Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
Hometown Claremont, California
Home base Santa Monica, California
Claim to fame Grammy Award-winning American singer/songwriter
Travel Essential “My skateboard. I bring it wherever I tour, and when I’m not travelling, I skate at home with my kids. We even have a skate park in our living room for rainy days.”
Current Project Reuniting with the Innocent Criminals after eight years to record Call It What It Is, which hits stores – and the concert circuit in Montreal and Toronto – next month
What’s different about the new album?
We’re all featured in unexpected ways on different songs because we each play a number of instruments. There’s so much variety on the album, which is what excites me most.
Which came first for you: singer, guitar player or songwriter?
As a kid, I spent a lot of time in my family’s music shop – the Claremont Folk Music Center Museum & Store. We had visitors like Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen and Taj Mahal. Growing up in that environment, melodies and instruments and sounds were always a part of my thought process.
What’s your favourite souvenir from touring?
I’m not so much of a hard goods kind of guy; memories are really the ultimate souvenirs. Getting to sing “Atlantic City” with Bruce Springsteen in Belgium in 2013 was amazing, as was playing at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal for the first time and seeing how music can transform a city.
Do the Innocent Criminals have a pre-show ritual?
We join hands for a moment of silence, then say what we’re grateful for, which is always the fans and the opportunity to do what we’re doing. We also bring our own Persian-style rug to cover the stage; it gives it a homier, more intimate feel, which makes sense for us since we play so close together during the show.
Any venues that you love returning to?
The Fillmore in San Francisco. It’s so personal. It’s done a custom poster for almost every show dating back to the 1960s. There’s also the Orange Peel, a wonderful small venue in Asheville, North Carolina, which is a great state overall – it’s James Taylor territory.
Leon Mobley, percussionist for BHIC, has made his mark in the music and performance industry for many years.
At the tender age of seven, Leon studied under the tutelage of Babatunde Olatunji, world renowned Nigerian master drummer. By age ten, Leon was a cast member on the Emmy award winning PBS t.v. program entitled ZOOM. He got the opportunity to perform with Duke Ellington and for Coretta Scott King at this age as well. He also performed with Boston’s Dancing in the Street for many years growing up in Boston.
Leon went on to study music and education at UMass Boston before moving to California where he started his dance company Djembe West African Drummers and Dancers, which has been featured on the t.v. shows Northern Exposure, A Different World, and the movie Poetic Justice with Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur. He also began his own musical group Leon Mobley and Da Lion which went on to produce six cds and has had countless performances throughout the United States.
Leon was selected to be “Art Envoy” by the U.S. State department, under President Barack Obama, which sponsored the Innovative MIMA programs, where he traveled abroad doing workshops, recordings, and performances throughout Africa and South America.
He has had his own REMO signature series Djembe drum for over twenty years, selling millions around the world.
Throughout his career, he has recorded and performed with many notable artists, to include Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Mick Jaggar, Madonna, Damian and Stephen Marley, the Temptations, Dave Matthews, Joss Stone, and Stevie Wonder just to name a few.
Other Projects:Da Lion, Piers Faccini, Watts Prophets, The Last Poets’ Umar Bin Hassan, Robey Theatre Co., Zoom, Peter Wolf, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson
Other Projects:Gogol Bordello, Lonnie Jordan (War), Rakim, De La Soul, Talib Kwali, Mos Def, Common, Ghostface Killah, Piers Faccini, Rhythm Roots All-Stars, The L.A. Allstar Revue, daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra, Project 1836, Bingewood, After Hours, Ocean 11, Cree Summer, The Soul of John Black, Weapon of Choice, Action Figure Party, Groovin High
Other Projects:Solo Career, Citizen Cope, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Acetone, G. Love & Special Sauce, Natalie Merchant, Macy Gray, Mazzy Star, The 2 PC, Momma Stud
All Pictures and videos taken by Crystal Sellers
Information on the band members provided directly from http://www.benharper.com/band
INTERVIEW BY ALISON ROBINS http://enroute.aircanada.com/en/articles/interview-with-ben-harper