Back in Louisville, February 3rd.
#shilparay #williambenton #catcasual #louisville #zanzabar #thedayrocknrolldied
A few thoughts on things done this year…….
I began 2013- pretty much out of the gate- playing music with Shilpa. In all honesty, I thought that one of us would lose interest in playing with the other and that it would only last a few gigs before I was dismissed or excused myself. Now I find it nearing the one year anniversary of walking into the practice room for the first time (she didn’t recall meeting me- she blamed my lack of afro). Playing with her has become the center from which I have calibrated my New York musical life. And I am hugely grateful.
She is one of those people that just has IT when she performs her songs. We always hear language like that in regards to artists but I have never felt that I have played with anyone who was that combination of fierce independence, raw emotion, and something interesting and powerful to project/give.
And her bandmate help has been just as encouraging for me as she has. Jon was brought on to play steel guitar about halfway through the year…I think? I recall being told about his addition and, though I truly love the pedal steel, I feared it might be a “novelty” item in the band. Instead, what we got was and has been one of those rare beacons of kindness, talent, and with a work habit that is very un-New York. I am constantly amazed by what he brings to songs as well as his ever-growing vocabulary of incredible music that he has gotten me into.
Russ was brought in when Patrick had conflicting dates with other projects and it was nearly immediate that I took to his style of drumming and humor. (I do recall, at the first practice, worrying about how we’d get along when I had to confess that I thought that Forest Gump was an awful movie- but we worked through it.) His love for Bob Dylan don’t hurt none neither.
I am overjoyed that both of these dudes have made themselves available to play in my own band/project.
Shilpa was generous enough to invite me to see one of the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds performances at the Beacon back on the North American spring tour. The show itself was incredible and I was glad to be able to share that with Sarah. Afterwards, we were invited to the backstage (in the front?) get together where I got to meet a lot of those guys but was immediately drawn to Conway Savage. His humor was pretty much, totally on the page with me. We went back to the hotel and visited for a bit. I had a nice time in a small circle with Shilpa, Ratso, Warren, Sarah, and myself…but I didn’t say much. Somehow, I was invited back the next night to hang. Then I spilled sparkling water on Warren before I could tell him that we had met before. I blamed gravity for the incident, he laughed, I excused myself.
The following night I laughed harder than I had in a very, very long time. That was largely due to Conway, Marty, and Brian. We met at the restaurant where I watched Nick pause conversation every few minutes to check on the 10 y/o at the table, makin sure he didn’t want more food.
I met the Sloan sisters who were every bit as awesome as I perceived them to be.
I asked Conway what the first show he ever saw was. When it seemed like everybody in attendance had leaned forward in anticipation of his answer, he croaked “I’d never actually seen a show until tonight.”
(An hour later he nudged me and said “Freddy Fender”. Awesome.)
Needless to say, Shilpa’s EP that Nick released is a huge honor for me. Thank you, again, to her for that. The next issue of MOJO will include one of those tracks, picked by Nick and the band: http://www.mojo4music.com/10719/nick-cave-renaissance/
She also taught me that Ohio isn’t so bad. Our gigs in Nelsonville and Athens were both fantastic. Meeting and remeeting musicians……sleeping on Sharon’s hotel floor……….awesome brunch……….the best driving jams…….it was all a joy.
Just over a year ago I put up a Craigslist ad for musicians with some vague references to what I like, what I have done, what I’d like to do. As you’d imagine, I received every variety of pains-in-the-ass in response…and then there was Jacob Schonberg.
Our first meeting was at the Manhattan Inn and, at the end of the conversation, I remember either telling bartender/bass extraordinaire/Okie, Blaze MacKenzie, “I hope the guy can play because he’s awesome.”
Luckily, he can play. And very well. This crazy year has made it very hard to work on any music of my own but Jacob was always there messaging and asking OR always answering my scattered calls when it was time to try it again with some other folks. His persistence, awesome attitude, and his talent is always, ALWAYS valued and has done a lot to push my solo project along. I am endlessly grateful.
During one of my many calls for capable bassists, the very talented and perpetually friendly Thomas Brown put me in contact with Nathan, who has blown my fuckin’ mind with his talents. I mean…wow. The process that has emerged is pretty much “it’s awesome when Nathan comes in and makes it awesome.”
Some time early last year, as was often the case then, I needed a beer. Unfortunately, it was in Union Square and the only place that wasn’t an overpriced tourist trap was a somewhat overpriced not-quite tourist trap. I sat down at this particularly “haunted-by-association-location” and looked around at the weirdness that was the bar itself, the personalities there, and the bummer what was my life.
At the end of the bar were two women talking and, for whatever reason, I was included in the conversation. She spotted my Black Flag tattoo and we began to talk music. Introductions went around and she said her name was Linda and that she was a drummer. She was also huge into Krautrock, punk rock, etc. Talking went further and she mentioned that she was married to Steve from Dream Syndicate. So…wow. She invited me to their next show, gave me her e-mail and that was that.
I was too damned embarrassed to tell her that I was too broke to go to the gig. I don’t like asking to be on the guest list to anything (though, if invited, I don’t hesitate) so I waited to message her.
Months went by and I was looking for a drummer. Among the many I tried and asked about, I messaged Linda and asked if she would know anybody. She volunteered and I couldn’t believe it. The night she came over it was just she, Jason, and myself and it was a really shitty, rainy night. However, looking back, that one jam sorta’ caused everything to focus a bit when it came to these weird songs and this strange sound I was envisioning. Jason returned to England and Linda was much to busy to play with any regularity….but that particular evening kinda’ gave me a shot in the arm to persist.
A little later, we got together for a drink and to catch up. Krautrock came up again and then I mentioned that I had grown up a bass player. She had no idea until then- and then asked me to come out and jam with this project that would be two drummers- the other being Steve Shelley- as well as guitars by her bandmate Jason and…the reason I got excited about guitar in a big way so many years ago…Mr. Nels Cline.
As the next week went by, it became apparent that Nels wouldn’t be able to be there due to his schedule. However, as I got off of the train in Hoboken, I ran right into the whole crowd and was excited to see Steve Wynn had come to play. I don’t recall if he was originally going to be a part of it but I was excited to meet him and he proved to be super, super nice.
Arriving at Sonic Youth’s pad and seeing that gear- some of it I recall from seeing them on videos and such as a young ‘un- it was only then that the full scope of my excitement sorta’ found its receptors. Steve Shelley was, like everybody else, so incredibly nice. As we began to play, he would do something sort of “Sonic Youthy” at times and it would make me grin and giggle like an idiot. That and the fact that I was using Kim’s Thunderbird bass.
The next time we got together we recorded a few hours of improvised-yet-refined mayhem and it still shocks me to listen to. I like it a lot.
Even as I end that passage, I mostly just think of their kindness toward me. The last time we got together, Steve W. shook my hand and said something so nice and simple: “Glad to see you again! I look forward to playing some more music and just being around you again.”
Jason V. was also kind enough to think of me when Ivan Julian needed a bassist for a gig, another huge honor. It was great to play some aggressive bass like I hadn’t in a very long time. It also goes without to saying that it was a whole hella’ lotta fun to play some Voidoids songs with an an actual Voidoid!
And, as the year ends, I just got done doing music for Miles’ production of The Ugly One. It was another joy, honor, and a test on many levels.
The play was fantastic and the music was well used, despite me not knowing shit about HOW to do it. Russ, Jacob, Eva, and Sarah made it possible. Really. If I had done it on my own it woulda’ scared Miles but might have made people think he hired Jandek…after a stroke.
Sarah pushed for me to do that. And I thank her for that. I won’t go into her, her family, and the wholesale lifestyle change that has occurred thanks to her- that would be more pages and more time than I have. But it’s always important for me to mention her because I am endlessly, truly thankful.
Much love to all- and a happy 2014 to everybody.
William Benton (aka Cat Casual) is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist originally from the panhandle of Oklahoma. He has played and toured with bands for nearly half of his life, playing both guitar and bass in various bands and projects. In recent years he has collaborated with the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Ivan Julian (The Foundations, Richard Hell and the Voidoids), and many others as well as sharing the stage with many legendary performers of the past and present.
William first served Louisville, Kentucky, where he carved a unique legacy as an uncompromising songwriter and highly creative, energetic live performer. Bands as diverse as Bodyhammer, Tyrone, and Lucky Pineapple tapped into nearly every musical style, funneling them into an indie-punk-art rock format to the delight of Louisville showgoers and music fans.
William curated the never released Burn to Shine 4, the Louisville installment of the Brendan Canty (Fugazi) released DVD series which featured local bands of a given city performing live in a doomed structure. (Performers included Shipping News, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Parlour, Majik Markers, Lucky Pineapple, Liberation Prophecy, and many others.)
William would go on to enlist in The Phantom Family Halo (Knitting Factory Records) while in Louisville- which would relocate him to Brooklyn, New York- to tour and record bass and lead guitar on two full-lengths and an EP collaboration with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. William left the band in the fall of 2012.
Currently, he is handling bass and guitar duties with Shilpa Ray, recently releasing the EP It’s All Self Fellatio on Nick Cave’s Bad Seed Ltd. imprint. He is also grooming his solo band for live shows in the near future. Most recently, he contributed original music for a production of Marius Von Mayenberg play The Ugly One which was performed at The Bridge Theatre.
When asked about his experimental, solo guitar sets, he explained that he usually approaches the task “cinematically”, citing influences such as Bernard Herrmann, Angelo Badalamenti, Ennio Morricone, and Don Cherry’s soundtracks to the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky- but voiced concern about confining himself to just that concept:
"Contemporary guitarists’ influences always creep in. Nels Cline and Thurston Moore’s Pillow Wand had a profound effect on me and the way I hear improvised guitars; the subtleties juxtaposed with the chaos altered my brain chemistry forever. But I am a huge fan of Fripp/Eno’s No Pussyfooting, Marc Ribot’s incredible bodies of work, James “Blood” Ulmer, John McLaughlin’s work with Tony Williams and Miles Davis as well as his solo album Devotion, Glenn Branca, Michael Karoli, John Frusciante, Rowland S. Howard, Otomo Yoshihide, Link Wray, Zoot Horn Rollo, Grant Green, and on and on. So I can’t accurately forecast where it’ll go. Tis the spirit of improvising, right? I will say that, being that I have been working on the new band, that I might throw in some ‘real’ songs if so inspired- and if it looks like I am hurting people. Again.”
William currently resides in Ridgewood, Queens.
He is also a regular contributor to Insider Louisville, often detailing his life and times as an Okie in New York.
(Photo by Greg Buyalos #studio225bk)
Insider Louisville was kind enough to post this little review I did of my punk rock hero’s autobiography.
Do click, “like”, share, etc., if you feel it’s worth that.
Overslept, ran to train, ran from train, to meeting….and now it’s solitary time with jewelry and coffee.
Me onstage with Lucky Pineapple from a couple of years back. This was some weird festival we played. The headliner was KC and the Sunshine Band. Seriously.
Fun night. I got heroically drunk.
Good times: Me, Mai, even my ex-wife, all in the front row for Grinderman in Nashville back in 2010.
(Yes, that’s a handlebar mustache and, no, I doubt it will ever occur again.)
Nick Cave sexually harassed me a lot. The night was spent with drunken karaoke, hot chicken, and wrasslin’ Mai.
She’s a very patient and forgiving young lady.