“To me, Silverchair did its thing and to me Bento is my baby, I’ll see Bento through until I’m an old man. As an artist it’s my creative outlet and that’s what most people want, like I would’ve loved to have done my music in the more recent years with Silverchair but our priorities changed and I was happy to take that step back.”
Ben Gilles is of course most recognised as the drummer and co-founder of Silverchair, you may have heard of them… but after announcing an indefinite hiatus Ben has now taken it upon himself to release and use his own creative juices to release his debut album under Bento. ‘Diamond Days’ is released this week and shows that Ben can be the front man and has the skills to write a great tune or twelve.
We spoke with Ben about Bento, what it represents, the debut album, how it was created and how he’s made it his baby. We might’ve even thrown in a question about the future of his other band too…
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Ben. I guess we can start with asking why was now the right time to step out as a ‘solo’ artist and launch the Bento project?
I think it’s probably because I’ve had enough energy and enough time to focus on my own thing. Silverchair is such a mammoth and awesome kind of beast that in the last many, many years I just haven’t had enough energy to focus on my own thing to such an extent, so probably the confidence and a lot of elements but that’s probably the main reason why. So, you can’t rush these things mate (laughs)
How did you go into creating the songs that would end up on ‘Diamond Days’?
They kind of span across six, seven, eight years, because when I took a step back from the writing duties in Silverchair after ‘Neon Ballroom’, as an artist and a songwriter, it’s not something that you turn off or particularly want to turn off, it’s always there it’s always present. I kept writing songs and put them on my voice memos or Dictaphone or whatever it was and it just got to a point that if I didn’t do something with them, if I didn’t have some kind of outlet it was just driving me crazy so that’s when I decided to do it. The whole album started off as a consolidation session with an engineer friend of mine and it just kind of snowballed from there, it took on a life of its own really.
How hard was it for you to step out as a front man after so many years essentially being behind the singer?
Yeah, totally scary, stepping in to the unknown, but at the same time it’s exciting and I think deep down inside I’ve always been… well maybe not deep down inside, maybe on the surface I’ve always been a bit of a wild man and a bit of a crazy cat and there’s always been a part of me that’s wondered what it’d be like to get out the front and have a sing. Purely just personally getting out there and having a crack, I’ve always been one of those people that likes to give different things a go. Like I said, it’s scary but at the same time it’s liberating and exciting.
Kind of a Dave Grohl situation…
Yeah totally, people are saying you’re totally like the Australian Dave Grohl and I’m like “Here we go…” the funny thing is, the Nirvana comparison fits the mould very well, obviously three piece, we get a lot of Nirvana comparisons at the start, then Dave Grohl stepped out and did his own thing, so it’s a very similar parallel.
Let’s hope the comparison doesn’t continue with Daniel then…
(laughs) yeah exactly.
How did you, if you did, set out to make Bento different to Silverchair and Tambalane?
I guess I think all three are different entities, Silverchair’s got a big recording budget, it’s got a really established band, it’s got the record company, formula, management, it’s got this massive infrastructure that we tap in to, budgets and all that stuff, even with the writing process, Dan would come in and then it would kind of be massaged in the studio. Then you’ve got the Tambalane thing, I think realistically for me it was a bit more of like a summer fling, it was just a mates thing, it never really had any legs but it was almost like a stepping stone to do Bento. To me, Silverchair did its thing and to me Bento is my baby, I’ll see Bento through until I’m an old man. As an artist it’s my creative outlet and that’s what most people want, like I would’ve loved to have done my music in the more recent years with Silverchair but our priorities changed and I was happy to take that step back, you know I love playing in Silverchair and with Dan and Chris, it’s great, but at the same token I still lost that creative outlet for myself. It’s exciting but they’re all very, very different.
So you touched on it above, but specifically to you, what does Bento represent?
Like I said, it’s my baby, it’s my creative outlet, a few people have been saying or mentioning to me side project or solo project but to me it’s a parallel to Silverchair, if Silverchair isn’t doing anything then I’ll be doing Bento, if I’m not doing Bento I’ll be doing Silverchair, it’s that important to me. I think that’s why I’m super excited, I don’t have any of those restrictions as well, it’s exciting times.
Tell us about the corresponding art project side of Diamond Days and how that ties in to the album?
Well I didn’t just want to go to a design house and say ‘hey I need a record cover’ and do some of that, I really wanted it to evolve like the record itself and happen naturally. I just had my good friend Aaron Kinnane, I knew him from Newcastle, and so I called him up and said “Hey mate, would you be interested on working on the cover of this record?” He was interested straight away and he was just going to do the cover but that evolved just how I wanted it to into twelve pieces and It was a real kind of journey, so I’m sure the cover I imagined it to be one way but it turned out better than I would’ve imagined.
Recording wise, you had a number of players on the record I believe, why do it this way rather than in essence create a band?
Bento is kind of just me really, I wrote all the songs and I’m the brainchild, it’s just the way it’s worked out, it’s been a bit of a patchwork quilt and we’ve got different musos along the way. It wasn’t planned that way, we did deliberately get Dave Symes, Scott Alpin and Thomas Rawle to be the main players on there and we did purposely get them as much as we could and when they played on particular songs we tried to get them as much as they could to play from start to finish as well, they kind of really tied and helped the songs mesh together as a band. Long term that’s what I’d really like to do, is have like the Bento band, have a staple of guys and that’s it, we’re all in it together, but for the time being it is my baby and that’s just how the process unfolded.
Taking on co-producing rights to the album, what did this allow you to do as an artist?
Every facet of the record I pretty much had a hand in or overseen, it’s been really exciting doing that stuff but it’s been a learning curve.
In listening to the album through once before it was taken away from me ha ha, the songs seem to have a sense of ‘life’ to them and a feel good mentality, is this something that just came naturally as you were creating it or was it a contrived idea to make it sound this way?
No, I think I didn’t go in to making this record with any preconceived ideas but definitely just turned out that way. I’m a positive, optimistic kind of person and I always like to look at the brighter side of life and it was totally subconscious that it’s the way it’s panned out (laughs).
‘Diamond Days’ itself, the song and the name is that named after anything specifically?
No not really, I can’t remember where that lyric came from. I was reading a lot of poetry by Charles Bukowski and Leonard Cohen and a bunch of different guys, to be honest I don’t know, maybe it was a line in one of the poems that sparked an idea? I’m not sure where it came from but it resonated with me somewhere inside.
What are your touring plans for the album?
Not just yet, no. I’m just going to concentrate in getting the album out there and the Bento name and just make a bit more aware of it, it’s a big thing, you’re almost trying to flip people’s perceptions of who I am from being the drummer in Silverchair to being the front man in this other band, so for me because that’s my reality, it’s easy to think, why can’t you get this really quickly? For fans and stuff it’s a lot to swallow in one hit, so I’m just going to concentrate on that and then probably begin touring in the new year. Give people a couple of months for people to digest the whole thing and then do some shows.
Now, do you mind if I ask about the future of Silverchair?
Yeah sure mate, go for it.
Is there a future of Silverchair?
(laughs) Yeah I mean we purposely chose the wording of indefinite hiatus or hibernation or whatever you call it, we said that because we want to leave that door open and at the moment, we hit a bit of a brick wall making a record and we all just needed to take a step away from it and we’ve all got different things going on at the moment. When the time feels right we’ll come back to it, but if that’s now or if that’s in another three years or however long then that’s just the way it all came out. At the moment we’ve all got projects going on and Bento is my main priority as I said, it’s a parallel to Silverchair and Silverchair is a large part of my life and I’m aware of it and I’m happy to talk about it as I’m proud about what I’ve done in Silverchair, I love Dan and Chris but at the moment Bento is my baby.
Thanks for your time Ben, see you at the launch.
Sounds perfect, thank you.
Band members: Ben Gillies
Latest release: Diamond Days (released October 26) – Read our review of ‘Diamond Days’ HERE