The many sides of Radical Face

Radical FaceRadical Face is the folk-y solo project of Floridian Ben Cooper, who is also half of glitchy elctro-folk duo Electric President, one half of instrumental pair Iron Orchestra, and a third of Mother’s Basement. He is then, one hard working son of a gun.

You probably know him best as the guy who soundtracked the Nikon advert – which is unfair as he is far more interesting than that. Debut album Ghosts was favorably compared to acts such as The Mountain Goats, Sufjan Stevens, The Postal Service, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Paul Simon and Animal Collective. In October last year he released the first of his Family Tree trilogy,’Roots’. Grand in scope as well as sound it takes in identity, history and memory.

Ahead of a two night, mini-residence at The Lexington we talked about sitting around in your pants, music as therapy and asking your mum to let you record in the shed.

Hello! How was your Christmas and New Year?

Good! I have a huge family (9 brothers and sisters, for starters) so it’s chaos, but it’s the good kind of chaos. But now I’m sitting here in my underwear just reading. I injured my back weight lifting over the weekend, so I’ve been stuck on the couch recovering. I’m sure I look like a model citizen at the moment.

You’ve got a number of projects – how do you compartmentalise them? Do you think ‘today, I’m Mother’s Basement, next week I’m Electric President’?

Different outlets, same business I guess. I like a lot of different styles – writing and production. Each project is just a different avenue for those interests. It also helps me to bounce between them. I don’t get too tired of any one style that way.

In other words, you’re the folk James Brown?

Hahaha. No, I’m nowhere near that cool. I’m just happiest when I’m making things, so I make as much as I can. I take breaks, but they never last long.

Would you say that you were more interested in being prolific than marketing yourself?

I don’t do well with boredom, and I definitely didn’t get into this stuff to be a salesmen. I really just want to make things, to carry out ideas and see where they go. I’m gonna make this stuff anyway. That people want to hear it when I’m done is a really nice bonus, but it isn’t why I do it. The motivation is often just to get the idea out of my head, so I can stop thinking about it. I kind of use it as therapy.

How much of your music is about looking back and how much is about going forward?

Radical Face is mostly about the past, family and nostalgia. Electric President is concerned with the future, where we’re headed. So I write quite a bit about both.

Still recording in your bedroom?

I’ve never really recorded in studios. I still do everything in the shed behind my mom’s house.

What direction will the Family Tree go, can we expect an epic prog-folktronica historic opera?

Hahaha. Basically, each record will be a leap forward in both time and production. The Roots was the simplest of the three, the most folky. I will be using more instruments and production techniques as the series progresses, so each one will become a bit more modern in terms of style. I have a bunch of details to add, like how the time-line of the second record is during the industrial age in America, I’m using metal sounds as percussion, stuff like that. Nothing as nerdy as what you said.

This post originally appeared on Spoonfed on 18 January 2012.

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