Ben Havok Talks “I.D.W.K.”, Music Inspiration, and Capturing “Lightning in a Bottle”
Only a mere two months after his second single stole our hearts with its edgy lyrics and electrifying riffs, sparks are once again flying for Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, Ben Havok, as he makes a much anticipated dive back into the rock market.
Returning to add yet another fiery anthem to his growing catalogue of solo material, “I.D.W.K.” (out August 28), bursts with dynamic melodies, powerful vocals, and themes of throwing caution to the wind for the sake of love and primal attraction.
Yet, the process of gaining confidence and capturing what Havok describes as “lighting in a bottle” wasn’t always the dominant factor for this artist on the rise.
“It just kind of bleeds through” Havok explained as he spoke of the link between self-belief and his current releases, “being vulnerable and letting people into the process, so to speak, was just the catalyst I needed to take the leap [into solo work]”.
And with each new song under his belt, things are looking brighter and brighter for this budding musician and his quest for self-discovery and the ultimate rock and roll rebirth.
“I've got my hopes up high and my head down low” Havok explains as he reflected on his solo adventures, “all I know is I'm having a fuckin blast doing this and that means I must be doing something right. Who knows what the future has to offer, but I've got a feeling that it's going to taste pretty sweet”.
For more on Ben Havok’s latest single, musical inspiration, future goals, and more, check out SoundBite Magazine’s exclusive interview below!
Congratulations on the new single! What was your inspiration behind “I.D.W.K.”?
Thank you so much! (laughs) I'm really happy it's finally being released to the world.
The inspiration for this one is what I’d describe as an extreme attraction to a person. It's about not giving a shit about any of the details and acting upon your most primal urges. It's also about exploring one's sexuality and figuring out the things you like and don't like. (Jokes) I'll try anything twice!
I love the confidence that comes through in your recent releases. Was that a factor in deciding to return to your rock and roll roots?
Fake it till you make it! (laughs) Honestly, I think it's more of an accidental bi-product of doing what I'm supposed to be doing, rather than some sort of calculated ingredient. I think because I'm feeling confident about writing the music that I want to be writing, it just kind of bleeds through. I'm being authentic to myself and it feels so good.
You played music in Lincoln, Nebraska for 10 years before moving to LA. Is your solo material something that you’ve been holding onto or working on for a while, or is it more of a new direction for you?
I did indeed! Lincoln was such an incredible place to grow up playing music, and I'm truly so thankful for that entire scene because it really helped shape me into who I am.
The solo material has always been somewhat of an endeavor that I never really realized I was on until recently. I have always played and released music under the umbrella of a band, never under my own name until the two singles I put out this summer. However, I've always been the primary songwriter for the bands I was in (minus Future Feats). So, it was more of me realizing I don't necessarily need to try and hide behind a band name like I always felt I had to do.
That being said, the musicians that play my music live with me are equally integral parts of the band, and they will always be credited for any writing or performance contributions they make to my work. That's something that is super important to me as someone who has always played in bands but is finally dipping their feet into the "solo artist" world.
In the past, you tracked and recorded all the instruments on your own. Was this the same process for “I.D.W.K.”?
Yes, that was the same on this as well. All guitars, bass, and vocals were tracked and recorded by me. I also programmed all the drums and did the mixing and mastering.
I wouldn't be able to do it without help from two great friends in particular, Alex Meert who plays drums live for me, and Michael Taylor who plays bass for Future Feats live and will more than likely be making some appearances on bass at some of my shows. I’m super thankful to those dudes for always being willing to listen to me ramble about mixes and point me in the right direction when need be.
Has learning to take on the role of not only singer and guitar player, but producer and more, lead to new inspiration or ways of approaching a song?
It definitely has! It has given me a lot more freedom because I'm able to do everything over and over again until I have it exactly the way I want. Luckily a lot of guitar parts are done in one or two takes, but I'm always changing vocal melodies as I record songs. It's nice to be able to have a few different versions and really be able to put a critical eye onto what fits or feels best. I think it's allowed my songwriting to blossom a bit because I'm competing with myself to write the best songs I can.
Could you walk us through your songwriting process?
I like to call it lightning in a bottle. I can't say that I invented the term, but it's the best way I can describe it. Essentially, I'll write a riff or chord progression, then a melody will come to me and lyrics will follow quickly after.
It's a crazy creative flow that you tap into where it feels like your brain is working the way it's supposed to. The entire song almost writes itself.
I believe that the best tracks that I’ve ever written all come from that "lightning in a bottle" type of moment. It's just something that happens for me. I haven't necessarily ever been able to force it or do it on command, but the more you write the more often it happens. I'd liken it to working out a muscle group in a way.
Well, I love a good guitar solo, and you’ve definitely provided it with your last couple tracks! How do you decide which riffs to save and which to bring to your work with Future Feats?
A girl after my own heart! (laughs) I appreciate that very much, so thank you for the kind words. Honestly, it's easier than you'd think! In Future Feats, the guitar solos that are on the record I just learn and then embellish a bit in my own way.
For the songs that don't have solos on the record, but we've added as part of the live show, IJ [Josh Quinn] has always given me the reigns to be able to write and play what I feel fits best.
My goal with a guitar solo is always to best serve the song. It's fun to shred and guitar players are famous for wanting to show off all of the time, but it's most important that the solo serves a purpose. Whether that be a melodic interlude, chaotic shred break, or ballsy attitude, it just has to fit the song.
Would you ever consider bringing in guests, either the guys from the band, or even an outside producer to feature on a song?
Yes! All of the above. Ideally, I'd love to have the full band recording on all of these songs. That's definitely the next step after I can get a bit more wind in my sails. I'd love to work with a producer sometime as well. It would be fun to see what someone else hears in my work and what they think they can bring out of it and me. Again, I'm always in pursuit of the best songs and sometimes that means letting someone else who knows what they're doing lend you a hand. Collaboration is one of the most important aspects of making art.
Was there an event or lightbulb moment that led up to your decision to begin releasing solo material?
Yes, I realized that everyone is way less critical of my work than I am. So, I started letting people check out my songs. When I realized that the response was good, it changed the way I saw my work too. It's funny how you can listen to a song you're working on so much that you actually lose all ability to discern whether it's good or not. Being vulnerable and letting people into the process, so to speak, was just the catalyst I needed to take the leap.
What are your future goals for this project? What can fans expect next?
I'm planning on releasing an EP soon, some more singles after that, and then ideally, I'd love to take this thing on the road. Whether it be smaller local runs or being able to open for some bigger bands, I'd like to really start beating the pavement and see what can happen.
Coverage by Jessica Nakamoto
Images courtesy of Ben Havok
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