The End: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie

"[My version of hell would be] sitting on the tarmac of an airplane after an international journey waiting for the gate, but the gate never opens up."

Nov 16, 2018 Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington
Bookmark and Share


To end out the week, we ask Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie (and also The Postal Service) some questions about endings and death. Death Cab for Cutie has been a pivotal act in bringing indie rock to the mainstream in the mid-to-late 2000s with seminal releases such as Transatlanticism, Plans, and Narrow Stairs. Gibbard's pensive lyrics can be heard throughout in songs such as "A Lack of Color," "Soul Meets Body," "Cath...," and "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." The band's latest release, Thank You for Today, is the first without original guitarist and long-time producer, Chris Walla, and the first with Dave Depper and Zac Rae as official members.

The album's first single, "Gold Rush," samples "Mind Train" by Yoko Ono and delves into Gibbard's thoughts on his ever-evolving Seattle neighborhood. "Every city is in a state of flux and change," Gibbard says. "That's just the nature of cities, but this rapid growth an development in Seattle is highly accelerated due in large part to the tech boom. With the rise of Amazon comes other companies like Google and Facebook and other companies to feed off the success in the area. They're kind of like the pile of fish who swim next to the shark. And it's changed the dynamic of the city."

Read on as Gibbard discusses how he'd like to die, what song he'd like played at his funeral, his concepts of heaven and hell, what he'd like to be remembered for, and how Death Cab for Cutie's music almost ended up on the season finale of Six Feet Under.

How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?

I'd like to be 90 and shuffling along on a trail and have a massive coronary and just die. I'd like to be outside.

What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?

I won't have a song playing on my deathbed because I don't plan on dying in bed.

What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

"An Ending (Ascent)" by Brian Eno, so there wouldn't be anybody singing it per se. To me, it's just one of the most beautiful and ethereal pieces of music. Jimmy Tamborello from The Postal Service turned me onto it years ago when we were working on that first record. He'd be speaking about it in similar terms of if there is an afterlife to ascend to, that would be the soundtrack of the ascent.

What's your favorite ending to a movie?

It's fairly dark, but it's the ending to Five Easy Pieces, the Bob Rafelson film starring Jack Nicholson. He's been a drifter his whole life. He's with his pregnant girlfriend and they go into the gas station to get gas. He then sees a trucker, asks where he's going and [Nicholson] just gets in the truck with him and drives off. The camera then pans back and shows his girlfriend, played by Karen Black, just in the other car being left. It's very apropos for Nicholson's character in the film. I don't say it with any kind of glee, but it's just really sad.

What's your favorite series finale episode of a TV show?

It's probably been referenced a good bit in this section of your magazine, but it has to be Six Feet Under. At the time, there was talking of using [Death Cab for Cutie song] "Transatlanticism" for the end of the show. There were two or three songs they were testing internally for the end scene, which is a show I would have loved to hear our song on. They ended up choosing the other song, and I was a little disappointed, but fine. After the show aired, everyone was raving about the ending. In my contrarian outlook, I figured it would be just fine. I was slightly put out that they didn't use our song. Eventually, I saw it and for the last five minutes, you're in tears. I was just a sobbing mess on the couch at the end of the final scene. It was just completely overwhelming.

What's your favorite last song on an album?

"Her Majesty" on Abbey Road by The Beatles. You have this montage near the end of Abbey Road and this false ending ["The End"] to what was going to be their last album. Then, there was just this 30 seconds of absurdity at the end of what you think would be an all-encompassing statement to the end of this band. It exhibited the sense of humor they had.

What's your favorite last album by a band who then broke up?

I guess it kind of doesn't count now that they've gotten back together like everyone does these days, but I'll say Think Tank by Blur. It was a record that I double backed on after they broke up. I really like their albums a lot like Parklife, The Great Escape, the self-titled record, but then I tuned out for a bit and was doing other things and listening to other bands. I really spent some time with Think Tank about 10 years ago and realized that it was phenomenal. I really appreciate what they ended up doing with that album. Graham Coxon had already left the band, and it was just really interesting to hear the bold choices they ended up making on that record.

Whose passing has most affected you?

This year, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. We were friends and had toured together a number of times and shared each other's work with each other when we were finishing it. It's been really shitty year with two, going on three, people that are close to me who are musical compatriots of mine who have left. It's really sad, but that one especially.

If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?

Super veggie burrito from Taqueria Cancún in San Francisco, the one on 19th and Mission with chips and a gallon of green sauce

What's your concept of the afterlife?

I am agnostic, so I would like to believe in something larger than ourselves. I think when we die, we'll get the answer to that. I'm willing to be surprised. I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to it, but the consolation prize of death is getting the answer to life.

What would be your own personal version of heaven if it exists?

Fresh legs under me and miles and miles of mountains and trails. For me, heaven would be a version of the Swiss Alps. I went there on vacation with my wife and just running those hills was like heaven.

What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?

Sitting on the tarmac of an airplane after an international journey waiting for the gate, but the gate never opens up. Basically, like a flight to Australia and you can see the gate, but you never get off the plane.

If reincarnation exists, who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

To be reincarnated as some kind of large bird of prey like a falcon or an eagle would be exciting. Just a large bird of prey that gets to soar over the world and pick off what it eats at its leisure.

What role or achievement would you most like to be remembered for?

I can only answer that really in professional terms, but if my obituary includes the words Give Up and Transatlanticism, I feel like that would be the most likely achievements that will end up there.

What would you like your last words to be?

"Goodbye."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.deathcabforcutie.com

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.