Jewish Telegraph, September 2006

BEN Kweller is celebrating the release of his most personal album. Yet, it’s an event earlier in the year that still has Ben kvelling (full of pride) — the birth of his son.
Dorian Kweller was born in May to proud parents Ben and Liz.
“I love being a father,” 25-year-old Ben said. “I’m travelling so much at the moment, but they both come with me.
“It’s not really changed the way I write as I wrote about being a father before I actually was a father.”
He added: It’s no longer about me. He is considered in all my decisions. Every day I look at him and can’t believe that I helped create something so amazing and beautiful.
“I’ve written 31 songs for him so far. Maybe a kids’ album is in my future.”
Ben also revealed how he is already trying to instill a love of music into Dorian.
“He sits on my lap and I let him play the piano.”
Ben was raised in Greenville, Texas — the only Jewish family in the small town.
“Being a Jew in a small town helped me form my identity,” he said.
Ben first shot to fame as a 14-year-old with rock band Radish.
The group released three albums. Their biggest hit in Britain was the single Little Pink Stars which hit the top 40 in 1997.
After the group split, Ben and Liz, who was his girlfriend at the time, moved to New York.
He recorded his debut album, Freakout, on his home computer and sold it at gigs.
He re-recorded some of the album for Sha Sha which came out in 2002. Two years later he teamed up with renowned producer Ethan Johns for major label release On My Way.
His latest album, called simply Ben Kweller, was produced by Pixies/Foo Fighters producer Gil Norton.
“I was at his house in London for a meeting and he said that as the songs are so personal and autobiographical, I should play all the instruments,” San Franciscan Ben said.
“It was a challenge at times but it’s an activity I’m good at. Luckily my father taught me the drums when I was seven.”
But didn’t Ben miss having the band’s input and opinions?
He said: “Opinions can be a great thing. There are a million ways to climb up the same mountain, so it was good to just have one vision and one focus.
“I didn’t set out to write a personal album. The first song I wrote for the album was Run, which looked back over my life and all the things I’ve been through.
“I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I believe in destiny and fate. Things happen for a reason. Experiences add to things.”
The cover of Sha Sha saw Ben pictured brushing his teeth, while the artwork for On My Way had Ben surrounded by wolves — an image he says has no meaning.
“It’s an appealing visual effect,” he said.
For his latest album, the cover features a close-up of Ben’s face.
“I wanted it plain,” he revealed. “I didn’t want it to say one thing or another. A few photos were taken. One had a very rock and roll look, but this one is honest, just like the album.”
Ben is a big fan of MySpace — the online community which allows fans to get closer to their heroes.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I can’t get over it. Even the fact that Rupert Murdoch owns it doesn’t bother me. I’m using him to further my career.
“It gives me a direct line of communication to the fans.
“I have complete control over my page. MySpace had me as the featured artist before the album came out. In one weekend, more than 12,000 people wanted to add me as a friend.
“An intern at my management company had to spend all her time accepting friends for me. As only six fit on a page, there were thousands of pages for her to go through.”
He added: “It was great that it spotlighted my album.”
Ben proved himself to be a real trooper earlier this month.
He was due to play the Austin City Limits Festival in front of 20,000 fans when his nose started bleeding.
Despite the attention of paramedics, Ben was unable to stop the bleeding. He took to the stage announcing that he would play “until it got too gross for them. I said I’d bleed to death in front of them and I meant it”.
Five songs into the set his manager dragged him off stage.
Ben explained: “The hardest thing was trying to sing while swallowing and choking and spitting. Gremlin, my roadie, brought me a cigarette filter but it was too small for the situation. That’s when i got the idea to ask the audience for a tampon.
“After being pelted by several, I picked up a travel tampon, opened it up and put it in the right nostril. It helped until it expanded too much. So I removed it and decided to play Falling on the piano.
“The keyboard quickly became a puddle of blood and my hands were slipping all over the place and I could barely sing. During the song my manager was waving and signalling for me to leave the stage. After the last chord was played he jumped over to me and said ‘Come on, we’re taking you to the hospital’.”
He added: “I was at hospital for three hours waiting for the blood to finally stabilise. It turns out there is such a thing called a Nasal Tampon.”
Ben will be touring Britain in November. He plays Manchester University on November 14 and the Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, the following night. He also appears at Barfly Birmingham on November 18, Trent Union, Nottingham, on November 19 and Shepherds Bush Empire, London, on November 20.

Jewish Telegraph deputy editor and arts editor. Email with your Jewish arts stories