Ben Caplan and his Band The Casual Smokers are on Tour covering Canada and USA, visit his website for full tour details – http://bencaplan.ca/
After a bit of conversation and getting to know one another on the phone we started the interview.
Concert Addicts – What drives Ben?
Ben – A passion for communicating, and a passion for performing. I love to wrestle with my ideas and try to find a way to put them into song form with the emotions and experiences. And then its just a love for being up on stage and feeling a common humanity in room full of people and connect with them.
Concert Addicts – How was the response with the US tour?
Ben – The US tour has been great so far its not really one US tour among Canadian tour, we are criss-crossing all the way through out. So far the response has been great, we have had some amazing gigs in New York city a lot of great fans. Also Vermont was beautiful and some fans we didn’t even know we had.
Concert Addicts – When I say what drives Ben you have told me musically what about the other side of Ben?
Ben – My life is about making connections with people, I am driven with a passion for social justice and for… how else do I put it….I want to live in a just society, in a just world, political engagement. These things are all very important to me. Community, developing community, local economy also local food and I am passionate about ideas. So those are some of the other things outside of music I am passionate about.
Concert Addicts – Thank so much for answering that question. I would love to know is there a back story regarding your guitar? I noticed it is the same guitar in all your videos.
Ben – Well ya I was playing a different guitar a few years ago and I started getting the sense that the guitar that I had, while it was very good it was an old guitar I was starting to get the sense that it wasn’t going to handle the big tours I had coming up back in 2011. I had already played 2-3 shows on that guitar. At that point I worn it down quite a bit and I knew I had a cross Canada tour coming up so I walked in a Long and McQuade store and picked up a bunch of different guitars and went into the room of guitars that I knew I could afford and tried to find the one that is right for me and then thought before I get down to the brass tax on this, I went into the room that I knew I couldn’t afford and picked up the $5000 dollar Gibsons and the $4000 dollar Taylors and all the other different guitars and they were all really nice and way out of my price range. Then I found the cheapest guitar in the corner of that fancy room it was a Guild jumbo body guitar and I went over and I picked it up it was like that scene in Harry potter.
Concert Addicts – An awe moment?
Ben – Exactly. As soon as I played that guitar I knew no other guitar was me, and so I bought it that day and it was a few hundred dollars more than I planned on spending but it didn’t make a difference, I knew I had my match made in heaven. And its funny that you should ask that question cause I have been looking for a partner for that guitar for a couple of years now cause when you break a string its good to have a similar guitar to pick up and have ready for you, so for years now I have been looking for a sister guitar. But actually just last week in New York City I found a guitar shop tucked away in an alley with these vintage guitars and I picked one up and it had the exact same voice. So I am mostly playing that now.
Concert Addicts – If you could go back in time and spend 24hrs with one person who would it be and why?
Ben – Great Question! You know in a funny way the person I would like to spend 24 hours with is still alive, I would love to have a day to pick the brain of Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul, that’s the guy!
Concert Addicts – Did you study him in school
Ben – I didn’t, no, but I have been reading him extensively for years. I started reading him in high school and been reading ever since. I don’t think there is a more coherent informed voice dealing with the conflict in contemporary Canadian society that is better than John Ralston Saul. I think he has the best historical and sociological understanding of the history of this country, of whats going on in our society today, and I would love to chat with him.
Concert Addicts – One of my favorite songs is Conduit I can relate to the lyrics. Can you tell me the place or situation you were in at the time you wrote this song.
Ben – Ya, I was in a basement in Labrador. I was staying with a family out there briefly. I think I was watching a documentary on Bob Dylan and at a certain point in the middle of the documentary ,while I was sitting there gawking with admiration with Bob’s work, I was suddenly overcome with that I shouldn’t be watching somebody create I should be doing some creating myself. I stopped mid movie and got up and started writing and edited and refined but 80% of the song was written in a few hours.
Concert Addicts – I can hear the growth in your second album. Was the process much different from your first album?
Ben – The process was very, very different, with the first album the project was really about trying to instill and capture the energy and intention of the live band and I never really done an official recording before. Done a lot of performances on stage so when we went into the studio the goal was to try to capture what the band did on stage in the studio. But with the second album the goal was completely different it was really about trying to really mine the depths of what each song could be and could become and not worrying at all about live performances and really honing in on what are the possibilities that are available in a studio. What options do we have. What other ways can we explore this music and dig into this music in a very controlled environment. So we went into it with that intention, really breaking the songs open and really put as much as we can into them and pulling back from there, so I feel its a studio record.
Concert Addicts – Lightning Round
android Or Apple? Apple
Cats Or Dogs? Dogs
Fox Or Cnn? Neither
Skittles Or M&m’s? M&m’s
Taylor Swift Or Lady Gaga? Lady Gaga