Now that BYSTANDER, the newest project from Greg Bennick, has recorded its second EP, slated for a July release (stay tuned for more details on that!), it’s time to move on with other inspiring projects from the globetrotting speaker, inspiring writer and successful, hope carrying humanitarian. Greg has lined up a short, multi-city spoken word tour of Iceland for May 2019, and we took this chance to sit down with him and get a nice little update, including his commentary on this unique trip. See the full interview below.
Hey Greg! What’s up man? Always a great pleasure to welcome you to my pages. What on Earth possessed you to arrange a SPRING tour in ICELAND?!
GREG: Great to hear from you my friend! I went through a really hard breakup on Christmas Eve 2018 and in the emotional aftermath I decided to not waste another second waiting for grace granted by others. I’d spent a lot of time in the fall and early winter of 2018 waiting. It was like a game in a way, but one I didn’t want to be playing: waiting for someone to decide if they were with you or not. Waiting on my own dreams to find out whether or not I was going to be a part of a shared future with someone. Waiting for presence and connection. As the new Bystander record says, “waiting for grace is like asking for poison / then being surprised when we die”. After I realized that it all had come crashing down, there was no more waiting to be done. I have always wanted to try and speak in places which are unconventional. This is what led me to do my spoken word tour of Russia. And the one in Mexico. So to do Iceland just sounded impossible, or bizarre and maybe difficult at the very least, and since I’ve always wanted to visit there for longer than a layover, I figured why not challenge myself and dive in and see what happens. I reached out to friends who reached out to promoters, and we pieced it together. This is the way all my tours go generally. Indiana Jones style: making it up as I go along and then figuring out how to make it happen from that initial point of ignition.
Have you been to Iceland before? What are you expecting from this little trek?
GREG: I have! It’s incredibly beautiful and almost impossible to comprehend at times. This trip is going to be a little different in that the tour itself is only three or maybe as of this writing, four shows. Russia was 21 shows for example. Mexico was 12. But Iceland only has a handful of places where shows can be done, so we booked everything we could. One show IS IN A LIGHTHOUSE. Did I say that loud enough? It is going to be wild. As for what I am expecting, I learned in Russia to expect little or nothing because every night will upend those expectations. In Russia, there were many nights when I was way out in Siberia where I expected 4 people to show up and instead I had over a hundred because local people were just curious as to who this American guy was who was invading their town. I think in some communities where less events happen, anything happening is a draw. So at the very least, I expect to be the anything that happens.
What is it like to perform for people of different cultures and nationalities? How do you find the different audiences?
GREG: I love the international connections because they challenge me to communicate across those boundaries amidst weird customs and traditions of communication. It’s a great feeling to get a laugh from an international audience, whether its at my own expense or because of some commonality we all share. In Mexico we found commonality in terms of thinking of Donald Trump as a five year old in a suit, and a shared frustration with bureaucratically inspired racism. The language barrier didn’t matter. In Russia it was government-vs-the-people as a theme, and we could all relate because of the lies we’ve been fed. Once you have that background of relatedness, the rest is just a matter of sharing openly. People are basically the same whether in Port au Prince, St. Petersburg, or Pittsburg. We all know that life is ridiculous, and we all want something more.
What themes and issues will you be touching on during your shows?
GREG: If I can pull it off, I want the tour themed to the agony of breakups and loss and surviving our way through. And I want to do that in a way that is funny more than it is sad, because dating the wrong person, and continuing to go back to them, is maybe the most idiotic human activity and deserves some harshly delivered self-critique. The goal is to share these ideas without turning each night into a weeping session. I think there’s a lot to be said for getting through a breakup without melting back – just because its comfortable – into the twisted situation you were in before. We love our pain. We find it familiar. But we have only one life, so how could it be amidst those conditions that we keep returning to situations we know are toxic for us? We are feeble and weird. I want this tour to touch on that and then to dive into what it takes to stop that cycle.
You seem to be an inexhaustible source of great topics and interesting views that deserve a proper platform like spoken word appearances, longer speeches between songs at hardcore shows, etc. Have you considered putting some of your thoughts and experiences in book form?
GREG: I think about it constantly. Literally yesterday the editor and director of a web series of videos on which I am working demanded that I write a book. And this year I am doing it. That’s another plan that was always on the back burner as I fed my love/drama/relationship addiction this last year. I basically burned the better part of a year away waiting. Oh to have a time machine and any sense of self-esteem along the way. I will definitely be writing something this year, or a few somethings in the next year. It is so long overdue, and not because the world is waiting for me to write, but because I am.
Ok, so back to your Icelandic Invasion… Man, that poster! I bet there will be real monuments of you in 100 years. Is that how you would imagine your memorial statues? Please give us some thoughts of how you’d like to be remembered.
GREG: The poster is so good right? Eagle Barber of Eagle Barber Design in Los Angeles (WEB; INSTAGRAM put that together and its truly genius. A frozen me in a block of ice. That’s what the winter felt like to me, and of course while it’s more of a play on the name of the country than anything else it just fits perfectly with the theme and is so fun. As for how I want to be remembered, I think if it was this tour poster, it could work, but I would add a smile to my face in it since it looks like I am angry inside that block of ice and my face should probably be smiling instead because my life and the choices I make around love are laughable.
How will you be preserving your body during this upcoming trip to Iceland? Natural cryogenics? Hot springs? Natural survival out in the wilderness of Icelandic harsh nature? Come on, let us know what you’re really doing there!
GREG: The first ten days of the trip – since there are only three or four spoken dates – are actually going to be just me driving around the country and sitting in hot springs the entire time by myself. Then when I get back to Reykjavik I will be all zen and mellow from soaking in hot water for days on end and I will be ready to start the tour. Or ready to fall asleep for a week.
Alright Greg, so what else? What have you been up to lately and what can we expect from your creative mind this year and beyond?
GREG: I just applied for a grant with One Hundred For Haiti which is going to help a lot this coming year with the work we have going on. I also have a spoken word record brewing where I had close friends record audio tracks for me and I will be speaking over each of them. I don’t expect it to be a record people will have on regular rotation but the idea is to absolutely slay the packaging and have it adapt and change depending on where I am going to be speaking or on world events going on at the time. So the record you might listen to once or twice, but the packaging will continue to inform, as it will have a web tie-in. I have enough tracks for a 7” at least if not two 7” records. Other than that, I am focusing on the Ernest Becker biography that I have been working on forever. That’s going to be finished in the spring of 2020. For those who don’t know, Becker was a cultural anthropologist who focused on why people behave the way they do, specifically in terms of their violent behaviors. I was hired to write his official biography and have been interviewing people all over the place who knew him and worked with him before his death in 1974 to find out who he really was. Updates will be posted on www.gregbennick.com
Thanks so much for your time and precious answers. Have a great trip to Iceland and please send us some photos. I’d love to serve ur readers a nice photo gallery follow up for this brief interview. How’s that sound? Do we have a deal?
GREG: Deal! I will have cameras with me for sure and will send you the best photos I can create. And of course, if people are interested in spoken word in their town, venue, country, drop me a line with your wildest idea sometime and we will make it happen. The weirder the better. Life is short and we waste too much time along the way on the safe, standard, boring choices that make us all feel like we are doing great things when we really aren’t. So let’s get weird.