By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
"I loved music. I don't even really listen to it anymore. Very rarely does a band come along with a unique sound and commercial appeal that's really worth listening to. There's just so much regurgitated crap because people are idiots and don't want to think about things."
He even has radio singles mathematically broken down into a formula:
"All songs can be under two minutes now. The main chorus has to be 16 to 30 seconds. You can't go on too long without the first chorus. Usually after the chorus, there's the 'dog dick' that leads back to the verse. Chorus. Verse. Chorus. Bridge. Chorus. Outro. All songs are in 4/4. Maybe 6 for the emo stuff."
"I just don't have an emotional response anymore. It just took all the emotion out of it."
The last album Ben bought and enjoyed was Death Cab for Cutie's Plans. Surprised, I ask him if he thought it was a little overproduced.
"It probably was. But I'm okay with that. I'm finally starting to go back to not thinking about it," he pauses. "I'd rather just make fun of it. I'm not really offering a real message here. I used to think you could get epiphanies while listening to music. But people just sit down and write something. Maybe sometimes some actual emotion is behind it."
So now, three years after the demise of Mad at Gravity, Ben's sitting here with me at the Weekly, perfectly content with himself and his job. The band actually has a post-mortem MySpace page, perhaps started by Johnston—Ben doesn't know. The page has four songs up, 2022 friends and an almost daily stream of comments left by faithful fans.
"I'd rather be putting sunglasses and zinc oxide on [the logo for] ¡Ask a Mexican!," Ben remarks as he pushes himself away from the table, headed back to his computer.