Joseph Llanes for AOL When last we spoke with Ben Lee, the Aussie…
- Posted on Jun 13th 2011 4:00PM by Cameron Matthews
Ben Trivett, AOL
Your '30 Rock' cameo as North Korean dictator Kim Jon-il was hysterical. How was that experience?
It was really amazing. That was all Tina Fey's idea. She thought of me as Kim Jong-il and I was really excited to do it. Everybody was great. That show is really funny and it's always wonderful to be on something that you watch. It was so dreamlike to walk into their world and be on that set. It's powerful. I really had a good time. The physical transformation to become Kim Jong-il is kind of hard, and was definitely different than what I normally look like, but it's so funny.
How was working with Tracy Morgan?
Tracy Morgan's great and really, really hilarious. I actually got very starstruck with him and of course Tina and Alec Baldwin and all those guys there. It's just amazing.
How does it feel to have a Grammy-nominated album?
It's great. I'm really excited about the album. It's really a wonderful opportunity to get to work with the people that I absolutely I love, people like Andrew Bird and Ben Lee, Jon Brion, Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple, Tegan and Sara, so many great great musicians who really were so generous with their time and made this album with me. I'm very lucky to get to work with them. And the nomination is really a cool thing because, to me, it was really about them. They helped me and it was all about our collaboration. So I'm really proud of that.
You recently revealed that you have a new record coming out called 'The Yellow Album.' Can you explain the title for us?
A lot of it is about songs kind of about my family and songs about Asian-ness in general and the idea of being a foreigner and being Asian-American and it's also sort of Beatles-esque. I'm writing with Brendan Benson and John Auer and Ken Stringfellow from the Posies, which is one of my favorite, favorite bands and they're people that I just love. It's a little slow going because I have to do this other job, finishing up 'Drop Dead Diva.' I'm still touring at the end of the summer for 'Cho Dependent' so I have a lot of stuff I have to do so it's gonna be a little bit.
Any dream collaborations?
Yeah! There's certainly people that I'm still trying to finish songs with. My dream was that, pretty much the list of people that I work with, everybody's so great. I still have to finish up with Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene. Amazing band. I wanna get really down with the Canadians. I love the New Pornographers, who I also wrote with on my album and I'd like to write with more. I'd love to work with Stars, great band, another great Canadian supergroup. And I need to get more done with Tegan and Sara. I was thinking after this I'm going to do a totally Canadian album. That's my next project after this one.
There was a lot of heavy subject matter on your last album, like the story about the guy that killed and stuffed his wife's body in the attic. Is there anything like that on the upcoming album?
Well, there's a couple songs that I've recorded already. One of them is with a really talented artist named Bitch who was on the Righteous label. She's really phenomenal. She actually sings with Andrew Bird, and she's a violinist. I did a song with her that that we sort of worked a little bit with Ben Lee on and it's my version of 'She's Leaving Home' by the Beatles. I sang it with my mother and my father. They're also musicians but they sang on it, and that is also one of my favorite songs. I figured that there was a way to do it that was almost like when you have the parent singing along. I'm really proud of that. That's kind of the emotional center for the next album.
When making music, do you ever feel like venturing away from comedy?
Oh, well it all should be comedic. I don't ever really want to stray or fall away from being a comedienne because to me that would be dishonest because I also want to represent myself. Even in my comedy there are a lot of serious things that run through when I tell jokes about race and sexuality and relationships and isolation. It makes sense to do that as a musician as well, but it seems as if it's always gonna be about stand-up comedy too.
You've always been a champion of gay culture. What are you doing lately to support the cause?
Well, the life is in support of that, being an active member of my community. You can't come away without a sense of having an activist heart or an activist soul, so to me the act of being alive is working for this community that I live in and grew up in and care for and work for.
Your 'Cho Dependent' concert film was shot in Atlanta. Is there something special about that particular show?
Well, this show has some music in it, some songs from the album that I sing in the show. Also, there's a lot of material about living in the South as a political progressive and as a queer person and talking about what it's like to be here in an area that's very conservative. You question other people's humanity a lot and I like that. It was appropriate to make that point in Georgia, where I spent a lot of time, and essentially Atlanta because Atlanta is so progressive. It's like this jewel in the South. It's very different when you leave the city limits. It becomes very conservative very quickly, so it's about living in that environment and learning how to survive in it.
Is there anything you were thinking onstage that we can't see?
I almost fell a couple of times. I don't think you could tell. I was wearing very high heels which is my latest, like these almost 7-inch heels. Like high high, like Kiss high. So I almost fell a couple of times. Maybe you'll spot it.
Is there anything you'd like to accomplish that you haven't had a chance to conquer yet?
I'd like to dance more. I'd like to certainly make more music. It's not really about accomplishing things that I haven't accomplished but to do more of what I've done. That's a big thing -- to just keep going.
What do you think about this season of 'Dancing With the Stars?'
This season is great. Every season of that show is great. It's a very exciting show, and it's very old-fashioned when you think about television. It really reminds me of something like the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' You very rarely see live television and that's a very exciting thing to be a part of. It also reminds me of 'Battle of the Network Stars,' which I was always a big fan of growing up. I'm sad that I've had to spend so much time away from Los Angeles because I would've been there every week cheering everyone on because I really like to go watch it from the audience. You're off the hook and there's no pressure and I have a lot of friends over there right now, and I love to see my partner. It's a great show and I had a good time on my season, but I like the season a lot and I want to go back.