Ben Lee

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This is Ben Lee, warming up to the topic of 'Hey You, Yes You'. It is his fourth solo collection since 1993 when, at the age of 14, fronting the now legendary indy band Noise Addict, he broke out of his native Sydney, Australia. Updated: we did an exclusive interview with Ben Lee.

1. For people who may not have heard some beats from you yet... what can someone who's never heard of you expect from your music?

Honesty. I try and express what I find beautiful in the world through my music.

2. Are you pleased with the response you have received so far?

People seem to like it. At shows people seem keen but as far as mass media that all seems to happen in a parallel universe. One I'm not too involved in.

3. How did you get together with Dan the Automator?

I?ve know him for about 6 years. We spend a few nights together getting silly hitchhiking in dc over the years.

4. Who would you like to work that you haven't yet, whether it be HipHop, Rock, or any other form of music?

I generally am attracted to collaborations more for the person rather than their genre. If the energy connection is there, I?m happy to make music together.

5. How did you come to the conclusion to begin a career as a music artist?

I hated school and wanted to write love letters to girls I had crushes on.

6. What did you went through to get your music recognized?

Just the usual. Rubbish gigs. Lots of people telling you it can?t be done. Still doing all that stuff really.

7. When you were a member of the group "Noise Addict", did you always have plans to begin a solo career?

In some ways noise addict was a solo project as I was the only one who wrote songs and I made all the decisions. I asked the others to be in the band because their older brothers had instruments.

8. How was it to be 16 years old and already touring through the USA?

It was a constant search for 7" vinyl.

9. In your career you have had hits in the USA and Australia but I don?t read anything about Europe. How come?

I?ve never really had a label to work with in any serious way in Europe. I hope someone wants to put this album out over there. I think Spanish people might like it.

10. How do you separate yourself from other artists?

Restraining orders.

11. What are you planning to do in the [near] future?

Bathe. Tour. Bathe.

12. What would you like to achieve with your music and career?

Put some good energy into the world. Help some people. Inspire some people. Change.

13. What artists are you listening to at the minute?

Sydney winter rain against my window.

14. Do you have anything to say to the visitors?

Get off the internet. Go outside. It?s a lovely day.


"Aesthetics are, like, a complicated thing, you know? You see a lot of artists today who've worked out the aesthetics before they've worked out the real spirit of the music. I've never been like that. When I choose to collaborate with people, it's an extension of where my head's at during that time, emotionally."

This is Ben Lee, warming up to the topic of 'Hey You, Yes You'. It is his fourth solo collection since 1993 when, at the age of 14, fronting the now legendary indy band Noise Addict, he broke out of his native Sydney, Australia. Produced by Dan the Automator, Lee's new twelve-song collection is serious and spiffy, frayed and dashing. It is music with a fast, quicksilver, instant-sounding character whose vivid sound suggests the aural equivalent of that peculiar mix of elegance and grain you get from watching film develop.

"I just wanted this record to have soul," says Lee, who explains that various albums by Bryan Ferry, and particularly David Bowie's 'Young Americans', lodged in the back of his mind while making 'Hey You, Yes You'. "What I like about Dan's work is the fact that when you sample a little bar, what you actually get, at a deeper level, is the energy of the room that those eleven or twelve musicians originally created in, like, 1959. On this record, I felt that too much feeling could never be enough. I wanted more and more! I wanted it to feel like it was going to teeter over."

The collaboration, Lee says, worked spookily well. "Dan would make a bunch of beats," he says, "and I'd be like, 'That one.' We started to develop some kind of non-verbal understanding of what the record would be. It became clear when something suited me, and when something didn't. In the end, there's a weird kind of white-soul feeling to it, I think."

Lee's songs on 'Hey You, Yes You' offer naked new spins on the proposition of fast-acting melodies mated to visceral rhythms. They were written in the aftermath of the dissolution of Grand Royal, Lee's former label, as well as the loss of several key people in Lee's life.

"The last few years," he confides, "were not smooth sailing. I think I wanted the record to reflect that -- I don't even know that I wanted it to, it just does." Songs such as "Running with Scissors" and "Dirty Mind," Lee believes, evince strained and confrontational natures. "There's a roughness and unease to them," he says. "Impending danger. Change. The unknown. This was the first time in my life when I was dealing with loads of death. It just seemed to be a period where this happened to a lot of people around me -- my dad, a good friend, my girlfriend's grandmother -- and it was the first time in my adult life where I took that seriously."

But if the result was that with this recording Lee wanted to confirm totally that his work was not, as he puts it, "a hobby," it did not follow that he would turn to record-making with perfectionist deliberation. "I wanted to make a record that left more edges," he says. "Not pro tooling everything into uniformity. Particularly as a solo artist, that's a tempting route to take: You don't have a band around you, so you can spend as much time as you want, clicking everything into place, forever dragging and dropping. I don't want to be in a studio for two years crafting the masterpiece; I'm interested in the choices I made during one particular moment, and what those say about where I?m at. I could make a million different records under a million different sets of circumstances. What's interesting is the one you end up with."

The songs on 'Hey You, Yes You' play around with the counterpoint of Dan the Automator's unstreamlined, often downright herky-jerk rhythms and Lee's comparatively fluid words and melodies. "Destiny was never up to me," Lee sings on "Aftertaste," a snaking ballad; "I get the feeling," he regrets to say in "Something Borrowed, Something Blue" of someone he had recently considered important, "I could leave you on the interstate." In "Chills," which is bluesy and downtown majestic, someone gives Lee those, and then leaves. Sometimes, as on "Music 4 the Young & Foolish," Lee and Dan The Automator fly in bits of cool old orchestrations above their beats; other times -- as on the wrenching, ultra-modern honky-tonk "No Room to Bleed," an acoustic piano and the scruffy lucidity of Lee's singing suffices.

"My songs here," Lee says, "suggest that I am the puzzle, I am what has to be put together. I could see how this record might be interpreted as being about the teenage experience, as I've been engaged in decisions to define myself in a new way. But you know, that's a process that I hope never goes away."


1993 - Noise Addict - "I Wish I Was Him" 7" (Fellaheen)
1993 - Noise Addict - DEF (Ecstatic Peace)
1993 - Noise Addict - The Taste in My Eyes EP (Fellaheen)
1993 - Noise Addict - Noise Addict Vs. Silverchair
1994 - Noise Addict - Young and Jaded EP (Ecstatic Peace)
1995 - Noise Addict - The Frail Girl (Grand Royal)
1995 - Ben Lee - Grandpaw Would (Grand Royal)
1996 - Noise Addict - Meet the Real You (Grand Royal)
1996 - I Shot Andy Warhol Soundtrack - Performed "Itchyoo Park"
1997 - Ben Lee - Something to Remember Me By (Grand Royal)
1999 - Ben Lee - Breathing Tornadoes (Grand Royal)
1999 - The Songs of Duran Duran - Undone - "The Reflex", Duet with Kylie Minogue
2000 - Nigo - Ape Sounds - Wrote "Free Diving"
2001 - Lynne Me Your Ears: A Tribute to the Music of Jeff Lynne - Performed "Sweet Is the Night"
2002 - Dando/Lee/Peterson/Schwartzman EP - 2002 (Trifeckta Records Australia)
2003 - Evan Dando - Baby I'm Bored - Contributed 2 original songs
2003 - Song "Naked" appears in Australian feature film "Rage in Placid Lake"
2003 - The Bens (Ben Lee, Ben Folds, Ben Kweller) - EP (to be released August 2003)

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