I was fortunate enough to have been able to spend a short while with Ben Jelen recently during his tour with Pete Yorn. Ben was Yorn's opening act when I caught up with him at the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah's Casino, Kansas City, Missouri on August 16, 2007.
I found Ben to be an extremely warm and easy person, as was his support team, especially Chris who patiently led me through the back stage maze at the VooDoo Lounge up to the Green Room to meet Ben for the interview. The moment I met Ben I decided to just let Ben talk about himself and his new project; the awesome new CD release "Ex-Sensitive". I think you'll be very impressed with this young artist!
PL: Weíre going to let Ben tell us about Ben.
BJ: Well, Iím putting out a new album that has just come out- actually about a month ago - called ďEx-SensitiveĒ and Iím real excited about this new album because itís a big step from my first album for me musically and song wise and lyrically. The production is a lot different too.
PL: So youíve made some major changes in relation to your music, have you not, from the standpoint your first album was dedicated to Ė
BJ: Well, my first album was about long distance love and a loss of innocence and that kind of thing. Those are songs I wrote when I was between the ages of 16 and 21 or so, and all these new songs are songs I wrote much more recently, in the last 3 or 4 years, and Iím 28 now, so these songs are much more mature. Iím thinking more about the world and the state of the world. Iíve been writing a lot of these songs about the environment and our consumption and materialism and what really fulfills us.
PL: So, basically our carbon footprint, that kind of thing?
BJ: Yeah, absolutely. I am a very concerned citizen when it comes to global warming. We have a real problem there and thereís a 100% scientific consensus between whatever way the media spins it or the current administration spins it Ė thereís no question that there is a major connection and we need to fix it, we need to curb our carbon dioxide emissions so Iíve been talking a lot about that and my video ďPulseĒ, which is the first song on the album, is actually about that. Itís about the environment with the future of global warming, but also a tie in of other things that have been triggered by the environmental collapse. Whatís going on in the Sudan is definitely not purely an environmental problem, but the reason why they canít feed their cattle is there is no water there, these things donít help, and they actually make it a lot worse.
PL: So, is ďPulseĒ the only song on this particular album that is ecologically oriented?
BJ: ďWreckageĒ actually is too. ďWreckageĒ is an interesting song because it can be taken as a relationship song because the lyrics are ďI donít want to waste this Ė I donít want it wasting meĒ. So that could be, when I was writing it at the time it was really more about how we should get out of this and have a positive attitude towards things we can do, because there is so much we can do on a small scale, such as putting in those compact florescence bulbs - it really does actually change the consumption and the electric bills. We need to think about our future generations, not just the next few years.
PL: ďEx-SensitiveĒ is the title of your CD. What does that mean?
BJ: What Ex-Sensitive means is what Iíve been talking about. I think we have certain sensitivity naturally for other humans and we are sensitive to the way other people live and I think that we have been barraged with so much in movies with violence and sex and weíve seen so many black children that are emaciated and starving on TV that we are now ex-sensitive. We have been desensitized by overexposure, I think, and that comes from all over the place and the future is not going to be any less exposure, so I think that we have to work extra hard to find those things that will fulfill us and work extra hard to empathize with other people.
PL: Is ďPulseĒ the first single?
BJ: No, ďWhere Do We GoĒ is the first single. I tried to pressure that one to be the first single because I thought it was the most successful song; itís kind of faster and that one is about being in a relationship and kind of having troubles and how you get through those together in a relationship.
PL: Well, is there anything else?
BJ: Right now, Iím doing some radio promotion and will continue touring and hoping that people will support the album.
PL: Where do you go from here?
BJ: We next go to Iowa and Milwaukee, and then actually Iím going to go after this tour is finished Iím going to spend a week in Prague, the Czech Republic. Iím meeting my family there and then Iíll come back and get back on the road in America.
PL: Are you of Czech descent?
BJ: My dad is Czech, my dadís from Prague, so my grandmotherís from Prague and all my cousins live there. Itís going to be good to go back. I havenít been back Ė we used to go back every year and recently I havenít gone that much at all, so Iím looking forward to that.
PL: Ben, thank you.
PL: Itís a real pleasure to meet you.
BJ: Itís a pleasure to meet you too.
"Ex-Sensitive" is on the Custard Record Label. Production by the phenomenal Linda Perry with some mixes by Bill Bottrell. Pick up "Ex-Sensitive" today!