In August of 2010, ten very talented Guitar Center video contestants were selected to attend a “Private Sessions” taping with Steve Vai for a promotion they were having. Among them was a very funny young man by the name of Ben Levin. Ben, then a senior at The Berklee School of Music, asked a slew of questions in a modest-mannered yet quirky voice about the music industry & his mind keeping up with his brain...
After the event, I introduced myself & we became friends. Over the last year, Ben has completed his studies at Berklee, released 3 full-length records & done 3 national tours with his band “Bent Knee” & “The Ben Levin Group” – two avante garde ensembles – and he’s even released a comic book in support of them. Needless to say, Ben is a productive force, gathering an equally eclectic following.
Here now, Ben’s latest release on is available today. It’s called “Invisible Paradise” and features Ben playing in his madness. Enjoy this comical but insightful lesson on playing in 7/8 time signature by “Dr” Ben Levin. Our Q&A interview is below…
GuitarTV: What has graduating music school & having a freshly-formed career showed you so far?
Ben: I’ve learned a lot about my priorities. During music school, you are encouraged and pressured to practice music constantly. When I first graduated however, I had a hard time justifying spending hours practicing guitar when rent and food cost so much. I would spend a lot of time sending out press releases and doing business stuff instead. This lead me to feel anxious all of the time and I started to consider promotional gimmicks that directly violated my own sense of integrity.
Luckily, I stopped myself from doing anything stupid and started to reassess my priorities. I realized that I would much rather have an honest relationship with my audience and my art and that I can accomplish my goals with or without fame. For me, wanting to be famous is the equivalent of wanting to be popular in middle school. It’s a damaging notion and a distraction from the important things that inspire me to write music in the first place. Now I am happier and getting more fans anyway.
GuitarTV: Tell us about this release.
Ben: Invisible Paradise is a piece of music divided into seven movements about change and the temporary nature of paradise. It takes place right after my previous concept album Pulse of a Nation in which humanity sees its last days. In the new album’s story, the human race is viewed as a mysterious extinct species much like the dinosaurs, and a new society develops around distorted interpretations of human culture.
When I wrote it I was feeling really good, and simultaneously worried that the good feelings would soon revert to the depression I had been
experiencing in the previous months. And for that reason, the album jumps around from mood to mood very quickly and changes constantly. I am so proud of this album and I love the musicians who played on it!
Ben Levin – Guitar, Chris Baum – Violin, Courtney Swain – Voice, Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth – Percussion, Jed Lingat – Bass, Josh Friedman – Piano, Tyler LeVander – Drums, Mixed by Vince Welch & Engineered by Adam Brass
GuitarTV: Do you have tour plans?
Ben: We are going on an east coast USA tour from June 9th to June 22nd. I am in the process of booking now, but the dates will be posted at www.BenLevinGroup.com in the near future.
GuitarTV: You play a JEM & you won the “Steve Vai Private Sessions Contest” through Guitar Center. Is there something about Steve’s music that you relate to? Does it inspire you?
Ben: Next to my parents, Steve Vai has been my greatest source of inspiration. I love his music and guitar playing, but my favorite thing about him is his willingness to change things up. Every album of his is unique and he is very courageous to be spending so much time pursuing orchestral music even though a lot of his fans just want to see him shred (I should note that his orchestral music kicks ass.) It is his fearlessness that has lead him to have such an amazing solo career.
My next albums in the coming years have a lot of vocals on them. I will be singing a good amount, which is scary. It’s a big change of pace and aesthetic, and I am not a very experienced as a singer yet. But you know what? Steve Vai probably worried about that too, but that never could have stopped him from making amazing vocal music and his voice sounds great. I will always buy his albums and go to his shows. I am very grateful to him and winning the Private Sessions contest was a real honor.
GuitarTV: Anything else?
Ben: I think I’ve said a lot of stuff, but I just want to thank my parents and teachers for always telling me to just go for it.Ben Levin: Berklee Grad Gone Wild,