Radical Face Interview

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Radical Face Ben Cooper otherwise known as Radical Face has got a new label (his own), new logo, and a new trilogy of albums coming out; along with the free EP he’ll be releasing next week. When he’s not working on films with his friends or spending time with family, he’s busy with his new trilogy of albums, Family Tree. It will consist of three albums, the first to release early October will be named, The Roots. Ben talks to Hopeless Thunder about his new album, swimming, and free music coming out soon.

What he does when he’s not working on music.
I read a lot, lift weights 3 nights a week, spend time with family and friends, watch movies, write stories, and if it’s Summer I swim in the ocean a lot of afternoons. But for the past 9 months I’ve also been working on a film with a group of friends. That’s taken up the bulk of my free time since we started, but it’s been really fun. We should finally be done filming in about a month.

How Ben describes his music.
I’m never sure how to answer this. I’m usually just chasing whatever I’m most excited to write about at that time, and trying to get the sounds and ideas from my head into the recording. But it’s always shifting. So I mostly just think of it as cataloging what I’m most interested in at the moment.

What it’s been like to control everything music wise. From the pressing his own music to distribution and merchandise.
It’s more work than I thought it’d be. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this busy before, trying to get it all in order. But it’s really great not having to compromise all along the way, and I like knowing how it all works. It’s definitely more difficult and time-consuming, but I’m happy with all the different elements, so it’s a worthy trade.

His experience with releasing music off his own label.
I’m not sure yet. This will be the first time. This could totally blow up in my face, to be honest. I have no idea what’s gonna happen with it. But it wasn’t gonna work with a traditional label, so it was either this or start compromising the concept.

Radical Face

Why he chose to release a free EP before the trilogy.
I wrote a lot of music for this project. I’ve been writing for it since 2007, just after my last solo record came out. When working on a record there are always songs that I finish and like, but they don’t make sense on the actual record. They obstruct the flow of the album, or tip the overall balance in a way I’m not shooting for. But since they are still a part of the overall theme, I’m taking all these odd songs and releasing them as free Eps over the course of this project. I’m dubbing them “The Bastards”, and there will likely be four of them in total.

Where he got his idea for his trilogy of albums, Family Tree.
I’ve wanted to write a family saga for a really long time now. Family is a big topic for me (literally … I’m one of ten kids), and it’s something that’s had a big impact on me in all sorts of ways. I originally planned on writing a book somewhere down the road, but instead opted on doing it in record form. It took me a while to get the nerve to start, though. I was always afraid I’d screw it up, and it’s something I’m pretty sentimental about. But once I started writing, it all kinda poured out.

Ben’s description on his album coming about soon, The Roots, and its differences from past albums.
Well, it’s the first of a 3 album set. These records all revolve around a fictional family tree I came up with from studying genealogy charts and just reading a lot. There’s also some of my own history wrapped up in it, though I doubt anyone will be able to pick it out. This first record takes places from around 1800 – 1860. Sonically speaking, it’s the simplest of the three. I limited the instruments I wrote on (piano, acoustic guitar, vocals and a floor tom) and only added more things when the song called for them. The following albums will get increasingly diverse with the sounds as the time line progresses.

As for differences from past albums, it’s more rooted in storytelling than anything I’ve done before, and I was more direct with the words than I’ve been in the past. I also used very little “studio tricks” on this record. I did my best to get the mood across just with the songwriting, and tried to keep the production as simple as I could. If it wasn’t coming across right, I just rewrote it instead of doing a lot of tweaking after the fact.

On collaborations he did on the album.
It was almost all done alone. The only collaboration was on “The Dead Waltz”, where my brother played the piano. But I really enjoy working my brother. I think we’ll do more and more together in the future.

What the album title, Family Tree, means to him.
I think it just sums up what I’m writing about: generations of families, and how they grow and spread and fall apart and rebuild. I also just like the literal image of trees, and breaking each record down to the physical parts.

On themes throughout the album.
To be honest, this first record is a bit of a downer in terms of subject matter. Death and regret are common themes on this album. I was in a pretty bad way when I was working on this material. I don’t know how much that’ll show to others though. The music is mostly pretty. It’s more in the words.

Radical Face

Plans for tours and what to expect from a live show.
I have some shows planned for fall, but not many. I don’t tour often. It usually costs me to do it, and I have a lot more fun recording than performing. But for these shows I’m mostly teaming up with choirs and vocal groups around the US, and I’m excited to see how they turn out. If it’s anything like I’m imagining, it should sound really great.

New Music:
For new music, I have this free EP coming out in about a week, then the record on October 4th. I also have a “web-based” side project called Clone that is finished and will be released in the beginning of next year (explanations of the project can be found in old news posts on my website).

Ben’s message for his fans:
As far as a message, I’d just like to thank folks for checking out the projects, and for supporting when they enjoy them. I’d make the albums anyway, but people being interested makes putting them out really feel worth the trouble. So yeah. Thanks.

Tour Dates:
The current shows I have booked are: San Francisco, Oct. 6t, another in LA on Oct. 11. Then there’s one in Washington DC on October 22nd, and one in NYC on October 25th. And there may be a couple more surrounding those, but that’s all for now.

08/06/2011 – Los Angeles, CA @ New LA Folk Festival
10/06/2011 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick and Mortar (with Albatross Choir)
10/11/2011 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater (with Easterly Singers)
10/25/2011 – New York, NY @ The Studio at Webster Hall (with Special Guests)


Radical Face’s new album, The Roots will be released October 4th, 2011 on iTunes, Amazon, and his website.

Photo Credit: Ben Cooper

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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (She's basically a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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