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An Introduction To: Australian Musician Martin Kennedy’s All India Radio & His Various Other Projects

Martin Kennedy-With-Acoustic-Guitar

“An introduction To…” is a blog series, whose purpose is to introduce certain selected artists to a new and broader audience all over the world -– regardless of age groups and musical preferences. This is the third installment, which aims to bring attention to the prolific, underrated Australian musician/singer-songwriter Martin Kennedy’s All India Radio and his other projects, Kilbey/Kennedy and Big Spaceship. Martin Kennedy excels within the Ambient/Chill-Out genre and is an absolute master at creating atmospheric soundscapes. This is Volt & Volume’s Q & A with Martin Kennedy.

Photo: Dean Jones

1.
V&V: Hi, Martin. Thank you for doing this Q & A. How old were you, when you knew that you wanted to become a musician and songwriter? Was there a specific moment or a specific artist that convinced you of this?

M.K.: I think I was about 15 or 16. I was totally into Pink Floyd. There was a beat-up old acoustic guitar lying around the family home, and I knew I was destined to play it (even though I couldn’t play!). I purchased an extremely bad electric guitar (a Barclay) at a flea market and learned a few chords on that. I think I liked the idea of playing guitar more than the actual playing at that stage of my life. I knew I’d never be David Gilmour, but I persisted.

Martin Kennedy With His Barclay Guitar In 1981 1982

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Kennedy with his Barclay guitar in 1981/82. Photo: Gerard Kennedy (Martin's older brother).

2.
V&V: When I listen to All India Radio and Kilbey/Kennedy, I hear traces of Pink Floyd, 1970s electronic music, and AIR. Who were/are your greatest influences –- and why?

M.K.: Yes, I was into Pink Floyd. My older brothers were into them, and I guess it rubbed off on me. But while their Pink Floyd experience began and ended at Dark Side Of The Moon, or perhaps Wish You Were Here, I travelled far beyond those great albums into the weird and wonderful Floyd back catalogue. I do like AIR, the French band, but I can take or leave them. For All India Radio I was probably influenced in the very beginning (but not necessarily now) by DJ Shadow, Bill Laswell’s soundscape albums and Flying Saucer Attack.

3.
V&V: Did you take guitar and piano lessons as a child? Or are you self-taught?

M.K.: No lessons. Purely self-taught, but that sounds a bit pretentious, because I really only ever learned the basic major and minor chords, and I’ve been using those in various combinations ever since. I would love to be able to play piano properly, and I got as far as one lesson. I just don’t have the patience for it.

4.
V&V: How did you come to master the craft of songwriting? Did you study the mechanisms of songwriting by listening intently and “religiously” to your favorite songwriters, and can you recall the first song you wrote that made you think to yourself: “Hey, I’m really starting to get the hang of this?”

M.K.: I don’t think I’ve mastered it yet, but I know I can write a decent tune, when I want to. Actually it happens fairly naturally and without thinking too much these days. I’ve never sat down and ‘studied’ favourite songwriters, but like a lot of musicians you just seem to pick up influences –- consciously and subconsciously –- along the way and adapt them to suit your own technical abilities. For example, I was seventeen when The Church’s Blurred Crusade album came out, and I was completely in love with it. It was full of great songs, and it came at a time, when I was first starting to play in a band, and I was very impressionable to what was going on around me. Joy Division/New Order, Jean Michel Jarre, Midnight Oil, and, of course, Pink Floyd were also hugely influential in a songwriting sense for me back then.

Martin Kennedy Creating Musical Magic

Photo: Martin Kennedy

5.
V&V: Exactly who are All India Radio? Early on I got the impression that it was you and a couple of other musicians, but since then I’ve been sensing that it’s basically a one-man project by now (that is to say: you)?

M.K.: All India Radio started out just me with colleague Aidan Halloran from my previous band Pray TV as a kind of artistic contributor. He helped name the tracks –- he is good with words where I’m absolutely not –- and he provided some of the samples and sounds I used. But the music was all me. After two albums I decided to get a band together to play a show and see where it would lead. The band, particularly Mark on bass, stayed with me for many years. Then in 2012, after the release of Red Shadow Landing, I felt extremely burnt out, and it was just easier in that state of mind to carry on as a solo act. There was no formal dissolution of the band, and it might come together again in the future.

6.
V&V: What’s a musically productive day for songwriter Martin Kennedy? How do you go about it? When does your work day typically start, and when does it end? You’re so prolific surely you must pull some allnighters every now and then.

M.K.: I never do allnighters. In fact, I really dislike working at night. I try to separate my music from my "real" life (not always possible). So I work during the day when I am at my sharpest and keep the evenings for other things. Actually, half my day is spent on social networks, posting stuff, updating my websites, creating videos and all that necessary internet stuff you’ve got to do, if you’re serious about being a working musician. "Feeding the beast" I call it.

7.
V&V: In 2014, you remixed All India Radio’s 2008 album Fall. The resulting Fall Remixes is my favorite All India Radio release. What made you decide to remix the original songs, and do you now prefer the remixes to the original album?

M.K.: I was a bit confused around the time of recording the original Fall album in 2006/07. I wanted to change direction, but wasn’t quite sure where. I experimented with vocals both from myself and others with bad results, until I met singer Leona Gray (then Prue), who seemed just right. Leona handled the vocal side of things beautifully, but musically I constantly flip-flopped. I made so many changes to the songs I lost track of where I was going, musically speaking, and to a certain extent in life as well. Every time Leona came over to do overdubs, the music had almost completely changed. Arriving at the final mixes was like pulling teeth. I knew I was letting Leona and the band down with my indecision. Once the album was released, I found it hard to listen to it, but I was proud of what we achieved. In 2013/14 I decided to remix it. I was a lot more clear-headed then and confident in my mixing abilities, and it was very easy to remix. I much prefer the remixes to the original. Leona really likes it, too.

8.
V&V
: Remixing songs by All India Radio is something you’ve done quite extensively. Listening to the different versions of these songs is interesting, and, of course, made it more difficult to choose which ones to include in the introductory playlist, the originals or the remixes. When you remix a certain song, do you do it to improve on the original recording, or do you simply just enjoy having some fun playing around with it?

M.K.: Sometimes I remix to "improve" songs for fun, sometimes for a specific purpose like a bonus album track or for a compilation, but sometimes it’s because I just can’t leave it alone, compulsively returning to "tweak" it! I dislike the fact that George Lucas kept messing with Star Wars, and I really need to take my own advice.

9.
V&V: As you know, I’m very enamored with Mexicola (Demo), my favorite All India Radio track (see introductory playlist). When the spacey synth part appears at 2:03, I’m transported to heaven. Interestingly, you told me that you played it on an electric organ via a setting called “space synth”. What can you tell us about this song? And what was it like writing that synth part? If I’d written it, it would’ve given me a serious case of goosebumps.

M.K.: Mexicola is one of the first songs written for a band in mind rather than just me in a studio. It came about around 2002/03 but lingered "on the shelf" until the band started rehearsing tracks for the Echo Other album. Of course the name Mexicola came at the very last moment before the CD artwork was completed. Before that it was called "Bill Withers" because of a drum beat that I imagined would suit it, although that never panned out. Mexicola was always the band’s closing number, as it lent itself to a big Rock crescendo and ending.

10.
V&V: The synth sounds and the titles of many of your songs (Solstice, Tomorrowland, Saucer, Evening Star, Open Sky Experiment, The Final Frontier, etc.) all strongly suggest that you’re a bit of a sci-fi nerd? If so, what is it about space that fascinates you so much? Do you have a favorite sci-fi movie? And, on a less serious note, might you even be a so-called “Trekkie” (Ed: a Star Trek fan)?

M.K.: I’ve been into science fiction ever since my mother took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey, when it was re-released in 1976. Star Wars followed in 1977 and opened the floodgates, and I was hooked forever. Both those movies are my favorites. I was at the right age. It was exciting, and it was a great escape. The synth sounds come from my combined musical influences and the titles from visual sci-fi influences. I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie –- or Trekker, as they prefer to call themselves. I love Star Trek, but I don’t fall into that category.

11.
V&V: In 2005, you released an album titled Dream On under the moniker Big Spaceship. What can you tell us about this solo project?

M.K.: I prefer not to talk about it, haha! I’m a bit embarrassed about the whole Big Spaceship thing. It was about me wanting to: 1) Do something different. 2) Sing. 3) Unleash my inner "pop song" writer.  4) Incorporate my love of sci-fi with electronic dance music with an "edge". I don’t believe it achieved any of these things! But at least I got to talk to Tim White, one of my favorite science fiction artists from whom I licensed the front cover image: the big spaceship.

(Ed: Big Spaceship’s Dream On was re-released as a deluxe edition in 2012. Unfortunately without the "big spaceship" image, as the art license had run out.)

12.
V&V: You say you’re a bit embarrassed about the Big Spaceship album. But surely Dream On must contain a few songs you like? How about Chantal? Or The Dream? Personally, I would love for you to re-record the latter with a punchier, edgier production featuring Steve Kilbey as lead vocalist.

M.K.: Yeah, I like Chantal (hate the vocals and words). I like The Dream (hate the vocals and words), and Find A Place To Land (I like my vocals on this one, actually!). Funnily enough Steve likes my Big Spaceship album. Along with an early All India Radio album, Big Spaceship was how he was introduced to me. And I’ll let you in on a secret: a couple of tracks on Unseen Music Unheard Words were unused Big Spaceship music tracks (The Other Place and Naked As A Star), with considerable re-working and editing of course. I could see myself re-recording the album, but I would have to get someone else to sing. Steve Kilbey would be good of course, but a few other guests, too. But honestly, it’s not a priority at the moment.

13.
V&V: How did you come to collaborate with The Church’s Steve Kilbey? Did you contact him or vice versa, and what made you feel that S.K. would be an ideal musical partner?

M.K.: Steve contacted me through his brother John, who I knew from his Karmic Hit label, which had released Big Spaceship. Steve had heard the third All India Radio album (self-titled) and wanted to know, if I had any music I could send him for him to sing on. I didn’t know then whether or not he would be a good person to collaborate with, but I was a fan and was not going to pass up the opportunity.

Martin Kennedy Steve Kilbey Australian Duo

Martin Kennedy & Steve Kilbey. Photo: Jorden Brebach

14.
V&V: You two obviously have great chemistry, but what’s it like to collaborate with S.K.? How do you differ as musicians/songwriters, how's your working process, and what are your similarities?

M.K.: Well, we hardly ever see each other, and we speak only on the rare occasions, when we need to. It’s strange to think that an album of music is made in a kind of bubble of silence. Perhaps it works so well because we have that distance, I don’t know. Our roles are very black and white. I’m the music guy, and he’s the lyrics and vocals guy. This never changes, and we both like that way of working.

15.
V&V: Kilbey/Kennedy have just released a fourth studio album, Inside We Are The Same, an exquisite set of songs that I highly recommended to all fans. Was it a difficult album to write and record compared to your previous releases, or did everything run smoothly? Going into the studio, did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to achieve?

M.K.: It was a very easy album to write. It was "purpose-built" in that I decided very early what direction I wanted to go in. This time it would be a more edgy guitar-orientated album taking cues from Lorelei and I Wouldn’t Know from the previous album (You Are Everything). Previous albums tended to wander around style-wise a bit, and there was an element of making-it-up-as-you-go…which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that this one was very clear in my head from the beginning, and as a result it feels like the most cohesive of all our albums.

16.
V&V
: Your 12-year-old daughter Hollie provides backing vocals on Once, my favorite track from Inside We Are The Same. Does she play any instruments like her daddy, and does she want to be a musician/singer-songwriter, too?

M.K.: She doesn’t have any specific plans. I think she is still experimenting with what she wants to do. She learned a little guitar, when she was young, but abandoned it years ago and only now has picked it up again. She used to sing for her primary school choir, and she loves singing her favorite songs. I think she would make a fantastic singer-songwriter. Whether it’s a passing phase remains to be seen.

17.
V&V: Out of all the songs you’ve written for All India Radio, Kilbey/Kennedy, etc., which ones (if hard pressed) do you count among your own personal favorites –- and why?

M.K.: These are some of my favorites. All India Radio: Evening Star, Crystal Waves, Lo Fi Groovy, Far Away (2014 remix), Purple Sky, Four Three, Waukaringa. Not sure why I like them, but they all have chord progressions I love and just hit the right moody note for me. As for Kilbey/Kennedy, I really like these, for the same reasons: Everyone, All is One, This Merciful Blur, Once, Oh My Glad, This is the Universe, I Wouldn’t Know, Lorelei.  And then there’s my 1980s/'90s band Pray TV, which was a massive part of my life for 10 years: Released, For Angel, Aftermath, Spent.

V&V: Some of my personal favorites are Chameleon (Remix), Mexicola (Demo), Persist (Echo Beach Mix), All Is One, Naked As A Star, Saucer, Tijuana Dream (Alternate Guitar Mix), Evening Star, Four Three, I Wouldn’t Know, Fall, Everyone, and Once –- to name a few.

18.
V&V: Are there any other artists that you would like to work with? David Gilmour?

M.K.: David Gilmour would be good! Roger Waters would be good in the lyric department, but he’d better let me write the tunes! I have a project in the works with fellow Aussie David Bridie of Not Drowning Waving. I’m just “waiting for some clear air” to continue with it.

19.
V&V: What are you working on at the moment, and can we expect any more new releases in 2015?

M.K.: Apart from the David Bridie collaboration, which is still a year or so away from release, I have a new All India Radio album in the can, which I’m excited about. There are lots of things about it, which will be announced as November 2015 approaches. That will be released in November 2015 in the USA, Canada and Australia. I’m also doing demos for my old band Pray TV. We got together for an informal reunion a few months ago and really enjoyed it and decided to record again. Just for fun. It’s been twenty years since I wrote a Pray TV song, and I have a lot of ideas. I also have a third volume of Kilbey/Kennedy’s Songs From The Real World almost ready for release, hopefully by Christmas 2015. And I think that will do me for awhile!

All India Radio

Photo: Martin Kennedy

 

INTRODUCTORY PLAYLIST

(In no particular order)

1.
Fall
Album: Fall by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

2.
Evening Star
Album: All India Radio by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

3.
All Is One
Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

4.
Mexicola (Demo)
Album: Once A Day: Remixes & Unreleased Tracks, Vol. 1 by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

5.
The Bomb
Album: The Silent Surf by All India Radio feat. Steve Kilbey

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

6.
Lorelei
Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

7.
Tijuana Dream (Alternate Guitar Mix)
Album: Free Me: Remixes & Unreleased Tracks, Vol. 2 by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or itunes]

8.
Four Three
Album: Echo Other by All India Radio

  

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

9.
Chameleon (Remix)
Album: Fall Remixes by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

10.
The Dream
Album: Dream On by Big Spaceship

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

11.
Silent Surf
Album: All India Radio by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

12.
Crystal Waves
Album: The Silent Turf by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

13.
I Wouldn’t Know
Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

14.
Chantal
Album: Dream On by Big Spaceship

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

15.
Echo Other
Album: Echo Other by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

16.
Never Tomorrow
Album: Songs From The Real World, Vol. 3
(Commissioned Songs)

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

17.
Everyone
Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

18.
The Time (Trip Hop Mix)
Album: Free Me: Remixes & Unreleased Tracks, Vol. 2 by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

19.
Delhi Dub
Album: Permanent Evolutions by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

20.            
Oh My Glad
Album: Inside We Are The Same by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

21.
Permanent Revolutions   
Album: 002 by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

22.
Persist (Echo Beach Remix)
Album: Fall (Expanded Edition) by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

23.
East Side West Side
Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

24.
Black Satin
Album: A Low High by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

25.
Intense
Album: White Magic by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

26.
Morning Drops (Remix)
Album: Fall Remixes by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

27.
Blip Blip
Album: Dream On by Big Spaceship

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

28.
Eyes Ahead
Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

29.
A Low High (With Ghosts Mix)
Album: Once A Day: Remixes & Unreleased Tracks, Vol. 1 by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

30.
Pray To The TV Funk (Left Brain Mix)
Album: Permanent Evolutions by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

31.
Lo Fi Groovy
Album: Permanent Evolutions by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

32.
The End Or Near (Remix)
Album: Fall Remixes by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

33.
Amenia
Album: Inside We Are The Same by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

34.
Tristan And Isolde
Album: Songs From The Real World, Vol. 2 (Commissioned Songs) by Kilbey/Kennedy)

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

35.
Holy Cowboys
Album: The Inevitable by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

36.
Thought Of Leaving
Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

37.
Far Away (Remix)
Album: Fall Remixes by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

38.
Bollywood Nights (Remix)
Album: The Inevitable Remixes by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

39.
Mountain
Album: White Magic by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

40.
Elude
Album: Inside We Are The Same by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

41.
Naomi And Maya
Album: Songs From The Real World, Vol. 1 (Commissioned Songs) by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

42.
Golden
Album: Red Shadow Landing by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

43.
Wake In Waco
Album: The Inevitable by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

44.
Once
Album: Inside We Are The Same by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

45.
The Demo
Album: White Magic by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

46.
Find A Place To Land
Album: Dream On by Big Spaceship

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

47.
Maybe Soon
Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

48.
Highland Lowlife
Album: 002 by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

49.
Saucer
Album: The Silent Surf by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

50.
Aah Yes
Album: Dream On by Big Spaceship

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

51.
This Is The Universe
Album: Inside We Are The Same by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

52.
Don’t Leave (Early Version)
Album: Red Shadow Landing (Demos) by All India Radio (feat. Steve Kilbey)

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

53.
Naked As A Star
(Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words) by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

54.
Night
Album: The Silent Turf by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

55.
Waukaringa
Album: All India Radio by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

56.
Ho Chi Min
Album: Inside We Are The Same by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

57.
Immigrants Travel

Album: Songs From The Real World, Vol. 3
(Comissioned Songs)

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

58.
Rippled

Album: The Silent Surf by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

59.
Stretch Into The Stars
Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

60.
Rain
Album: Dream On (Expanded Edition) by Big Spaceship

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

61.
Knowing You Are In This World
Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

62.
Is This Heaven
Album: Songs From The Real World, Vol. 3 (Comissioned Songs) by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

63.
Crows In The Machine
Album: The Rare Earth by All India Radio

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]  

64.
A Song For Mike
Album: Songs From The Real World, Vol. 3 (Comissioned Songs) by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes] 

65.
Don't Forget Me
Album: You Are Everything (Deluxe Edition) by Kilbey/Kennedy

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes] 

 

  

Posted by Thomas Thomsen on Monday, August 1, 2016
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