Interview: The Moral of The Story with The Orphanage Music.
by Daniel Haim
When I first met Ben I was introduced to an artist. A dedicated perfectionist. Someone who does not overlook a single detail. He is someone who is capable of doing just about anything that involves a computer– from graphic design to creating some of my favorite music to date.
Like most artists, Ben has a set of skills – and his passion moved him forward to pursue his musical career. It has been three years since I first heard “Vegabond” a track featured on the debut album, “Moral of The Story”.
The debut album, “Moral of The Story” came out earlier this year, completely-self produced and largely self-played, too.
This is the long-overdue interview with the man behind The Orphanage Music, a musician, an artist and a true pioneer.
Daniel: We’ve been longing to feature you on the site..
Ben: Yes it has been a bit of a journey getting to this moment. As they say, life is what happens when you make plans, right? But better late than never. I’m very honored to speak with you at last.
Daniel: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
Ben: My name is Ben. I make music, so I guess you could call me a musician. I’m from northern California where everybody has subwoofers and cool shoes. And for some reason, everybody is talented. Been around. Born in Oakland, raised in Sacramento,lived in Boston, New York, Honolulu, Tokyo, Japan, and Hong Kong. Some are big places, desolate places, rich places, and poor places. All of them are beautiful. They also all smell different. Hawaii smells like aloe. Oakland smells like gunpowder. And tacos.
Daniel: Where are you going?
Ben: Well, I have a notebook with all kinds of plans, predictions, and calculations, but they never seem to be very good at indicating anything. If you told me five years ago that I’d be on the other side of the planet at two a.m. responding to a blog with millions of viewers about my album release I would’ve demanded that you immediately handed over whatever you were smoking.
Daniel: Tell us about your new album, Moral of the Story. It’s been a work in progress, hasn’t it? How did your creative process begin?
Ben: It’s been a long journey. It began with a 5-year-old me sitting in front of a piano wondering if my feet would ever reach the [foot] pedals.
Daniel: Take us through the creative process…
Ben: It began with a story. The least sentimental way of saying it is that my life has been very generous in terms of provocative experience. Over time I’ve come to appreciate that I had 10 fingers, 88 keys, and a whole lot of things to get off my chest. I always start with the piano. I find the chords to express what I need to express, then I express it.
I’m in constant denial of how sentimental I am—bass is my defense mechanism.
I walk away feeling great, then I come back after a while and realize the song is oozing with emotion and it’s absolutely embarrassing, so I add a complex rhythm to distract from the [more] emotional melody. I’m in constant denial of how sentimental I am—bass is my defense mechanism.
Daniel: Did you design the album cover?
Ben: Yes, but not without the help of the phenomenal photographer Amanda Kho.
Daniel: What is the message behind the name, ‘The Orphanage’?
Ben: It’s based on a thought I had one day about the human condition. Six billion souls on a speck of dust floating in a remote corner of an infinite universe without a clue about how we got here or what we’re doing, so in a sense, six billion orphans desperately searching for belonging. And music seems to be the most effective universal medium of offering solace for that exasperating condition. Something like that.
Daniel: We love the album and all the effort behind it. Do you have a favorite track?
Ben: My favorite track is actually the interlude. It means a lot to me; I put a lot of my soul into it.
Daniel: Tell us about the name of the album, Moral of the Story.
Ben: There are actually 13 stories. The album is essentially a collection of short stories from various episodes of my life. Each song represents a chapter with its own characters, climax, and resolution. Together they make up a complete story.
Daniel: Did you create this album for someone?
Ben: Yes. They are mentioned in the last [title] track.
Daniel: From whom and where do you draw your musical inspiration?
Ben: I’m inspired by the tremendous people whose paths I’ve had the privilege to cross. The stories and imprints they left on me were profound, and I thank them for what they’ve imparted. My greatest influence is my mother, who was a piano teacher. As she taught piano in the living room it forced me to listen to badly played Tchaikovsky and Debussy by students sometimes as many as 15-hours a day, 6 days a week for most of my childhood.
My other musical influences include: Nujabes, Bonobo, Emancipator, rjd2, Keiko Matsui, A Tribe Called Quest, CunninLynguists, Zion I, and Pink Floyd, strangely enough.
Daniel: What do you hope to achieve with Moral?
Ben: The venerable Will Smith said the answer to life was reading and running, which I’ve found to be particularly true. On reading he said, ‘Whatever obstacle you might be facing in life, somebody has already faced it and wrote about it.’ Today though, people seem to prefer beats more than they do books, so I make beats with the same intentions—I suppose you could say The Orphanage seeks to shelter the orphans.