Interview with Benji Staffon
Character Interview with Rocktar Benji Staffon
By Lashell Collins
My knee bounces up and down as I sit in the chair and destroy my thumbnail. I have to stop this. Folding my arms across my chest in an effort to stop myself from bitting my nail, I let out a frustrated sigh as my gaze darts around the empty hotel suite.
Deep breaths. If I'm nervous, it's only going to make him more nervous than I know he already is, right? I can't let that happen. Benji Staffon, Jagged Ivory's bassist, is notorious for being shy and awkward in interviews. He hates them with a passion, and hates to talk about himself. So I have got to calm down and find a way to put him at ease.
I take a few more deep breaths as I attempt to center myself. Out of all the characters I've ever written, Benji is the least flamboyant. He is a humble, mild-mannered, gentle soul who only wants to exist and be accepted by the world around him. He couldn't care less about things like fame and fortune, so the fact that he's part of the biggest rock band on the planet is sometimes both a blessing and a curse to him, in more ways than one.
Quietly, and with no warning, the door of the suite slowly opens, and I look up and smile as the unassuming bassist walks in. He's dressed in a pair of worn blue jeans that are ripped at the knee, and a Pink Floyd t-shirt peeking out beneath a black and gray flannel. His long brown wavy hair hangs past his shoulders, and he runs his hand over the neatly manicured full beard at his chin. I stand up as he walks toward me, and as we greet each other with a small hug, the trepidation in his gentle eyes is difficult to miss. He would clearly rather be anywhere else than here right now.
“Thanks for coming, Benji.”
His only response is a small grin as we take our seats in the chairs, facing each other, and his silence makes me uneasy.
“I really appreciate you taking the time.”
His gaze drifts around the room as he steals quick glances at me, and he nods as he struggles to get comfortable in his seat. “Did you think I wouldn't show?”
I think I see a flash of mirth in his eyes as he asks the question, and I giggle. I'm overjoyed when I'm rewarded with a small smile from him. “Well, I can't deny the thought did cross my mind.”
He nods again. “Yeah, mine too. I guess it must have crossed Noah's too, 'cause he showed up at my hotel room door a little while ago. He appointed himself my official escort to your door. I wouldn't be surprised if he stands out there in the hallway and waits, just to be sure I don't make a run for it or something.”
There's another little grin, and I'm relieved to see the tiny hints of his fun sense of humor peeking out from behind his fear. Maybe this interview won't be so bad after all.
“Well, it'll be painless, I promise. It's just me. You've talked to me a thousand times while I was writing your book. This is no different, all right?”
He silently nods.
“Just two fun and easy questions from our readers, along with a third question of my own. This is just a way for our readers to get to know you a little better, okay?”
He takes a deep breath and nods. “I can't imagine that anyone would be interested, but okay.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “You truly mean that, don't you?”
“Well yeah. I mean, let's face it ... I am nowhere near as interesting or entertaining as my bandmates.” He shrugs his shoulders as if he can't figure it out, and I smile at him.
“Benji, would it surprise you to know that my readers consistently tell me you're their favorite, out of all the Jagged Ivory band members?”
He stares at me for a long moment with a truly puzzled expression. His gaze drifts down to his lap for a second before he looks at me again. “But why?”
I smile at him. “I don't know. I guess they connect with you. With the fact that you're not perfect, but you keep trying. The fact that you've had to fight to overcome all the obstacles in your life, and that you're still fighting to stay above it. Trust me, my readers will be very interested in what you have to say.”
He stares at me in disbelief, and shakes his head. “I don't get it, but … okay.”
“So, why redheads?”
He frowns at me. “Huh?”
“The readers want to know why you're partial to redheads.”
Benji grins and shrugs a shoulder. “It doesn't really matter. I mean, before I met a certain female backline technician with these crazy bouncy black curls that draw my hands like a magnet, I would have said redheads, but … that's only 'cause red hair is pretty. I like the color.”
“Yeah? So girls with red hair do it for you?”
He hesitates, and I can sense that he's already hating this interview. “I wouldn't say they do it for me, 'cause to me it's about the person, not the wrapping they're in. But red hair catches my eye because I like the color.”
“But it sounds like black hair has your attention now, yes?” I give him a playful little smile, trying my best to draw him out a little. He gives me a bashful smile of his own.
“No. Just a certain person with black hair.”
He looks down at his hands, and I get the feeling he wants me to move on, but I can't let him off that easily, right? “Yes, I believe you mentioned a certain backline technician with bouncy black curls. Sounds like Fae Miller. Is that who you mean?”
He hides a smile as his face flushes a little, and he still refuses to make eye contact. “We're just friends.”
“Yes, right. I think I've heard that lie somewhere else,” I say with mock sincerity.
He smiles, a genuine, bright, toothy grin, and looks at me. “Honestly, we're just friends.”
“With benefits.” I nod, and he turns bright red, saying nothing more.
“Okay, I'll let that go,” I joke.
“Thank you.” He nods and tries not to smile anymore.
“But because I let it go, I want to switch gears now and ask a tough question.”
Benji's gaze meets mine, and I can tell he wants to protest the direction this interview is about to go, but he sighs and looks past me to the window. “Okay.” He looks down at his hands again and waits.
“We alluded to the struggles you've been through earlier, but I want to spend a little time on your most recent struggle if we could. Going through rehab, or even after you come out of a program like that, when do you start to feel normal again?”
He's silent for a long time as he stares at his hands that are folded in his lap. I can hear the ticking of the clock, and I start to get nervous as the seconds pass by. Finally, he lifts his head and looks me directly in the eyes. “I hate that word. Normal. What is that?” he asks with a shrug of his shoulder. “I don't know what that is. I don't think anyone does. And if they say they do, they're lying. 'Cause see, normal changes. It means different things to different people. It means different things in the beginning than it does at the end, so … I don't really know how to answer that question. Do I think I'll ever feel normal again? Well, what's normal? Whose version?”
I can't help but smile at his response because he's completely right. “So maybe I should have simply asked how's life been for you since coming out of rehab?”
Benji stares at me for a moment and smiles. “That's a better question.”
“Okay,” I nod.
“Life, right now, is good. I'm clean. I'm playing better than ever, and the band is beyond successful. My brothers are more than supportive, which is amazing to me. And most importantly, I have someone special in my life. It's all good.”
“You have no idea how happy that makes me. Because I believe that you deserve all the happiness in the world, plus more.”
He glances away with a humble smile before his gaze meets mine again. "Thank you, Lashell."
“Well, we're almost done. I told myself I was going to ask everyone the same two reader questions, but I'm kind of leery to ask you the last one.”
He sighs. “Is it about the drugs, or rehab, or living on the streets?”
“No, it's nothing like that. It's just something silly and fun. Just something the readers wanted to know.”
“Okay then. I can handle it.” He gestures with his hand. “Come on. Let's get it over with.”
“All right. Here goes. Boxers or briefs?” I cover my mouth with my hand, as though I can't believe I've actually said it. And part of me can't. I mean, it's Benji Staffon, for God's sake!
He chuckles. He actually laughs, and I feel so relieved. We've come through this potentially awkward interview with almost no problems at all.
“Your readers don't want to know that,” he says, smiling and scratching his beard.
“I promise you, they do,” I say, laughing at his response.
“Noah and Cory both answered this question?”
I nod. “They did, I swear! Ask them about it after we're done here.”
He sighs and shakes his head, resigned to his fate. “Okay. See, they have these things called boxer briefs. They're sort of like the best of both worlds, 'cause they're longer, like the boxers, but they have elastic at the leg opening … like the briefs. They're really very comfortable, so … that's what I wear. Shit, I can't believe I actually answered that. Now all of America is gonna know what kind of drawers I wear.”
“Oh, not just America. I have readers around the globe!”
“Damn you and your friendly smile, and your easygoing attitude. You sucked me in and got me to talk about my underwear.” He points a finger at me and playfully narrows his eyes. “Well played, Ms. Lashell. You're good.”
I can't help laughing at him as our interview comes to a close.