kenney – We are just excited. I am very excited because I love the band we are touring with. I am a huge Deftones fan, and Death From Above 1979 and The Bots are awesome as well. I am excited to go see this show every night and then get to play. It is always a pain in the ass when you get to go to a good show and you have to wait weeks until your next show to play. This is not going to be the case, it is only going to be an hour before we jump on stage after watching the Deftones.
CrypticRock.com – It should be a great tour and, as you said, there is a great mix of bands right there. You say you watch the band before and after you are done playing; is that something that you have always done on tour? Do you always watch the other bands perform?
Ben Kenney – When bands put on a good show or I am really into the music, I try not to miss it because I really enjoy seeing other people do it and what they bring to the table.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. Sometimes people forget that, above all, we are all fans, above anything, when it comes to being a musician, or whatever it is. We love music.
Ben Kenney – Absolutely. Yes, that is the truth. We are all lucky to be a part of it.
CrypticRock.com – Now speaking of music, what are some of your personal musical influences?
Ben Kenney – I have listened to a lot of music throughout my life. When I was younger I listened to a lot of Punk Rock and Hardcore. Then I really started getting more into Fusion stuff and Prog Rock and things like that. Now, in my life, I cannot really put it into a box, what is going to move me, everything just has to line up a certain way to get me excited. There is so much music right now, it is absolutely bonkers. It is the best time to be a music fan that I have ever experienced in my life because once a week an album comes out that can change your life.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, there certainly is a lot of music coming out right now. Like you said, you really cannot pinpoint what it is that inspires you. You reach a point in life as you get older where younger influences and older influences kind of meet together, and you are more open to music than you ever were before.
Ben Kenney – Yes, I have heard a lot of music, so the things that move me now and the things that impress me now, are not going to be the same as before. I hear different things and I hear music differently as I get older.
CrypticRock.com – Right, my last question is actually pertaining to movies because we cover all types of music,but we also have an interest in Horror movies. I am interested, if you are a fan of Horror movies, do you have any favorites?
Ben Kenney – I never really watched Horror movies growing up. My mom did not want us to be scared as kids so she would not let us watch Horror movies. Then when I got older, I could not suspend my disbelief enough to get into it. Out of all the Horror movies I have seen, the movie that actually scared the shit out of me was 28 Days Later (2003). I went and saw that in the theater, and that was awesome. I really enjoyed The Blair Witch Project (1999) and some of the movies like Paranormal Activity (2009). I just liked the way they were put together; they were not really overwhelming with blood and gore as much as a mystery thing. That was cool for me.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, 28 Days Later is a great film, and The Blair Witch Project was really revolutionary at the time. That is really one of the first films that had that first-person camera point of view that they started making.
Ben Kenney – Yes, it was put together really well, it was a different approach and even the not so obvious things. The tension building in the film is a completely different approach. I was just into it and got chills watching it to the end.