Simon Amstell and James Righton (formerly of Klaxons fame) are two personalities who’ll be very familiar to anyone who loved music in the noughties.
The pair have recently joined forces on the feature film Benjamin, written and directed by Amstell and soundtracked with Righton. We caught up with the pair for a sit-down interview last week, which you can watch in full above.
On how the idea for the film came about, Amstell told NME that it borrowed from his own life and that the character of Benjamin was semi-autobiographical.
“I think I just ended up writing something that was long. I started writing down scenes from various relationships I had been in during my twenties. I didn’t know when I was writing it, but it turned out to be this film that was about this character that isn’t totally me.”
“He’s me in my twenties, before I got better. He’s suffering from loneliness, anxiety, depression and I’m basically alright now. He has a terror of intimacy and is seeking love from an audience because he doesn’t know anything other than making himself appear special in order to be loved by strangers. That’s all he knows.”
Righton explained that he only became friends with Amstell about five or six years ago, despite them both having come through during the same era in the mid-to-late ‘00s. “Never Mind The Buzzcocks asked me to be on the show and I turned them down because I was absolutely terrified of Simon. Then at parties, I would always ignore him,” Righton joked.
Eventually meeting through mutual friends, Righton attended Amstell’s comedy show in New York, which then led to an invitation for Amstell to visit the set of a new film that Righton’s wife, Keira Knightley, was working on at the time.
Amstell recalled: “It was the first film set that I had been on. I wanted to go because I wanted to direct films, so I wanted to see if it was going to be as tricky as I had imagined. I got there and heard some of the worst dialogue I had ever heard said out loud by actors. The director was apparently hated by everyone on the set and I thought, ‘I think I can do better than this. I think I can write something better and I think I can get on with people.’”
Speaking about his work on the soundtrack, Righton said that he enjoyed the “hugely collaborative process” to create a “musical language for the film”. He also spoke about how it’s important to continue to pursue new ventures after initial acclaim and success.
“I will probably always be remembered as the person who used to be in Klaxons and there was a period of my life when I was trying to wrestle with that,” Righton explained. “I wanted to shake that off, I didn’t want to be that any more… [Klaxons] left a mark culturally, but that shouldn’t stop you from making things. You have to keep going. Okay, I might never play the Brits again, I may never win the Mercury Prize, whatever nonsense, but none of that really matters because it’s important to just keep making stuff, to keep doing stuff that’s interesting and fun, and stop thinking of exterior validation and judgment, which is similar to themes in the film.”
Righton is gearing up to release a new album, under his own name this time rather than his recent Shock Machine moniker, and discussed recently working on Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. “I’m happy to have played a small part in what I think was probably the best record of last year,” he said.
Amstell, meanwhile, is open to exploring music a bit more: “Who can I write for? I want to write more songs.”
In a four-star NME review, we described Benjamin as “a film about a movie director struggling with expectation and self-doubt… an awkward, artsy fartsy, East London type [who] has made one well-received film and is working on his second. He is terrified he is not as good as the hype says and that what he’s making might be pretentious and terrible.”
Benjamin is released in cinemas and digitally on 15 March, with the official soundtrack arriving on the same day.
Watch Simon Amstell and James Righton’s full NME interview above.