Nardwuar: Who are you?
Ben Kweller: My name is Ben Kweller everybody and I'm just this guy who plays guitar and piano and I sing and I write songs.

You do it all don't you?
And I grew up in Texas, but I live in New York. I've been there for about four years. I'm 21 years old. I'm a Gemini. I like long walks on the beach.

Ben Kweller, who else is in Ben Kweller?
Um, well, because I'm a Gemini there is all sorts of weird personalities that take place-

Well actually, I meant in the band.
I right now have some really good friends of mine who are out with me. Josh is on bass. And Fred is on drums. And Mike is on guitar and also switches to piano.

So Ben Kweller, can you retire right now? You've met Brian Wilson. Can you retire Ben Kweller?
I've thought about it from time to time, but I just think the rock and roll is still in me. It's still burning away so I need to take advantage.

But you met Brian Wilson. That's amazing. You can retire after that. Can you explain a bit about meeting Brian Wilson.
Alright, I'll tell you. When I was sixteen I had a band called Radish and Elektra records wanted to sign us. And an Elektra producer by the name of Andy Paley who-

From the Paley brothers!
Maybe! I don't know. Um, but he produces all of Brian's solo stuff and he's a big Radish fan and we were out in LA and since Elektra wanted to sign us he thought 'why don't we have them come to Brian's house'. We went to meet Brian at this concert he was playing, at this older, it was like him and Jackson Brown and these sort of old schoolers, you know. So it was a really small, outside door venue. And we went after the show and we met him and we got our photo with him and he kept asking me, the first thing he said was 'So you play rock and roll right'? and I was 'Yeah, Brian I play rock and roll'. And he's 'Cool'. So like five minutes later he says 'Hey man, you play rock and roll, right"? So I'm like 'yeah Brian, we're totally a rock and roll band'.

You called him Brian and not Mr. Wilson?
I didn't call him Mr. Wilson because that would be too Dennis The Menace-ee. Did you guys get Dennis The Menace?

Yes we did.
Um, anyways. So, anyway after that he said let's go back to my house. So we went back to his house. We weren't going to say no to that you know. So I have my acoustic guitar with me we're sitting in his living room, and he's sitting in his lazy boy chair just chilling out and he says 'play me a song'. So I was like 'okay'. So I picked up my guitar and I started playing a song. And right away he closed his eyes and just like fell asleep. And I was thinking 'What are you doing here, in Brian Wilson's house, playing him one of your songs.'

And it's putting him to sleep.
And it's putting him to sleep!

Isn't that an insult to you?
I was like, I'm totally blowing it right now. I'm like, this is ridiculous I want to leave. I'm not worthy. And so I strum the last chord and he went 'Oh my God that was amazing, play another one'. And he just like closes his eyes. But I don't think he was really sleeping I think he was taking it all in. But I was scared shitless.

And what happened at the end. Did you just get the hell out of there?
I played like two songs and than we were like 'Brian, would you play us a song?' His grand piano was right there and he was 'Yeah, what do you want to hear?' And we were like 'God Only Knows'. So he's 'Okay'. So he sat down, [singing] 'I may not always love you'. He just went right into it. And we were just like, 'Oh, my god, it's Brian Wilson singing!'

How old were you at that time?
Sixteen years old.

Oh, my God. That is amazing. You can retire after that.
I know, but I still have rent to pay dude.

Because you are Ben Kweller!
Yeah, man.


Now Ben Kweller. When looking up information on you it always goes back to the New Yorker article. It always goes back to the New Yorker article. Why always the New Yorker article on Ben Kweller?
I don't know. I think just that was when I had Radish, when we finally signed to Mercury records, um, they had the New Yorker write an article on us, that I didn't really want them to do.

A ten page expose!
It was ridiculous. And because I was so young I felt that I couldn't speak up to these older people who were running the music business. It was more like, focus on the music kid, we'll take care of the rest. Like when I felt like a punk band should be in fanzines and you know college newspapers, I didn't want to be in this high brow magazine at 16 years old. It just kind of made it into this weird thing. I don't know how it became such a big deal. You know, but, I've accomplished so many more things. Like now that I'm doing my own thing, and I'm growing up.

Time for people to break free, no more New Yorker, no more Ben Kweller. Well, more Ben Kweller, and no more New Yorker.
No more New Yorker man. For sure.

Now, Radish. You mention a band Radish. Who were your competitors in Radish? Was that Hanson? You were up against the Hanson's weren't you?
Well, not Hanson. I think we pretty much kicked Hansons' ass because-

Excuse me, they did kick your ass... sales wise.
Sales wise?

I hate to stand up for Hanson, but they did kick your ass Ben Kweller.
Yeah they did, man. They sold a lot more records than us. It's true but I think that... we never really had a competitor, I would say we were more along the lines of Silverchair, you know what I mean, because that was a rock band at least and not three... pop singers.

However you have benefited from Hanson breaking up haven't you. You've picked up a bit of their fan base haven't you there Ben Kweller?
Uh, I don't know. I don't think so.

The disaffected Hanson fan.
I will tell you that I have become friends with Taylor.

Is that the guy who got married?
Yeah, exactly. He had a kid too.

And you're not married? And don't have kids, so you have more fans... what is the breakdown of the Ben Kweller male to female fan?
The male to female fan. I would say they might, at this current time-

In Vancouver, British Columbia, tonight, who do you anticipate coming. How many males? How many females?
I would anticipate, it might be half and half. But I would say in America, it's a little more females.

For sure. I don't know what that means but-

It means you've picked up the Hanson fanbase!
Oh, yeah. Okay, fine. I don't care what fanbase I pick up man. I just wanna keep making music.

So Ben Kweller, when you went solo, were you mad at first when people started mentioning Ben...

And then people started mentioning Ben...

Yeah. Like were you mad at that at first Ben Kweller?
No, I mean because, I've met other peoples whose name is Ben and it doesn't bother me really.

Because their comparing you to all of those people and now you've thrown in the towel. You're touring with those people. It's like McDonald's, remember how everyone used to call it Mickey...

And now, of course, McDonald's calls themselves...
Mickey D's

and everybody calls you Ben...

But now your going on the...

The Ben's tour.
Oh, yeah. Okay.

You're going on the Ben's tour. Can you tell us about the Ben's tour?
I thought you we're going to do a Burger King thing after McDonald's. Alright we're doing this....I was friends with Ben Lee for a long time, and you know, so, nobody really compared us because our music is definitely different. I've got some Ben Folds' comparisons just because our name is Ben and we both play piano, you know. So it's kind of a lazy comparison I think. We all decided let's get together and do a tour called ' Ben's'. It's pretty obvious, but it would be fun.

It's like Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth getting together for the first time touring. You're able to like throw all of that package away, all that garbage, and you're able to go on tour. Your free, you're Ben Kweller. You can tour with those people, you're not afraid of getting compared to them now.
No, no. No.

Ben Kweller. What's the deal on your dad? He must have been pretty damn well connected. Was he a dealer or something like that?
Uh, no. He's not any kind of dealer he's actually a doctor. [laughs]

But in the 60's was he in a band? Or the 70's? Because he's so connected in the rock world, like he knows Nils Lofgren, and all that sort of stuff. What exactly is up with your Dad? What connections does he have?
My Dad is the coolest. He doesn't really have any connections, I mean, seriously, he's just a normal guy who loves music, he's a Beatles fanatic. And he grew up with Nils Lofgren. And so they kept in touch through the years. And I used to like, when I started recording my own music as a kid, I used to send Nils my music and see what he thought.

But was your dad ever in a band, playing in a band at all? Did he ever roadie for Hendrix? Or anything like that?
Nothing that cool. But he had a band called the Family Portrait back in the 60's, and that was his garage band.

Really? Did they record at all?
No. They mainly played covers.

I'm always fascinated by rock and rollers whose Dads we're rockers. Like the guy from The Vynes, his dad was in a band called the Vines.
Yeah, with a 'Y' right?

Yes with a 'Y'. Ben Kweller, throughout rock and roll there has always been promo items, and I want to show you here a promo item. This is from the rock and roll band NOFX. [Hands Ben a blow up inflatable Sheep designed to promote NOFX's Heavy Petting Zoo CD]

And this is their promo item for the sheep, from their Heavy Petting Zoo record. Before you reveal what's right in there [The NOFX sheep actually has an "anus" hole], you yourself are on the tip there of promo items aren't you.
I'm on the tip. Have you seen my latest?

Yes. Your promo item is a toothbrush, and why don't you pull the toothbrush out of there[Before the interview Nardwuar jammed Ben's promo toothbrush up the Sheep's anus], and show the people your promo item, Ben Kweller.
Okay. (grunting) [Pulls out the toothbrush]

And tell people a bit about it.
Wow. There it is. Alright, well this is a Ben Kweller toothbrush and basically the story behind this is I decided one day-

Well the first story is, why not a sheep? Why not a sheep? And why a toothbrush?
The sheep I think costs too much money and I think NOFX has more money right now-

And they're on an indie. So you're saying indies are good too.
Well Indies are good. You see I'm on an indie in the States, but I go through BMG-

Which is a major. Which owns Elvis.
Which owns Elvis. But I love that they (NOFX) made a rectum in there. [Points to sheep] That's pretty intense.

Instead though, Ben Kweller advocates toothbrush use. Because you do have a younger fanbase. That's (The NOFX Sheep) more for the older fans.
Well I used to have cavities, you know, when I was a kid, and you're supposed to brush your teeth all of the time and I do now you know. So I though this would be good for the kids. So, one day I woke up and I thought, my album cover should be me brushing me teeth. You know, instead of just my face. Like every other like Paul Simon (record) or whatever. And so I thought it would be different, so once we did it, we're 'Let's make toothbrushes!'

Ben Kweller, there are a few contradictions about your music, there are a few contradictions here, you have the song 'Wasted and-

Now come on. 'Wasted and Ready'. Have you ever heard of the Dead Kennedy's 'Too Drunk To Fuck'? Now what's going on? 'Wasted and Ready'? 'Too Drunk To Fuck?' How can you be 'Wasted and Ready, ' Ben Kweller?
I don't know. I think that's just sort of a party song, about, it's not really about partying, it's just sort of about when you're... well it doesn't necessarily mean wasted 'drunk'. It could just be wasted, burnt out. But still ready for whatever.

Ben Kweller, another thing that scares me about you is the name Dave Matthews. He's the guy who runs your record label, Dave Matthews. That scares me as much as when you said Silverchair.
I know, well let me tell you-

If you can get a stupid guy to pay for it great, that's what you we're going to say to me right?
No I was going to say that I was never a Dave Matthews Band fan growing up. I was always a Nirvana fan-

You're off the label right now!
No, no, I'm just saying-

He's watching this.
No. Let me finish, bro. Like basically, that's what it was. You liked Nirvana, or you liked Phish and Dave Matthews Band, or whatever, Sonic Youth. And I was sort of on that side. And when I heard that he was starting this label and wanted to sign me I was really honoured at first, because the thing is whether you like his music or not, you got to respect what kind of career he's built for himself.

And his deep pockets!
Well, he's just totally, always-

Come on Ben say it! You're happy to be on this label because he's loaded!
He's loaded. That's for sure, but I don't know how much money goes towards the label, but-

Now hold on a second here, he's loaded, and all he'll spring for is a little toothbrush and NOFX gets the sheep?
I know, well-

So he's loaded and cheap, Dave Matthews then, Ben Kweller?

Now Ben Kweller, tell me about beef. Do you like beef?
I like a good steak from time to time.

Have you been offered any sponsorship? You mention Burger King, because there's the BK-

The BK Broiler. Have you ever been approached by them at all because you're Ben Kweller?
I was thinking that they might sue me or something but I haven't been approached for any kind of sponsorship.

How about Tylenol? Cause don't you have a song about Tylenol?
Now where did you hear about that?

You have a song about Tylenol, Ben Kweller.
Was that on like Napster or something? I want to know!

Well Tylenol wants to know. Wants to know about that!
So Tylenol is wondering what's up, huh?

Yeah, yeah. Have you thought about getting sponsorship from them. And what is the song Tylenol about Ben Kweller?
Tylenol is just sort of a song that is about trying to get away from somebody and you start by taking Tylenol to kill the headache they gave you. And then you look for Rohypnol to slow the heartache they gave you. And then you look for methyl, which is meth amphetamine speed, to speed up their getting away from you. And then you go just straight to your machine gun to blow them the 'bleep' away from you.

Ben Kweller this is really scaring me, I saw you on TV wearing an 'I'm hooked on an Oriental-

T-shirt. What's this drug fixation you have there Ben Kweller? Come on!! Break loose of this. I know you've been partying with the Strokes quite a bit. But come on! Forget about that.
I know man. I don't know. I thought that shirt was funny cause-

Cause you wore it on 'Austin City Limits'. Did you get any flack for wearing that shirt?
You know what was funny about that? Cause before the show which I was completely honoured to be on, cause growing up in Texas like 'Austin City Limits', that's it. That's the big thing. So I didn't even realize I was wearing that shirt that day and the owner of Austin City Limits comes up before each show and announces whose coming on. He was like, you know, 'I just want to introduce this next artist. I think he's the future of 'Austin City Limits,' you know, he's this young guy, Ben Kweller, give it up.' And so later I was watching it and I was thinking god, that's the future of 'Austin City Limits', this kid wearing this pro drug shirt-

That says
'I'm hooked on Oriental drugs.' And then you think about Stevie Ray Vaughn, and all of these people with drug histories. But no, I'm not an addict of drugs at all.

Even though you've been talking about them lots there.
Yeah, I like to have fun. You know. I like to have fun. Everything in moderation.

Ben Kweller, on your CD you thank an 'Evan'.
Evan Dando.

How come you don't thank 'Evan Dando'. It just says 'Evan'.
Because I did all of my thank you's on first name.

How am I supposed to know that's Evan Dando?
Because it's for him and not for everyone to know, oh, 'Evan Dando,' you know.

But I don't like the way you thanked 'Chris and Dashboard'. You could have just been, Chris comma and then Dashboard. 'Chris and Dashboard' got special treatment there, Ben Kweller.
But that was sort of like a-

It should just be Chris comma, and not 'and Dashboard'.
It probably should just be 'Chris'. Because most people would say that he is Dashboard.

Why did you put 'Chris and Dashboard'?
Because, you know, we toured with them and his band, you know, the guys that were out with him were really nice, and so, you know.

What was it like touring with the Dashboard? Was there lots of crying going on, in the audience and on stage there Ben Kweller?
I didn't notice any crying, but I definitely think he's a great songwriter.

What was the male to female ratio for that one?
Mucho female.

Crying there. Right for the Ben Kweller.
Yeah. That's where I think we got a lot of our female audiences. Through Dashboard Confessional.

Now you also toured with the Strokes too. What was it like touring with the 'Sh-trokes', Ben Kweller?
They're just amazing. They're my favourite band in the world. They're great friends and it was also because Adam Green was also on tour with us, and he's another New York kid who has a band called The Moldy Peaches and us three together was so much fun.

But Ben Kweller I want to know a little bit more about the' Sh-trokes' here. Now did they bring any pet hedgehogs back stage?
No they didn't. But they brought a lot of crazy things back stage.

Cause there must have been a lot of rocking backstage, like did they bring Drew Barrymore backstage? What celebs were backstage?
Well Drew hangs out a lot cause her and Fab go out. And they're a really great couple. Drew's awesome. She's one celebrity that is so normal, you know, and you just know her as 'Drew' and she's such a nice person.

What was your interaction with her. Had you met her before?
No. Fab introduced me and my girlfriend Liz to her and since then they've come over for dinner to our apartment in Brooklyn. It's great.

Did you ask her any good ET stories or anything like that?
I haven't but I'm going to for sure.

It's fascinating. She was so young and she was so on the drugs, wasn't she?
I guess so. How old was she in ET? I thought she was like seven or something or older.

What scares me about the Strokes is when they played Vancouver ticket prices were like 45 dollars. 45 dollars! 45 dollars Canadian to see the Strokes.
I got to talk to Jules (Casablancas) about that.

Do they know what's going on? Do they have any idea about ticket prices. You Ben Kweller, you make a conscious effort to play all ages and keep ticket prices low don't you?
Of course. Yeah. I'm actually surprised about that. I'm surprised.

Ben Kweller, winding up here, you've been to British Columbia Canada before with Radish?

Now what was that like and what do you remember about it? Cause that was a long long time ago.
I remember we played, what's the place called, the Starfish...

The Starfish Room.
The Starfish Room. I just remember the metal stairs going up the side of the building and the loading being really tedious.

So what was the label thinking? A band of 14 and 15 year old kids playing a bar. Like shouldn't it have been all ages?
It should have been, sure. But that's the whole thing. I was so young and sort ofuninvolvedd in the whole thing, and so decisions were made without me so that's why this time around I'm definitely more involved, and I know myself a lot better than a 15 year old kid.

Now lastly. Back to the' Sh-trokes' for one little second. Any little tidbit you witnessed backstage, any debauchery at all there? Please can you elaborate Ben Kweller?
Let me think. I know that, um, every night is a big party for sure. And on their rider they have ten boxes of Marlboro reds so its just a cigarette fest and, big partying. I don't know many details because I was pretty much partying myself and can't remember much, but a lot of fun nights with those boys.

You we're 'Wasted and Ready'.
I was wasted and always ready man.

You are Ben Kweller. And Ben Kweller I am so excited. You recorded at Sear Sound!
You know that Sear Sound?

Sear Sound is so legendary. Sear Sound. Walter Sear. Tell the people about Sear Sound, Ben Kweller?
Whooo! Sear Sound is my favourite studio in the world, it's the old Hit Factory from the Sixties and Seventies. John Lennon recorded his last few solo albums there and Sonic Youth recorded 'Sister' and 'Experimental Jet-Set'. Wonderful albums have been made there. It's all analogue, no Pro-Tools. On my album we used no digital. We recorded on two inch 16 track tape, actually Walter bought out all of EMI's equipment. They had a basement full of equipment in England in the 80's full of Beatles gear and stuff and he just bought it all. So he bought the original 8 track tape machines that Sgt. Pepper's was made on.

Did you get to record on those or are those out of order?
What he did was change them from 8 track and turned them into 2 track. So it's a one inch two track machine. So that's what we mixed down to. Where you usually mix down to a half inch tape where, you know, so now we've mixed down to one inch tape which is much thicker and fatter sounding.

Ben Kweller, your girlfriends name is...

Now what would you do without Lizzie Borden?
Oh, no, I don't know. I'd probably crumble up and die.

She comes on tour with you doesn't she?
She does.

Is she here today?
This is the first tour she couldn't be here, cause she's a designer, and she designs handbags and hats and shoes and really great stuff. And so she's working in her studio on her new line of accessories.

Because you sing about her, she comes on tour with you, if she leaves your screwed there Ben Kweller.
Pretty much screwed, yeah.

Do you have any back up plans?

I guess all of the girls coming tonight.
No. I continue to love her with all I got.

For the fans out there who don't know you have a girlfriend, what do you look for in a girl, Ben Kweller?

Or a guy for that matter.
One that doesn't play games and that's straight up, and can have a good time, and just someone who can be themselves. The thing is that you're going to click with people for who they are and if everyone would be themselves, your just going to find out quicker, whether you like them or not. And that's the key.

Ben Kweller. Have you ever been confused with Paul Weller. Like you 'Hi it's Ben Kweller' and people are like 'Paul Weller?'. Have you had any problem with that?
No I haven't. And I've always wondered about Paul Weller, cause I don't know his music really. What's it like?

It's amazing. It's great Mod rocking tunes.
Cool. I need to get on it.

Ben Kweller, thanks so much for your time, anything else you'd like to add to the people out there?
Um, I'm just psyched to be here and I don't really have much else to say other than have fun and rock out and brush your teeth. [Ben picks up his promo toothbrush that has been lying on floor]

Ben Kweller, that's amazing you putting that in your mouth after its been on the floor all this time, and-
Because it was in the (NOFX Promo Sheep's) rectum is the most important part.

Why should people care about Ben Kweller? Why should people care?
Because, you know it's music with lots of diversity and I feel like hopefully kids can relate to my lyrics. And it's positive too. A lot of my songs have anoptimisticc ideal where if it's a sad depressing song there's usually a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm all about positivity and sort of looking up. so, I think that's why.

Well thanks for your time Ben Kweller, keep on rocking in the free world and doot doola doot doo...
Doot doo.