On last night’s episode of The Masked Singer 2021, the Professor was unmasked and wouldn’t ya bloody know it? Old mate Ben Lee was under there the whole time!
Today, I got on the horn with Ben to have a yarn about everything from what goes on behind-the-scenes at the quirky-ass show to the huge second wind of his iconique bop, ‘Catch My Disease’.
Hey Ben! Last night was so entertaining. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it! How did you come to be involved in The Masked Singer?
[Ten] actually approached me last year, and it was right as the pandemic was starting. I was going to come out by myself and do it and I just thought, ‘Man, I could end up in a situation where I’m stuck away from my family for six months.’
So I ended up saying no, then when I said I was coming out this year, I was like, ‘Is that offer still on?’
I love that you were so keen!
Oh yeah! The show is just madness and I do think that in general, there’s something just glorious about keeping in touch with that little kid part of yourself that just wants to be involved in things that are totally insane.
Totally! And how often do you get to perform on stage with a quirky mask?
Never! And it’s really liberating, like I thought about that Oscar Wilde quote, “Give a man a mask, he’ll show you the truth.” Because there is something that’s like eyes wide shut, like you become a little bit liberated and unhinged by not relying on your regular persona.
Yeah, 100%! So how does it work with the costume? Do you get to choose it or do they?
They send sketches. I think they have ideas of what they think would be funny or interesting for different people. And for me it’s really funny because you know, I was making this new record at the time and I kept saying to people, “It’s about the mad professor archetype, it’s like Willy Wonka. It’s like being the type of instigator that sort of takes people on a journey into unexpected spaces.” And so when I saw that costume I was like, that’s exactly right!
Beautiful! And what about the song, did you pick that or was that them?
There’s a list of songs and I was pretty clear from the beginning that I wouldn’t want to do anything corny because at the end of the day, entertainment is good, but I like standing up in favour of good songs.
Obviously you can’t give away spoilers, but I just want to know, did you get to meet the other celebs backstage or is it completely hush hush?
I don’t know who they are!
Do you have theories?
I don’t even have theories! But I’m guessing, just by the law of the art genre, that some of them are probably friends of mine.
Well it’s such a fascinating season, because we have more Hollywood stars in Australia than ever, so it could literally be anyone!
Well not only that, but also because live performance has been out of the picture, anyone musical is looking for work, so more people would be open to doing it.
Excellent point! So since it’s completely hush hush, what’s the vibe like backstage?
It’s probably a bit like being in a military exercise. I mean, you only have a handful of people, as a contestant, that you interact with. I think about four people knew who I was. And you move from one thing to another with hoods and cloaks and security. It’s really weird.
It must feel like you’re in some kind of secret society, like a Stonecutters vibe.
Absolutely, yeah! It’s that exact kind of feeling.
So switching gears now, your iconic song ‘Catch My Disease’ has become a bit of a viral sensation all over again since COVID. I’ve seen memes about it. I’ve seen it on COVID-inspired playlists. How does that feel?
Well I think one of the good things about songs is that they really have a life and a mind of their own and you can’t quite anticipate what a song is going to mean by the time it gets to the public, let alone 10 or 15 years later.
So just as an artist, I think that’s where intuition really comes into play, and you have to trust that things that don’t always make sense at the time might make sense later on.
Absolutely, gotta trust your vibes! So speaking of which, your new song ‘Born for this Bullshit’ comes out on Friday. Tell me about it!
Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s a song I wrote in 2019, it’s all about finding the swagger and positivity to wake up in the morning in spite of personal and socioeconomic collapse.
I’m really excited! I did the video with Byron Spencer who is one of my favourite visual artists working today and it’s absolute lunacy.
I can’t wait to see it! Lunacy seems to be the theme lately, I love that.
Yeah, well. A little madness keeps you sane!
Absolutely! It’s ironic, but it’s so true.
The Masked Singer continues tonight at 7:30pm on Ten.