20 Questions: Ben Taylor

Ben Taylor
The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1 (The Killing Bite)

What is it like to grow up surrounded by song? From his famous parents to the company of his sister Sally, who is a singer-songwriter, too, Ben Taylor has been gently rocked into this world, sonic-wise, by music knit right at home and sounds from the world of music that makes its way into one’s home. Mos Def, The Roots, David Bowie – to name but a few more influences – have helped shaped Ben’s musical point of view. Born to the musical talents of James Taylor and Carly Simon and nourished by the fertile musicland Martha’s Vineyard, Ben Taylor talks with PopMatters 20 Questions before touring for his new album, The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1 (The Killing Bite), released 16 September, began.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. In the end,it’s surrendering to being sensitive and human, and that makes me cry.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Bugs Bunny meets Luke Skywalker. Jedi’s take them selves too seriously but light sabers are ever so cooler than carrots. What a minute, that’s just not true… On Second thought, make salad not war.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. When I put that record on I feel like the world begins to spin to it.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars is a mythical hero quest that makes you want to be a more honorable noble human being. Star Trek is just something William Shattner did for the cash and women on his way to realizing himself to a beat poet.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Breath both feeds and cools the head. There is nothing in the world quite so perfectly delicious as a deep lungful of clean air.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I am raising a couple of honest, decent parents (you know, James and Carly) who have made me extremely proud by way of their accomplishments both as artist and as human beings.

7. You want to be remembered for…?

Raising lovable canines. I think that is likely to be the extent of my paternal involvement on this planet. I am proud of the way dogs and humans have domesticated each other. Makes me kind of hopeful.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Joseph Campbell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milan Kundera, John Fort.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Songs in the Key of Life.

10. Your hidden talents…?

I try not to hide my talents to be perfectly honest. I have some hidden skeletons and invisible elephants, but I’d rather not talk about them…

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Don’t do it!

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

The hearts of some incredible women. God only knows what I’ve ever done to deserve such luck.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

I like clothes you can practice kung fu in. I scrub up all right, but you got to give me a really good reason. I’m sad to have to admit to being one of those guys who cycles the same thee lame outfits over and over again, in spite of having a huge wardrobe.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

The producer/songwriter John Forté, currently doing unfair time in a federal penitentiary. He could probably use a nice dinner at the Ritz right now.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Although I am often tempted to be able to go back to 1965 so I can participate in some of my favorite moments in musical history, I always have to politely decline when people offer me time travel opportunities because I’m so honored to be alive now. Besides, linear time is a physical phenomenon. For the spirit, eternity is immediate.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

None of the above. I don’t think that people need to resort to violence, consumerism or pharmacology to manage stress. Earth has better options.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?

Chocolate and coffee. Vodka I can take or leave. Cigarettes make me a little sick on a socio-political level.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Home sweet home is Martha’s Vineyard, where songs hide like spells in little pockets of island time.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Good Luck.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

A song for Barack Obama that I wrote one morning feeling quixotically patriotic. Come have a listen for yourself at BenTaylorBand.com and Ben Taylor on MySpace.com.