Date: July 1999
Interviewee: Benmont Tench
Notes: This is part of the “Spotlight on a Heartbreaker” series, which appeared on the official website several years ago (I managed to save them when the site was re-done and they were lost), in which fans could email in questions for a Heartbreaker.
1. Dina asked: How old were you when you started music lessons and what inspired you to make this your career?
Benmont: I was six, and I just wanted to do something better than my cousin.
2. Deb asked: Do you play any other instruments besides the keyboards?
A little bass, sort of — maybe a little guitar. Also, do you play most of your music by ear? Mostly by hand, actually.
3. Alicia of CT and Lohrl asked: Is your first name a family name or do you know its origins?
They’re obscure and clouded … my first name’s Benjamin, my middle name’s Montmorency. Just put ’em together — like Billybob …
4. Irene of Ontario asked: What has been one of your most memorable ‘milestones’ over the years, music or otherwise? What DOES keep that spark going for you?
I carry a spare canister of lighter fluid … (and playing with Dylan).
5. Marcia of MI, Andrew, Rachel, ELazaro and Kitty asked: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time at home or on the road?
Sleep. Read. Sleep. Sleep some more. Maybe eat.
6. Karyn of CA asked: Do you enjoy reading in your spare time? If so, what book are you currently reading?
Yes, and “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin.
7. Marcia of MI and Steve asked: Which songs are YOUR favorites to play?
“Paranoid” and “Iron Man.”
8. Kim asked: Which song or album was the most challenging from a keyboardist’s perspective?
They’re all really easy … I mean, this is a cakewalk, isn’t it?
9. Frank asked: What’s the hardest song for you to perform live?
“Don’t Come Around Here No More” — lots of little bits.
10. Patti of CA asked: When are you going to sing lead vocal on a song for us??? Come on now….Mike did it…how about you?
You really aren’t ready for that.
11. Alex of CA, Suzanne of NY and Melissa asked: Can you tell us about one of your most memorable (great, scary, funny, or just plain weird) moments onstage?
I just don’t know what to say. Alex, you know better than that.
12. Sam of NJ, Deb in VA, Alex of CA and Colleen asked: You’ve worked with so many different musicians over the years. Is there anyone that you really admire and would like to work with but haven’t yet?
I don’t want to jinx it by saying.
13. Deb in VA, J and SpininJen9 asked: What has been your most exciting personal musical collaboration, what was unique about it, and why did you enjoy it so very much?
That’s way too much information.
14. Adam from Canada, Amy from CA, Ann and Connie asked: What was the first song written by you and do you ever write songs anymore?
Yes, I still write some and I will never divulge the name of that first song. Never.
15. Fred of New Orleans asked: I love how you combine the use of many keyboards. How do you decide what keyboard instrument sounds are right for a song?
Just close your eyes and hit something.
16. Ron of MA asked: Do you still use your Vintage VOX Continental Organ?
17. Jeff of DE asked: I thought I saw a digital sampler in your stage setup. What kinds of sounds do you have stored in it? How do the Hammond B-3 and C-3 organs differ?
The Hammonds are the same on the inside — the cabinet’s different. The sampler’s got Chamberlin sounds in it.
18. Ann asked: Do you run your keys right through the pa or do you mike your amp?
I have no idea. Straight, I think.
19. Alicia of CT asked: In the Echo tour book you mention something in your write up in the back about hard-boiled eggs. Is this a reference to the Marx Bros.?
20. Andrew, Susan and J. P. asked: Why do Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers continue to play the same songs show after show this tour with little variation?
We’re just trying to get all the chords right as it is.
21. Harry from Germany and John from England asked: Will Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers tour through Europe?
God, I hope so.
22. Joannie, Juli, Kitty and Steve asked: If you had not become a musician, what occupation or career do you think you might be in now? Any regrets?
I’ve had a few, but then again …
23. Scott of Ontario, Sam of NJ, Tom and Ann asked: Who have been your influences? Are there any records (old or new) that you still listen to and say “Damn it, that’s good!”?
Tons — Pete Johnson, anything with Nicky Hopkins, Bach, The Rolling Stones — it goes on and on.
24. Steve asked: What is the best thing about being in the Heartbreakers?
25. Jonathan of GA, Anne and Todd asked: It was great what you said at the Walk of Fame ceremony about Stan Lynch and Ron Blair. How are they doing these days? What do you think were their special contributions to the band?
They’re doing great, far as I can tell. You can’t really even say how much they brought to the band. It can’t be quantified.
26. Debbie of VA, Suzanne of NY, Alex of CA and Jo asked: You are generally regarded among your fans as the Best Dressed Heartbreaker! Have you ever given any tips to the other guys in the group?
… Thanks, really, but it’s Howie. Got to be. I just copy Scott.
27. Orngebunny asked: Benmont, a few of us were wondering…… Boxers or briefs?
Wonder on …
28. Charlie and AINVW asked: What do you think of the Internet, and do you have and use a computer?
I don’t, and I haven’t and don’t.
29. Sam of NJ and Tom asked: What do you think of the current state of rock and roll in the music industry?
What rock ‘n’ roll?
30. Catherine asked: What music do you listen to now in your leisure time? What CDs are on your CD player now at home?
Bach, Zombies, Dylan, Beethoven, Rolling Stones.
31. Vicki of CA asked: You always seem so serene. What’s your secret?
It’s all an act. Inside, I’m FREAKIN’ OUT.
32. Dave asked: If you had kids of your own, knowing what you know today would you let them quit college and pursue their dream of playing music in a rock and roll band which is similar to what you did?
33. Dee asked: What is the best advice you have ever received?
DON’T GIVE ADVICE TO ANYONE. The worst advice? Answer these questions.
34. Linda of PA asked: How will you and/or the Heartbreakers be celebrating the new millennium?
Ask me on January 2nd.