Benjamin Koll is back with his brand-new album called 8 Days In A Bear’s Life, which is set for release on September 1st. We have a chat with Benjamin about his new album, his time in the music industry, and his feelings about being a sex symbol.
Bear musician, sex symbol and style icon Benjamin Koll returns with a new album on the eve of his 40th anniversary in the music industry. Challenging himself to write eight songs in eight days while in seclusion, he walked away with eleven brand new songs which he proudly presents on this new album.
8 Days In A Bear’s Life is filled with personal and heartfelt stories from Benjamin’s life and features a fusion of retro and nu house disco, perfect for any night on the dance floor. I was lucky enough to get an advance preview of three of the tracks – the lead single “Make Your Own Luck” whose deep and introspective lyrics contrast magnificently against the up-tempo beat they’re set to, “Traitor” which is a mid-tempo and sexy diss track against a treacherous lover and “House Party” which is a clubby bop. Based on those tracks alone, it is evident that Benjamin is in top form, and we should be prepared for an absolute serve!
We sat down with the talented and handsome hitmaker to learn all about how the album was made, how he crafts his iconic looks and his status as a bonafide sex symbol.
John: Hi Bejamin!! It’s so good to talk to you. Thank you for joining me. I’ve heard a few songs off of 8 Days In A Bear’s Life and it is magnificent! I heard you locked yourself away in seclusion to write this album. Why did you choose to write the album this way?
Benjamin: It’s as simple as this: after I finished Osito last year I was exhausted! (Laughs) It was nonstop work for four months because it was a long album, and I had the companion book publishing at the same time. Looking back, I now realize it should have been a double album, especially since there is an uplifting part to the album and a dramatic part.
After Osito came out I had 2 or 3 days off during which I watched documentaries, as I always do. I decided to check out the Bee Gees documentary, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and they were talking about making the songs from Saturday Night Fever. They were talking about how the record company would just send the Bee Gees to a villa in the South of France, where there was just a room and all their instruments. All they had to do each day was play and write music. That was their way of getting away from everything in order to just focus on the songs, which is how I remember it being done back in the day.
You see, the thing is, I’ve been doing this (music) for a long time. In fact, 8 Days in A Bear’s Life will be released three days before my 40th anniversary of getting my first paycheck as a professional DJ. On September 20, it will be the 30th anniversary of when collected my first check as a music producer. When I started, the industry was more structured, not like today. Today it’s very difficult to navigate. Back then it was more structured because you did things and then it took like a year to be released. And just like the Bee Gees, we used to stop work, go somewhere isolated and write the album in a week, or 10 days. It depended on the artist. I had the chance to work this way three separate times, it always went well. Those three albums sold more than a million copies each.
So, when I was talking with my friend Dave about this, I had just seen the documentary and I was like, ‘oh. I remember those times.’ It was really fun because you didn’t have the phone or social media to worry about. Osito was doing well at the time, and we wanted to replicate that success, but I couldn’t deal with that workload again, so we thought about going away for a week or so and just focusing on making a new album.
My husband, DJ Jose ‘Spinnin’ Cortes, he’s always busy, so he couldn’t be away for more than eight days. My friend Dave, who is Chinese, told me, eight is a lucky number in China, so we went for it! I came up with the idea of doing what I called the ‘8 challenge’, writing eight songs in eight days.
John: Sometimes old school ways are the best ways. And when did you go into seclusion to work on the record? And what did your day to day look like?
Benjamin: After we planned everything, we realized the best moment for us to do this was in February of this year. Originally, we thought we’d broadcast the entire process to people; record everything and put it on YouTube or something. But after thinking about it, I decided against it. I know myself. If I was broadcasting, I would feel obliged to acknowledge people watching and that’s distracting, and it would have defeated the purpose of going away in the first place.
So, I rented a villa outside of the city, in the middle of the forest. We had Wi-Fi and a little pool. I paid a dear friend of ours, Benjamin Velazquez, to come and take care of us that week. He was the logistics guy. He did the cooking and everything so I could have eight hours of uninterrupted work per day. Jose came as my support system. He had some downtime which was good for him because he’s always so busy. But for me, I was working. We have pictures and videos; I will be releasing all that soon. I was totally disconnected. My phone was away. I was working on music.
John: That sounds incredible. And you ended up writing eight songs in eight days then?
Benjamin: Actually, I ended up writing eleven songs! Every song on the album is placed in the order they were created. The only change was the fourth song, which I put last on the album on the advice of a friend, since it is a ballad, and the other songs are more up-tempo. I’m really excited about one of the songs called “Traitor”, it’s about those really hot and sexy guys that turn out to be a**holes. Every song tells stories from my life, about family and friends and for the most part it is playful, but when it needs to go deep and touch home, it touches home.
For example, the first song “Make Your Own Luck” is a tough song. It’s about growing up being different and believing in yourself despite the lack of support and belief from those around you. It’s a sad, but uplifting, up-tempo song. The verses may seem sad, but the message of the song is empowering.
John: I know that with each Benjamin Koll album there’s always a very strong visual concept that goes along with it, and this album is no exception. The cover art is quite striking, featuring you in a gorgeous grey tuxedo with an elegant cigarette holder as if you were stepping out of a photo from the 1920’s, looking very suave and sophisticated. Tell me about that.
Benjamin: I was also channeling James Bond a bit. (Laughs) I love those movies, whenever I am depressed, I watch James Bond to cheer myself up.
But yes, with my album covers, one thing I always want is to give the bears a little bit of glamour.
John: Your style is always very on point, and you put together really great looks and I appreciate that as a bigger guy myself. Do you have a designer you work with?
Benjamin: I design them myself. I take a lot of time to think about the look and then I do some research until I finally have the idea. For example, this tuxedo, I had the idea of the grey and the black and it was like, 1920s but I also wanted like an Orson Welles- type thing. When I had all the designs together, I did a mockup and I sent it to a tailor who then made the garments for me.
John: I might need you to design a look for me Benjamin! (Laughs) Are you doing any music videos to go along with the album?
Benjamin: Yes, I will make one for the first single, “Make Your Own Luck”. Then, I have a very clear idea for the video for “Traitor”. I am waiting on my friend Farit Abdala to come help brainstorm ideas for the “Make Your Own Luck” video though.
John: You’ve collaborated with him before?
Benjamin: Yes, Farit, he’s been in several of my videos and sometimes when I don’t have ideas, I call him because he’s always very visual. It’s the same with my friend Jeremy Morse, who was the one that that came up with the “Beautiful Nothing” video concept.
John: Do you have any idea of when the first video would be ready?
Benjamin: I’m hoping it will be ready for the 15th of September. I’m going to be doing other video projects to promo the album though. It will be mostly animation of the cover image in the grey tuxedo.
John: Your brand and image is always very sexy and that’s what we love about you too. How does it feel to be like a sex symbol in the bear community?
Benjamin: Really proud and I’m really grateful. I never considered myself handsome. In fact, I still don’t. Nowadays I have found a way of dealing with compliments through humor. It’s alien to me, but I appreciate it.
In terms of finding my way around the bear scene, I have one of my ‘gay dads’, Txema, to thank for that. He was a very popular ‘bear-lebrity’ in Spain in the 90s. His pictures were everywhere, all over the internet. We met when I was 20-something and he taught me a lot about the culture, how to behave and all that.
John: What would we do without our ‘gay dads’? And you are very handsome by the way and such a role model for bigger guys like me. You exude confidence and sexiness in all your photos, music videos and I’m sure on your OnlyFans as well!
Benjamin: It’s hard for me sometimes. I had to go to therapy and still go every now and then because it’s hard for me to deal with the sexuality of all this, because believe it or not, I’m very shy. I don’t have problems with my body. I always went to nudist beaches precisely because I don’t think very much about myself. I don’t really care. It’s not a big deal.
But I do care, of course. I love my family. That was what troubled me, that my mom or someone from my family would see a picture of me. And that’s been my struggle with this.
I understand we are men and it’s good to put sex front and center and talk about how we have different needs from straight people. Like, for example, I was in monogamous relationships for a long time. But after I turned 40, I realized I might have been wrong for insisting on it. Txema always told me that one day I’d realize that jealousy was poison. And of course, he was right. I had to go through a really hard moment in my life to get that through my head.
I think it’s good that we acknowledge that we are all sexual beings, and that we can be in love with many guys at the same time. People might be happier if they could learn not to be so threatened by it.
John: I think that notion is catching on, especially for younger folks out there. And how’s your experience with OnlyFans been?
Benjamin: Overall, very good! Sometimes people tell me ‘why don’t you do this or do that?’ And my response is that I’m doing OF because it’s a personal expression thing for me, and a path I put myself on to make myself better and to face things I was afraid to do. Since I’ve started my OnlyFans, I have done things I had never done before and discovered so much about myself. And that’s why I’m still there, because I’m still discovering things.
John: That’s amazing! You continue to inspire Benjamin. Congratulations on the new album, I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
8 Days In A Bear’s Life will debut on all streaming platforms on September 1st but you can preorder the CD and vinyl version in Benjamin Koll’s online store now!
Bears and fans in Guadalajara, Mexico can attend the first official album release party with Benjamin on September 9th at La Gozadera.