Illustration by Corby Ortmann
On the latest episode of Radio Noir, I sat down with local artist Ben Cook-Feltz to rehash the past, crack a few jokes, and discuss his latest LP, Ben Cook-Feltz and You.
Here are a few snippets from that conversation:
You've always had the motto "We do things bands only joke about," and now you're having a digital release party for a digital release?
I'm glad you said the whole thing about "[doing things] bands only joke about" because it came up in a conversation where we were joking. Basically, I put this new CD out. It's called Ben Cook-Feltz and You... We were just going to launch it digitally through my Bandcamp website, and ya know put it up on iTunes and all that stuff. Put it out for whatever price people want to pay for it. My main thing anymore is I just want people to hear this music, so we were kind of thinking of ways to creatively release it that tied into this digital only project, and we thought, why don't we do a regular release show only instead of doing it a venue do it at a garage -- well now it's going to be a studio in Northeast -- invite some buddies out, have some beers, play some tunes, film the whole thing, and just launch it virtually.
Did you always have an interest in music? When did you start playing?
For me, music has been the only thing that I've ever done personally that I feel like I've been really good at. I'm lousy at sports. If you throw a floor plan at me architecturally I would have no idea what to do, but I've always been able to sit at a piano and play. I started playing -- I just say it was when I was five -- I can't really remember... I basically taught myself how to play piano and I started -- we talked about this before I am an unabashed huge Godzilla fan -- it actually started by watching old Godzilla movies, liking the songs, and sitting down at the piano and teaching myself how to play these Godzilla songs. From there it went to Nintendo music, and from there it went to starting to come up with my own melodies and eventually writing words.
Where did you develop your sense of humor?
This is about to take a very dark turn... I am a cancer survivor. When I was five I was diagnosed with something called Rhabdomyosarcoma. To anyone who doesn't know, I wear a prosthetic nose and it came from that, so really if I think about it, I think it is kind of a way of dealing with it because that's a pretty serious thing to happen when you're a little kid. One thing that it made me realize at a very early age inadvertently was that there's really nothing that's so severe that you can't laugh at it, deal with it positively. The whole George Harrison "All Things Must Pass" thing, no matter how bad something looks it will get better. Things move in cycles, and all things will resolve themselves, so if I really thought about it, that's where it comes from.
Do you have a favorite memory of something that happened either on or backstage?
Most of my favorites ones, unfortunately, don't have to do with my own music. I was in a country cover band for about a year... and I don't know where the hell we were, it was somewhere up in northern Minnesota, and to be fair I'm not a very big country music fan. It's really easy to play on the piano, and it's also admittedly really easy music to play when you're drunk... At this one particular show -- I still don't know exactly what was going on -- but there was a fairly drunk woman in the audience who decided that we've been playing for a while so we obviously looked famished, so she had just gotten a fresh pizza from the bar and decided that she was going to walk up on stage and start feeding every member of the band while we were playing. It must have been fun to listen to because Cole was taking this guitar solo and suddenly he had to stop and lean over. He was trying to say "No no no," and eat this pizza, and we were all laughing. Then she walks up to me when I'm supposed to be taking a piano solo -- like the solos apparently were her cue she's like, "Oh here, he's playing now. He wants pizza" -- so she walked over to me and fed me this pizza while I'm trying to do a piano solo at the same time probably sounding horrible, and the pizza was fresh out of the oven so this molten cheese was sliding down my face while I'm trying to play, so that was probably my favorite ridiculous story.
What's next for you, anything crazy?
The crazy things come up at random... I always want to do things that seem like fun and that are a little bit different and goofy. We have these ridiculous ideas eventually to do a tour centering around -- and this is not very productive on an artist level -- but rather than centering around some of the target market towns. Finding places that have ridiculous landmarks like the Jolly Green Giant Statue or the Twine Ball and just going there and playing: The Tour of Oddities in Minnesota.