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Ben and James Taylor

A Conversation with Ben Taylor (continued)

BT: Thanks, man. It was all right. Had I known my dad was there, I'd have played better. I didn't know he was there until the end of it, because he's ultimately--well, he coined that style. I just sort of play along with it. Guitar-wise, I really--I play a lot like him.

PM: Yeah, he wrote the book on that guitar style.

BT: Yeah.

PM: No doubt about it. So you didn't know he was there until the end either?

BT: No, I had no idea.

PM: Yeah, because he was really infrognito with that--

BT: I know, but that's actually his uniform. If I had seen him, I definitely would have known who it was. I would have recognized him.

PM: Oh, really, that's his normal--

BT: Yeah, that's how he gets down.

PM: [laughs] I was standing waiting to talk to you for a second after the show, and there was a cat in front of me to whom you said, "Hey, hang on a minute. My old man's got to go." I saw him for the first time when you turned. And the rapport between you and your dad was really touching, I thought.

BT: Oh, he's my main man. He's definitely one of my best friends in the world. We have a very good relationship.

PM: Have you played much electric guitar in your time, or are you a strictly an acoustic cat?

BT: When I pick up electric guitars, I play acoustic guitar parts on them.

PM: Yeah.

BT: I like them, and sometimes you can make it sound pretty interesting, but that's not my--I haven't had any training like that, no.

PM: Yeah. I'm mostly an acoustic guy, too, but I like to play the jazz guitars and play finger style parts on them. They sound good.

BT: I like to put flat wounds on a Jazzcaster, or I play a Gibson Chet Atkins, too, that I put big heavy gauge strings on, and I like to get down on those, and put a few pedals just to make the parts that I ordinarily play sound weird.

PM: Exactly. Yeah, that's my approach too. So I take it you listen to a lot of rap and hip hop, right?

BT: I do. That's pretty much all I listen to.

PM: For a guy who listens to that mostly--although there are some trippy rap-type lyrics in your songs--it's amazing that the music part of your songs comes out the way it does.

BT: It's all a matter of what your vocabulary is. I mean, my vocal phrasing, I would say, is 90% hip hop. It's just that I don't have that cultural background, so my melodic structures and the attitude and mannerism of the way that I get the lyrics across and the actual words and stories themselves, they aren't rap. But I'm heavily, heavily influenced nonetheless.

PM: Now, can you turn me on to a couple of rap and hip hop artists that I might dig, being, say, more in the vein of peace rap, jazz rap, shit like that?

BT: Get The Roots. Get anything by The Roots. I mean, my favorite album of theirs is their newest, the one called Chronology, but that might just be because I'm a diehard Roots fan. Go get Things Fall Apart. It was their album before the new one, and it's just--I mean, they're my favorite band ever.

PM: Wow.

BT: It's all live, all organic, live drums, live bass, live strings, live rhythm section.

PM: Oh, really?

BT: Yeah, but I mean, it's so phenomenally, phenomenally good. Black Thought, their lead singer, he's one of the most incredible poets of the century, as far as I'm concerned.

PM: I'm on it like today. And it's The Roots, just like it sounds?

BT: Yeah. Go get The Roots, Things Fall Apart, or Chronology is the new album. That's great too, but I think that being somebody who's not already a diehard fan, go ahead and get Things Fall Apart. I think it's a little bit more accessible. And then get Mos Def, Black on Both Sides. That was his first album. And unfortunately they don't have the lyrics printed, but if you sit and listen to the lyrics for long enough, they'll blow your mind.

PM: Oh, beautiful. I really appreciate that, and I'm on it.

BT: Yeah. You got to go check it out. Who else is amazing? There's a guy name K-Os, he's pretty phenomenal. He sings--he's got a more melodic component to his style, and a lot of acoustic guitars and weird stuff like that, but also--and all of these people are on an amazing positive tip. They're not on the gangster--you know, not bitches and switches and clothes and hos and that kind of tip. They're on to saving the world shit.

PM: Wow.

BT: Yeah.

PM: So are your folks onto any of this?

BT: I try. I try. There's a--it's hard to--I mean, unless you really, really listen to a lot of that music, it's hard to catch what they're saying, and that bugs my folks. But when I break it down and tell them what they said, they always love it. Neither of my parents listen to much music, it's funny.

PM: It's not like that.

BT: Yeah. It's really not.

PM: Huh. Their lives are more about other things, or...?

BT: Well, their lives are largely about their own music.

PM: Right.

BT: I don't know, there must have been times in their lives when they listened to a lot of music, but recently, more lately, I think they really don't.  continue

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