On the eve of their Evolve world tour date in Malaysia (and also the first time they’re playing here!), Universal Music Malaysia gave us the chance to sit down with Imagine Dragon’s bassist Ben McKee and chatted about dealing with health on tour, the band’s evolution, and advice for budding musicians.

 

Hey Ben! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Before we get to the music questions, we gotta know – what are you looking forward to in Malaysia aside from your concert?

I’m excited to eat everything I can get my hands on when I’m there. I don’t know what to expect – I’m not as familiar with Malaysian food as I should be! But I know there’s sort of a nutty quality to the sauces there and the curries are unique.

We can’t wait for you to try our dishes too! Moving on to the music – is there a song on the Evolve album you’re most proud of?

You know it’s hard to say, it changes from day to day. I was listening to I Don’t Know Why the other day, I was in a store shopping during the holiday madness and I Don’t Know Why came on. It’s a song you don’t often hear on the radio. Hearing it out of context like that, made me appreciate the energy of the song, it’s an exciting song you could work out to or go running to.

How do you get over the feeling of vulnerability when you write extremely emotional songs?

I think that to be in that feeling of vulnerability, to be able to write [emotional] songs, you have to be coming from a place of power. There’s something that feels powerful when you can write a song like that.

Getting on stage in front of people performing these songs… I think there’s something knowing you’re comfortable being a little more honest and a little more open. Like what else is there for people to strike out at when you expose your deepest darkest feelings of fear.

Lazada Malaysia

There’s nothing left, you’ve already taken out their weapons, and everybody’s powerless against you now. There’s something empowering about that fragility.

Celebrity culture and social media culture is massive and still on the rise. Do you ever feel overwhelmed and how do you keep from getting overwhelmed in your daily life?

The only time it gets overwhelming is when we are in a city and about to play a concert and we’re at the venue and there’s a restaurant nearby we’d really like to go to. Sometimes we can’t walk outside of the venue and walk down there, something we’d like to do because there’s going to be so many people trying to take pictures with us. Sometimes we have to hide when we would like to be out there hanging out.

Besides that, me personally – when I’m not on the road I live very close to where I grew up. I live ten minutes away from my grandmother, and I just bought my mum a house ten minutes away from me! I [still] have all my friends from high school and none of them care about Imagine Dragons. To them, I am just Ben from Forestville and it’s really nice to be able to get away from that whole celebrity mindset. It could be overwhelming if I didn’t have that support system.

Apart from having close family and friends nearby, how do you stay grounded and deal with your mental and physical health in a positive way?

We really focus on our own health a lot when we are on the road. We travel with a personal trainer that also acts as a nutritionist. We don’t go out and party every night. We really try to exercise, get enough sleep, and drink plenty of water – do all the things we need to do to stay healthy when we travel to a new country every single day and perform on stage every night.

It’s alright to go out and have fun, but you need that balance – you need to respect yourself and respect that your body is something that can only take so much before it needs to be replenished.

How did your band overcome the pressure of sticking to an older sound and instead move to evolve into a newer, different sound?

I don’t think that Imagine Dragons is known for [a sound] – I mean we do have our sound and if you listen to our music you know that. But I think we have a style rather than a sound. A style involves continuous exploration and evolution.

If we put out an album that was like our last album that would be uncharacteristic of us. If we were writing songs that sounded like the songs we already written, that would not be Imagine Dragons. It’s not something we sat down and decided – ‘Ooh, let’s write an album that sounds this way.’

Every single day we’re writing music and when we’re doing that, we’re constantly being affected by the sounds around us and the experiences we have. And when we curate an album, we do it from the 150 songs we’ve written since our last album and those songs all reflect the growth we’ve gone through. We’re just trying to pick the songs that are most honest to us and curate from those – what story do we want to tell?

We know you love your Sadowsky basses and your P-Basses… do you have a favourite bass to play?

From my stage basses… my white Sadowsky. It’s got a vintage nitrocellulose finish that is just rock solid. I have it strung BEAD instead of EADG. I play a lot of songs like that, but I don’t really like the sound of a 5 string. That bass, it feels like thunder in my hands.

From the first time I ever got a Sadowsky bass in my hands, I sort of had trouble going back to anything else. I’m not sponsored by Sadowsky or anything, their basses are just incredible and inspire me to play. They’re the most dependable things I’ve had to play and take on the road.

Ben posing on the cover of Bass Guitar Magazine with his white Sadowsky bass.

Do you have a favourite bassline?

You know, it’s hard to say. I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done as a bassist and it’s more the ability to know when to play and when not to play. I’m not a bassist who’s constantly trying to go out there and play a flashy bassline. It wouldn’t work – we have a lot of guitars and a lot of synth.

I’m more proud of moments where I decide I’m not going to play for the entire first chorus because it’ll have a better contour [to the song]. Making decisions not based on ego, but playing for the song.

Do you have any advice to budding musicians?

ALWAYS SAY YES TO EVERY OPPORTUNITY. It is a long and hard road, and success at music feels like failure for a long time so be prepared for that. But if you need to do music, then just keep on going!

We’d like to thank Universal Music Malaysia for this amazing opportunity, and of course Ben for taking the time to answer our questions. Catch Imagine Dragons live here in Kuala Lumpur, at Malawati Indoor Stadium this January 6th 2018, Saturday.

On the eve of their Evolve world tour date in Malaysia (and also the first time they’re playing here!), Universal Music Malaysia gave us the chance to sit down with Imagine Dragon’s bassist Ben McKee and chatted about dealing with health on tour, the band’s evolution, and advice for budding musicians.

 

Hey Ben! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Before we get to the music questions, we gotta know – what are you looking forward to in Malaysia aside from your concert?

I’m excited to eat everything I can get my hands on when I’m there. I don’t know what to expect – I’m not as familiar with Malaysian food as I should be! But I know there’s sort of a nutty quality to the sauces there and the curries are unique.

We can’t wait for you to try our dishes too! Moving on to the music – is there a song on the Evolve album you’re most proud of?

You know it’s hard to say, it changes from day to day. I was listening to I Don’t Know Why the other day, I was in a store shopping during the holiday madness and I Don’t Know Why came on. It’s a song you don’t often hear on the radio. Hearing it out of context like that, made me appreciate the energy of the song, it’s an exciting song you could work out to or go running to.

How do you get over the feeling of vulnerability when you write extremely emotional songs?

I think that to be in that feeling of vulnerability, to be able to write [emotional] songs, you have to be coming from a place of power. There’s something that feels powerful when you can write a song like that.

Getting on stage in front of people performing these songs… I think there’s something knowing you’re comfortable being a little more honest and a little more open. Like what else is there for people to strike out at when you expose your deepest darkest feelings of fear.

There’s nothing left, you’ve already taken out their weapons, and everybody’s powerless against you now. There’s something empowering about that fragility.

Apart from having close family and friends nearby, how do you stay grounded and deal with your mental and physical health in a positive way?

We really focus on our own health a lot when we are on the road. We travel with a personal trainer that also acts as a nutritionist. We don’t go out and party every night. We really try to exercise, get enough sleep, and drink plenty of water – do all the things we need to do to stay healthy when we travel to a new country every single day and perform on stage every night.

It’s alright to go out and have fun, but you need that balance – you need to respect yourself and respect that your body is something that can only take so much before it needs to be replenished.

How did your band overcome the pressure of sticking to an older sound and instead move to evolve into a newer, different sound?

I don’t think that Imagine Dragons is known for [a sound] – I mean we do have our sound and if you listen to our music you know that. But I think we have a style rather than a sound. A style involves continuous exploration and evolution.

If we put out an album that was like our last album that would be uncharacteristic of us. If we were writing songs that sounded like the songs we already written, that would not be Imagine Dragons. It’s not something we sat down and decided – ‘Ooh, let’s write an album that sounds this way.’

Every single day we’re writing music and when we’re doing that, we’re constantly being affected by the sounds around us and the experiences we have. And when we curate an album, we do it from the 150 songs we’ve written since our last album and those songs all reflect the growth we’ve gone through. We’re just trying to pick the songs that are most honest to us and curate from those – what story do we want to tell?

We know you love your Sadowsky basses and your P-Basses… do you have a favourite bass to play?

From my stage basses… my white Sadowsky. It’s got a vintage nitrocellulose finish that is just rock solid. I have it strung BEAD instead of EADG. I play a lot of songs like that, but I don’t really like the sound of a 5 string. That bass, it feels like thunder in my hands.

From the first time I ever got a Sadowsky bass in my hands, I sort of had trouble going back to anything else. I’m not sponsored by Sadowsky or anything, their basses are just incredible and inspire me to play. They’re the most dependable things I’ve had to play and take on the road.

Celebrity culture and social media culture is massive and still on the rise. Do you ever feel overwhelmed and how do you keep from getting overwhelmed in your daily life?

The only time it gets overwhelming is when we are in a city and about to play a concert and we’re at the venue and there’s a restaurant nearby we’d really like to go to. Sometimes we can’t walk outside of the venue and walk down there, something we’d like to do because there’s going to be so many people trying to take pictures with us. Sometimes we have to hide when we would like to be out there hanging out.

Besides that, me personally – when I’m not on the road I live very close to where I grew up. I live ten minutes away from my grandmother, and I just bought my mum a house ten minutes away from me! I [still] have all my friends from high school and none of them care about Imagine Dragons. To them, I am just Ben from Forestville and it’s really nice to be able to get away from that whole celebrity mindset. It could be overwhelming if I didn’t have that support system.

Do you have a favourite bassline?

You know, it’s hard to say. I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done as a bassist and it’s more the ability to know when to play and when not to play. I’m not a bassist who’s constantly trying to go out there and play a flashy bassline. It wouldn’t work – we have a lot of guitars and a lot of synth.

I’m more proud of moments where I decide I’m not going to play for the entire first chorus because it’ll have a better contour [to the song]. Making decisions not based on ego, but playing for the song.

Ben posing on the cover of Bass Guitar Magazine with his white Sadowsky bass.

Last question – do you have any advice for budding musicians?

ALWAYS SAY YES TO EVERY OPPORTUNITY. It is a long and hard road, and success at music feels like failure for a long time so be prepared for that. But if you need to do music, then just keep on going!


 

We’d like to thank Universal Music Malaysia for this amazing opportunity, and of course Ben for taking the time to answer our questions. Catch Imagine Dragons live here in Kuala Lumpur, at Malawati Indoor Stadium this January 6th 2018, Saturday.