Exploring the boundaries of alternative rock and metal

Ben Kenney


Ben Kenney is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, best known for his work as the bassist in the American rock band Incubus, as well as playing guitar in the American hip hop band The Roots. His forward-thinking blend of alternative rock, metal, and hip hop has made Ben a powerful front-runner in several different areas of the music scene today, and a welcome addition to the .strandberg* Guitars artist roster.

Early in his career, Ben got his start in the New Jersey-based band Racecar in 1994. In 2000, Ben joined The Roots, playing guitar alongside members including Questlove, Kamal Gray, and Black Thought. He later joined Incubus in 2003 to hold down the low-end on bass duties and has helped write several records and toured internationally with the award-winning group.

A high-caliber multi-instrumentalist, Ben plays several instruments and has worked in the studio alongside artists like Justin Timberlake, Faith Evans, Erykah Badu, and Blackalicious, as well as producers Timbaland and DJ Jazzy Jeff. He has also currently released five solo albums, writing and playing everything including the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. Currently, Ben is involved with the project One Take Theater, a collaboration between him, bassist Ashley Mendel, and drummer Daniel Gallardo. The trio performs live, one-take covers of songs by artists like Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, and Luther Vandross.

Photos by Andy Keilen Photography.

What are some projects you’ve been involved with lately? Anything you’re particularly excited about?

I’ve been working a lot with Incubus. We try to stay busy. For the last few weeks, we’ve been getting together to play and figure out what’s next. This year I spent some time making live performance videos with Ashley Mendel and Daniel Gallardo. We started a series called “One Take Theater” where we learn a song and film a live take in a few hours. That’s been really exciting. I’m also working on new solo music. I am forever trying to crawl out of my comfort zone and make new records.

What are some challenges you see musicians facing in today’s scene? How do you personally traverse those challenges?

I think it’s a difficult time for musicians. Trying to make money making music was hard enough before the pandemic hit. It sometimes feels like the music business has shattered into a million tiny pieces. Every other type of media is shamelessly willing to do or say whatever it takes to keep people’s attention at any cost. Still, many artists are making amazing music with their whole heart and it’s a gift to be in the audience for it. I’m just trying to make new stuff that reaches new listeners.

What do your current bass and guitar rigs consist of and how are you using them to shape your sound?

My bass rig is a never-ending project. I’m really lucky I get to keep trying different things in different settings. For a long time, the centerpiece has been a Mesa Boogie 400+ amp into a Mesa 8×10 cab. I’ve been experimenting with having small combo amps mic’d up off stage for front of house. I have a handful of different basses I play. I use a pair of Boden Original 4 basses, along with a few Laklands, a custom Serek Sacramento and a Music Man. Each one is a work of art.

My guitar rig is a lot more simple. The last few years I’ve been really happy playing through a Mesa Rectoverb 25. I’ve been using Mesa’s Cab Clone IR+ whenever I’m on in-ears and a 1×12″ cab for moving some air. As for guitars, I recently got my hands on a Sälen Classic and I can’t put it down. It’s currently my favorite guitar to play. I also use a Boden OS 6 and a Boden Classic 7. Lots of EndurNecks here at the crib.

How did you first find out about .strandberg* Guitars?

I saw Tosin and Javier from Animals As Leaders playing .strandbergs*. I loved the shape at first sight. I had no idea there was so much thought behind the design. I just thought they looked dope and futuristic. I spoke to Mark Holcomb of Periphery and he had great things to say about Ola and his designs. I had to try one out. I eventually bought a Boden OS 6 and fell in love. I was blown away by how I could play the guitar for hours without my hands getting tired. And the guitar sounded perfect.

Who have been some of your major influencers over the years?

I feel like everything I’m exposed to influences me. I grew up on 1980’s MTV and was a teenager in the 1990s. What a special time. Prince made me feel like anything was possible. Hearing Yngwie was supernatural. The Edge and U2 showed me you could paint with sound. Bad Brains got me through high school. A Tribe Called Quest brought me so much joy. Ahmad Jamal and Wes Montgomery were waiting for me to open my ears enough to hear what real mastery of an instrument sounds like. I could go on for hours and still only scratch the surface.

What are your plans for the immediate and long-term future?

I’m very inspired right now. I’m going to watch the Mets game on TV in a few hours. LFGM! Then hopefully I’m going to keep making the best music I can with all of the amazing people around me. This is a special moment in time. So much is uncertain. One thing that still brings us together is music. I’m thankful for every second I get to call it my job.

The pinnacle of headless ergonomic design and multi-scale for extended range

Boden Bass Original 4 Natural

The Boden Bass Original models are for advanced professional bassists who seek the utmost in playing comfort as well as a plethora of great classic and modern bass sounds that can be used in a variety of professional musical environments, whether that’s a critical time-sensitive recording session or the largest of concert stages in which there is no room for errors. All of the features on the Boden Bass Original were thoughtfully designed, engineered and implemented with such players in mind –from the premium materials to the scale length of each string and from each component of the hardware to the layout of the controls. The Boden Bass Original is for the serious bassist who requires an instrument that delivers all of the great classic bass sounds as well as the modern and which will help take his or her playing to a new level of musical creativity as well as the most enjoyable playing experience.

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"I love what .strandberg* has been doing with guitar design. You really have to play one to fully understand the leap in evolution that Ola and his team have made. These instruments are in a class of their own."

Ben Kenney