April 14, 2012
The Pretty Reckless is a vehicle that actress Taylor Momsen uses to express her musical side and what’s sad about the project is the fact that the musicians in her band are relatively nameless & faceless.
I sat down with Pretty Reckless guitarist Ben Phillips on the band’s bus prior to The Pretty Reckless show and I conducted an interestingly fun yet odd interview with him. The topics were varied, the banter was part joking, part serious & I’ll give it to Ben because he admitted before we started the interview that he knew I probably didn’t care about him and that I was there to interview Taylor. Due to scheduling issues...supposedly, Taylor bailed on us so I found myself on The Pretty Reckless tour bus with the entire band sans Taylor Momsen.
Rock N Roll Experience: As a musician does The Pretty Reckless music challenge you?
Ben: You get a little bored playing the same thing over & over again, I would like to say there is alot of subtly in the stuff that, as a guitar player, if you learn to play them you might find they are a little trickier than they seem but you’d have to listen very closely because simplicity is the goal. Some people wanna be Dream Theater and stuff but I don’t think that’s the goal of this. This is more song oriented, it’s not like (Led) Zeppelin is hard to play, it’s just amazingly written and well done but if you set in your room for 2 years you can play any (Led) Zeppelin songs.
Rock N Roll Experience: It wouldn’t take me 2 years to learn Led Zeppelin songs
Ben: (laughs) Ok, however you wanna put it, however long it takes you
Rock N Roll Experience: Did you get to play with Marilyn Manson onstage at the Revolver awards when Taylor joined him?
Ben: I didn’t play with him but I was there, I met him...it was a good time and a good party to go to.
Rock N Roll Experience: Was the beginning of the song “Make Me Wanna Die” borrowed from The Beatles?
Ben: It is a mellotron so if The Beatles invented the mellotron I suppose it was but they didn’t invent the mellotron so no it wasn’t stolen from The Beatles. The mellotron was made famous by The Beatles but the chords and stuff were not stolen. I mean they (The Beatles) also play guitar so you could kinda say...the intro to “Strawberry Fields” which is a slightly over the top mellotron but if you put them back to back they are just mellotrons.
Rock N Roll Experience: Are you actually writing new music with Taylor for the next record?
Ben: Yes we are. We have a few things recorded...it’s much more adult I would say, Taylor was 15 when she recorded the first record so now she’s all of 18 so now it’s worldly (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: Did Taylor actually write all of the music when she was 15?
Ben: Yeah, Taylor is a writer, when I met her she had written like 2 records already & was happy with it. She writes everything .
Rock N Roll Experience: Does she also write all the music or just the lyrics?
Ben: It depends on the song. Like with “Medicine” she came in with just the basic chord change and she’ll sing a song to you & then you develop it and stuff.
Rock N Roll Experience: I’ve seen Taylor play guitar before and she’s not as good as you are though
Ben: I would f**king hope not! (laughs) I’m like 106 and been playing since I was 2 and I’ve been playing with f**king everybody on the planet and if Taylor’s kicking my ass I would have to worry that...Taylor is more of a singer/songwriter type and not looking to shred or anything. (everyone laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: What other artists have you played with?
Ben: Many people....I don’t know, I forget. I don’t remember anything before 2011 (everyone laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: Was it studio work or live touring band work?
Ben: On the side I have a partner, a business partner who’s a producer & that’s Taylor’s producer and we do shit with lots o’ people.
Rock N Roll Experience: Can you give me one name you’ve worked with?
Ben: Blondie....Drowning Pool
Rock N Roll Experience: Did you work with Drowning Pool when Dave Williams was in the band?
Ben: No, it was the last Drowning Pool record and with the current Drowning Pool record I don’t know what I’ll do on it, he’s doing it right now so...those are the 2 last things I’ve done though.
Rock N Roll Experience: When Pretty Reckless first came out Taylor was underage yet took the stage in lingerie and acting much older than she was...was it her intention to shock people when they found out she was 16?
Ben: Taylor’s kinda like...whatever she is, pretty much what you see is what you get and she likes to perform but I don’t..we tried to not be shallow and just shock or whatever so if you see it that way you’re just seeing what she does, I mean when she performs onstage it’s just like Manson or anyone, there’s a level where she’s entertaining an audience & she does whatever she wants. Do you think KISS is setting at home in their make up? It’s a stage show
Rock N Roll Experience: I get that but most people didn’t realize she was that young until you looked her up.
Ben: That’s your fault....she knows how old she is (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: Yeah, but you wouldn’t know that unless you went out of your way to look her age up.
Ben: I wouldn’t have cared, I’d either like the music or not like the music, I mean if I was interested in her like some other people in this room or yourself I would have looked up her age but I don’t think...she’s not trying to hide her age, she’s a star, everyone knows who she is.
Rock N Roll Experience: Actually you’re wrong because I had no clue who she was when I first saw her, I don’t watch her TV show and had never heard her name before I saw The Pretty Reckless at Warped Tour.
Ben: She met the Queen of England when she was 2, I mean like none of us did anything with our lives....but when you have a visible lead singer like that it helps the band.
Rock N Roll Experience: How was the Warped Tour?
Ben: That was a long time ago and I don’t remember Warped Tour...I don’t remember anything before 2011 (laughs). We all loved Warped Tour, it was a work out for bands, it really gets you in shape and since she’s so young & needed that experience, alot of bands jump on for a week with the Warped Tour but when you do the whole 2 month thing it’s pretty excruciating especially for the bus...the bus has the hardest time on Warped Tour because it sets on burning pavement & burning hot heat & pollutes the f**king world so the bus had a hard time...you should really be asking the bus how the tour was (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: Are you changing the set up for the Marilyn Manson tour?
Ben: The Manson tour will have a different set than we are playing now. It will have alot of new songs...the new songs are much less radio friendly & if Taylor could she would basically make “Badmotorfinger” (by Soundgarden) over and over and over again which is cool but easier said than done. We wish we could...it’s like, “Let’s be Badmotorfinger, yeah!” good luck! Matt Cameron called and said he’d totally do it and Chris Cornell was going to do some background vocals (everyone laughs) and Kim Thayil said he would play guitar a little bit. (editors note, this was Ben joking!)
Rock N Roll Experience: As far as guitar players go who are some of your influences?
Ben: I am a Clapton, Gilmour, Page Townsend, Angus Young...I just hooked up with Rick St.Piere who does Angus’s amps & these are fantastic amplifiers & he builds for Gilmour and Page...Angus & Malcolm (Young)...they sound f**king phenomenal so we are really excited about that and it just happened, I just spent my life savings getting these amps so....
Rock N Roll Experience: You don’t have an endorsement deal for amps?
Ben: Yeah....there’s an endorsement (laughs) and still it’s not cheap....there are boutique amps that are hand built so if you’re gonna take 2 months of someone’s life you better pay them and don’t be a dick. (laughs)
(the conversation drifted off into David Gilmour chatter and then the topic of Robert Plant came up)
Rock N Roll Experience: Robert Plant still tours fairly regularly
Ben: Sure...is he on tour right now? I think pretty much all those old guys and I say old guys respectfully as the wisdom givers of rock n roll
Jamie: The Gandolf’s (laughs)
Ben: The Gandolf’s of rock (laughs) I didn’t say that by the way, Jamie said that! So if Robert Plant google’s himself and sees that someone called him the “Gandalf of Rock”....
Rock N Roll Experience: What does Gandalf mean? I’m kinda lost in that reference.
Ben: Do you know who Gandolf is? The Lord of the Rings?
Rock N Roll Experience: I don’t watch that shit (laughs)
Ben: Now get the f**k off my bus! (laughs) Do you think J.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” is a bunch of shit?
Rock N Roll Experience: I’m just not into it personally, I’m not a huge sci-fi fan.
Ben: It’s not sci-fi, it’s fantasy and they are 2 different things...secondly, the book itself which is a massively great metaphor for the industrial revolution and stuff...it’s an amazing book....it’s a masterpiece!
Rock N Roll Experience: What ever happened to sex, drugs, & Rock N Roll? (laughs)
Ben: I’m sure that J.R. Tolkien was smoking some weed and gettin’ laid....that guy was a massive writer, he was always gettin’ laid!
Rock N Roll Experience: If he’s doing that much writing then how’s he getting laid?
Ben: What? (laughs) I’m not going to go into the schematics or the logistics of what you can do when getting laid but believe me, I think you can hit a typewriter and get a blow job, that’s all that I’m saying! (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: What’s the groupies situation like being in Pretty Reckless?
Ben: I like men, so (laughs)....not young men, I like old men..I like Gandalf’s (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: How about James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano)?
Ben: So you won’t want “Lord of the Rings” but “The Soprano’s”....alright, we see where this is coming from (laughs)....we have crossed paths with Gene Simmons (KISS) many times.....I think he was at the Golden God’s
Mark: I talked to him and his wife at the hotel
Jamie: We actually had to get out of our hotel room because they wanted it.
Ben: Maybe we don’t give away those secrets but that’s ok, I don’t even know what you’re talking about....Iron Maiden’s hotel...I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Jamie: The lovely people. (laughs)
Ben: Yeah, the lovely people (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: How come Pretty Reckless is not doing the KISS / Motley Crue tour this Summer?
Ben: It would be a great tour for us but we are taking a break...this is the end of a 2 year run, we’ve literally gone around the world for 2 years and this is the end of that 2 year record cycle and we go directly into the studio right after the Manson tour, we will be making a record until August, then we go to South America for a while and then we go out for the new record. This Summer is shot. Last Summer was insane and this Summer is shot but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did show up on a Motley Crue bill, those guys are awesome too.
After the interview ended I made my way into the venue to catch the end of local opener Cyrenic who sounded great.
There was a forgettable national act that followed the local opener and the only memorable thing the direct support act did was their brief cover of the “Inspector Gadget” theme and a song that ripped of “Stray Cat Strut”.
The Pretty Reckless took the stage just after 10 PM and their set was just around an hour long with the first song of the set being the title track to their new EP, “Hit Like A Man” which has a guitar lick that’s very Jimmy Page-ish.
The set was decent, Momsen came out wearing a flannel shirt over what I’d describe as a black nightgown and her Pipi Longstocking hair style got messy rather quickly once the show started.
System of a Down’s “Aerials” was the biggest surprise of the night because it’s a rare cover song the band played almost identical to the original and I’d go as far as to say it was the highlight of the set!
“Make Me Wanna Die” had good crowd response but the biggest hit of the night was probably “My Medicine” which had most of the crowd singing along and more times than not Taylor would stop singing and let the crowd do it for her which was pretty cool to witness.
Ben broke an A string on his guitar during the last song of the night before the encore & apparently he only had one Les Paul with him because when that guitar was out of commission he switched over to the XXXX Fender guitar for the last song.
The one song encore was a song that started out acoustic then switched over to electric before it ended.