Benton Oliver, a seasoned music industry professional renowned for his expertise in artist and band management, embarked on the "Creature Benny" project. Throughout his career, he has provided invaluable guidance to artists, bands, and producers in advancing their careers. Benton's collaborative experience extends to prestigious live music organizations such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Preservation Hall, and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Before launching "Creature Benny," Oliver left an indelible mark in the music scene as "goodie." Under this pseudonym, he explored a diverse range of musical styles, primarily focused on rap over self-produced beats. His beats were crafted by blending YouTube drum loops with original acoustic guitar recordings and various instruments. His repertoire also included instrumental piano compositions, introspective vocal performances accompanied by violins, bongos, and harmonicas, as well as meticulously produced beats using FL Studio.
For fans who have never heard your music, can you pick three words to describe it?! If three words just aren't enough then tell us more!!
Rockin’, spooky, storytelling, DIY – almost made it in three, but didn’t quite pull it off my b. I make fun and rockin’ punk-inspired music – always with a spooky bent to it, and often telling a weird story. It was in the process of writing what would become the first Creature Benny songs that I realized the most interesting story I can tell is often not about myself. And that realization opened up infinite exciting possibilities.
What is your favorite part about being an artist? Is it songwriting, performing, recording, something else?) Tell us why.
I don’t make too much of a priority of performing, but I truly love songwriting, recording, producing, and mixing– each individually and also collectively as a process. I kind of fell into songwriting at the age of 15 when three developments came about in my life at around the same time– 1) my brother taught me a few chords on the guitar, 2) I grew out of the age during which I found the act of singing to be objectionable, and 3) my teenage emotions had filled me up and needed somewhere to go. I was more of an art kid than a music kid growing up, so my sudden and fervent passion for songwriting came as sort of a surprise to me at the time.
Recording, producing, and mixing all came into my life as a byproduct of being overcome by the songwriting compulsion. I was writing these songs and wanted to record them so that I could listen to them, but I wasn’t going to pay for a studio (I also didn’t have the money to pay for a studio). I got my hands on a mic, a friend showed me a few things on a free recording software he’d been using, and I just started doing it. Then to get a song you can listen to, you have to produce it and try to mix it, so that’s what I did. At this point I have a special place in my heart for each stage of that process, but it started as me fumbling in the dark through necessity.
It’s really satisfying to release a song that I built from an idea into something anyone can pull up on a streaming platform.
Can you tell us what being in the recording studio is like for you?
I record everything at home in the studio I fashioned in my closet. I put up sound proofing in one corner where I have my mic stand. There's a big rug on the floor and stuff all over the walls (to both look good and diffuse bouncing soundwaves), a loveseat, a small desk, an 88-key weighted keyboard, and my trusty focusrite interface. And a bunch of shoes and shit stored on a shelf, because after all it is a closet.
It’s really nice to have my recording gear set up all the time, because for the first five years of my recording run, I captured vocals on a portable mic, and outdoors exclusively. I didn’t want my vocals bouncing back off the walls of any untreated room or closet, so instead I would have the sounds of crickets and frogs, trains and helicopters on my vocal tracks. Which was kinda cool, but not in a way that fits with the music I'm making these days.
Actual recording usually happens on weeknights sometime between 6 and 10pm. I try to finish up by 10 out of respect for roommates. The Golden Rule and all that. If I’m recording guitar I get to sit on the loveseat, have the AC on, and not worry about much because I record guitar with a Direct Input.
When I’m recording vocals though, I have to close the window and stand (or sit) in the soundproof corner and shout, whoop, and scream into the mic, bending over the desk to start and stop the recording, and all the while making sure my bracelets don’t make enough noise to make it onto the track. In the summer it gets hot in there and I’m hollering in my boxer shorts.
It’s a good time :)
Okay, this a fun question. When you are not doing music, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love my friends. When I have a full day off of work, I am almost definitely with them- we like to go to concerts and cool bars we’ve been wanting to check out, play pool, go to events like a street festival or block party. I like going camping or to the beach, chillin’ and grillin’, swimming, visiting friends in other parts of the country. I find a light nature walk to be quite pleasant.
Who do you admire most in the music scene today and why?
Today I guess I admire anyone who wants to make a real go at being an Artist. Or I’m not sure that I admire them, but I certainly respect their passion and willingness to embark on the particular slog that is being an independent Artist with a capital A.
There’s so much noise in the world and online, that in order to stand out and bring people into the proverbial circus tent, emerging artists have to not only create compelling music, but also be a social media star somehow, or find another way to stay visible and relevant. At the very least it helps to have a viral moment, and it’s even better if you have the business acumen to turn that into a career, or at least a little longer than 15 minutes.
Someone I do very much admire who is bigger today than ever before, but who did not come up in the current music-discovery climate, is Tyler, the Creator. I really admire his ability to stay super, super productive and prolific, creative, for more than a decade at this point. Obviously he and Odd Future were very DIY in their approach at the beginning, and crazy innovative in their use of the then-current iteration of the internet to spread their name and legend. I respect and admire the fuck out of that too.
Can you tell us what song you've written that is the most emotional and describe the meaning behind it?
In general, my songs come from a place of thinking more than feeling. These thoughts are definitely about heavy stuff like how, given our species’ track record of greed, indifference, and disregard for each other, the planet, and the future, I don’t have super high hopes for humanity turning it around in my lifetime. Call me a cynic.
I have a few songs that bemoan the state of things from a sardonic but thoughtful perspective, including “Freaky Nasty,”“Election Day,” “Rock and Roll (My Face Off),” and “Spooky America” from the first phase of Creature Benny. From phase II, which just culminated 6/30/23 in Tales Moste Wretched, Vol. 2, songs dealing in this subject matter are “Why Oh Why?," "Death and Taxes,” and my cover of John Lennon’s“Gimme Some Truth,” from his 1971 Imagine album.
The Creature Benny song that was the most cathartic to write was definitely “Pandemic Madness” back in 2021. That song really served as a vehicle that allowed me to think the thoughts I had been refusing to think since March 2020 as a survival tactic. I worked on it feverishly every night for three weeks– I got stoked and recorded the guitar parts I had come up with before I had written much more than the first verse, so it became a process of figuring out structure and lyrics and what went where and how to build it.
I was obsessed during those three weeks because it was just this feeling of release as I finally acknowledged that life had been turned upside down and tons of people had died. Obviously I had known and was aware of this fact, but I was working from home, working on music at night, and keeping my head down doing my thing. That’s how I was staying “sane,” so getting past that stage with “Pandemic Madness” was big for me.
Tell us about your new song "The Devil's Due!"
Sure. It's the second in a pair that tells one story in two parts.
The first song is called “The Devil’s Deal,” and introduces the story of my friend, Lester Lee, and I cooking up a recipe for a potent Love Potion. We begin selling theLove Potion out of a store front, and everything is going great– sales are booming and love is in the air –until The Devil Himself comes calling. Satan isn’t there to blow up our spot though, he just wants a nominal cut of our profits. We are promoting and facilitating iniquity after all. So Lester and I, incapacitated by terror, sign on the dotted line and enter into an unholy agreement with Lucifer.
“The Devil’s Due” begins with Lester and I living like the King of Sodom, swimming in Cash and Women with the wind at our backs. This couldn’t last, however, as, with everyone out of their minds on Love Liquor (boning all day and night instead of going to work, etc.), society grinds to a screeching halt and all of our institutions go down in flames. Unbeknownst to us, this was Satan’s plan all along.
Just when it seems like your misdeed has helped you, LOOK OUT - The Devil always gets his due.
Anyways – by this point Lester and I recognize that our Love Potion has doomed humanity, and that the world is going to Hell in a bucket. We just want to get out of our Cursed Contract and get on with our lives as they were, so we call up our lawyer, and he’s nice enough to take the case. Unfortunately, yet somewhat predictably, things do not fall in our favor in the Court of the Damned, and we are condemned to Hell.
It’s a fun couple of songs – check ‘em out! Are you working on any new material right now or what's in the works for the upcoming year?
It was always my intention to take a bit of a break from Creature Benny once I got TMWv2 out into the world, so I haven’t worked on much music since releasing that on June 30th.
I have actually been playing around with a song idea for a while. And then a couple months ago I came up with some guitar that could fit and last week I recorded the guitar and am currently playing around with drums, bass, etc. So it’s really fun to be doing that kind of creative work after spending the last year tinkering with, tightening up, and readying songs for release.
I already have Creature Benny phase III entirely written, with all songs recorded in demo form or better – an EP, four 2-song digital 7’s, and an album that comprises all the aforementioned tracks, plus an instrumental intro and at least one interlude, as well as four bonus songs. So that will come out in the next year or two. Where can fans hear your music?