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Both Sides of Ben: Ben Harper On Coldplay


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BEN Harper does not give good phone. Having enjoyed all manner of intense, funny and philosophical conversations with the roots rocker over the years, you can understand the shock when Harper loses it.


Maybe he's having a bad day – who would enjoy doing 10 phone interviews in a row?


Maybe he doesn't want to talk about his recent marriage to partner Laura Dern – also understandable.


So Harper has a spit about his state of mind and the kind of questions he is copping from the Australian interviews and after a deep intake of breath, we agree to start again.


Harper will release his sixth solo studio album, Both Sides of the Gun, on Saturday.


It comprises two discs – one a rockier, groove-laden affair, the other showcasing his mellow side.


And it is undoubtedly some of his best work.


"Playing more music and travelling and writing more . . . your musical expression is going to take on different shapes and depths," Harper says. "And if you don't write the songs, someone else is going to come along and do it.


"There is also the wanting to go further than I have been creatively, to not stop in one place."


The creative floodgates opened for Harper on this project because he let go.


It is a common complaint among songwriters, particularly those whose gift is obviously preternatural, that they can get in the way of a good song.


Working with the Blind Boys of Alabama on the There Will be a Light album marked a turning point in the way Harper writes and records.


"I've learnt to get out of my own way and get out of my own head," he says, trying to explain the quest to capture the song in his head on to tape.


"You stay in your heart, put on the mic and go. Music in itself is the soundtrack to my inspiration, it is what always motivates me."


Inextricably linked to that soundtrack is Harper's social conscience. He exercises it with passion on Better Way, an anthem for change, and with anger on Black Rain, written as Hurricane Katrina claimed the lives of those abandoned in New Orleans.


Harper wrestles with his role as a social commentator but appreciates that when songs like Black Rain or Better Way connect with his legion of fans, he may just be achieving something beyond entertainment.


"I do not claim the world is a better place from the '60s to now because of music," he says.


"Music plays a huge role in culture and culture plays a huge role in the advancement of the times, socially, politically . . . everything affects culture.


"But I do agree with you that music can tap into the collective conscience and nothing does that more than music and art. Everyone wants to be inspired by the music that they hear whether it's Rage Against the Machine or Coldplay . . . and if that's what you want from me, I will accept that, I will be that."


Harper is quick to voice appreciation that he has a legion of fans who want him to be their inspiration.


He loves that he can travel the world, hang out with them and enjoy a dialogue.


And he thinks they are cool.


But like any other artist who has that kind of a relationship with his fan base, there can be moments when the lines between what you want to do and what your audience expects are blurred.


"Is your responsibility to be to them what they want or to be the you that you want? Being who I want to be allows me to accomplish both responsibilities," he says.


"Possibly not at all times but most of the time I find I can achieve that by having as my main goal evolving and pushing and growing the music," he says. "I'm always trying to catch up with what is coming at me from around the corner and I have not missed a word in 10 years."


Now he's on a roll and sounding like the Ben Harper his fans – and I – have come to know and love. And I thank him for persevering.


"We both know that we're not assholes," he sighs.





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haha yea steph i adore my family!!!! nick is absolutely hilarious!! well he was....he left and it hasent been quite the same since


i dont think its been the same since they got the new team of writers in from america for season 3.


the first series was funny though

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