Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Sunday Conversation with John Kirby

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

About 10 years ago I was good friends with the brother of James Black,
guitarist for the bad Finger 11 |
Playing in one of my first bands at the time and being a fan of the
band my friends asked me if I’d like to come to one of their shows in
town and hang out on the tour bus. Of course I said yes.

Now it wasn’t the luxury of being on the bus that struck me, it was
how cool everyone was and how this, touring around in this tour bus
playing kick ass music, was how they made a living. They were all down
to earth dudes, super friendly and just really laid back.  I already
loved writing music, but it wasn’t until I saw that and got to
experience it that I was really wowed by the whole thing. At least
from a career standpoint.

Musically, the first time I jammed with my father was a, now looking
back on it, epic moment in my life. Being the youngest of three kids
at the time, I was always doing what my older brother did. He played
baseball, I played baseball, he played guitar…well I had to play
something. I chose drums.  So one evening, my father, a former jazz
drummer, sat down with a guitar and had my brother and I accompany him
on the song, the actual track we did escapes me but my brother and I
had been in lessons learning our respective instruments and rarely if
ever heard our dad play and sing, let alone with us.

That, was a big moment for me.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Lately, its been melody lines, or strings of words that just pop into
my head or I get ideas watching other bands, watching the news,
talking to people. Really anything can BE a song, but as far as how it
starts, its usually the melody…or just a drum beat in my head.

Who has influenced you the most?

It’s a loaded question because it really is a sum of its parts. My
father, my bands I’ve played in, the other bands I’ve played with,
random musicians I’ve met, producers I’ve worked with. Influence for
me is constantly evolving, so to say who MOST does, would be
subjective to the time you ask. So right now…I’ll say the most
influential thing is this new Mother Mother record I’m listening to
“Eureka” right now. They are an amazing band.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I typically get inspired by other artists, watching them play. I went
to see Dan Mangan play not too long ago here in Hamilton, ON and not
just his set but the openers, this three piece band from Wisconsin I
think called The Daredevil Christopher Wright. Just something about
them started the pistons firing in my music head, I wanted to leave
the show to start getting the ideas out.

In such a case I usually use my iPhone note recorder app to lay down a
subtly recorded melody I have ringing in my head.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

I started calling it bedroom folk rock. This new EP, Into The Dark, is
more pop rock but nixing the labels as you said, its songs from my
bedroom. Songs you write in the place you sleep tend to have this
cathartic release, things that I can get off my chest, I can say to
help ease me into piece of mind.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

This EP I think is just me standing bare about how I feel, at least at
the time and looking for some empathy. Maybe hoping for a “Yea I feel
like that too sometimes” moment.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

I don’t know how Spinal Tappy it is but the most “Rockstar-ish” thing
I’ve done was run a massive bar tab and walk out on it. I was opening
for this band and playing bass for them when we arrived at a show only
to find that it was “double booked”. Thing was, it wasn’t double
booked and the promoter was trying to screw us out of a big guarantee
so he could book a DJ for less…which is what he did.

I was also tour managing at the time and this show was a huge lynchpin
in our budget, we needed it to make it to another gig and I was
seeeeething. So there I am yelling at the promoter and shouting at the
booking agent (who happened to be in the band I was playing for…and is
also my friend) he’s trying to calm me down, but I’m understandably
infuriated. The smugness of this fucker (promoter) drove me up the

I get told to go cool down outside and blow off some steam. So there I
am out in the mountains of BC hastily scrolling through my contacts on
my phone to find my Entertainment Lawyers number, thinking I can get
him to, I dunno, put a litigious scare into this asshole whose trying
to fuck not me, but our entire tour over…over what really was a tiny
amount of cash in the grand scheme.

My booking agent comes outside, said he’s worked out a deal with the
promoter…we won’t get paid what we were contracted for, but he’ll give
us free food, a place to stay (which was already in the original
contract) and an open bar tab.

I reply with something to the effect of, “Well the asshole knows you
can’t run a van off of alcohol, but open bar tab it is.”

I hussle back into the venue, blowing past the promoter who smugly
tries to apologize and head right up to the bar. “Four pints
please…and…hey! Does anyone want shots?” I look up and down the bar at
the patrons already there…they are perplexed. “Was he talking to me?”
they must think.

“All of you here, sitting at the bar, do you want shots, drinks are on me!”

A huge roar of approval sweeps over the bar…and from then on out I was
buying shots and beers for anyone and everyone, beers, four at a time
being handed out to everyone shots whenever I’d go back to order more

By the end of the night the tab was well beyond what our guarantee
was, so at the very least I felt slightly vindicated.

 What makes a great song?

Honesty…and a catchy chorus.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

I began song writing in Grade 6. Back then they were silly songs about
girls, but now…I write silly songs about women.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

One of the first songs I did with my old band, First Time Fallen | It’s called Through
Wicked And Wise and it was the first time I’d been so forth coming in
a song. The result was that anyone who was a fan of our band, loved
that song. It was the first time something I had written from the
heart and it worked. So I try to make that the goal of everything I
write now.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

There is an artists based out of Toronto called Lindy who just floors
me. One hell of a guy and man, just a fantastic songwriter. The songs
are everything I want my songs to be. Nothing specific, just the
colour of them, the sense of feeling they can derive, I love it.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Know what? I’d love to get more cassettes. I’ve been told, and can’t
independently verify, that they have the best fidelity you can get. I
love vinyl too but on both counts I don’t have the machines or
catalogues to use either. My publicist and fellow musician Adam at
Auteur Research |  and sings of The
Rest |  has records on every time I
meet him at his house and I love the warmth.

That being said, with the ease of use and vast amounts of access one
has to digital tunes, I’m mostly an Mp3 guy. Though I’m somewhat
fickle in my choices…I rarely if ever will listen to something at less
than 320kbps.

And digital is easier to throw around to people, not to mention from a
marketing standpoint, you can actually see whose listening to an album
and where. I don’t mean invasively, but if I put a record out and I
wanna know whose downloading it and from where, digital allows me that
ability. And for someone like me who relies very heavily on touring it
gives me a good indication as to where I should probably go.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice
I do love beer, but lately its been getting a bad wrap from my
subconscious. ..those damn carbonation bubbles really fuck up my
voice…I love scotch too…but I drink it so damn fast…I only prefer beer
in the sense of its actually consumption…at least the bubbles prevent
initial overdrinking. But I’ll take scotch. The sophisticated drunker.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What'syour home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Well I call Hamilton, ON home and though I’m not originally from
there, I do love Cheapies on King St. They always have tons of
stuff…but if you go to Burlington, ON, right next door to Hamilton,
there is this quaint little store called Looney Tunes on Brant St.
This older eccentric man has been running it for years, boxes stacked
to the ceilings. I doubt he knows all of what he has in there, but
it’s worth going in to test him.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the wave riders?

I really have been digging these records (In all honesty I was
listening to them while doing this interview) but I suggest you
check’em out.


No comments:

Post a Comment