Shop our Big Takeover store for back issues, t-shirts & CDs
Follow The Big Takeover
Kilbey Kennedy: L to R: Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy; Photo Credit: Martin Kennedy
Australian soundscaper and mood-master extraordinaire Martin Kennedy takes time out of his busy schedule to divulge some interesting details about his latest collaborative album, Glow and Fade, as Kilbey Kennedy with Steve Kilbey of world-renowned band The Church, as well as his long-running chillout music project All India Radio and prior band Pray TV. Kennedy is not only a super-talented multi-instrumentalist, but also a multi-media creative who has illustrated and filmed several of his bands’ music videos, among other artistic endeavors.
Hello Martin! I’m so pleased that you have agreed to take a moment or two – or more – out of your super-busy schedule to do this interview with me. Especially since it’s around the release of Kilbey Kennedy album No. 5, Glow and Fade, which has radiated through the airwaves on May 26th via Golden Robot Records and certain fine digital platforms. What has the lead-up been like to the release of the album? Are all your energies focused on this delivery or can you concentrate on your ‘daily life’ duties as well?
MARTIN: The lead-up has been nuts, but manageable nuts. Most of the shenanigans occur online which is actually a lot easier to deal with than say fifteen/twenty years ago when you’d be on the phone all day or sending faxes! We have a record label on board this time, Golden Robot Records, who have handled all of the media work superbly.
This year marks the the decade anniversary of your creative musical collaboration with Steve Kilbey (The Church) as Kilbey Kennedy. How and when did you first connect with Kilbey and who suggested joining forces as a duo?
MARTIN: Technically it’s longer than a decade. I think we officially started recording in 2007, but going through my old emails I saw that I was talking to John Kilbey (Steve’s brother) as far back as 2003. I had sent John a copy of my self-titled All India Radio album hoping to get on his label, and as it turned out Steve really liked it and I guess the collaboration really started there, although as mentioned, we didn’t officially start until 2007.
You’re such prolific artist, producing music as the ambient/down-tempo project All India Radio since 1999. What does Kilbey Kennedy spark in you that is different from your drive as All India Radio?
MARTIN: With the Kilbey Kennedy music I get to wear my rock hat a bit more than All India Radio which is more in an ambient/electronic niche. That said, my music projects seem to be drawing closer and closer. Glow and Fade almost started out as an All India Radio album. I’d asked Mark Wendt (A.I.R. bass player) to play on a few songs and Selena Cross who sang on All India Radio’s “Four Three” way back in 2006 also joined us on the album. But then it switched to Kilbey Kennedy. The timing was right and the music seemed to suggest it. Often I just write music and let it tell me where it wants to go (including into the bin!).
Can you divulge some details about Glow and Fade? Were you and Kilbey ever face-to-face in the studio or was the record made in the intra-continental way of its predecessors?
MARTIN: It was mostly made intra-continentally as per usual, but I did fly to Sydney in the Australian spring of 2016 to record Steve’s vocals over a few days in his apartment. We’re used to doing it this way and it always runs smoothly. I also had the opportunity to sit in on some of Selena’s vocals sessions. I then completed overdubs back at home in the spare bedroom!
Is there a stark split in your contributions, with Kilbey handling lyrics only and you taking charge of the rest of it or is it a more amorphous partnership?
MARTIN: Yes the split is stark, as you put it! But that’s a good thing and it’s the way it has always been. I do the music and he does the lyrics and vocals. It just works for us. There is certainly a place for song-writing by committee but personally I think it would drive me crazy.
We just premiered the epic “The Game Never Changes” from Glow and Fade here at The Big Takeover where I mention the synths-saturated Bladerunner – or Stranger Things -like passage in the middle of the over-16-minute opus. Did you take your cinematic cue from that film and/or TV show or from another piece of media?
MARTIN: No, they took their cues from us, haha! ‘Us’ meaning musicians and music fans of that era who made or bought that music the first time around. I recently unearthed a bunch of my music from the eighties and it was full of synth arpeggios and washes with that Stranger Things vibe. Back then I thought it was a bit cheesy. Now it sounds…‘now’. Funny how things go around.
On that track you perform a searing guitar solo near its end that you’ve said was tough to pull off. Can you go into how you made this memorably intense moment happen on record?
MARTIN: Honestly, it was like squeezing blood from a stone. I’m not a good guitarist and I can’t do solos very well, but I was DETERMINED to do this one. I had considered hiring someone else like I did on the last album Inside We Are The Same for a few songs, but this time I really wanted to try it myself. I did about twenty different takes and pieced together the best bits. Not a very natural way to record, but whatever works!
How did you originally link up with singer-songwriter Selena Cross. Besides Cross and Wendt, who else guests on Glow and Fade?
MARTIN: I’ve worked with Selena since 2006. She sang on All India Radio’s ‘Four Three’ (from the album Echo Other) and recent album The Slow Light as well as various backing vocals on previous Kilbey Kennedy albums. She is a vocal powerhouse with an incredible range. Also on the album is a wonderful guitar contribution from US band Signal Hill on “The Game Never Changes”, a local music student David Cavallo played some trumpet, and George Ellis played some strings for us (Although to be precise he played it 5 years ago on another record and I cherry-picked some of the best bits! With his blessing).
When recording Glow and Fade, did you explore and discover new instrumental and/or recording techniques to shape the compositions?
MARTIN: The short answer is no. It was done the same way it’s always done. I’m not very good at trying new things, and I tend to record and mix the way I know. So if it ain’t broke….
You’ve always been into the artwork side of records and you’re a multi-media artist yourself. Who designed the cover art for Glow and Fade?
MARTIN: The cover is by Bruce Pennington. I’m a big sci-fi fan and I’ve always loved his art, especially the Dune book covers in the early 1970s, which I remember as a kid. I searched for him on the internet, found out he was still alive and approached him through his agent. Bruce doesn’t have any modern technology apart from a home phone so I had to wait for calls to be made. I asked if I could license one of his old works and he said yes.
Do you also create, illustrate, and film all the Kilbey Kennedy videos yourself, like for the latest single “We Are Still Waiting”, “Lorelei” from You Are Everything, and “The Broken Sea” off White Magic? Which is your favorite video that you’ve done?
MARTIN: I used to create most of the videos for Kilbey Kennedy but lately I haven’t had time. It’s grueling work as any filmmaker would attest to. Especially animated videos. “Lorelei” was by Red Tape Pictures, an Australian production house. They have a distinctive style that goes with the music so well. They also did our latest video for the album title track “Glow and Fade”. I made “The Broken Sea” myself. That was when I was going through an animation stage. It was very primitive animation but it was fun (if somewhat grueling as previously mentioned!). Favourites include “Mountain” and “Inner Country” both from White Magic. “Morning Drops (Remix)” for All India Radio was probably the best one [in which Kilbey and, ummm, Kennedy, appear in animated form].
You’ve even illustrated the highly humorous Kilbey Kennedy comic strip titled Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy in the USA, which you’ve made available as a video backed by “I Find.” Is there any way to get a physical copy of it these days – and are you planning on drawing up any more sly hijinks-heavy (or not!) comic strips/books?
MARTIN: Haha, I’m so embarrassed when I look back on those cartoons! Yes there are some physical copies left of it. I just have to put them back on the internet for sale. Probably no more comic artwork will be forthcoming as once again I find myself too busy. I used to be able to multitask so much better than I can now. Aging!
Your latest (and 10th!) LP as All India Radio, The Slow Light, was released over a year ago. Are you in the midst of crafting the next A.I.R. album? If so, how is it going?
MARTIN: I guess I’m in the very early stages of a new A.I.R. album. As I mentioned earlier I tend to write music not really knowing where it will end up. I have a bunch of music at the moment but it’s not really saying ‘All India Radio’ yet so I will keep at it until it’s clear. In the meantime I have a collaboration with David Bridie of famous Aussie ambient/introspective/world music band Not Drowning Waving coming up this year and a vinyl reissue of Echo Other. Lots of things to distract me from making new music!
Well before All India Radio and Kilbey Kennedy, you were a member of the indie rock band Pray TV and in 2016, two decades after your prior album as a band, you released new album Horizontal Life. What was the reason behind getting back together after so much time had passed?
MARTIN: Just for fun really. Getting older and the feeling of why the hell not? It was good to reconnect with that side of my music world. We never made huge inroads despite giving it our all for over ten years. I quit because I felt completely burnt out but it was so nice to get back together without any pressure or baggage.
Kilbey Kennedy Official Site
Kilbey Kennedy Facebook
Kilbey Kennedy Twitter
Kilbey Kennedy Instagram
Kilbey Kennedy YouTube
Kilbey Kennedy Bandcamp
Kilbey Kennedy SoundCloud
Kilbey Kennedy iTunes
Kilbey Kennedy Amazon
More in interviews