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Electric President - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Ben Cooper Is Running For Electric President

May 2006

MVRemix: Who are some artists who you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Ben Cooper: Lots of them. But it would depend on the kind of music, and when you ask me. Some names at the moment: Joanna Newsom, The Books, Sigur Ros, Max Richter, Tom Waits, Johann Johansson, some groups on Morr.

MVRemix: What are some songs that you would like to remix? How would you do it?

Ben Cooper: Iím not sure. Iíve never remixed anything before.

MVRemix: Where were you during September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it?

Ben Cooper: I was at home. At first, I didnít deal with it. It took a while for it to sink in.

MVRemix: Death penalty Ė for or against?

Ben Cooper: I donít think I could give an adequate answer in the form of an interview. In part, it is because I usually keep my politics separate from my music or art. I donít want to use them as a platform; I canít help but have some views seep into the writing, but Iím not very outspoken in that way, but also because I feel politics and views should be discussed. Just putting out opinions in a place that you canít debate them or have a conversation mostly just starts fights, which isnít conducive for making a point. I definitely have a view about these things, but youíll have to corner me in person for a response.

MVRemix: Abortion Ė pro-choice or pro-life?

Ben Cooper: Same as above.

MVRemix: What was your childhood like? What kind of kid were you?

Ben Cooper: I grew up in a very big family. I have nine siblings, but Iíve always been about the same in that Iíve always liked to make things. I got into drawing and painting when I was in the second grade. In middle school I started playing music and making short films with friends after school. Toward the end of high school, I got into reading and writing. But I was into a lot of physical things too. I skated until I was 19 and would probably still be skating everyday had I not hurt my back. I fell on my tailbone a few too many times, so now my back goes out. Even lifting something wrong is enough to leave me bedridden for a while, so skating is out of the question. But I miss it.

MVRemix: What has been in your CD player or in your tape deck recently?

Ben Cooper: Joanna Newsom, Max Richter, a mix CD of choral compositions and Chopin piano pieces, and this old Erectus Monotone album I got from a friend.

MVRemix: Word association. When I say a name, you tell me the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ĎThe Beatlesí, you may say ĎRevolutioní or ĎLennoní. Ok?

Massive Attack.

Ben Cooper: Dark.

MVRemix: Trisomie 21.

Ben Cooper: Math.

MVRemix: The Stone Roses.

Ben Cooper: England.

MVRemix: Morrissey.

Ben Cooper: Smiths.

MVRemix: Slowdive.

Ben Cooper: Nice.

MVRemix: The Fall.

Ben Cooper: Leaves. I know you meant the band, but Iím trying to stick to the Ďfirst word that pops into my headí guideline.

MVRemix: The Strokes.

Ben Cooper: Guitars.

MVRemix: My Bloody Valentine.

Ben Cooper: Drones.

MVRemix: The House Of Love.

Ben Cooper: 80s.

MVRemix: Momus.

Ben Cooper: Unfamiliar.

MVRemix: Felt.

Ben Cooper: Hands.

MVRemix: The Wolfgang Press.

Ben Cooper: Mozart.

MVRemix: Cocteau Twins.

Ben Cooper: Pretty.

MVRemix: The Dandy Warhols.

Ben Cooper: Campbellís.

MVRemix: Psychic T.V.

Ben Cooper: Cleo.

MVRemix: Coldcut.

Ben Cooper: Turntable.

MVRemix: New Order.

Ben Cooper: Ceremony.

MVRemix: Brian Eno.

Ben Cooper: Apollo.

MVRemix: George Bush.

Ben Cooper: Ears.

MVRemix: What do you think of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East?

Ben Cooper: Again, this isnít the place I can adequately discuss it. For a general statement, Iím not real happy with it, but itís not a black and white topic.

MVRemix: Who was the biggest influence in your life?

Ben Cooper: My family, hands down. Theyíve forever and always helped me stay centered. Theyíre my favorite people.

MVRemix: How has technology hurt music?

Ben Cooper: I donít think it has. I think its changed music, but it hasnít hurt it. It could only hurt it if you wanted music to stay the same, which I donít. Iím always excited to see what else will happen with music. But I do think that people havenít learned how to adjust to all the technology just yet, both in terms of how to use it to make records, and how to market and sell them as well. Everyoneís kind of flailing, convinced that downloading music and consumer-level recording gear will be the death of music. Music isnít going anywhere. In the 80ís, people were saying the same thing about Midi and synthesizers, that theyíre killing music, and that everything worth writing has already been written, etc. Music didnít die, it just changed. I really donít think itís that big a deal now either. People just have to figure out what to do with all the options they have now, and adjust.

MVRemix: In The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius writes, ĎIt's my belief that history is a wheelÖ. Rise up on my spokes if you like but don't complain when you're cast back down into the depths. Good time pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it's also our hope. The worst of time, like the best, are always passing away.í What other works of art, literature, songs, or whatever helped you maintain?

Ben Cooper: Books in general are a life-saver for me. Whenever Iím down, I can read and it takes my mind off of things. Thereís not enough space in my head to feel shitty and concentrate on a story.

MVRemix: What was your last dream you remember?

Ben Cooper: Most of my dreams are very tense and unnerving. Iím sure thereís some psychological reason behind this, but I donít know it. My last dream was no different. I dreamed that I was trying to help someone I know, but couldnít.

MVRemix: What is music lacking these days?

Ben Cooper: In a personal way, I wish there were more composers working now. I realize there isnít much of an avenue for it outside of film soundtracks and such, but I would like to see more instrumental pieces being written and sold like other records. But overall, I think music is doing fine. Iím finding at least 4 or 5 new artists a year that I really like, which isnít bad at all. Iíve changed the way I listen to music though. I try my best not to listen to music as what I would like it to be, and just listen to what it is and decide whether I enjoy it. Itís really easy to get caught up in a bunch of social crap and listen to music as some sort of identity-defining thing, but Iíve found that thereís very little attention paid to the music in those cases. It becomes the equivalent of deciding what youíre going to wear, and I like music too much to let it become that. Iíve never been very social about what I like, but Iíve become even less so lately, and Iíve found that Iím just enjoying more art in general. Itís nice.

MVRemix: You also are involved in writing and art. Tell us about your other non-music creativity.

Ben Cooper: Well, music is kind of the last thing I got into. Iíve always drawn and painted, since elementary school. For the past few years, paintings have been my only source of income. When I was just out of high school, I was determined to become a writer. For a little over a year, I did nothing but write in my spare time. But my computer, which held all of my writing, completely crashed one day and all the work I hadnít backed up was lost, which was pretty disheartening. So while I was working a bunch and saving up for a new computer, I needed something to do. So Alex and I started recording together again, and thatís when all this started. Iíd been playing bands since middle school, and writing songs throughout the years since, but it wasnít until borrowing a 4-track and recording on my days off that music really clicked. Playing live and being in bands has never been my favorite thing. I enjoyed it, but it wasnít enough to make me stick with it. But when the recording thing got rolling, I was suddenly writing all the time, practicing more than I ever had, and trying to understand how to make a record. Writing and recording are by far my favorite parts of music.

MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions that people have of you?

Ben Cooper: I donít know. Locally, I mostly hang around the same people I always have. Iíve known a lot of my friends since elementary school, and the rest I met in high school.

MVRemix: What is next for you?

Ben Cooper: Once I finish this current record and get it mastered, Iím gonna change gears and work on a book for a while. Iíve been mapping out this story for a long time, and would like to sit down and write it. I also hope to get some of the Iron Orchestra pieces recorded this year, and have been working on some short film scripts with a friend, that we plan on shooting soon. Then thereís the Biowulf project for summer and some touring for Electric President during fall. So itís going to be a busy year, and Iím pretty sure I wonít finish all of that, but Iím gonna try.

MVRemix: Any final words?

Ben Cooper: Thanks for this opportunity, Todd. And thanks for asking some different questions. This is definitely the most thorough interview yet.

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"Everyoneís kind of flailing, convinced that downloading music and consumer-level recording gear will be the death of music. Music isnít going anywhere. In the 80ís, people were saying the same thing about Midi and synthesizers..."