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Questions for Ben: Things we would have asked Ben Harper about his excellent new album and his show in Bend 

We interview Ben Harper without him knowing.

click to enlarge benharper2011.jpg
On Friday night, Ben Harper will appear at the Les Schwab Amphitheater for his first Central Oregon show in five years. Touring in support of the classically rock and roll album, Give Till It's Gone, which came out in May, we wanted a chance to chat with Harper - one of the most skilled guitarists and songwriters of the past 15 years - about coming back to Bend, his big album and what's in store for one of the busiest men in rock. Our request for an interview, however, was turned down. But we weren't going to let that stop us...

the Source Weekly: Give Till It's Gone is an excellent album and might be the best thing you've done - with or without the Innocent Criminals - in about a decade. Did you sit down and say, "Damn it, I'm going to write an awesome fricking album," and then just go and do that? Because that's sort of how it seems.

Ben Harper: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: I hate to bring up a sore subject, but you and actress Laura Dern split recently after five years of marriage. The divorce was public, as these celebrity breakups tend to be, but there's also been indications that Give Till It's Gone, your recent incredibly strong blues-rock-meets-everything-else-tour-de-force, tackles some of the emotional fallout from that split. I would imagine that divorce was, and still likely is, quite awful, but it sure as hell gave you material for a great record, didn't it?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: Also, one more question about Laura Dern: Did you guys ever talk about Jurassic Park? Again, I know this probably isn't something you want to talk about, but did she ever say anything about getting to pet the dinosaurs? Did the fact that she may have met dinosaurs make you at all jealous? Not to meddle in your personal life, and I'd hate to get into the messy details, but it seems plausible, right? I mean, you're one of the greatest songwriters of your generation, but the likelihood of you ever touching a dinosaur is quite low. So am I on the right track here?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: Remember how freaking cold it was the last time you played here? I wasn't there, but whenever I mention this to show to people who did attend, they remember little other than how downright freezing it was on that weekend in May. They also remembered how you played multiple encores and repeatedly commented on what a beautiful town we have here. It's probably going to be super hot this time around. Isn't that weird?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: We've seen you recently playing as a bunch of different acts. You made a hell of a rock album as Ben Harper and the Relentless 7, but before the dust even settled in the wake of that surging album, you'd already joined up with Dhani Harrison (son of George) and songwriter Joseph Arthur to create a band called Fistful of Mercy. What's the deal, do you just get bored or something? And does settling on one style just not sit well with you?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: What sort of backing band are you bringing along for this show? And what's up with the Innocent Criminals? Is that still your band or is it the Relentless 7 now? Or do you have an entirely new lineup of musicians we've never even heard of? I'm cool with whatever you'd like to do, considering you always bring together amazing musicians, but any hints?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: On another non-music related issue, the West Memphis Three, a trio of Arkansas men convicted in 1993 as teenagers for murders with almost no physical evidence, were freed from prison last week. As someone who has spent plenty of time working to support the release of these men, how does it feel to finally have justice served in this case?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

tSW: How annoyed do you get when frat dudes spend the entire concert yelling at you to play "Burn One Down"? Does that bother you at all, or is it all just part of the gig at this point? It's OK with us if you don't play that - people around here don't really need the cue to fire up. A cool jam on the P.A. speakers before the show even begins is likely reason enough for most of these folks. But anyway, how do you feel about that song these days? Is it still an effective protest tune against marijuana prohibition? Are you still vocal about that issue?

BH: Unavailable for comment.

Ben Harper, Jenny O

6:30pm Friday, August 26. Les Schwab Amphitheater, 344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr. $39, +$1 to Bend-La Pine Schools music programs. Advance tickets at


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