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Ben Curtis

January 7th, 2014

It’s been just over a week now since I got the news I’d been fearing. I was sitting in London Heathrow waiting for my connection, sometime between 30 and 31 December and two-hour nap bursts…somewhere between full consciousness and a daze. Ben Curtis had died of cancer. For those of you who do not know, Ben was my favorite musician (topping a shortlist of Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Eno, Dave Grohl, and a couple others) and, most notably for me, guitarist and beyond for Secret Machines and School of Seven Bells. Stories from those who knew Ben are spread throughout the Internet, reflecting on his warm personality and transcendent talent. I only spoke to him a couple times, importantly at the Secret Machines concert that change my life at the Black Cat in Washington, DC. It is no exaggeration that that show changed my life–it propelled me into a new stratosphere of inspiration and wonder at the possibilities of music, of audio filters, of stage lighting and visual effect…. I was at the Home Depot the next week purchasing stage lights for my band. Thus my visual career was born.

Days that were only possible because of Ben stand out in my memory: the day my friend Brian brought over “Alone, Jealous and Stoned” by the Secret Machines as the first single off “Ten Silver Drops”; seeing the Machines mesmerize the 930 Club and wondering if they’d invented grey lights; being so utterly upset when Ben left the Machines to form School of Seven Bells; the joy of seeing School of Seven Bells live at the Black Cat and realizing they had the potential to again change the way I thought about music; the day I decided “Alpinisms” was my album of the year when it came out; the day I bought “Ghostory” for my brother and felt like I was letting him in on the best secret in the universe… I could go on and on and on. Instead, I should just share some of his music. Enjoy.

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