20 Questions: Ben Frost

Nico Muhly-protoge and acclaimed avant-garde composer Ben Frost discusses the works of Futurama, Groundhog Day, and his ability to wear through clothes at alarming speeds ...

Ben Frost

By the Throat

Label: Bedroom Community
US Release Date: 2009-11-10

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?

Raw meat.

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?

Nikola Tesla.

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!

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.