Matt Bennett | Terminal Cases | Fanatic Records | June 10, 2016
Matt Bennett on Terminal Cases:
Where to start?
I could start on my bedroom floor, circa 2006, listening to Lou Reed’s Berlin for the first time. Or I could start as a boy, circa God knows when, watching “Mrs. Doubtfire” for the zillionth time. I’ll start where I first got the idea for Terminal Cases: at Max Landis’ birthday party, inaptly titled “Worst Party Ever.” It wasn’t, it was very fun, and with the vibes of a good party coursing through my veins, I came up with a concept for an album unlike any the world had heard before.
That same afternoon, while watching the movie “Jumanji,” I had written a complete song based around it in one go. It told the story of a man revisiting his childhood home and not recognizing any of his surroundings. The years had done something funny to his memory. Had they changed his house? Or had the years changed him?
And it practically wrote itself. “This will be easy!” I thought.
What I formulated that night was a concept album in which each song would be inspired by a different Robin Williams movie. I would watch them and reshape them. I wanted to alter how people approached the films, what they took away from them. I wanted to take a movie like “Hook” and reveal a different angle of it. What plays as an action-adventure family comedy about Peter Pan can also be interpreted as a film about a workaholic father who’s slowly driving his family away from him by putting his career first. Or “Mrs. Doubtfire,” is it a light-hearted family comedy, or a film about a desperate man who assumes a new identity to re-infiltrate his family; a family largely trying to manage without him?
I spent the next year and a half going back and forth on these movies. Watching, writing, re-watching, rewriting.
In my viewings I noticed a few things:
- In Robin Williams’ movies, there is often a character named Jack (see: “Jack,” “Hook,” “Fisher King.”)
- His movies often deal with aging, either too slowly, too quickly, or the reticence of a man child to “grow up.”
- They often dealt with divorce.
That last realization came at a crucial time for me. My parents had just announced their plans to divorce. At this time I was living alone in Los Angeles, but I could feel the emotional strain it put on my family across the country.
Around the same time my dream job ended. I had been working on a Nickelodeon show called “Victorious” for over three years and one summer afternoon in August I found out it had been abruptly cancelled. With no job and very little structure to my days, my life seemed directionless. I realized change could only come internally. So I started crafting this album.
I also took a nod from another of my heroes, Lou Reed, and decided to structure the project around his album Berlin. The way each song played into the next and kept building a viewpoint into these three characters lives felt right for a project like this. By this I mean I tried not to cross any line by aping his songs too closely, I just appreciated the energy and placement and used that as my template.
I had been fascinated by Berlin since I was in high school, especially the song “The Kids.” It tells the story of a drug addicted mother having her children taken away from her. It’s a tragically beautiful song and that ends with a chilling instrumental section accompanied by the screams and cries of two small children begging for their mother. I tried channeling that energy into my song “Doubtfire.” What emerged was a song not from Daniel’s (Williams’) perspective but from Miranda’s (Sally Fields’.) A mother torn in two over her career, her shell shocked children, and her failed marriage.
I worked on the album every night for a year and a half, with the intention of somehow getting it into Robin Williams’ hands, and I had it about 75% written when he passed away in 2014.
“That’s it,” I thought, “there’s no way I can release this album now. It’s dark and strange and completely wrong, timing-wise.”
I decided to move on and sat on the material for close to a year, but developed a nasty case of writer’s block. There was something in these songs that lingered with me, I needed to get them out and clear my head. Through the help of my friends Josh Bloom and Jim Greer I was able to resurrect the project and bring it to fruition. And voila, here we are.
Completing this album has been very therapeutic for me. I truly appreciate you, and anyone who takes the time, to listen to this record. It represents a time for me. A frame of mind. It was a great experiment for me to write these songs, to record them, and release them into the wild. There were laughs, there were almost tears, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
- 6/20/2016: Matt Bennett turns pain of his parent’s divorce into debut album where each song is based on the Robin Williams films he loved growing up.
- 5/2/2016: Matt Bennett discusses the influence of Robin Williams, Lou Reed's ‘Berlin,” and being one of the most slimed people in Nickelodeon history.
- 4/5/2016: Matt Bennett to release debut “Terminal Cases,” a concept album about divorce based on the films of Robin Williams.
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