I recently caught up with the legendary Kim Benzie from Dead Letter Circus while he was on tour with Periphery. Dead Letter Circus is one of those bands that will restore your faith in music. When it comes to music, Australia is taking over the world. Next year, Dead Letter Circus will be hitting the road with Karnivool in Australia, a tour that is sure to sell out in record time, if it’s not already sold out. Perhaps they will be so kind and bring that tour to the U.S. I can dream, can’t I? Dead Letter Circus is phenomenal live. They have this unique way of just inviting you in and the mark that they leave on you will last a lifetime. It’s always a pleasure to speak with Kim. He has an awesome sense of humor and had a wombat as a pet. Need I say more? Of course, the whole time I was speaking with him all I could think about was Kin from Twelve Foot Ninja talking about his “beautiful musky scent.” I have to agree with Kin, there is definitely something there. If you don’t have it yet, pick up your copy of The Catalyst Fire now. If you are fortunate enough to see them live you too will enjoy basking in the aroma that is Kim. Seriously, I can’t praise Dead Letter Circus enough.
Lena: I was reading your tour blog and I hope that it didn’t get to Level 10 on the White Stallion.
Kim Benzie: Yeah, no I’m glad. There is only one place to go when you get to a Level 10.
Lena: Yeah, how would you handle that on the road?
Kim Benzie: Well, no one has really ever done a Level 10. I would imagine that you would do it in private and you would ask to pull over and take care of business. Yeah. The tour blog gets a little bit more eloquent as we go in. I haven’t written anything for a while. It’s starting to make more sense. It’s not just a ramble, bumping around in the van on coffee.
Lena: I was going to ask you how the rest of the tour has been?
Kim Benzie: It’s actually been a very interesting tour for us in that it’s a very heavy package. We are really the odd one out on the bills, more so than even the latest tour. It feels like there is a very similar strain running through all the other bands. It’s good. If we’ve played somewhere before we’ve had our pocket of fans but more nights than not on this one we’ve sort of had to work really hard for it. We don’t have that immediate gen quality of riffs that the other guys have going on that people can just rock out so it’s very – we have to fight for it, which is good underdog mode.
Lena: The headliner is very heavy.
Kim Benzie: They are fucking awesome. They are actually not as heavy on CD when you actually listen to them. It’s a strange thing. It sounds really heavy live, but if you actually really pay attention to Periphery they cover everything from the very beautiful to the very heavy as well. It’s an awesome, awesome thing.
Lena: What have been some of the highlights of this tour and something that you never want to experience again?
Kim Benzie: All the things kind of happened on the same day, it was the Metal Fest at the Eagles Ballroom. We didn’t have a backstage room, no where to hang, so I was basically just stuck at this festival and I walked up and down the stairs and I watched nearly every band on there. I’m a fan of metal but tasteful, unique metal. What I saw on display that day was basically I saw so much of the same thing, exactly the same thing. Just the same dudes going, [in this awesome metal dude voice] “Alright, fucking let’s do a fucking circle pit. Let’s do this.” And when you watch everyone do it back-to-back it demystifies the magic of seeing that thing on the one special occasion where you go, “Holy fuck look at that.” I also saw and it really was one of the most tortures days of my life, but in between that I saw some of the most amazing things. I saw this wheelchair guy mosh and crowd surf in the back of this 2,000 plus crowd all the way to the front. I saw this front man do a backflip off his ego riser at the front and then dive into the crowd. I saw one of the best, aside from all of the circle pit crap, I actually saw the best hop up talk speech ever. I had goose bumps running down my arms. I have no idea what the name of the band is either. I’ve never heard of them or heard of a song or anything. I just happened to be walking through and I heard this dude do this speech about freedom of expression that was like fucking, it should have been on YouTube with two million views. It was amazing. It all happened on the same day, the best day and the worst day.
Lena: Any chance that your tour with Karnivool will come here, or do the tour gods enjoy watching us suffer?
Kim Benzie: We never thought it would ever happen in Australia. If it’s the vibe that we think it’s going to be between the two bands. They gave us our first couple of shows way back when we first started, but we haven’t played together as us – a fully fledged band really since. If the vibe is what I suspect it will be I reckon that the guys within the band will probably demand that we do it somewhere else. It’s usually the managerial people on the business side of things that usually don’t let that happen because it doesn’t really make financial sense to play together, but I reckon it’s going to be a pretty killer vibe.
Lena: That’s my dream tour. I’ve always wanted to see you guys together.
Kim Benzie: I’m so looking forward to it.
Lena: Your new album is really good. You performed “Wake Up” the last time that you were here.
Kim Benzie: We will be playing that tonight.
Lena: What video are you going to do next?
Kim Benzie: We are about to release a video for “I Am.” I could show you a cut of it, actually.
Lena: That’s my favorite song. You worked with Forrester again. You guys work really well together.
Kim Benzie: Yeah, it was cool. This time around we actually got an American guy to mix it; it was the first time that we actually had someone else do that. We got a guy named J.R. McNeely, who mixed the first of Paramore’s breakthrough song. He was amazing. It was really good it was Forrester’s idea to have someone else at the final stage to have a different impression. It was really cool.
Lena: The drums on “Insiders” are fantastic. [Luke is a brilliant drummer.]
Kim Benzie: Yeah, phat.
Lena: Can you talk about the overall message of The Catalyst Fire?
Kim Benzie: Basically with the first album that was very much the story about becoming awake. Being one of the first people awaken sort of looking around and realizing that we exist within a construct or design of people trying to control us. This one being set in the future where most people are awake and aware of what is actually going on and the true mechanics of the world are mysterious, like it’s even down to it’s not conspiracy theorist people talking about this thing, it’s tradesmen at barbecues. It’s common knowledge but on what’s sort of injected into that culture is this sense of helplessness and we don’t even want this to happen but the government is making these choices and they are doing these things. The world is being run by corporations and everybody knows and they sort of go what can we actually do about it. If you ponder on it, the only thing you can really do at the level that we’re at is remember that you are not separate. So what those people have done for the last fifty years of television and media control made everyone feel really cellular and separate from each other. We are in essence like that, they’re the few and we are the many like we are being controlled by such a minute group of people. Through the album it’s sort of my journey of realizing that and then realizing the ultimatums of the present right now like it’s this choice and change, it’s an ultimatum and not an option. There is no more coasting through going maybe our parents will fix this, it’s actually literally our generation that has to make the call or we are definitely heading down the path to no end. It’s got sort of those things but inherently it tries to put the message of hope in there. The answer is to become a community and just sort of sit there and dissolve the illusion that we’re separate because we’re not.
Lena: So that’s what you hope people will take away from the album? How about seeing you live?
Kim Benzie: I hope so, yeah. We always try to when we get it right that it moves people in that kind of spiritual way and gives them that feeling. I’ve had a lot of people come up. It’s actually one of the bonuses of being in such a heavy line up where a lot of the music is so aggressive. Multiple people have come up, even through Europe we did a metal tour as well, come up and go, “Man I felt so uplifted and really good watching your band, like I felt something and I’ve never heard you guys before. I have to get your CD.” Maybe if you don’t know the words and you haven’t sat at home and rocked out to it on your own and came here with an expectation and actually it’s your first time and you walked away going that was a bunch of guys that nailed that emotion, which would definitely stand out on the bill we are on.
Lena: Do you have any good Australian animal stories?
Kim Benzie: I’d say wombats. A lot of Australians get to have a pet wombat, which is pretty awesome. The one thing that people don’t realize about wombats is that they are very lazy animals. If you have a wombat, rather than a dog, you have a fence that is probably about that high [very low] in your back yard, but is six feet deep. It’s the eversion of a normal fence. That’s how you know that someone has as wombat. That’s generally small enough to keep out a small dog. We had a pet wombat called Romeo. Basically, you have to dig a six foot fence underground to actually keep him in there because they are diggers, but they are really lazy. They could probably make their way over that but they never really do it.
Lena: Don’t they follow you around too?
Kim Benzie: Yeah. They grunt. It’s like a little bear that doesn’t bite.
Lena: That is so cute. We don’t have those here, obviously, but we have squirrels.
Kim Benzie: Yes, you do. I like squirrels but I love wombats. Wombats are my favorite Australian animals.
Lena: What are you watching on television?
Kim Benzie: We actually haven’t turned the television on in the hotel rooms for the last three months. We just watch truth documentaries, anything on truth theory. I’ve been very much into Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore. I watched that just the other day and some 9/11 stuff. Just anything that floats my way. If you are actually talking about television shows I watched Breaking Bad. That was the best TV show that ever existed and I don’t think anyone is ever going to top it. I’m watching The Walking Dead at the moment. Just filling the void of Breaking Bad.
Lena: What are you going to be up to when you go home?
Kim Benzie: We’ve got a month off. We’ll probably rehearse up a set and do something unique for the Karnivool tour, maybe rework a song or something. Practice the ones that we haven’t played yet and just get ready for that.
Lena: I hope that tour makes it over here. [Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus = two of the best bands in the world together. You do not know what you are missing if you haven’t seen either of them live.]
Kim Benzie: That would be awesome.