Incubus (face-to-face interview,
Ahoy Rotterdam (NL), May 23rd, 2004)
arriving at Ahoy Rotterdam at about half past two in the afternoon,
some people are already sitting outside the venue, waiting for the
doors to open (which will actually take place at half past six).
Later that day, when the band at issue starts playing their first
song of the night, people pass out and have to be removed from the
crowd by security. What are we talking about here? Not the kind of
things that you are used to when visiting metal and rock concerts,
isn’t it? Well, Incubus – the band that is playing that night –
clearly can combine the making of heavy music with girls fainting in
front of the stage. However, their recently released new album
called A Crow Left Of The Murder proves that is not a kind of
boyband, but is actually one of the most distinctive bands in the
current music scene, appreciated by a wide range of people.
Remarkable fact is that the guys in the band are still so friendly
and down-to-earth (for example, singer Brandon Boyd sitting on the
dirty ground in the corridor, typing on his laptop). We had a chat
with the latest gain of the band: bass player Ben Kenney, a really
nice guy who told us everything about the album and more!!
A Crow Left
Of The Murder is out now for a few months. We do really like it, and
we have also read that people say that it is the best Incubus album
so far. Do you agree with that, or what do you think of that?
personally, as far as my taste is concerned, I think it is the best
Incubus record so far. You cannot really say overall, because music
is so subject to interpretation by the listener. But for me,
individually, it is my favourite album of all Incubus records. There
are a lot of reasons for that. It is much deeper than only the
music, of course I was involved in this one, I just joined the band
when they started writing this one. Therefore I have obvious
emotional and sentimental attachments to the record. And it is part
of a result that my work helped creating it. Or to phrase that
better: I am part of the work that helped to create it. So I am
attached to it.
When was your first contact with
It was somewhere in the summer of
2001, when I was in another band, called The Roots, and we had
toured with Incubus. We had toured with them on the Area One tour,
something Moby had organised. I met all the guys then, when being on
the road with them for like seven or eight weeks.
And you were also
in the side-project of some of the band members, called Time Lapse
That was much more recent. I met the guys in 2001, the Time Lapse
Consortium stuff was in January of 2003. So years had gone by of
just keeping in touch and hanging out whenever possible.
When they met you, you were the guitar
player of The Roots, right?
Yeah, but on that particular tour, I
was playing bass, because Hub, the Roots bass player, he was touring
with someone else at that time, so I was just filling in playing
bass for him, but I played guitar for The Roots in almost the entire
We have a few
words in relation to the album, on which we would like to have your
First of it is inspiration.
I can only really
define my inspiration, because everybody had all sorts of different
things that were affecting them and helping them create the album.
Once again in my life there was a period that was similar like a
fresh start. I moved from one side of the country to the other side
of the country, and the USA is such a big ass country to move all
the way across! So I moved out to California and I kind of started
my life over from that point. So it was like a sort of clean slide,
that was pretty much what inspired me. You can reflect on the things
you have been through and you have been detached from the things you
have been through and lived in. Therefore you can look at them more
objectively. By joining the band and by relocating, by starting my
life over in California, it just created a clear headspace for me to
create. And also playing together with these guys for the first time
in a serious setting; sitting down writing and creating with these
guys as a band, that was inspiring. It was all about discovery about
we were capable of, of what I am capable of with them, and how that
all is going to relate when it is all on tape. That is like the main
inspiration. Probably a thousand other things were inspiring, you
cannot really put a value of importance on them, because that stuff
is kind of intangible.
We also heard that the other band members
said they were inspired by you.
Well, they say
that and it probably seems like a big deal. But they were also
inspired by each other. In a group with five people, everyone in
that group is inspired by the four others. They can say: we are
inspired by Ben, but Michael is also inspired by José, and Brandon
and Chris. Of course because there is a new guy, that stands out
more, but everyone inspired everyone to do their thing.
There are definitely different things that I had brought into the
band that were not there before. And that is something that they
have to deal with when writing and creating. It was not my intention
to bring a new sound to Incubus, but whenever you change a person,
everything shifts slightly.
The band has kind of a family vibe between each other, and as long
that is there, it is always going to be Incubus. And people will
always be able to see that, and will understand that.
How was it for you to come in such a close
band, because they are together for so long?
interesting: they have been together for so long, but once I came
out and after about a week of hanging around and playing with them,
I felt like I knew them for all my life. I felt like we grew up
together, felt really, really comfortable with them as people. And
that opened up the door for us to make music like we should make
music. There were no ego’s, no anything, just a natural way of
playing together from jump, which was kind of strange. And it was
also a little scary, like “what the hack, it should not be this
We have another word for you: experiment,
The record is more than for anything else
experimental because of Mike. I would say that Mike and Brandon have
most experimentation on the record. More specifically, Mike was
using different guitars, and different amps. He was trying to go for
different sounds than he normally used. I know that he recorded
Morning View (Incubus’ previous record, Pitfather) with one
guitar and one amp. And that was where he was at that time, he is in
a different headspace now, he wanted to do more. So sonically, he
was trying to do new things. And I know for Brandon, he was
stretching out and writing about things, and trying to come from
things where he had never come from before. When you are on your
fifth album, you have to start looking further and deeper to find
things to write about and things that mean something to you. Because
each time you write something, you kind of give it away and after
you give it away, you cannot get it back. Therefore you have to go
deeper, and Brandon was going deeper.
José’s whole drumming style is based on experimentation. He is
always coming at you from a different angle than you would expect,
he is always trying to do something that is not the first thing that
would come into your mind. And he is always trying to find a way to
make that going to work within a song.
And for Killmore’s style, it is like the same thing. He does more
sonic landscape stuff than just turntable wizardry. For him, it is
more like soundscapes, and that is always an experimental thing,
because he is always trying things that might or might not work. And
when they do not work, they go right out of the window, and when
they do work, it is the most amazing thing in the world. So he had
always gone for that, for that extra high level.
And for me, I do not really know for how far experimentation would
related to the record for me. I have made music like this before, I
made music that had this same energy before. I did play hiphop at
The Roots, but I did also play in lots of punkrock groups and lots
of hardcore groups, and just straight rock and everything else. So
it was not something that I had to discover, it was actually very
comfortable for me to play. As far as experimentation, I think I was
not doing anything that risky on the album. I was very comfortable
with everything I was doing, I felt like it all was going to work.
Next word: political.
something that everyone is relating the album to, but personally I
do not feel that this album is any more political than any other
Incubus album. It is kind of the combination of a couple of things
that give people the impression. It is the first video that has a
very political vibe. But that was more Floria Sigismondi, the video
director, it was more her take on the song Megalomaniac. She
listened to the song and came up with that story for that video. We
were really excited about that, we thought it was great, and we made
a video about it. It is natural to assume that because of the video,
the song is from that angle. But Brandon was writing from a very
certain place in his heart, that is just how he is feeling. And
about a handful of different people and things that have happened.
Some people say: the song is about George Bush, well, that is not
why Brandon wrote it. It is totally understandable, it is not what
it was meant to be about, but if you take it that way, that is
totally cool. The point of it is to take it how you want to take it.
There is no wrong way to take it. Other than that there is not
really anything political, not anything more than on another record.
In some interviews we read, it was
mentioned that there is a contrast between the usual positivity of
Incubus records, and this one being slightly angrier, seeming to be
more pissed off at all the things that happen. Do you think this is
true (of course there are a lot of things going around to be pissed
When I go back and listen to Morning View,
it think those lyrics seem to come from an aggressive place. A lot
of those lyrics are dealing with personal conflicts that Brandon was
experiencing, and they seem to be as aggressive as the lyrics on
A Crow Left Of The Murder. The music is another thing: a lot of
the music on Morning View was of a slower tempo, a little
softer sounding. And there definitely is more aggression in this
one, but I think that was more resulting from the energy we had
playing with each other. I think it was not really a dark or
negative thing; it was more from a positive thing. We were just so
exited to play with each other, that we were kind of pushing the
limits for what we could do.
We have a last word for you
to comment on, which is intelligent.
(we think that the lyrics and music are much more intelligent than
you hear from a lot of other bands, it seems to go deeper, that
there are more layers).
That is a very
nice thing to say! We do not make any conscious effort to try to be
intelligent, we just try to be honest. I know there is a lot of
music out there that is written for instant gratification. It is not
really music for the long haul. But what we all enjoy is stuff that
is written more solid and that is what we attempt to do. So if it
comes off more intelligent: that is wonderful! Because we would
rather come of more intelligent than not... (laughing).
There are many albums I listen to and
forget soon after that...
Yeah, it is
the same thing with a lot of commercial hiphop, you hear it on the
radio for two weeks. And once you hear it, it is really catchy, not
necessarily pleasing, but it is catchy, and you get it stuck in your
head. But only for two weeks, and than the next thing comes along.
It is not necessarily pleasing, or enjoyable of fulfilling, but you
get it stuck in your head like a virus.
Something about the album title: we know
what it is about (we speak about “a murder of crows” when
speaking about a group of crows, so “a crow left of the murder” is
the one out of the group, it is about people falling out of a group,
pitfather) but why is the title about people that fall out of a
It is from the song
A Crow Left Of The Murder, it is one
of the lyrics from that song. And it was more from a stream of
consciousness that Brandon was doing. It is another thing that is up
to your interpretation – which sometimes is a bad thing because I
had my mum coming at me asking why we want to murder crows, hahaha.
It is definitively up to your own interpretation, and there are so
many ways in which that can be a positive thing. The way I like to
look at it is that the band itself is like the crow left of the
murder, as an entity. We are not really involved in the trends going
on right now. We are playing music, and hopefully that will set us
Continuing on the
interpretation of the songs, Brandon said that he did not like to
explain exactly to people what he wanted to say with his lyrics,
what his lyrics were about. He also said – just like you – that
people can have their own interpretation of the songs. Do you know
exactly what his lyrics are about? Or can you have your own
interpretation as well?
Well, it is not like he writes lyrics, and comes
to tell us all about it. When I ask him what a lyric is about, he
will tell me. But that is different, because my name is also going
to be attached to the song. So that has a different repercussion.
Everything is personal, even my basslines are personal. Everything
on the record is from a personal place for everybody. But Brandon’s
lyrics serve a couple of purposes. First of all, it gives words to
the song. Second of all, it gives a way to ventilate and put ideas
out into the world and express them. And then it allows people to
get something cerebral from reading into the music a little more.
You don’t really want to tag and say “this lyric is specifically
about this, and it is only this”, at least in this music you don’t.
Maybe for other types of music it is more appropriate, but for these
songs, it is more about enjoying them where you are and who you are
in your life at that time. So many people say that out of all the
Incubus records, S.C.I.E.C.E. is their favourite. Looking to that
and seeing why, at least that is what I thing, when you first hear a
band or first experiences someone’s music, it has kind of a
sentimental value that can never ever be completely recovered. The
first time when you get into a band, all the things are fresh and
all the things about it are new, like the voices, the sounds, the
direction, the ideas. That is a special period, it is like you first
meet a girl, you start learning about that person, and you can never
get back to that first point. You can have a deeper relationship and
a better relationship, but sentimental attachment to the initial
introduction is always the strongest. And a lot of people got first
into Incubus during the S.C.I.E.C.E. period, and if you were then
fifteen years old and running around in highschool, of course you
can have a very special place in your heart for that record. A place
that none of these other records can ever reach, that is a different
I was pleasantly surprised by the short film on
the DVD, the Paradise Spoiled movie, with Mike going crazy. It was
really amusing to see that, can you tell us something more about why
did you record it, how did you come to the idea of making that
We took a
band trip, the entire band went to Fiji for a week. We went to a
really tiny island and spent a week surfing and relaxing and hanging
out. Some of our friends came with us, and one of these people was a
film maker, Brandan Hearne, and he was working on this movie and had
Mike act in it, he is also close friends with Mike and asked him if
he wanted to act in it when we were at Fiji. This movie was
something that he was working on for a while and that he had put
together. When it was finished, when it all was done, we all watched
it and said: “this is crazy! What are you going to do with it?”.
Later we thought: “well, it has Mike in it, can we put it on our
DVD?”. And he was totally into it, so that is why it came on the
DVD. The other short film on the DVD, about Brandon and his
gardening accident was also made by Brandan Hearne, he is a really
good filmmaker, and a great guy.
It seems like the role of your DJ seems
to decrease every album...
It may seem
that way, but actually you hear a lot more of him. A lot of what you
are hearing is him. On the first albums, it was more scratching and
cutting. But now, like 95% of the sound effects on the record, the
things that are not obvious guitar, bass, drums, or vocals, all the
weird things and sounds are his work. Now it is more the soundscape
stuff, you hear all the different noises, any sound that is not
guitar, bass, drums, or vocal, that is Chris, and that is what he
does. He is an excellent DJ as far as cutting, he has a skill on
that, but he is also brilliant in sonic treatment. He is actually
everywhere on the record, in the beginning of the songs you hear
something, that is all something that he made in his studio, and
than he presses it up on the vinyl and he manipulates that on the
turntable. If you watch him live, you see him putting in all the
noises. Some of the tiny noises are put in by the guitar, but most
is by Chris, everything that may sound like it is a keyboard, it is
not, it are turntables.
Talk Shows On Mute
will be the second single of the album, as far as we understood, it
will be released tomorrow (24th of May). Why did you choose for this
song as a second single?
There is a
billion factors involved, but I think that out of the options of
where to go next, we think that this song would be a good next step
after Megalomaniac. We have attachments to each song, but thought
this would be a good next one.
You already shot a video for this
Yes, it should been on air for a while I think, I
know that MTV Europe is playing it. The lyrics are inspired by a
combination of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and 1984, and kind of
how they relate to the current society. Again, Floria Sigismondi did
this video. And she gave the song her interpretation, and she
created this Orwellian kind of scene. It is in a world of animals,
the world is controlled by animals and the humans are the pets. We
are doing a performance shot on one of the animals’ talkshows. It is
just like a human talk show, just a disgusting way for people to
look down at other people that are worse of than them. And in the
story, the host turns into a human and that is one of the worst
things that could happen in that world: you turning into human. It
is a little abstract...
I think we almost have to
end this interview, so one final question!
We would like to know something more about the Make Yourself
Foundation. I know what you did, sold guitars of Mike, bootlegs,
Yes, at this
point in the game, the band is successful and a lot of people know
about the band. And a lot of people are interested in what the band
is interested in. So you have the options to point some of that
interest into the direction of some charities that are close to our
hearts in different ways. The plan of the foundation is to raise a
million dollars by the end of the year through different kind of
things. For a portion, through ticket sales, auctioning off personal
items, the bootleg series. There are things that we want to help,
and not only we can help them by our time and money, but also by
pointing the interest of other people into that direction. And there
are a lot of really cool charities. You want to help and you can,
all of a sudden you can!
Well, that is really great of you, not
only gaining money for yourselves! Do you have other plans?
different things, we have a special seating section in some of the
shows, at the stage. You can bid on tickets and come hang out with
us before the shows. There are a lot of things, any possible way by
which we can raise a million dollars by the end of the year! So if
we can do that, that would be crazy!
Yes that would be absolutely great!
Unfortunately, I think we have to finish now, there is no time left.
Thanks for your time, and have a great show tonight!
here to go to the Incubus website (opens in new window)