Ben & Frank at a corporate coffee franchise on a Sunday afternoon.
Note: Ben Huggins is the Lead singer of the Galactic Cowboys and Frank Hart is the lead singer of Atomic
Opera. They have been good friends for over twelve years. This is a transcript of an actual conversation that they had on Sunday, April 16th.
Ben orders a large iced latte', and Frank orders a large coffee slushie, the two men take a seat at a small round table in the busy cafe'.
Frank: So how was ... What was special about Palm Sunday?
Ben: Oh yeah, Micah got confirmed today. (Micah is Ben's oldest son) The boy is now a man.
He'll be graduating in ...
Frank: His manhood has been confirmed! But, that's
not what is actually being confirmed ...
Ben: No ...
Frank: HE is confirming ... His baptism ...
Ben: ... The promise of his baptism.
Ben: Yeah, he's graduating in May, and ... You know ... Life goes
Frank: Wow, graduating High School in May! Then what's he gonna do?
Ben: Then he's been accepted into ... He got a scholarship to St. Thomas University ...
University of St. Thomas.
Frank: So then he'll live at home and go to St. Thomas ...
It will be pretty much the same as when he was going to high school ... At least to you.
Ben: Yes, it will.
Frank: You know, if you drink these things too fast
it goes right to the dome!
Ben: I gave up caffeine for lent, so I've had, like, four
cups of coffee today ... Last Sunday I didn't get to sleep until four AM.
know, I haven't asked if the new Episcopal Church that Kim and I go to does the "You should have whatever you are fasting for Lent on Sunday because it's a feast day" thing. I mean, I DO ... Because
that's what I'm used to ... From the old ChristChurch days ... But, THEY might all think I'm cheating.
Ben: I don't know ... There are not really that many churches that actually keep up with tradition, you know? I've been in Episcopal Churches that had
all the user friendly pamphlets set out ... About the creeds and whatever ... And they avoid all the, you know, the things that ... It's like, "We'll work with you!" (Laughs) I don't know what
that means! But, then again, maybe I'm just reading that into it. Nothing really set in stone ... Like ... This is what our church believes. No real statement ... Unless they have that
hidden in another pamphlet.
Frank: Probably half the people we worship with on a
Sunday morning are ... somewhat marginal as believers ... But, the service itself and the minister ... It's incredible!
Ben: Yeah, I like your Church a lot. The only time I've been there was the ...
Frank: Kemper's Medieval Christmas Concert. ... We need a name for that ensemble ... THE KEMPER CRABB MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS ENSEMBLE is a little long.
Ben: Well, the ensemble kind of changes from show to show.
Frank: Yeah ... Pretty much Atomic Opera does double duty as Kemper's band these days. It's just easier.
Ben: There doesn't seem to be much room for bass in medieval music.
Frank: If we got a nice upright, that would be cool. We did some Vigil concerts in
Japan with Ryan on Bass, me on guitar and John on Djimbe. So, what have you been up to besides recording?
Ben: I've been ... Obsessed with web design recently. Maggie gets a little upset with me, cause I can just sit there and try to figure stuff
out. I mean ... I know there's books ... I know there's classes ... But, I want to figure it out myself, you know? So I get in there, and I search the code ... I build a page ... Try it ... Get
all hyper about it.
Frank: Yeah, I get thrilled by the smallest things ... Like
getting our old web page to forward automatically to www.atomicopera.com in five seconds.
Ben: Oh yeah ... The forward thing. I took over our page, and changed all the graphics, and the backgrounds and reworked the whole thing. But, the guy who did all the CGI things on the
website ... You know, if I have CGI problems ... I mean I can go in there and do certain things, but pretty much every time I try something new with CGI I mess it up.
(Ben and Frank have a highly geeked out conversation about web stuff.)
Ben: So what are you guys up to?
Frank: Well, we're having the CD release party for "Gospel Cola" ... Of course, you are invited to come. It will be a CD listening party with free
food. It's also my birthday party.
Ben: Hey! Alright!
Yeah, we're actually going to have Gospel Cola in 12 oz. bottles.
Ben: That's cool.
Frank: We thought we would make some and send it out as a marketing gimmick along
with videos and stuff. And, we are working on getting our European deal sorted out.
Ben: Is Gunter (Atomic Opera's manager) working on that?
Frank: Yeah. I'm also gonna record an acoustic solo album this year. I've got the songs written for it ... I'm pretty excited about that,
too. Have you heard any of our new record?
Ben: I've heard little
snippets. I don't actually have a copy of it ... We can trade, I'll give you a copy of "Let It Go" when it comes out in June. Maybe June ... Twentieth?
Frank: That would be a Tuesday. Someone was telling me that there is a song called "Ordinary" on "Let It Go" that he
was really diggin'.
Ben: Yeah ... Totally unmetal. Totally unGalactic Cowboys.
Frank: He said it was sort of melancholy.
Ben: It's a little melancholie ... But, let me put it this way ... There are very few songs that I know exactly what I want
to say to when I sit down to write it. A lot of times I'll think, "I want to say this, I want to say this, this and this ..." (Ben uses several hand jestures at this point) Then I go back and fill in
the gaps ...
Ben: ...And try to make it as cohesive as I can. I think my lyrics ... If you read through them ... I think they "flow" but that doesn't
mean they necessarily make "sense" (laughs) I tried to have "Ordinary" make a little more sense. I think the song is about how people develope certain expectations ...
Frank: Big ones? Bad ones? or ...
Ben: It doesn't matter. You have certain things you want or desire, or think you deserve ... And life doesn't meet those demands ... We want
to blame it ... Or, we want to say it's just pride, or ... I could go to the lyrics if I could remember them, but ... People think "Life used to be more exciting" or "life is boring" or "Predictable."
But, the fact is, it's just life. That's what ordinary living is. We're so caught up with our expectations that we miss the stuff that's going on during life. Like this! When I was
driving over here I was thinking about what I was going to do when I got back home ... It's not that I didn't want to come talk with you ... but, it's like ... I'm doing something, but there are all these
distractions in life. Instead of making the best of this moment. But, even that is ordinary ... Cause everyone does it. You might be thinking about how much Kim (Frank's wife, who is
shopping at the world famous Galleria) is spending over there. (Both Laugh)
Actually, I was thinking ... I was wondering if you had seen the movie "American Beauty?" If that was where you got the idea for that song.
Ben: Yes. Man, I love that movie .... I know a lot of Christians got all in an uproar, but to me ... When you watch that movie ... Those are
the people we live with ... Those are the people we live around, that's reality.
Frank: And, we all had to stand up and cheer ... inside ... when Kevin Spacey didn't have sex with that girl ...
Ben: When the realization hit him that ...
Frank: ... I can't do this ...
Ben: I mean, the words didn't come out of his mouth, as far as i remember, but you knew there was a turning point when ... Like ... Whoa! And, not only that but just the idea that there are
consequences in this life for our actions ... Everything in those people's lives ... It showed the selfishness, it showed the isolation. Each character was so defined ... It's just not something
you see now days. Usually, everyone in movies can go out and do anything they want to ... There's no consequences for their actions. I got chills watching that movie.
Frank: I thought is was great, too. When you were talking about the song "Ordinary" I began to picture the
plastic bag in the movie against that brick wall. The transcendent and the beautiful in the mundane. I think the song "Ordinary" is the best song you've ever written for a Galactic record.
I can see it ending up in a movie, and being the most powerful element of the movie. (Attention film makers: The song "Ordinary" from the Galactic Cowboy's latest album "Let It Go" would be a
perfect match to your film, regardless of the film's content or theme. Check it out and see for yourself.)
Ben: Thanks. You and I pretty much see eye to eye on art ... That we accept it for its beauty ... It doesn't have to ... you know ...
Ben: Yes. Another movie I just saw, that I thought was great was the new John Cussack film, "High Fidelity" ... Another movie where ... Maybe
unwittingly, I don't know ... It shows that there are consequences ... And, not only that ... It takes you step by step through his life's relationships ...
Frank: Yeah, I remember when the movie "Thelma & Louise" came out, all the Christian's thought it was soooo negative ... And, when I saw it I
thought, "Man, what a perfect analogy for the depravity of man." They take freedom by the reigns and live wild and do whatever they want ... And look where it leads them!
Ben: Yeah ... Hey, they're dead! Well, ALRIGHT!
Frank: That's where it leads you.
Back to the record ... Did Wally produce this time?
Ben: Yes. Wally is the official producer. Wally made that clear from the very beginning. He quit his job to
be at the studio every day. He is the one who put in the most time on this record, not to mention the fact that he had a clear vision of what the album should be.
Frank: Ah ha! So THAT's the definition of the producer. The one who puts in the most time.
Ben: He was the only one who was there for everything that was going on. I was in and out ... I was
second in logging the most hours ... Next would be Alan ...
Frank: ... Who's not even in the band anymore.
Ben: We hired Alan to mix and
help us get some of the sounds. In fact, we had help from a lot people. Wally and I did quite a bit on our own, and Ty helped us get a few guitar sounds. Including the acoustic sound for
another song I wrote called "Future."
Frank: Another GREAT song!
Ben: Thanks ... And Brian Garcia came by and helped us to get some drums sounds and bass
sounds. (Engineer on "Space in Your Face" and "The Horse That Bud Bought") And, as you know, Jerry Gaskill played drums on most of the album. Wally played drums on a couple of songs.
During preproduction, I set up eight mics and recorded everything that we did ... So there were actually a few things that ended up on the final record that were just spontaneous things that happened in
preproduction. A couple of little jazz things ... Like "Bucket of Chicken" with Wally on Hammond organ, me on Fender Rhodes, Monty on bass and Jerry on Drums. We have hours of things like that
for future projects.
Frank: How many prepared songs were brought in ... already
written on this record?
Ben: Monty brought in seven songs, I wrote three and Wally
Frank: So, the song "Future" ... From the title I would assume it is
about the past?
Ben: Ah ... ????? During the process of preproduction there
were days when Jerry couldn't make it, or Wally couldn't make it, so there were days when I would go up to the studio expecting to work and no one else would show. So I one day I picked up the guitar
and played this little guitar thing onto the tape machine. I wrote one line, "The future knocked on my door and I turned it away." Then I came up with the chorus, "Hope it comes back
again." Basically, I just recorded the one verse and chorus and played it for Wally ... And he really liked it. Jerry had his plate full learning the other songs, so Wally played drums on
it. He also played on "Ordinary" and one of his songs. The most enjoyable part of recording this record was the preproduction. Some funny things. Uumm ... What was the song
about? Was that your question?
Frank: No, actually, I was just trying to make a
clever remark about the title being "Future" so the song must be about the past.
Frank: Well ... Since "Ordinary" was about NOW and "Future" is
about ... The future ... Is your other song about the PAST?
Ben: That one is called
"Hey, Mister" ... That one is about ... I wrote it while we were on the road with King's X ... It's a political statement. Not so much an introspective statement as ... Outward ...
Ben: Is that a word? Good enough. Wally actually wrote a song that is just an AMAZING song called "Life and Times" and that is my favorite song
on the record.
Frank: And he sang that song?
Ben: Yes, he did. He did everything but my and Monty's vocal. He played bass, drums ... It came out really
well. Monty has always been the main writer. He has been the most consistent writer. On this record I like the slower more melodic songs ...
Frank: Is that because you are getting old?
Ben: No ... I don't think so. The album ... Even the mellow songs ... Are rockin' .... When everything is in the zone ... It's rockin'. If people are
expecting "Machine Fish" or "Space In Your Face" they will be disappointed. I think people know by now that we are going to make the music we are going to make ... It doesn't matter what people
Frank: I know ... We just made a pretty bizarre record with "Gospel
Cola" ... It is heavy and melodic ... It has medieval instrumentals ... It is embellished with all kinds of ancient instruments ... And, yet I read a review the other day that basically said "I am only
pretending to have listened to this record because I am assuming it sounds a certain way." ... They said the usual things about Atomic Opera sounding like King's X and the Galactic Cowboys with heavy grooves
and pretty vocals. It was obvious that they hadn't actually listened to the CD.
Ben: Are you sure that you didn't send them a press release that said that? I saw something that said the new King's X CD "Mr Bulbous" is like their "White Album."
Frank: That doesn't
make any sense! The "White Album" is the most diverse "not a band effort" album that the Beatles released, and "Mr Bulbous" is very cohesive and unified. Very much a band effort that blurs the
distinction between the players.
Ben: Oh, I have to mention that there are a couple
of songs that we are sort of hoping that Christian radio will play. One of them is "A Different Way" that Monty wrote, and the other is "Another Field" ... That Monty also wrote and sings lead
Ben: If you haven't seen us ... You're not gonna see us. I don't think we'll be touring anymore unless an offer so incredibly amazing comes
along that we HAVE to reconsider our decision.
Frank: I'm going to record a solo
record this year ... It will be more acoustic ... Have you given any thought to recording a Ben Huggins solo record? I would love to hear a whole album of songs like "Ordinary" and "Future."
Ben: Yeah, but it's too early to say much about it. There are some songs, but ... Monty
and Wally are both working on solo projects.
Frank: So ... Wasn't the "White Album"
the Beatles final record together?
Ben: No ... That would be "Let it Be."
(Ben and Frank continued to talk about the importance of liturgy, the early church fathers, Easter,
farmer's tans, agriculture, roofing and being a father.)