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Interview: Ben Cooper a.k.a Radical Face

radical face2

Following the success of his last two albums, ‘The Roots’ and ‘The Branches’, Radical face is set to release the final album ‘The Leaves’ for his three part series. The Family Tree series tells the story of a 19th century family inspired by a set of novels written by Cooper that were tragically lost in a hard drive crash. We caught up with him and talked all about the story ideas, characters and the musical process!

So the third album, ‘The Leaves’ for your three part series, is set to be released next week, how does it feel to be completing the series?

Ahh, I think in all honesty I’m just relieved. It’s one of those things where it’s been so long that I’m ready to move on to something else.

The series is based on a set of novels you’d previously written can you tell us a bit about that?

Yeah, it’s loosely based. I really wanted to write a family saga when I was younger and I was really into being a novelist but I’d just graduated high school. So I started writing some books and that’s all I did for like a year and a half and it was my first computer so I didn’t really know about backing stuff up. And ahh yeah so I woke up one day and the hard-drive was dead and everything was gone… That’s why I got back into music, that was a year and a half of work gone so I took it into the back hard and hit it with a hammer, then decided I was gonna do something else with my life.

So the series is sort of like a tribute to that lost work then?

Yeah, I mean the books I was writing were fantasy or science fiction-ous, in this one it became much more historical. It worked as a different way to tell the story as opposed to just writing a novel.

Certain melodies and instrumentations are representations of the family members from the novel, how does that work?

 Yeah, they’re sometimes like chords or melodies that I attach to a certain family line. So it’ll start with one person and then on the next record it’ll show up again with their kid but it’s in a different key or on a different instrument. They sort of mutate but the hope was that it’d show how we carry on our family trace but we change it as we go on, that was the original idea.

So was that how you came up with the idea or did it sort of just come about?

Oh no, I’m a super nerd about that stuff. So yeah all these ideas were definitely in the foreground. And I had no idea that it was going to be such a ridiculous amount of work. I think the whole project is one of those things where it sounds really good on paper and then you go to do it and you’re actually like ‘this is really complicated and difficult’ so you know… whoops. I’m kinda glad though, now that I think about it sometimes I think it’s good that we don’t know what we’re getting into, cause I don’t know if I would’ve done it, like if I’d known it was going to be such an undertaking I might’ve just chosen something else. I think the ignorance is nice because otherwise we’d probably just take simpler paths much more often

How did the idea come about and why a three part series?

Originally it wasn’t, I was just going to do some EPs or something, everything was going to be 5 to 7 songs a piece. But it was one of those things where once I started writing I kept coming up with more ideas or songs, or more potential story lines and in all honesty I could keep going, there’s plenty of places I could take it I just at some point have to stop. But yeah it wasn’t the original idea, when I did a cut off at the writing phase there were about 45 songs and I didn’t see a way to do that without making three albums, so yeah it was kind of just an accident.

Are the characters entirely fictitious or are they loosely based on people you know?

Ahh, both. There are some that are entirely fictitious, there’s definitely a lot of my own family in there for sure. On the last record very directly… I had a lot of things happen last year, a big falling out with a lot of family members, so yeah I sort of wrote my own story very directly into the third album. I didn’t end up stealing it all but I was already writing on the topic so I couldn’t really ignore it so yeah some of it’s total fiction but a lot of it’s not.

 Do you have a favourite track on the new album? Musically or story wise?

I think a lot of times my favourites end up being the ones that are not at all the way I planned them so like I’d say on this one there’s a song The Road to Nowhere that started totally different than it ended up because of the string instruments. My boyfriend’s actually a string player and he helped me arrange the song. And the way it begins now is just him doing an exercise, and I was like what is that that sounds way better than what I was doing, so I totally scrapped everything and redid the whole song and it came out a lot more upbeat. So a lot of the time those are my favourites ‘cause they’re surprising, yeah I think they end up the most fun. ‘Cause some of these songs I recorded I wrote 8 years ago and now I’m finally laying them down and I’m just kind of bored of them.

What influences you musically?

Ah I’m kind of all over the place really. I grew up listening to underground music, one of the neat things about Jacksonville where I grew up is they had this all ages dance club. So they didn’t serve alcohol so you could go if you were like 12, but they didn’t play popular music. They played like The Smiths and The Pixies, all this really iconic underground music. I was in eighth grade like a 12 year old and I was already starting to buy 7-inches of vinyls from weird bands, so I went down that rabbit hole really quickly. So I grew up on a lot of that and then I also really like a lot of classical music and film soundtracks, I think I listen to that sometimes much more than modern music. I think a lot of times I like just like a lot of instrumental stuff, so yeah really all over.

When can Australia expect a visit from you?

Hopefully soon! I actually tried to come last year but it didn’t work out as far as booking, I find it’s almost a catch 22 if you’ve never played somewhere before you don’t have a history, so I’ve always found the first booking is the hardest. I’ve already asked about once this records out and it sounds like well be able to do it this time, by the looks of it it’ll be late this year/ early next year!

What are you listening to at the moment?

Lately, one of my major things that I do… because I’m preparing for tour and filming videos, there’s a lot of work going on. I get to where I listen exclusively to mixes people make me or Discover Weekly on Spotify and I listen to that stuff for like two months. So I actually haven’t listened to a record, normally I’m very record heavy about how I listen but whenever I’m just slammed I just get playlists, so nothing in particular… just whatever neat stuff shows up on those.

Radical Face’s new album ‘The Leaves’ is set for release on Friday 25 March.