“This week on the podcast we have Ben Lee. We discuss the state of art in the 21st century along with death midwifery and touring with bands like Sonic Youth, Elliott Smith and the Beastie Boys. This was a glorious, magnicient conversation that I’m thrilled to share with you”
Archive Tag: Ben Lee
“For a song based on the Old Testament story of Moses at the burning bush, I wanted the video to hopefully evoke an experience of hypnotic and all-enveloping beauty.
Much like Krishna’s reveal of his true nature to Arjuna on the battlefield in the Bhagavad Gita, I wanted images that would imply a revelation that was simply too much, too intense, too big. When I first saw the digital images put together for Rak Razam and Tim Parish’s “AYA: AWAKENINGS” documentary, I thought they did a great job of conveying the sense of movement towards magnitude – a sense of acceleration into the unknown, hurtling towards the unfathomable. I was pleased when they allowed me to use these images as a visual companion to the song.
How to portray the complexity of the inner journey is a tricky question. I often have mixed feelings about “psychedelic” imagery overall. While it is undoubtably beautiful, it can also be a distraction.
I loved hearing Robin Quivers (of the Howard Stern Show) talk about her Ayahuasca experience in Peru. After her first ceremony, the shaman asked her what she experienced. She mentioned the gorgeous colors and sacred geometry. He yelled at her “You’re not supposed to be looking at pretty colors! You’re supposed to be fighting for your life!”
With the release of this album, I have been emphatic about delineating recreational drug use from the spiritual “work” that this album is about.
In the broader secular world, people can be very reactionary, and I have attempted to shape the narrative and dialogue around the album to be one describing the work with Ayahuasca as more connected to the Hindu concept of “tapas” (conscious suffering as sacrifice for insight), rather than “psychedelic voyaging”. It felt important to me to explain that those drawn to medicine work, at least those in my circle, are not looking for a short cut to enlightenment, but are actually intentionally thrusting themselves into their own confusion in order to illuminate their own darkness.
So as you watch this video, for those have experienced the medicine, and for those that have not: please know that the images you are watching, as gorgeous and hypnotic as they may be, are not the destination. They are merely signposts along the way, letting us know that our world view is being altered, that we “are not in Kansas anymore”. However the true destination for the spiritual enquirer lies beyond all phenomena and imagery. Beyond our senses, beyond our desires, and beyond our mind. The true goal of the inner work is to know the mind of God, hovering silently beneath the surface of the world we know.”
“On My Knees” is taken from Ben Lee’s album “Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work”. This video is directed by Jessica Chapnik Kahn, and was filmed in Sydney. We asked friends, family and fans of all ages to take turns being left alone in a room and do nothing but lay down and experience the song with a recording camera mounted above them.
Video directed by Jessica Chapnik Kahn
Cinematography by Josh Flavell
Video edited by Anil Griffin
Song written by Ben Lee and Jessica Chapnik Kahn
“With the title referencing a traditional Amazonian psychoactive brew, Ben Lee‘s latest record, Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work, is an attempt to bring the discussion of alternated states of consciousness to mainstream media and pop culture.
In some ways a bold move for Lee, who as a teenager first made his name off inoffensive pop songs, the now 34-year-old songwriter risks alienating a portion of his fan base in order to spread the message of Ayahuasca.
But as Lee explains his latest album isn’t necessarily about promoting Ayahuasca as much as it is about introducing unconventional perspectives into rigid patterns of behaviour. A cast member on the current season of reality tv show, The Voice, Lee is willing to take advantage of any platform available to talk about the possibilities of a freethinking society.
As for the record itself, …Welcome to the Work plays as largely instrumental, with Lee looking to temporarily turn his live’s shows into an inward reflection of meditation rather than an outward expression of gratification.
In keeping with the tone of the music, Lee is donating 100% of the album’s proceeds, split evenly between Amazon Conservation Team and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies”
Ben Lee has been living as a working musician for over half of his lifetime. Discovered at the age of 14 by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Moore released Lee’s first recorded work (the Noise Addict EP “DEF”) on his Ecstatic Peace! label. Lee then went on to record for the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal imprint. Ayahuasca: Welcome To The Work may be Lee’s most willful, creative and honest work yet. It is his 9th solo album, his second on Lojinx.
The 10-track set is meditative, atmospheric, often joyous and yet sometimes also dark. An exhilarating listen, Ben has described the album as a “sonic document” of his experiences with the medicinal plant Ayahuasca.
Excellent Ben Lee review in the current issue of Les Inrocks!