It’s with deep sadness I report that Benjamin Curtis of The Secret Machines passed away today at the age of 35 as a result of his yearlong battle against cancer. The bulk of the news articles being published pay the most attention to his recent project, School of Seven Bells, but it was his work alongside his brother, Brandon, and Josh Garza in The Secret Machines that will always endear him to me.
After being utterly floored by TSM’s late night performance at Bonnaroo in the summer of 2005, the budding music journalist in me wanted nothing more than a shot at these guys. Their publicist at Warner Brothers told me she’d give me access if I’d provide some press for Taking Back Sunday. I played ball.
While this horse-trading was an unpleasant intro to the music industry, one on one, Benjamin was as kind and gentle as an artist can be. I had the chance to interview him and his band mates on a few different occasions and he always remembered me and thanked me for my coverage. The reporter in me these days brushes things like this off as an attempt to gain favor with the media, but as a 19 year old who could barely hold the recorder straight, this meant a lot to me. He was my first interview.
In 2007, Benjamin left TSM at their height to join School of Seven Bells, a group that he got more professional success out of, and he never played with The Secret Machines again.
The national blogs are focusing on his work with School of Seven Bells and the hometown press from Dallas are making note of his work with local acts like UFOFU and Tripping Daisy but The Secret Machines remains one of my favorite acts of the early 2000’s. It always disappointed me that the group sort of fizzled out when they had such potential but for as long as it had been since they’d made any news, The Secret Machines’ Now Here Is Nowhere remains one of my favorite albums of all time.
Benjamin was an innovative guitarist with a sound all his own, a voice that radiated with warmth, and a kind presence that endeared him to fans.
He will be missed.