Many years ago I was sent a package of CDs from some label I had never heard of and I wasted no time tossing it in the ole ‘Get To It Some Day’ box. That day was a couple weeks later when I tore the package open and the first thing I saw was the artwork for one of the CDs called “Danger Of Deaf”.
Being that I am a fan of all things smart-ass and humorous, I popped that thing into the boombox and went about my daily work routine. By the time the disc and I found our way to “Rock Cottage” things started to get interesting!
I asked myself “who is this band putting out low-slung, dirty riffs rock n’ roll?” (not sure if that is exactly what I asked myself but close enough for today’s purposes) I immediately assumed the band must be from the someplace in the southern part of America.
I jumped into an impromptu investigation and was pleasantly amused to discover this band of redneck rockers was from across the deep blue sea, in a place called the UK. How could this be?!
I must have these guys for an interview! And so I did. What a damn good idea this was. I found out that Ten Benson is complex in its simplicity. I also found out that what I thought was a bunch of hard drinking good-time rockers was so very true. Perfect combination in my book.
I have been a devout fan ever since. I still couldn’t accurately define what Ten Benson is all about if I tried. I do know two things, I dig their rock and that Chris Teckkam and his group of sludgy rockers are always changing without veering off the low-fi Rock N’ Roll highway everyone has become to love.
Six weeks ago I was sharing some TB tracks with a friend and it hit me that I hadn’t heard from Chris or his band in many years and I wanted to know what the hell was going on!
This started a month long e-mail exchange with one of rock music’s most brilliant, wittiest and mysterious artists, Chris Teckkam of Ten Benson.
Chris, it’s been some time since we last had the chance to hang out. It was the BBQ/Drink party at my apartment in Brooklyn. Do you remember much of that day?
Well, y’know, I recall that day, but I turned up late & missed all the fun/carnage. I’m pretty sure I was doing some kinda interview for a radio station or someone and had to go somewhere else first. When I turned up the rest of the band was spilling out onto the street like a bunch of incoherent zombies. Well, I guess zombies are usually incoherent… Anyway, they were even more messed up than usual, and it was only mid-afternoon.
I think I grabbed a sausage and managed to find the last beer before we all split. I also remember it was a seriously hot day, and getting sprayed with water from the hydrant by the local kids, which was just what I needed!
Ten Benson have been on hiatus, what have you and the band been up to?
Right, yeah, the last few years the band has been pretty quiet. I had a baby daughter arrive 3 years ago, and our bassist had her first child, also a girl 2 years back, so we got busy in other ways.
We were just starting to brush the cobwebs off and crank up the amps again when you called…
Babies are the trend, the wife & I now have a daughter with the added bonus of a son as well…nothing wrong with getting busy man!
Before we get into what’s next for Ten Benson, let’s talk about bit about the past. Over the years TB’s sound has been described as everything from ‘psycho-hillbilly, swamp rock, heavy metal and a few other things are out there as well. Can you clear it up a bit?
Haha… Yeah, well, some folk like tags to help tell them what they’re listening to. Ten Benson use pretty regular ingredients most of the time. We just chop it and fry it up a bit different, and maybe add a bit of sauce that you don’t expect.
What were expectations for the band in the early 2000s? And what was the plan or thoughts for conquering America?
I wanted, and expected to do more. Record and release more stuff, do videos, tour, the usual things.
As everybody knows it costs money to do this stuff and the only advance we received, which was maybe back in 2000 from publishing, got spent in one year. That’s when we released Hiss. When the money dried up I lost my guitarist and drummer. I’m not saying it was just because of the lack of funds but it didn’t help. Y’know, people need to survive anyway they can. Anyway, they left and I had to dig deep to keep things rolling.
It took a year or so for me to make Satan Kidney Pie with ‘new’ drummer Karl Hussey, then I got a new guitarist and bass player, and we hit the road.
I think the press had almost forgotten we existed at that point, but the album was well received. Even so, it took a year hard slog to get the band kind of re-recognized, this time more for the live act. During this time I had to change drummers and bassists again. I think I was wearing them out.
Around this time a small US label got interested, and asked us to give them a kind of ‘Best Of’ album. They said they’d organize a US tour, with full tour support. This was exactly what I and the guys wanted to hear, we were a bit sick of the UK by then anyway. So, we handed over the album, and flew over to NYC for a few days to help promote. That’s when we met you. Everything looked set to happen, US press was good, the whole band had work visas for the year. We were ready to go! Then, without any warning the label pulled the plug and stopped answering emails. Some people told me they had financial problems and were being sued by some other bands, I never knew the details and I never got any real answers. Whatever the reason was it was a serious body-blow to the guys.
That particular line-up, the guys you met and got hammered with at your BBQ in Brooklyn, they all left the band a few months later. Hard Times.
A couple of years later I did manage to get the band, with a new line-up, to play a couple of dates in Texas. But that was just a bit of fun, nothing to do with conquering anywhere!
You guys had some good radio play over your career as well as John Peel digging your music. Can you tell us/me your thoughts on getting radio play and John Peel?
Well, yeah, all things considered we’ve done ok with radio in the UK, .I guess we’ve been pretty lucky. Of course John Peel was a legend, so to have him play our stuff and ask us to do sessions for his show felt like a endorsement from the highest level.
Thing is Peel was always on late, which is fine, but it’s always made me laugh more whenever Ten Benson have gotten daytime play, alongside the mainstream…We’ve slipped in under the fence on a few occasions, and its great fun hearing our stuff squealing next to some nauseating song that got conceived in a boardroom, or wriggling like a cut worm in the shadow of a monster like Bowie or Queen…
As you know, I am a warrior against boardroom hit makers. I am also a defender of origins of sound. Since Ten Benson has been on hiatus, do you think there are acts ‘borrowing’ a bit of your sound? Or do you follow the thoughts of Pete Townshend who claims “all bands have been using the same chords since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry so it’s okay”?
I was sure you would be dude, and I’m impressed that there are still defenders of the origins of sound!
In answer to your question, I would say Mr. Townsend might be over simplifying it a bit. I mean, just think about Oasis. As a friend said to me recently ” I couldn’t listen to the Beatles for years because of those fuckers..!!!!..”
I have no idea if anyone is “borrowing” our sound, I’m afraid I don’t follow what’s going on out there closely enough to know or notice. If someone was knocking off the Ten Benson sound and doing it better than us I guess I might be a bit miffed… Then again, if they got really successful maybe it would re-ignite some interest back to us! Haha… maybe someone would track us down and give us a record contract! (..do people still get record contracts?
Unfortunately bands do get contracts and it’s still the same bull-biscuits as it ever was. Bands getting signed that shouldn’t and great bands getting signed by people who don’t know what to do with them.
With that said, Ten Benson is back in the studio, what brought this on or why did you decide this was the time? Too many ideas that need to be unleashed?
I’ve put the band in the studio a number of times in the last few years, just trying to nail a few tracks, nothing too ambitious. The thing is, for one reason or another recordings don’t always hit the spot. None of these quite did, so they stay in the can. Some people think I’m a fussy bastard.
Anyway, last year we recorded some more stuff that worked out well, and we chose one track to be a single. We even shot a video to go with it. That single was meant to be out this spring, but unfortunately the guy who directed and edits the video got really sick so the whole thing had to be put on ice until he’s well again.
This set-back made me even more determined to get back in the studio and do something else. That something else got mixed last week and is getting released before Xmas. All in all, it’s about time we gave Benson fans something new to chew on, its been a long time coming…
Hell yes, we need something to chew on! You’re sounding excited about this new studio work… What can we, the fans, look forward to sound wise? A whole new sonic direction or something more familiar to Benson followers?
I’m just glad to be releasing something again. The sound is, I think, recognizably Ten Benson, but one track in particular might ensnare an unwitting daytime audience. Other tracks in the pipeline maybe take the band down a less familiar road, but always in the same country.
And I was going to ask you this anyway, before the ‘fussy bastard’ bit, how long have you been a perfectionist?
Being a perfectionist suggests that I might be looking for the right way, whereas a lot of the time I’m kinda looking for the wrong way. This can sometimes lead to some confusion with other musicians, and engineers. What do you call that? A bloody pain in the arse I suppose. Our faithful and long-suffering drummer Karlos ‘The Jackal’ Hussey would testify to this, but then he’s a pain in the arse too… I’m not sure how long I’ve been this way, but I can’t really see it getting any easier.
Most often in music Chris, the wrong way turns out to be the right way….
Will this new material see the stage anytime soon? If so, would you like my suggestion for touring mates?
Yes, in fact we’re doing a show next month in Preston, in the north of England, just for the hell of it really, and to scrape the rust off. And we’re doing a live session for Marc Riley on BBC 6Music on 2 October. We’ll play at least one of the new tracks for his show.
Slow re-start, but we plan to do more before the year is out, and with luck, next year after the singles are out there, we’ll be in a position to do much more.
And yeah, please suggest touring mates, always good to know other folk on the right side of wrong. Or is that the wrong side of right?
Brilliant plan, slow and low is the way to go!
I suggest Citizen Charliefor a touring mate, she’s the real deal. What are your thoughts about Norwegian women of rock?
I’ll admit until you mentioned Citizen Charlie I didn’t know of any Norwegian women of rock. That’s not because I don’t care, or something sexist, I don’t know Norwegian men of rock either. Wait, hang on a second… Rammstein, I’ve heard of them, and arn’t they from Norway? I don’t pay much attention to where bands are from. And, as I think I said before, I don’t keep up with what’s going on as much as I’d like.
Anyway, I checked out a few tunes from Citizen Charlie on your recommendation, and they do indeed drop the rock!
Do you have a name for the new album or some track titles you can share?
As for us, and the new stuff, I’ll give you one song title to watch out for. “Mud Man”!
“Mud Man”, check and keeping my keen eyes and ears ready! Feel free to leak us a track…(Rammstein from Germany)
How much do you record at home?
In the past I have done a bit of recording at home, but it was mainly for song writing and not for release. Maybe once or twice a guitar part or grumbling vocal has made it from home onto a record, but not often.
But in the early days I used to record the band in a succession of practice rooms that we occupied, using all kinds of ramshackle equipment. In fact most of the stuff we released before Satan Kidney Pie, was made in this way. Songs were cobbled together in one damp basement or another, while the band breathed in Rockwool and huddled around a valve amp to keep warm. I’ve spent too many years locked away in evil cellars than was good for me. But what are you gonna do?
What is the most important thing the world should know about the coming resurgence of Ten Benson?
What should the world know about Ten Benson? Well, maybe they should know that we are offering kids (and people that haven’t grown up that much) something that might not annoy their parents, but will, at the correct volume, always annoy their X-factor watching neighbors.
Could you give some advice to the up and coming rockers out there?
Could I give advice for up n coming rockers? How about: “resist any urge you might have to talk about ‘gear’…”
Err, okay, so I will scratch off the gear question. Done!
You are a man of rock n’ roll stories for sure, what was the worst, most interesting or strange gig the band has experienced?
Well, there’s a few to choose from, but probably one gig we played in a razor-wired compound somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Bavaria. It got pretty messy, even by Benson standards at that time.
I forgot to ask this earlier, In the studio is everything tracked or live to file, tape or what have you?
Most of the time we do tracked recordings. It’s just easier to get a nice fat sound that way. But I do like proper live recordings too, when you get that whole gig atmosphere down it can be the best. I’ve got one of the Benson from around the time when we met you. Maybe I should dig it up and release it. It’s been ‘maturing’ for nearly 10 years… should be quite smelly…
Would you say this was the best 3-4 four week long interview you’ve ever done?
Absolutely. This is more like some 19th century letter exchange than an interview.
Nothing wrong with 19th century rock n’ roll, wait, letter exchanges…except the computer looks like shiznit with all the wax letter stamps.
Yeah, and try rolling a laptop into a scroll… the goddamn thing just doesn’t wanna go!
Thanks Chris for talking with me over these past weeks. been a real blast talking with you again…as well as It has been truly enlightening to say the least!
And thank you too Walter, It’s been fun man! Let’s do it again sometime…