In a short amount of time, composer Ben Frost has gathered up a powerful arsenal of friends, ranging from (his mentor and The Reader score composer) Nico Muhly to Icelandic string quartet Amiina to Swedish metal band Crowpath to Bjork & Bonnie “Prince” Billy producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. Then, he invited them all to play on his album.
By the Throat is Frost’s third major full-length album, and it’s been bathing in ecstatic (and well-deserved) praise, mixing minimalist melodies with an eclectic mix of beats, vocal samples, and sheets of distortion, making for a powerful, cutting, and emotional disc that sounds like nothing like it on the avant-classical front today.
Yet as film scores beckon and a long-awaited US tour is rumored to be in the works, the Australian-born Frost takes some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the paintings of Mark Rothko, the appreciation he holds for Looney Tunes, and why it’s best to carry a big stick with you when time traveling ...
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I can’t remember the last time I watched something that made me cry. I watched Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf the other night—I gasped several times—does that count?
2. The fictional character most like you?
Phil Connors in Groundhog Day.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Disintegration by the Cure. No question.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek is to Star Wars what Paul McCartney was to John Lennon: good, but just never ever as great, no matter how hard he tried. Futurama does Star Trek way better than Star Trek ever did.
5. Your ideal brain food?
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Which accomplishment? Wait? You mean my album—I would say I’m proud of it solely because I finished it; there is a lot to be said for finishing things, and putting them to bed—that is something I was never really good at in the early days—its easier for me to close a chapter creatively these days
7. You want to be remembered for . .?
My unwavering appreciation of Looney Tunes cartoons and any film starring Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, or Richard Prior. That, and an uncanny ability to spill everything and wear holes through any item of clothing no matter how robust: leather, gortex, whatever ... it all fails.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
The scientists—anyone who brings us a step closer to obliterating any form of secular religion has my respect.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
No. 14 by Mark Rothko.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I can take down a rabbit with an un-scoped rifle at 200m.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
My parents were both cops; “Deny everything, admit nothing, demand proof.”
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
When I was about 11 I stole a small knife from the art room of my school.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
The work of Icelandic designer Sruli Recht is unmitigated genius—even if he is an inherently bad person intent on the destruction of mankind. Also my Kung Fu shoes ... never leave home without them.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Prehistoric I suppose—no particular destination—but I am fascinated by the evolutionary process and so being able to engage with a primordial world and observe our pre-history would be something ... just make sure you bring a big stick to fend off everything that would inevitably look at you as a snack.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Clean cold drinking water without any chlorine in it and the scallion pancake from “excellent dumpling house” in New York.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I am partial to extremes, I need to either be in the middle of everything, or in the middle of nowhere—the same could be said for my music probably. This can be applied anywhere—I love many different parts of the world for different reasons—but ultimately I am most at home in Iceland.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
What the fuck happened? Because frankly, I still don’t really understand.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
At this very moment I am working on the pot belly I got on this last little tour. Tours are dangerous—especially ones that go through Spain—Hamtastic! Beyond that, 2010 will be two film scores, various production work, lots of touring—hopefully some fucking US dates!