TMF meets Ben Kealey
Kasabian fans will know him as the quiet man behind the keyboards, adding his prodigious arpeggios and blinding, snarling electronic effects to the band's songs. On his off time however, Ben Kealey fills his time by creating art with things that people throw away. By taking in these "outcasts" and restoring them to life he proves a valuable point: that art exists everywhere, you just need to know where to look.
Can you explain to us your Urban Art projects? How did they come about?
Kasabian were off tour at the time and I was looking through a local paper when I saw that someone was giving away a beautiful Steinmayer upright piano "for firewood" so I thought I'll go and pick it up and see what I can do to salvage it from the scrapheap. Because its case was in quite a poor state I decided to paint it and the inspiration came from The Sex Pistols playing in the van on the way back hence 'Pistols at Dawn' and 'God Save The Queen'.
And that was the beginning, I then started to look deeper and found so many pianos being thrown away and thought I could possibly do something to help reintegrate pianos back into our homes, hearts and modern day life.
Which came first for you, art or music? Or did they evolve together?
Both I suppose. From a very early age I've loved drawing / painting and started playing the piano from about the age of five so music and art have both played a huge part in shaping my life.
Does art inspire your music or does the music inspire your art?
I think music without doubt inspires my art, I find it a lot easier to create a piece if I'm listening to music. And it can be anything, whatever I'm listening to will obviously have an effect on the finished piece but I don't usually set out with a specific idea in mind of what I want to create, it just happens naturally.
What is your favorite medium to create on?
I love sketching, with pencils, biros, charcoal, even sharpie markers. But that can be on anything, paper, floors and obviously pianos too.
You restore “abandoned” instruments. How did this come about? Where do you find the instruments?
After finding the first piano in a local paper I started to search everywhere, local classifieds websites, auction sites, friends and family! Its amazing once you start digging, everyone seems to have a piano they want to get rid of.
You’re on the road quite a lot with Kasabian. Is your art ever inspired by the places you visit?
Most definitely. When we visit all these beautiful towns and cities, we try and absorb as much of the local culture and architecture as possible. We're currently half way through a world tour at the moment and I'm getting ideas for new projects everyday.
There are a brilliant series of photos on the KasabianLive site (www.kasabianlive.com/test-transmission/39/the-slab) called The Slab. What is the inspiration for this?
Ah, The Slab! It originated early one morning in an airport lounge after a heavy night of alcohol testing. I was trying to find inner peace by meditating and focusing my zen to the centre of the earth. Serge took the picture and so it began.
Is this a way for you to be physically involved on your art?
You could say that, but it's also a great way of curing a hangover!
You’ve recently collaborated on Noel Fielding’s new comedy series Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. How did you get involved with that?
Serge and Noel are good friends and when Noel asked Serge if could help with the music, and in turn Serge had a few bits for me to do, so we wiled away the hours on tour putting them to good use for Noel's Luxury Comedy. I think there's an album coming out of the music from the show of which I go under the pseudonym of Wilfred Serpentine the Third. It was great fun and would love to do the next series.
What’s next in store for you?
We're in the middle of a tour at the moment until May but we've got May off before we start touring the European and UK festivals. Then I think after this album cycle we'll have a few months off so I'm putting together a collection of my pianos - once I've had time to create them of course - and would like to put them into an exhibition in London. I've got a great concept for them which should hopefully help me reach my goal of making acoustic pianos appealing to the younger generations as well as older.
Apart from all that, I'm trying to write some music myself at the minute as I would love to get into film score writing as film is a huge passion of mine and especially after working with Serge on the London Boulevard original soundtrack.
Ben Kealey is currently on tour with Kasabian. Find out more about him by visiting his website - benkealey.com