10 Questions with Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons

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When I first saw Imagine Dragons at the Independent I was blown away by how good they were. I was, I’m ashamed to say, unaware of their brilliance. I have since rectified that situation by rifling through their discography at a frenetic pace, trying to soak it all in like a junkie trying to get every ounce out of that last fix. This interview is meant to be a window into the soul of a band. Here, now are 10 questions with Imagine Dragons’ bassist Ben McKee.

Matt De Mello – You’re getting comparisons to Arcade Fire, the Killers and Tears for Fears (my reference), do you have a specific artist or style that you’ve modeled yourself after?

Ben McKee – Everybody in the band grew up listening to a lot of different stuff: everything from Willie Nelson to John Coltrane to G. Love to Boston.  We all bring a little bit of our own musical histories to the table, but we all listen to a lot of new music together too. We’ve never tried to consciously model ourselves after any artist in particular, but we’re certainly inspired by other musicians and different sounds.

MD – After seeing you guys at the Independent in SF, there seems to be a genuine affection everyone in the band has for one another, a real chemistry. You’ve only been together for three years or so, where does that camaraderie come from?

BM – During the three years we’ve been together, there was never a period of time where this was just a casual thing for us.  We all decided to leave everything else behind and do this full time.  Some of us dropped out of college, all of us moved, and we decided to live together and do this full time.  From the first day we got together, we were rehearsing 8 hours a day, every day.  We also supported the band by playing cover gigs in smoky casino lounges in Vegas.  We’ve slept on floors of distant family members whose names we barely knew all over the country.  We’ve driven each other to the emergency room and fought off thieves and greedy promoters together. We’ve run the gamut of human experience.  We really are a family.

MD – You’ve released four EPs since 2009 with the latest being Continued Silence any plans to record a full length album anytime soon?

BM – We’re actually in the process of recording a full-length album right now.  We’re going into the studio at the Palms in Vegas and should be done recording sometime in late June or early July.  It will be released this fall.

MD – What are your philosophies regarding crosswalks?

BM – Life is too short to wait for crosswalks!  Also, hold hands and look both ways before stepping out onto the asphalt.

MD – Better hipster chic: plaid or jailhouse stripes?

BM – Gotta go with the plaid, mostly because of the Monty Python lumberjack song.

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MD – You’re signed to Interscope Records, do you have any future collaboration plans with Tupac’s hologram?

BM – That was a hologram?  I just thought that Coachella was haunted by the ghost of rappers past.  Seriously though, we reached out to his people and he’s unavailable.  You can look forward to an Imagine Dragons/hologram of Princess Leia collaboration on our debut full length album this fall though.  We worked together on a song called “Only Hope”.

MD – Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process, do you confine yourself to a room? Is it collaborative? Do you dole out certain parts?

BM – We like to work collaboratively when we’re songwriting, although it usually starts with an idea that Dan R. or Wayne has worked out on a computer, then we bring it into a group setting and turn it into something that’s Imagine Dragons.  We’ve tried different songwriting methods before, but that’s the way it usually works best for us.

MD – Las Vegas seems to be one of those towns that everybody thinks is just about gambling, but is an up and comer as far as indie music is concerned. Tell me a few things people misconstrue about Vegas and what the reality of it is?

BM – People think that Vegas is just the casinos on the strip, but there’s quite a bit more to it than that.  There’s beautiful hiking at Red Rock and there’s the pinball hall of fame.  And there’s quite a bit of music to be found there too.  The local music scene has been growing a lot over the last few years.  There’s a local art festival downtown every month called First Friday where you can find all kinds of local art and music.  There’s a culture to the town that can be missed if you never stumble farther than Hooter’s and Circus Circus.

MD – If you weren’t a musician what would you like to have done?

BM- I’m not sure that any one of us would be able to survive if we weren’t musicians.  All of us decided at a young age that we wanted to do music and didn’t spend a lot of time developing other skills.  If music didn’t work out for us, we’d probably all be competing for the same job pumping gas at the local full service station.

MD – What is your favorite celebrity child’s name?

BM – George Jr., George III, George IV, George V, and George VI.  Last name Foreman.

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