From the big screens to your mobile devices, right down to magazines, advertisements and movie posters, this guy @benjaminkheng is everywhere.
I managed to catch this talented wunderboy during one of our much enjoyed Muay Thai classes at Evolve MMA one Monday morning and had an interesting chat with this good looking, down to earth boy that we call Benjamin Kheng.
Flesh Imp / FI
Benjamin Kheng / BK
FI : There isn't anyone that doesn't know you, but let's hear it from you.
BK : I'm a Singaporean based musician, actor, writer and twitter philosopher. I enjoy partaking in combat sports, swimming, internet memes and a healthy amount of existential dread.
FI : Sam Willows is considered the hottest band right now, how was that journey?
BK : There are bands who we think are way hotter and more talented, but we're nevertheless very grateful for the love and support. I'd say we've been through more in the past 5 years than most folks.
FI : Is this the 'existential dread' you were talking about?
BK : Haha, well, yes, insane highs, depressing lows, break-ups and loves, terrible and kick-ass shows, ratchet tours and little sleep, and tons of unreleased songs. BUT, at the end of it, I'd do it all again with these guys.
FI : It seems to many that you have an obvious talent for singing (and acting, and sports etc etc etc ) But the real question is, have you always wanted to be a singer? If it wasn't the case, what would you have wanted to be?
BK : Realistically, as a Singaporean, no way. Growing up, music was always the side chick (not that I endorse side chicks, especially at that age, just a term of expression) to studies and sports. It wasn't till much later that it seemed feasible to go at it full-time.
This sounds ridiculous, but when I was a little younger I wanted to become a dialect (accent) coach for actors. Then I wanted to be a photojournalist or theatre director. I never took any of it as seriously as I should have but it's weird that those things are all a slice of my life now.
( editor's note : the dialect coach part is definitely very true. Almost at every hangout session, you can hear Ben trading tips of speaking different accents. And I would say, he is pretty good. Ben can seriously give Chua Enlai a run for his money)
FI : Being a celebrity means almost everything about you is made public to everyone. Is there something that people do not know much about you?
BK : This seems almost scarily common these days, but I've struggled with insomnia and depressive bouts occasionally over the past 2 years. There's such an open and healthy discussion about it these days and hopefully that's helping to normalize, not trivialize, mental health problems. I've only recently been able to quell it, with the use of regular exercise and art-making. Speaking of which (not a paid ad), I'm in a musical now, called Fun Home, which delves into mental health, family and sexuality; hopefully that opens doors to more conversations too. (Please come watch, thanks!)
Pad work session at Evolve MMA
FI : You mentioned about combat sports earlier, and we know you were a national swimmer too. Recently we have seen you take up Muay Thai and began training with Maxi, Joshua and Fuzz. Is that how you keep that fit these days?
BK : I won't lie, I've got a pretty love-hate relationship with fitness. I try to alternate between swimming, Muay Thai and general circuit training. All 3 employ real different muscle groups, so it's a challenge to get used to. But at least it's never boring.
FI : I am sure you know all bands and artistes have a shelf life, in this generation where attention span has became much shorter, where do u see yourself in the next 5 years?
BK : I'd usually give some meta or ironic answer like "reclining on a sandy Bahamas beach with my future family" but screw that, I'd like to be doing exciting work, making music and traveling the world. And hopefully directing my first film.
FI : We have seen you done countless of fashion shoots, and we can see you in a myriad of styles and looks on your social media posts. But deep down inside, what is truly your fashion taste?
BK : Functional fancy. Future past. Clothes that fit. Shirt and pants. Tight not taut. Thrifty and trippy. I like hats.
FI : Ah, hats. A few seasons back, you were rocking hats so well, almost anyone else who rocked a hat would be called 'Ben Kheng Style' I guess, if you are compared to a piece of apparel, you would be a hat then?
BK : Ah, tempting, but no, I'm a shirtbag. They're all the rage in Aussie thrift shops. They're bags made of vintage shirts. It shows that I'm multi-functional and slightly disorienting in a throwback kind of way, and I don't take myself too seriously. I'm just a teenage shirtbag, baby.
FI : It was lovely talking to you and we shan't take up more of your time, but before we go, any shout outs?
BK : Fun Home the Musical runs from 29th Sept to 15th Oct at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets through SISTIC. Stick and stay with @thesamwillows or @benjaminkheng for more updates. And hit follow on my favourite local brand @fleshimp x10 fire emojis
editor's note :
Although I have known Benjamin for awhile (since 2013), there are always so many things to learn about him every time we hang out.
Level-headed and humble, Benjamin is always finding out ways to improve himself and exploring new ways to present his music. His creative spontaneity is always spot on; just like how we literally collaborated on the shoot where he took over the direction and came up with some interesting angles to create a new look and feel of some of the shots. See if you can spot them haha.
It is very refreshing talking to him because he has so many ideas about creating music and how he envision pooling all local talents into this common platform and showcasing them to the world.
Lately we have gotten pretty serious into Muay Thai and we are very blessed to be training under Evolve MMA, the best gym in the region and it is through this amazing sport that I have also got to see Ben's determination and hard work and how he reached level 2 within a short span of 6 months! Although he started a good 7-8 months after me, he is now able to give me legit boxing tips (which I still suck at)
Under his often-serious and soulful demeanour lies a witty and mischievous self, where his witty comebacks and keen observations never fail to surprise me. Between heavily accented exchanges, (his favourite at the moment seems to be the Conor McGregor one) and his funny stories during his overseas gigs, there lies a young man serious about his craft, and always on the look out for how to bring Singapore music to the rest of the world.
Here's to more good things to come, bro!