P.C.Pop with Pablo

Posts Tagged ‘WHUS’

Flashback to the Eighties – Social Media and a Spontaneous College Reunion

In College Students, Family, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, social media, Summer for Renewal, UConn, Uncategorized on August 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Long Live Watson Beach at UConn

U Conn Husky, symbol of might to the foe.
Fight, fight Connecticut, it’s victr’y, Let’s go
Connecticut U Conn Husky, victr’y again for the White and Blue
So go, go, go Connecticut, Connecticut U. Fight!
C-O-N-N-E-C-T-I C-U-T. Connecticut,
Connecticut Husky,
Connecticut Husky, Connecticut C-O-N-N-U. Fight! (repeat)

{NOTE: In recent times, the original word “Hi!” has been replaced with “Fight!”}

In preparation for a visit home to Connecticut prior to leaving Indiana I took the first step in what became a viral invitation to a spontaneous UConn Watson Beach alumni reunion thanks to Social Media. The result was a serendipitously perfect day.

Initially I reached out to just three UConn Watson Beach alums with whom I still engage on Facebook. Once we were able to nail down a date for a mini-reunion, the three of us invited other UConn Watson Beach alums to join us through Facebook. Everyone was encouraged to spread the word, and it became viral in a tiny way. After a week or so, we compared lists and identified individuals who had not been contacted yet. We pooled our resources and used ever means necessary to track people down. LinkedIn became another powerful means to locate and connect because of their internal messaging system as well as the availability of email addresses.  More and more, individuals are hiding their email addresses on Facebook and other social media sites but since LinkedIn is about professional networking, we found a few more missing alums through there.

Now we had to plan our day. It became apparent that many wanted to see the Storrs campus — so, our meeting place would be the UConn campus. One fellow alum who lives about 5 miles from campus then offered her home for a pool party following a morning visit to our old stomping grounds.  Since I not only graduated from UConn twice (almost thrice) and worked there for over 10 years, I contacted a friend/alumna/colleague to see if we could actually get in to see our beloved Watson. This friend/alumna/colleague coincidentally was our “staff resident” back when we were students and still works at UConn in residential life. During my time at UConn she became a great colleague and was a next-door neighbor — and continues to be a Facebook friend and conference buddy. She readily agreed to meet us at Watson on that Saturday morning and let us in to see our college home. Things were really coming together.

I attended the UConn Hartford Campus for two years prior to “branchfering” to the main campus and moving into Watson Hall in the Fall of 1981. Watson Hall was my home from Fall 1981 through Spring 1984. Most of my close friends from the UConn Hartford campus as well as other Hartford “branchfers” were also residents of the third floor of Watson. When I arrived within a week of moving in the president of the Watson Hall council resigned. I ran for the mid-term position and won.  I was the president for the next three years and worked with a dedicated and talented team to resurrect the image and programming of our beloved Watson Hall. For a variety of reasons, we called our front lawn “Watson Beach.” So when we became one of the best councils on campus — we officially changed our constitution to reflect our new image and new name — the Watson Beach Council.  This was the beginning of creating one of those special affinity groups within the UConn alumni community; one that has a very strong bond with hundreds of UConn alums.

The summer of 2012 has been designated (by me) as My Summer for Renewal. Why? Because last summer I made a mistake — I put work ahead of family and friends. That was wrong and I promised my family, friends…and myself, that my priorities would change in 2012. My priorities are once again focused on making sure that I am physically and psychologically healthy; so that I am able to build and maintain positive relationships with my family and friends. When planning our summer, we made sure that we were able to take at least two weeks off for a trip to Connecticut so we may reconnect with as many friends and family as possible.  {NOTE: We accomplished a lot in two weeks but we still did not connect with everyone and had to make some tough decisions. For instance we met with UConn college friends but could not possible connect with former colleauges at UConn. Next time — for sure!} The UConn Watson Beach Reunion was a priority for the 2012 Summer for Renewal.

The morning of this Saturday reunion arrived and my wife, kids and I started our journey to Storrs, Connecticut, home of the UConn Huskies. Our reminiscing started as soon as we hit the road because the route we traveled was one we did hundreds of times in the past. My wife and I traveled this road for over a decade each Sunday to my family homestead for Sunday dinner. This trip was also special because we were sharing our excitement, pride, and stories with our two children who have grown up loving UConn. The excitement was building and our anticipation grew. We arrived on campus early and good thing because the first change we encountered from the “old days” was the new road sytem on campus — roads eliminated in the center of campus and more one-way streets. We finally found our way around campus to our designated meeting spot — Watson Hall. We parked our car and the magic began. Our posse of Watson Beach alums weren’t the only ones on campus but we found each other quickly — emerging from every parking lot and loading dock in the vacinity. It was as if we never left campus — as if it were once again the fall of 1982. After a flurry of hugs and kisses, we picked up right where we left off. We were so happy, so comfortable, so loud and so much in love — with UConn, with Watson (Hall) Beach, with each other. Some I had seen as recently as January 2011 but others I had not seen for 20-30 years.

Soon our former staff resident arrived with the keys to Watson Hall and our day began officially. It did take a while to get everyone’s attention and to move us all into the building though. When we approached the building as a group, our rowdy group of friends were a bit quieter, more focused and more serious. It has been so long for all of us — but everything came back — immediately. Watson Hall has not changed much since the mid-80’s. This probably frustrates the current residential life staff at UConn but we were thrilled. And like a parent waiting for their kids to get home from a long night out — Elmer Watson (the portrait, that is) was waiting for us in the main lobby with the same warm eyes and loving smile making us feel welcome and safe. I was afraid that the portrait of Elmer Watson, fellow alumnus and namesake of our college home, would be gone; but Elmer was still there covered in protective fiberglass with scratches that I would put money on were there when we were there back in the ’80’s. The old place looked great. New furniture, new carpet but it felt the same — we were home. We all did laps around the lounge reliving all of the many happy and crazy memories of our college days. And yes — alcohol was involved. Back then, the drinking age in Connecticut was 18 years old and kegs were allowed  at residence hall council lounge parties.  Thanks to President Reagan (I say bitterly), the drinking age rose to 21 in 1984 — so, these memories are truly unique and in contrast with today’s residential life experience at UConn. We survived. No, we have thrived.

Our once motley crew now includes nothing short of great success in raising families, developing their careers and impacting a number of different communities. Our cohort includes a wide variety of professionals — engineers, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, college deans, pharmacists, educators, and marketing executives. We traveled from Indiana and others from Manhattan, Boston, and every corner of Connecticut. But on this day nothing matters except that we all bleed Blue and White. We even burst into the UConn Fight Song once or twice throughout the day. We all love UConn; we all love Watson Beach; and we all fondly remember our college experience. UConn gave us opportunities to grow up, to develop strong relationships, to dream, to be leaders and to serve each other and our communities. UConn brought us together, and we remain friends for life.

Our plan was to see the campus and go to the “pool party” around noon. After exploring Watson Beach, sharing stories, and taking a lot of pictures we moved on — reluctantly but excited to see our campus.  We could have spent the entire day at Watson but we had to stay on schedule; so, we set off, on foot, of course.  Just the walk from Watson to the center of campus brought back many memories but so much of the campus has changed that it was difficult to absorb it all. Additionally, there was construction in and around over three major buildings in our short 2-3 block walk. Our “must-see” list included Gampel Pavilion, the Memorial Football Stadium, the Student Union, WHUS Radio Studios, the UConn Coop (bookstore) and the Dairy Bar. The UConn Coop is brand new and sits on what was once a parking lot. The Memorial Football Stadium has recently been demolished because since they became a division one team they have been playing at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The grassy field known back in our day as the “Grad Field” we crossed many times a day as students is the new location of the Business School.

Even the Student Union is different.  The front facade hasn’t changed since 1952 but the back has been expanded and is unrecognizable. I just had to see the radio station and the Doug Bernstein Game Room. Doug lived in Watson, on my floor, and is a Watson Beach alumnus. Unfortunately Doug was not able to join us on this day but some of us couldn’t resist going to see the Student Union game room named in his honor.  Doug has done well enough that he has been able to give back and one of his gifts was this game room. To our surprise the plaque included a letter in which he is found guilty of taking a Space Invaders Machine from the Watson Hall Rec Room. The letter was signed by Lorraine Gervais our head resident.  Doug “borrowed” the full size video game machine because he needed it to host a tournament in his room on the 3rd floor of Watson. Needless to say, we remember that tournament as if it were yesterday (and not 31 years ago) and remember how much Doug enjoyed torturing Lorraine. Lorraine was a “by the book” residence hall staff member, and of course, she charged him, held a formal hearing, found him guilty and sanctioned him. Ah, the memories. Also on our visit to the Student Union is the WHUS Radio studio. WHUS is where I had a weekly radio morning show for close to eight years but it is now in a brand new location in the newly renovated part of the Student Union. I am happy that my alma mater is growing but I miss the old Student Union, I miss my old WHUS studio, and I miss all of the green space between the Union and Watson Hall.

Lucky for us, Gampel Pavilion was open that morning with kids and families registering for UConn annual summer soccer camp. Although Gampel was not around when we were students most of us have been to games and events there since. It brought back lots of great memories of some high energy basketball games, Homecoming events, concerts, and March Madness pep-rallies. While working at UConn in the 90’s, I rarely missed a home game and often sat (or should I say stood) in the student section — and was one of the behind the scenes coordinators of most of the concerts and special events including the Indigo Girls, Spin Doctors, Leaders of the New School (featuring Busta Rhymes), Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, and Anthrax (to name a few). The difference is that UConn has been able to hang quite a few more championship banners since then. This of course make us even prouder alums.

Like many alums, one of the highlights of our visit was the campus bookstore — the UConn Coop. The energy level of our group increased tremendously as we rushed through an entire store with endless items celebrating and honoring our beloved alma mater — and some textbooks. We all stocked up on our UConn gear as if it was an end of the world moving sale. For us out of state UConn alums, it is exciting not only to browse the UConn Coop but also to see UConn stuff everywhere in the entire state including all over every shopping mall, in grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, and even in discount stores like Old Navy. We all had UConn fever and were loving it. We finished our tour of campus in our own time. We took a few last pictures with the Husky Dog statue and we wound down our visit to campus and moseyed over to our cars.

Next on the agenda was the Watson Beach Alumni Pool Party. The party was such a welcome retreat from campus because the focus was now on us and our conversations. We were once again loud — laughing and sharing. There was no tension, no drama, no need to pretend — we were transformed back in time and we had a lot of catching up to do. The food was simple but fabulous; the pool was inviting and refreshing; and there were plenty of spaces to visit and talk.  They even had a cabana with a TV to get updates on the Yankee game. At one point we looked over and noticed that our kids had found each other and we were hitting it off even though they had only met that morning. One friend brought her Watson Beach T-shirt to show off and share; and yet another brought a stack of photo albums which were a big hit especially with the kids — as you can imagine. No one wanted the day to end, but all wonderful celebrations must. One of our friends brought a tradition from her home to our reunion. She walked everyone to their cars as they needed to leave and waved farewell to them and didn’t stop until they were completely out of sight. A few of us joined her for this touching ritual.

We finally departed around 3:45 p.m. to meet with some family in this part of the state. For the record we did double back to campus after our family visit to get UConn’s own ice cream at the UConn Dairy Bar. And yes, even the Dairy Bar has been renovated; and yes, I miss the old Dairy Bar with its old fashion, horseshoe shaped counter. But the ice cream has not changed — and it is to die for — Huskies Supreme for me! And like a perfect ice cream sundae — this was the cherry on top.

And to think, without Facebook, Email, LinkedIn, Google it wouldn’t have happened. It was spontaneous and a bit viral. It was in many ways serendipitous. It certainly was a perfect “Summer for Renewal” event. We were reassured by the friends with whom we don’t keep in touch that we’re still important to each other; and we were blessed to see in person those with whom we do connect with through Facebook and bi-annual visits.  You learn a lot from exchanging Christmas/Hannukah cards each winter but nothing can compare to the richness and deep connections that were made at this simple reunion.  The UConn Watson Beach Reunion was filled with hugs and laughter — and we created a whole bunch of NEW memories — and shared promises to “do this again” soon. And forever the words of our Alma Mater ring true — Old Connecticut – When times, shall have severed us far, and the years their changes bring, the thought of the college we love in our memories will cling. For friendships that ever remain.

Old Connecticut
Once more, as we gather today,
To sing our Alma Mater’s praise,
And join in the fellowship strong,
Which inspires our college days.
We’re backing our teams in the strife
Cheering them to victory!
And Pledge anew to old Connecticut,
Our steadfast spirit of loyalty.
(Chorus) Connecticut, Connecticut,
Thy sons and daughters true
Unite to honor thy name,
Our fairest White and Blue.
When times, shall have severed us far,
and the years their changes bring,
the thought of the college we love
in our memories will cling.
For friendships that ever remain,
and association’s dear,
We’ll raise a song, to
old Connecticut, and join our voices in our long cheer

This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:


Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:

I Wish I Was Him — Ben Lee Interview — 1997

In Ben Lee, Brad Wood, Claire Danes, Concerts, Ione Skye, Iron Horse Music Hall, Liz Phair, Malavenda, Music, Pablo Malavenda, Pop Culture, UConn, WHUS on February 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Ben Lee Interview

From 1991 to 1998, I hosted a radio show at WHUS Radio, UConn student-run radio station, called PC Pop with Pablo. For over seven years, every Thursday morning from 8 to 10 a.m., PC Pop was on the air featuring music as well as commentary about pop culture, campus events, music and general absurdities. PC Pop music included a wide range of new, funky, pop, independent, punk, hip-hop music and spoken word.

Anything involving Ben Lee was a part of the musical line up.  It started in the early 90’s with music from the legendary band, Noise Addict.  Soon after Ben Lee’s solo work became an obsession of me and the show.  When Ben Lee announced a tour date in New England on June 18, 1997, I contacted our “person” at Grand Royal Records and arranged an interview.  The tour was in support of Ben Lee’s sophomore solo LP, Something to Remember Me By.

I took the road trip from Storrs, Connecticut to the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts with my radio show engineer, Kristin Curry.  Being a radio host and a fan I was excited and really, really prepared.  My goal was to make sure it was a fair interview and that Ben Lee knew that I was no joke.  We got there early, found the club, were able to gain entry, and were escorted to the “green room.”  To our surprise, Ben Lee was with his new “partner” — Claire Danes.  I’ll admit I was excited but also a little bit more nervous now that it was Ben and Claire.  The interview was a wonderful experience.  Ben Lee was as personable and funny as he seems to be in the media.  I was there for Ben so I was respectful to Claire Danes but did not really focus on her during the interview; and she stayed a distance a way from us.  As the interview progressed, Claire Danes became more vocal and became more comfortable being in the room.

Ben Lee and Claire Danes were together until about 2003.  In 2008 in a Hindu wedding ceremony in India, Ben Lee married Ione Skye, best known (by me) as the woman in the movie Say Anything who was serenaded by John Cusack with a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel‘s In Your Eyes in true Romeo & Juliet style.

The interview was edited and produced by Kristin and me and aired with selected songs on June 26, 1997 (one day before my birthday).  The transcript of the interview was posted on my website and was linked from Ben Lee’s website for a few years.  I recently found a copy of the interview and thought it would make an interesting Blog post.  I decided to share the interview again for all of Ben Lee’s fans new and old.  Ben Lee is still recording and producing great music.  In 2011 he released Deeper Into Dream and has a few US tour dates in 2012. I hope you agree that this interview is an entertaining and rare glimpse into the history of Ben Lee’s career and the history of rock-n-roll.  It is a experience I will treasure forever (as a rock historian).

Here is the interview.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, June 18, 1997

The Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, Massachusetts


AIRED:  Thursday, June 26, 1997

on the

P.C.Pop Show, WHUS Radio, Storrs, Connecticut, 91.7 FM


Tell us how you got signed by Fellaheen Records.

I can’t even believe you’ve heard of Fellaheen Records, this is my favorite radio station.  There was this record company in Sydney called Waterfront Records — had Sydney punk rock bands.  When I was in the band, Noise Addict, I sent them a demo tape.  At that stage, Waterfront was finishing and one of their guys was becoming Fellaheen.

One of the guys who started Fellaheen….actually one of the guys was from Waterfront, the other guy was running a promotions company called Golden Sounds.  He came to see me play at this library-book-sale gig that my dad hustled me in on.

Have your parents been supportive of your music career from the beginning?

Yeah, pretty much.  In the beginning it was just in a fun way.  Not with anything serious.  Now they are pretty supportive genuinely in good ways.

Do your parents now believe that music is your career?

They probably figure it’s a living but they hope it’s not all I do just because our family has a big intellectual history.  They are very interested in that kind of SHIT — so am I.  They are happy for me to do music but they would also like for me to change the world.

Since you just graduated high school, is this year going to be devoted to touring and promoting S.T.R.M.B.?

Yeah, maybe two I don’t know what I am doing.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “8 Years Old” and ”16.”

I find personally, both those songs are pretty defining moments.  I’ve recorded a lot of songs where certain things have been uneasy about.  I really feel for me saying what I wanted to say.  I’m not saying this to be arrogant or anything, I’m the only one that could have written them.   But I don’t think I could have written them any better.  And don’t thing anyone else could either.  Like I think I did something that was the best I could have done at the time and I could do those songs now, either of them.  But “16” I listen to that song and I’m like FUCK, thank God that song was written, by me too.   I’m so proud I wrote that because why don’t people write songs like that anymore and why don’t….  And I think I captured something I’m gonna be grateful for later in life, you know.  And you know “8 Years Old” it’s just a true story.


PLAY “16”

Tell us how you go about writing a song.

I used to write a lot of songs just all over the place and so now on purpose I’m gonna write less songs and try and write better songs just to change it because I wanted to challenge myself.

How often do you write now?

I am writing once in a month.

Is it more of an intentional process?

Yeah, yeah.

Your producer on Grandpaw Would and your latest S.T.R.M.B., Brad Wood seems to always be bragging about his basketball skills.  Does he always beat you on the court?

He’d have you believe that.  We only really played “H-O-R-S-E.”  He kept spiking my drinks and stuff and there was a ghost in the studio that was throwing off my game.

Was this in Chicago?

No, in L.A.  There is a ghost there.  We had heard all about this ghost, right, ‘cause it used to be a ballroom, this studio, and I went in to record, I went into the corner, and I heard out of the headphones someone go, “Argh, Argh, Argh,” like an old drunk man.  I turned to Brad and I went to the mic and I said, “was that you?”  He wasn’t even in the control room.  I told him about it and he said it was a cheerleader ghost, “Rah, Rah, Rah.”

Did you know of his work with Liz Phair before you began working with him?

Yeah, that is pretty much why we got him because after we heard that record, we were like, “yeah, that will be good for my songs.”

What was it like meeting Liz Phair for the first time?

It was cool, you know.  I’ve never really been like, I mean I’m a huge fan, but I was never really like, I don’t really get intimidated by people.  I was just hoping she was a cool person, and she was, and we hung out a bit and played Scrabble and Hangman.  She used the word “stucco” for the first time in a sentence.  I’ve never heard anyone use that in any reasonable context.

Are you going to work the word “stucco” into a song?

I am planning on it.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Ketchum.”

Ketchum, I was really getting into Hemingway.  This was like last year when Margot died and I just read Across the River and Into the Trees which just blew my mind.  And I was reading and there was this big article about Ketchum.  I wanted to say with that, I don’t know if it came across, some people think I was being sad, you know, being like morbid talking about death.  What I really meant by that song was Hemingway died such a beautiful and tragic death.  He moved to Ketchum to die and he said, “that if life has meaning for you then life can cease to have meaning.”  And he killed himself.  It was so perfect in a way.  Really sad but really perfect in a very romantic way.  And I’m talking like in the whole song, I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna make my life have a perfect end and a perfect beginning.  But then I realize that it’s not in me to do that.  But if the world’s gonna take me it’s gonna have to wear me down.   You know, I’m gonna fade away, I’m not gonna burn out.


Do you think there is any danger to singing such personal songs?

Yeah, but that is what I do.  It is like saying to a skydiver is there any risk in it.  That is part of the job.  It’s complete exposure, what ever that means.  It is equally thrilling and scary.

Some of your fans feel as if they have known you for years, that you are a close friend.  Does this ever scare you?

It scares me sometimes when like I’m just having a bad mood or I had a bad gig or sometimes you’re not in the mood to really hang out and someone comes up to you feeling like you owe them to hang out because you have been with them for years, you know, and like you owe them something.  I find that hard.  And I didn’t like it when someone came up to me right when I was about to walk on stage with the guitar and I was like, “I can’t sign this now.”  I was just warming up and said I would do it after.  But after, I just didn’t see him, I don’t know what happened.  And they posted this huge thing on the internet saying I was a PRICK and I’m only in it for the chicks and they were all down on my records and stuff.  That really bummed me out because, you know, I mean, the thing is that people in the public eye is that everyone has these ideals, everyone’s got a certain amount of romanticism that they want the world to be like, you know, and when they find that they can’t live up to those ideals in life they project them on other people.  People project these ideals onto you that you’re incapable of living up to all of the time.  So, that’s what depresses me sometimes.  But equally it’s good to be able to connect to so many people in just a short time.

Do you think about how many people you are speaking to and speak for in your songs?

I don’t know, I mean, I know I am speaking for….  You know why — I’m just trying to connect to something that’s human.  So, in a way I am speaking for everyone.  But I’m surprised that people that really like me are quite fanatical about it — that’s cool.  I want it man, I’m ready to speak for the generation.

Sometimes you just like….  You’ve read Catcher in the Rye, right?  You know when he’s talking about how he knows it’s a real good book is when after he finishes it he just wants to just call up the author and just talk about life.  When you feel like you’ve become friends with him, that’s what makes good art.  It’s impractical for the person making it to really, to do that kind of thing because that’s what makes a good thing.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Household Name.”

Searching for immortality through art in a time of pop culture.



We just heard the song “A Month Today.”  Tell us about that song.

That’s also pretty self explanatory, that song.

Why did you record it a capella?

I wanted to write an a capella song.  And it just seemed like I just started writing some words and I didn’t need any music.

Do your artistic talents go beyond music?

I mean, I dabble in everything.  I’m a jack of all trades.

Do you think someday you will pursue an acting career?

I would do it.  Me and Julianna Hatfield went on this tour in Australia and we toured movie theaters because we both like, it was just a way of projecting our failures.  I was an actor.  Have you seen the movie, Salute to the Jugger, a Rutger Hauer movie, have you heard of it?…with Joan Chen and Rutger Hauer.  I was in that movie.  Sa-lute to the Jug-ger.  I was an extra in that movie but you can’t really see me because it’s really dark.  I swear to God that I was really in that movie.  Secondly, I was in this advert for Nutrasweet.  I was a cowboy.  I was in this tree house and there was all these Indians, and one of them was my friend, Pixie, who I wrote, “Away with the Pixies” for.  She was running around the bottom with a dog and another boy.  And I was in the tree house looking with binocular and stuff and that was the end of the ad.  It was really strange and didn’t really boost Nutrasweet’s commercial appeal much through that particular advertising campaign.   Other work I’ve done, I was in an advert for Charge laundry detergent but I also ended up on the cutting room floor on that one.  Another one I also got cut out on, another movie, a movie called Black Rock, an Australian movie where I was actually playing myself and I was basking in the street.  I was playing and these kids come passed me and they go, and I’m sort of serenading this girl ‘cause she’s pretty and it’s making fun of me I suppose.  So, I’m serenading this girl and she turns around to her friends and says, “give him some FUCKING money” and they throw these coins at me.  But I got cut out because the movie was too long, so there you go.  My mom was in Murder, She Wrote.

Tell us about your collaboration with film maker Tamra Davis, Mike D.’s wife.

I’ve done a song for her next movie.  I’ve done it, I’ve recorded it.

Will you be acting in the film?

No, I’ve just recorded a song for it.  It’s called, “You Have to Burn to Shine.”  Yeah, and I’m gonna play it tonight.


What happened to your song that was supposed to appear on the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack?

There’s all these politics.  You know the problem, I don’t know if I should talk about this.  Like with record companies, with major labels, they seemed to be a bit less supportive of the people coming up on their roster.  They would just put on Everclear which is cool, they’re a good band.  But I mean I wrote a song.  I personally wrote this song, you know, for that movie.  That’s cool.

Will you be releasing it soon?

No.  No.  It’s not even mine, I’ve forgotten it.  It had one good verse in it:  “I have two fantasies to occupy my head, simply your beauty and the hour of my death.  I heard that death and love never leave each other’s sight but I never knew the meaning ‘til tonight.”  It was from a Keat’s thing, where he said, “I’ve two fantasies that bleed on these walls, your beauty and the hour of my death, oh that I can have possession of these two things at once.  That’s love.”

Do you study literature?

No, I just dabble.  I like it all, I love it all.

What do you think of the U.S.?

I just like it.  It’s easy with sexuality.

I don’t let him make fun of our country (Claire)

Yeah, she’s so patriotic.  It’s like, um, you know what I like about it?  It’s very….you’re in a country…you see, the country I’m from is a bit old fashion in a way.  I’m living in a country where a man can still win over a woman on the dance floor which is a thing I really respect.  If you have a disagreement, you actually shoot each other in my country.  You go out and you do a quick draw.  And we don’t have any property or we don’t have fences, you just like, and we have baby taking day, I don’t want to go into it.  But it’s like, um, this country it’s really backwards and forwards.  I like it here how people are encouraged to excel.

What do you dislike about this country?

I don’t like how people are encouraged to excel…because it makes them like, um, no, really I like and dislike the same thing.  Because everyone thinks they’re going to have an empire here and everyone wants to run a talk show…I say here as I’m holding this mic.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Shirtless.”

That was just a funny song I wrote.  Just during puberty, you know, you have a little problem with showing your body in public places.

It’s just a fun song, you know.  It seems people really like that song because people can really relate to it.  I mean it’s not that extreme, you know, like as I say in the song but it’s just a point I’m making.  I just like that idea of like if you let someone see enough of you physically they can take a lot of you emotionally.  It’s a pretty bad recording.  I like that song.


Do you think that the music industry will ultimately save you or destroy you?

Both.  You know what my problem is?  I don’t even know if it’s a problem but the way I am is I really didn’t have a hard life.  I got things I wanted.  The way in my psychological make up is I need a lot out of life.  I need to take a lot from it and every problem I’ve ever had has stemmed from that.  That I’ve tried to extract more than the world can give me.  It’s not that I’ve been…some people go through things where they get a bad family situation.  I’ve just…I just need a lot to be happy, you know, and so, and I’m very passionate about life, so the music industry gave me something and music gave me something but you also lose so much in it.  I don’t want to get to deep on you.

Talk about your recent collaboration with T-Bone Burnett.

That’s it, “You Have to Burn to Shine.”  How did you know about that?

This is the song for the Tamra Davis film?

Yeah, I recorded that song.  Jim Kelpner played drums on it, who played drums on “Imagine,” and Greg Cohn who plays bass for Tom Waits, he played stand up bass, Money Mark played piano, Ben, I forget his second name, he plays for the ‘Stones now he played organ, and Russell Simmons played percussion.  And we recorded it live in a circle and T-Bone conducted.

It’s just like my song and I just brought in these people to play with me.

Was your work with the Australian band, Gerling, a one shot deal?

I did two shows with them.  Gerling are really funny, right, because they encouraged a lot of the way I handle life.  Like this interview, a lot of this wouldn’t be going down if it wasn’t for Gerling.   Because they really encouraged my whole attitude towards like portraying myself as an individual.  Like I interviewed Gerling, and I interviewed one of them and I said, “tell me some stories about recording” and they told me a story about Jarvis Cocker from Pulp.  He came into the studio and they said they’re going to a rumble and they punched Jarvis Cocker in the stomach and Michael Jackson right hand glove came out.  I mean, if you can’t see the genius in that.  And so after I heard that story my life changed.  So, I played guitar when the guitarist left for two shows then they’ve got a permanent guy now, Burke.

Should we expect to see a U.S. release from Gerling?

They’re not even big in Australia.  No one’s heard of them.  They’re pretty cool though.  They have a song called, “Slut Pinacle” which is my favorite song.  It goes, “driving down the street in your slut mobile, you’re a FUCKIN’ slut and everybody knows.”  It’s so good.  And like for me to play guitar on that was amazing.  And they have another one called “Jimmy Wore a Crowbar” and another one called “Jack Pallance Naked in His Lounge.”  It’s true.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Trying to Sneeze.”

I didn’t remember.  I wanted to write a song that was really abstract.

Claire: I love that song.  That’s one of my favorite songs.

Really?  I had that line in it, “my street filthy as it may be is still my street.”  I don’t remember, man, that was like three years ago.  I was but a lamb.


If you look at rock’n’roll history, there have been individuals like Paul Westerberg, Alex Chilton, Evan Dando, J.Mascus, who all worked in a band and eventually either went solo or took greater control of their groups.  Their solo work never really measured up to their earlier work with their original band.  What about Ben Lee the solo artist?

Personally, whatever.  If they’re happy making their music then, just because you decide to make a mellow record or something, you’re not losing your edge.  I would say that, OK anyway, that doesn’t really matter.  But what I have to say about that is that I don’t think of myself in terms of those guys.  I’m not trying to be a singer/songwriter or whatever.  I’m not trying to be anything.  I’m just trying to like tell you how I feel exactly right now….NOW, you know what I mean, right now.  And I’m sorry, if  I keep doing that, what does it mean “I lose it.”  If I’m actually telling you how I feel right now that’s my mission.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Away with the Pixies.”
I just wrote that for my friend.  Yeah no, she’s a great friend but she is called Pixie.  Her name is Amelia, really.  She looks like a pixie admittedly and everyone calls her a pixie and they still do.  And she went through a bit of a craze where she was like, “man, I’m 16, 17 years old and I don’t want to be called this little baby’s name anymore.”  And I just wanted to write that song like away with the pixies, off with the fairies.


Are you really thinking about writing a rock opera?

It was a joke.  I said two things in my bio.  I said I was going to do a rock opera and I was going to do an album with Fiona Apple covers.  Neither of them are happening.

 It was supposed to also include Tom Waits songs.

And Tom Waits covers.

A rock opera with Fiona Apple and Tom Waits covers.

That was the idea, right.  It was going to be a call and response thing between boy and girl about love in the ‘90’s.

So, you lied.

It was an idea.  I wouldn’t call it a lie.

Would you ever be interested in becoming the next Andrew Lloyd Webber?

I would do that.  And I actually lied to a magazine in Australia who totally believed me.  He asked me about the rock opera and I said I was asked to play the main part in this English rock opera called “Lysergic World” and its about Albert Hoffman’s discovery of LSD.  And he totally believe me.  I guess it’s believable.

Another lie?

I don’t lie, I’m just creative.  I’m just trying to make this interesting for me and you, you know.

Would you ever perform on Broadway, say in Grease?

Which part?  Sandy, Sandra Dee?


No, I wouldn’t do something like that.

Where would you draw the line?

I’ll do anything if she’s like written in blood.  You know, if people want me to be a part of something, if it’s for real or if it’s like an opportunity for me.  Like I’m gonna go on tour later this year with some people, I can already see it, someone’s gonna find it a little dubious, you know.


Maybe.  But I’m gonna do some big things like that and it’s like for me I don’t have time for that because it’s just me.  I want to get to play for as many people as possible.  And it’s still me no matter who else is on the bill and where I’m playing, it just still me and my guitar.  Whatever, you know.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Mouthwash.”

That song I really had the line first, “maybe the fields don’t want to play me.”  Because these two people who were friends of mine who were going out, they were talking about getting married and he said I want to go out and play the field a bit.  And she was like what if the field doesn’t want to play you?  I just thought that was a cool line and so I just wrote that song.

Where did the letter in the liner notes come from?

That was a real letter and that girl, my friend, Melanie has, um, I actually…she was out of town when I was doing the artwork.  And I thought I’ll ask her about it but I didn’t I just put it in and she still hasn’t seen it.  And I don’t, I totally forgot about that until you reminded me.  What does that say?  You know what that was, it was an essay for like her SAT equivalent like we call the HSC.  She, um, oh you’ve got it damn.  Me and her, sort of like had a little, we liked each other, you know.  And she wrote about me.  That was her final English essay.  My friend, Melanie, she had to write about, I forget what the subject was, but she chose to write about me.  And then she send it to me.  This was like she had school assignment, it was so weird.  And it bummed me out when I got that, so much.


Are you looking for that big MTV break?

Some people think that.  I didn’t even make a video for this record.  I made one where I just went basking in the street.

You did one video in which you were in a Gulliver type role.

Yeah, that was “Away with the Pixies” but that was my first record so I wasn’t really selling out.

Did your videos get air play?

MTV played a bit of all of them.  But the new one is just me basking in the street with live sound.  For people to talk about that’s like MTV playing it is me selling out, I don’t even give justification to those arguments by responding to them because they’re so retarded by my point of view.   I played a song in the street and MTV chose to play it.

Can MTV give too much exposure too quickly  to up and coming bands?

You know what I say, “If the people like it’s good and it’s good if the people like it.”

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).”

I love the Motley Crue.  That was my first rock concert.

No, I just like that song.  “Girl, don’t go away mad, just go away,” what a great line.


What was it like working with the members of that dog?

I’d never heard that dog at that point.  I’ve heard their new record now.  It was fun because I think they’re a pretty hard working band from what I understand.  Mainly, I got to work with them because Brad knew them.  He just made their record and they were very, um, talented musically.  For me it was like I felt good about giving them something to do that was that relaxed.  Because I’ve now read interview where they’ve been talking about me saying it was like insane, where I thought it was really normal.  They came in and we were hyperactive and jumped around and played music but I didn’t think that’s how they work.  But for me, it’s like I love working with different people.  They’re so talented, you know, all of them.

Who are some of your favorite collaborators?

I loved playing with Money Mark.  He was really amazing.  I only bring people in if I already love them.

We’re going to go to the music now.  Tell us about “Gramercy Park Hotel.”

If there was anymore of it that would of made it more clearer, I would have said it, but it doesn’t, so I won’t.  It’s just to say that the power of song, you know.


Does it surprise you how you have been embraced by artists the indie rock scene like Lou Barlow, Julianna Hatfield, and Thurston Moore?

Yeah, it does.  I don’t really think about it much.  I mean, now I’m just trying to do something that no one else is doing, that’s what I’m trying to do.  And what I have ended up doing is something that no one else is trying to do.

What are your days like?

This, This right now.  Just sitting around doing stuff, you know.  Just trying to explore new territory, push the envelop.

You have developed into a powerful singer/song writer, where does performing live fit in?

I used to not really be much of a live performer pretty much until about half way through last year.  I just made up my mind.  I’ve seen a lot of people play like Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright who are really amazing live performers and I was just like FUCK I should get my SHIT together.  I should go further, you know what I mean, I should take it further.  I wanted to create magic, you know what I mean.  So, last year I just decided that I was gonna do it and I started.  The songs I was writing, before I even recorded them, I worked them into the set and stuff, so, it became a lot about playing live and, um, I got good at it.

How do you feel about having to perform live to promote S.T.R.M.B.?

I was always interested in doing it, I was just never happy with it because I wasn’t very good at it.  It is just a line you pass where someday, I mean, you just feel confident, and you’re like, “wow, I get it now.”

We’re going to go to the music now.  Do you have a favorite song?

A song I’m sort of getting into again, an old song, is “The Loft” off Grandpaw Would.   I just starting to play that a bit now and then.  And I am really getting back into that song.  Like, it’s so the time I wrote it.  That’s about staying with Brad the first time I went out to, you know, Chicago in his place, the Loft.  And it so sums up the time, exactly.  And it still applying now.  I’ve still got to come to terms with what I’ve found.  That’s the aim of my existence.


Thank you’s

Retweet from Ben Lee – February 24, 2012

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