Sydney born, LA based singer/songwriter and recording artist Ben Lee is no stranger to the art of music making. From his first band at 13, Noise Addict, to the multi-ARIA award winning record Awake is the New Sleep, Ben Lee changed the face of contemporary music history in Australia. As much as he has been drawn to music all his life, Ben has been equally passionate about esoteric science – the workings of the human mind and spirit. His forthcoming release Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work may be Lee’s most wilful, creative and honest work yet.
Lee has long been attracted to esoteric circles; he’s one pop culture prince with a difference. Lee seeks meaning, in all its Technicolor complexity. His most recent adventure involved travelling to South America, where he participated in the Ayahuasca ceremony, the experience spurring his latest release.
‘I have always had a very spiritually uncompromising attitude in terms of my approach,’ says Lee
‘I had a teacher who said the spiritual path is better suited to the thief because the thief has the hunger to do the crime. I have always had the hunger for it, whether it’s creatively jumping into a career at 14 or going to India. When I heard people’s testimonies about the ayahuasca experience I became curious.’
So how did Lee go about procuring such an experience?
‘I think it’s usually a case that when the student is ready the teacher appears – you first put the intention out there with seriousness, whether conversations with friends, or goolgling, you open yourself to information that opens yourself to the experience in your life.’
The truth isn’t always sweet and fluffy and nice. Lee believes that if one is to follow the spiritual path then one needs to take action.
‘Part of the reason I called the album Welcome to the Work was because I wanted to make a definitive line in the sand between people interested in kicks and that there might be a degree of frivolity that someone might approach ayahuasca with. I am interested in ego annihilation and ways to highlight things to ourselves that might remain otherwise hidden to ourselves. In that realm it’s a potent ally – some people are perhaps too literal though about what is the truth in an Ayahuasca fantasy.
‘The experience is not for everyone. It’s a very brutal awakening. The medicine rips off the band-aid; it doesn’t coddle you in anyway.’
For Lee this suited him down to the ground.
‘I have that personality where I like intense things. I don’t think it’s a better or worse a path than someone who likes things gently; it’s a flavour of inner work.’
So what was the key spiritual messages for Lee?
‘We are at a time where we can’t over emphasise the seriousness of the work to be done. There is no time for lolly gagging. We need to go into the deep causes of our problem – we have to reflect on our inner nature, and we have to deal with nature as a whole and our place in it.
‘It’s funny there is a truth in our powerlessness. It’s not honest to see as anything other than that. Nature is full of beauty. We need to start seeing that with being part of nature comes duty, we are reluctant – we are definitely a species with an ego capable of being outwardly expressed to the detriment of the planet. But we can also fix the problem. We need to learn to live in alignment with nature and stop pillaging and plundering it.’
In keeping with the philosophy of his work, Ben will be donating 100 per cent of the album’s artist royalties to charity as a way of keeping the album’s release in alignment with the healing nature of the medicine itself. An organisation that Ben feels a deep affinity with around the issue of consciousness based research is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit research and educational organisation where Lee is donating half of his royalty income from Ayahuasca. The other half will go towards the Amazon conservation team.
Friday & Saturday – Byron Community Theatre, Byron Bay
w/ Darpan and Friends, Appleonia, Avasa & Matty Love, Nadav
Tickets $35 + bf on sale 19 February
Buy here: http://www.spiritfestival.com.au/benlee.