With his album ''Rockin' the Suburbs'' debuting in the top half of the Billboard Hot 200 chart, Ben Folds seems to have survived last year's bust up of his critically lauded band, Ben Folds Five, just fine. But flying solo isn't all it's cracked up to be. Folds, whose stateside tour is set to wrap up in Los Angeles on Oct. 16, talked to EW.com about those Billy Joel comparisons and the fate of alternative rock.
It seems that you, Robert Sledge, and Darren Jesse disbanded Ben Folds Five pretty darn amicably. What, no catfights?
We watched so many ''Behind the Music''s that we were well informed and knew how to cut our losses with a preemptive strike. We got along fine, but it had become a business. And that wasn't how it started. I had to ask, ''How much does this pay, and does it pay enough for me to bastardize my music?'' and I said, ''Well, f--- it'' and threw in the towel. The guys were totally fine with that too. But I'm not in love with showing up for a gig and just seeing my name up there without the Five at the end of it. It feels stupid, like I'm getting something over on people. Like, if you like Ben Folds Five, maybe you'll like this.
In the single ''Rockin' the Suburbs,'' you joke about a producer using computers to ''fix all your shitty tracks.'' You did pick Ben Grosse, who's worked with Filter and Fuel, to produce your album. Was it difficult for you to adjust to all his digital twiddling?
I asked for it, and [the computer technology] did a good job on this record, but I'm not really sold on it. Next time I do a record I'll probably do it the old-fashioned way, an old wire recorder in a hotel room and hang myself. But when Ben heard that lyric, he seemed kind of concerned, actually. I don't have a problem with computers; I just think the process can become too important, and it's not really natural.