January 1, 2018

Secrets of The Mike Benign Compulsion

It's the new year, which for many is a good time to come clean with the truth. In this email, we reveal secrets that have, to this point, been limited to the innermost sanctums of The Mike Benign Compulsion organization. 

Warning: no band member emerges unscathed from the staggering revelations that follow.


Guitarist Joe Vent can lift a 2-pound sack of flour over his head.
This should not be a surprise given Vent's reputation for executing feats of strength while playing in bands like The Hungry Williams, The Yell Leaders, Squares and New Harmony Indiana. 
A sack of flour


At a recent New Harmony Indiana show, Vent picked up a microphone stand with one hand and passed it to bandmate Matt Krajewski. Afterward, Krajewski confided that "the guy can be a little bit of a show-off. I can't tell you how many times we've been in the middle of a song, and I look over, and Joe has this look on his face like, 'yeah, as soon as this song is over, I'm going to pick something else up.' And then sure enough, the song ends, and he'll have a chair in his hands, and he's about to lift it off the ground. That kind of thing can be a huge distraction." Nonetheless, Krajewski grudgingly added, "I guess you have to give the guy props. I mean, he's pretty strong--especially for a musician."



Bassist Paul Biemann can fix anything.
Which explains why Biemann was tapped by Jimmy Carter--our nation's 39th president--to help fix the Middle East. A key player at President Carter's 1978 Camp David summit with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Biemann saw his moment to make history when the earphone jack on Sadat's transistor radio malfunctioned. Lest the Egyptian leader not be able to catch that week's edition of Casey Kasem's American Top 40, Biemann made his move. "Anwar," he said, "I'm pretty handy with the electrics. I've got some tools in my car...I can fix that in like five minutes." Before long, the radio was working again. A smiling Sadat returned to the bargaining table, and eventually inked his name to the historic peace accord that ensued. 

This incident, of course, gave rise to the popular late 70s catch phrase, Paul Biemann can fix anything, even the Middle East.



If Michael Koch had his way, he wouldn't be playing the drums. 

He'd be playing the didgeridoo: that droning, tubular wind instrument introduced to the world by indigenous Australians. Flash back to late 2009: The Mike Benign Compulsion begin rehearsing for their debut performance. Koch shows up for the band's first rehearsal without drums. He pops the hatch of his VW station wagon to reveal a half dozen didgeridoos in pristine condition. He carefully loads them into the practice space, one at a time. According to band member Joe Vent, "Michael acted like everything was exactly as it should be. And then he got all bent out of shape when we told him there was no way in hell he was going to play those things in this band." Eventually, Koch relented, and went on to play drums at countless live shows and on the band's four albums. 

"Drum circles are for losers. Didgeridoo circles rule!" --Michael Koch, 2017

Today, when you see The Compulsion live, all outward appearances will tell you Koch is indeed playing the drums. His arms and legs and feet will move about, propelling each song to where it needs to go. But all the while, in his head, Michael Koch will be bellowing out the mournful, sonorous airs of his beloved didgeridoo. 



Mike Benign eats worms.
Many people have thought this over the years. A few have even said it to Benign's face. They'll holler, "Mike Benign eats worms!" with the self-satisfaction that comes from knowing you've set someone straight. But imagine how those people would feel if they knew Benign actually does eat worms. It would be the way people would feel if they walked up to U.S. Senator James Lankford (the junior senator from Oklahoma) and accosted him with the line, "James Lankford is the junior senator from Oklahoma!" And Lankford would be all like, "uh...yeah?" And then the people who yelled it would be all like, "wow...that didn't go nearly as well as we thought it would."

Anyway, Mike Benign actually does eat worms. Not all the time. Kind of like how some people are with steak or lobster or even vegetables. It's not something they eat all the time, but if it's there, they might be like, "okay, I'll have some of that." So next time you see Benign, you might be tempted to yell "Mike Benign eats worms!" at him. Or you might say it to him in a conversational manner, without the yelling. For a moment or two, you'll probably feel better about yourself. But that feeling won't last. Because Benign really does eat worms. And where do you go at that point?

Still, we can't tell you how to live your life. You have to do what you think is right. Just always remember: Follow your dreams. Because if you can dream it, you can do it!!!

October 4, 2017

It's not past your bed time

The Mike Benign Compulsion and Twin Brother 

Friday, October 13th, 8 pm 
Red Dot Tosa - 68th & North Avenue

Over the years, we've heard it all. Every conceivable reason why people weren't able to attend an awesome rock show that featured The Mike Benign Compulsion. These reasons have included:

It's past my bed time.
It's too expensive.
There's no parking.
Terry Hackbarth isn't playing.  
Your singer can't sing.

Okay, that last one is pretty hard to argue with. 

But you know what? It's time to stuff the rest of your excuses in a sack, my friends. Because come Friday, October 13th, Red Dot in Wauwatosa will, Red Dot in Wauwatosa will rock you. 

Past your bed time? The show starts 8 pm-ish on a Friday night. And it will likely end at the point when some rock shows are just getting started.

Too expensive?  Nope. $5 for two stellar bands.

Terry Hackbarth isn't playing? Um, as if! He's only like, the bass player in Twin Brother. So yeah, he's playing. And singing, too.

We could go on. But then we'd be taunting you: doing what some call "selling past the close." Because this case is closed. And this bill shall rock. Or pop, or alt, or emote, or whatever it is these two bands do.

Twin Brother. Terry Hackbarth is second from the right. So there.


Speaking of the two bands on the bill, we invite you to learn more about Twin Brother. The internet is the perfect way to do that. So launch Netscape, and click here and here and also here. Twin Brother stands ready to rock your world, right after The Mike Benign Compulsion gets done also rocking your world. 

With your excuses firmly stuffed in the aforementioned sack, your Friday the 13th will look something like this:
  • 8:00 - The Mike Benign Compulsion
  • 9:15 - Twin Brother
Also, Red Dot has a nice fish fry. You have to pay them money for it, but considering they give you food in return, it seems like a pretty reasonable arrangement.

September 9, 2017

Neil Finn, we salute you

The great and good Neil Finn released his latest album, Out Of Silence, last week. It's remarkable for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the fact it was recorded live as the culmination of a series of four global webcasts. (Go here for a nice feature on the making of the record.)


As is usually the case with Neil's work, it's phenomenal. Gorgeous beyond belief. I could go into more details, but this isn't a record review. This is just a tribute.

"You get to follow Neil Finn!"
Last year, The Mike Benign Compulsion was fortunate enough to share a bill with Neil at Milwaukee Summerfest (thanks again, Scott!). Truth be told, he played right before us, which was beyond strange. He was what's known as an "afternoon headliner:" a smart strategy by festival organizers to get people on the grounds earlier in the day.

For the four of us, watching Neil's performance from backstage was a pretty heady experience. After all, we see ourselves as proud descendants and disciples. Neil's one of our heroes. Not just because of that voice and those songs. Or because of how much we've loved Crowded House since their inception...or how much we dug Split Enz even before that.

Mike B., Mike K., Joe and Paul taking in Neil Finn's Summerfest 2016 set.


Neil's a hero because he consistently and fearlessly reinvents himself and his music. He's written his own blueprint for how to be a songwriter and artist. He seems like a way decent human being, too.

No doubt there's enough Joe, Paul, Mike and Mike in any Mike Benign Compulsion song that by the time it reaches your ears, you don't hear how much we've lovingly taken from Neil Finn. (Though if you listened to one of my home demos of a new song, you'd hear my thievery loud and clear.)

"Who are your influences?" asks the lazy interviewer
During interviews, bands rightfully cringe at the question about their influences. That's because it's generic and lazy: a sign that the interviewer didn't give a shit enough to invest a few minutes ahead of time to come up with something better.

Generic and lazy question notwithstanding, when asked about our influences, Neil's solo work and the wildly underappreciated and supremely terrific Crowded House are always at the top of the list.

And so we salute you, Neil Finn. Thanks for continuing to do what you do, and for continually finding new and inspiring ways to do it.

--Mike B.


September 1, 2017

We opened for The Alarm and awesomeness ensued

Mike Peters, band and crew put on a great show at Shank Hall earlier this week. They also happen to be lovely people who are a delight to work with. Thanks again to Smiley for letting Mike K. use his kit. All in all, it was a true joy to serve as The Alarm's opening act.



(Fun fact: some bands avoid using the term "opening act" when referring to one of their gigs. Apparently it's demeaning. Or, calling themselves an opening act may somehow derail their destined path to international superstardom.)

So yeah, we were the opening act for The Alarm. And awesomeness ensued. For those who were there, thanks for listening and allotting some of your love to The Mike Benign Compulsion. And no doubt you enjoyed The Alarm as much as we did.

For those who weren't there, shame on you. You're horrible, horrible people. And you'll get yours soon enough.

Unless you see The Alarm next year when they're back in the U.S. And see The Mike Benign Compulsion at one of our upcoming shows, listed in the left column of this page.

--Mike B.

August 15, 2017

Next up: Shank Hall with Canadian indie band Current Swell

If you're in the Milwaukee area on Monday, August 21st, you ought to make your way down to Shank Hall, by 8:00 pm.

The band Current Swell forms a last line of defense against book burners.
Or is it the books that have the band Current Swell's backs?
With delight, The Mike Benign Compulsion will serve as crowd fluffers for the venerable Current Swell from Victoria, British Columbia. Here's a little taste of what they do. The band has six albums under their belt, including the new one "When To Talk and When To Listen." Their Shank Hall appearance is part of a series of U.S. dates before the band heads overseas for a  European tour.

For these reasons and others, The Mike Benign Compulsion has come up with a three-point plan for the night:

1. Rock
2. Talk to the gents from Current Swell to understand how their country managed to elect such an awesome (and dreamy) prime minister.
3. Totally stand on guard for them.

That's it. See you soon!

--Mike B.

July 15, 2017

Broken Hearted Toy: "Consistently Well Crafted and Engaging"

The latest review of the "Kid" album comes from Chicago-based Terry Flamm's Broken Hearted Toy blog. Flamm writes:
"Singer-guitarist Benign’s lyrics on these 11 new songs simultaneously leave the listener laughing and a bit worried, while the music is consistently well crafted and engaging."
Find the full review here