Interview with Martin Kennedy of All India Radio and Kilbey-Kennedy

Hello Martin! You’re no stranger to the DOA musical universe, where we’ve written reviews about your band/project All India Radio and your collaboration with Steve Kilbey of The Church.  Since you reside in Australia, I was wondering how the weather was with you (kinda a Crowded House reference…).

Here in Melbourne it can literally be four seasons in one day (to continue the Crowded House theme…), but this winter it has been pleasantly cold – like a normal winter is supposed to be!

You and Steve Kilbey have come up with the crazily brilliant (or brilliantly crazy?) idea of custom-creating songs for takers who can pony up a cool grand, per song, for this pleasure and privilege (yes, now it’s kinda a The Smiths reference…). How is it going? What kind of requests are you receiving, since you’re tailoring the song to the customer? *Sigh* If only I had a grand laying about. You know how I’d spend it… Well, that, or a one-way ticket to a tropical island…

The song writing project is going very well. In fact it has taken over my life at the moment and I have had to put other projects aside to deal with it. We have had all sorts of requests – songs for girlfriends, a song for pets, a few birthday songs, a song for a much loved deceased relative and a few songs that customers have left completely up to us. It’s very challenging and has required both Steve and myself to step outside of our songwriting comfort zones. On the other hand we have still managed to stamp every song so far with our sound.

I’ve been perusing the Kilbey-Kennedy website at: http://www.kilbey-kennedy.com/ and I see that you and Steve are already in the midst of concocting your third album together. That’s wonderful news, and hot on the heels of the release of White Magic. How is it coming along? Will you suddenly be going disco or rockabilly on us, or…?

We’ve made a good start on the third album. All the music is done and we’ve recorded vocals on two songs so far. I really like the songs for this album – and I mean I REALLY like them. I don’t always feel that way with the music I write – often the opposite. But this time I’m happy to say it. The feel of the new album is more like Unseen Music Unheard Words than White Magic. Mystical and mysterious rather than pop and rock. But work on album #3 came to a grinding halt when we started the song writing project which has taken priority. It’s a good kind of competition to have, although I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck into the new album again.

You’re not only a musician, but a well-rounded artist who paints, draws up illustrations, and creates animated videos. I’m very fond of your videos, like the ones you did for “Closer”, “The Mountain”, and “Inner Country” with the cat with the ‘never-say-die’ attitude. Can you go through the process of how you turn your static illustrations into an animated video?

 I’m better at music than art, but I enjoy drawing and turning them into music videos was the next logical step. It’s complex, but not as time consuming as some animation techniques. It’s different from classic frame by frame animation which is painstaking and time consuming. My software (Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro) allows me to simply drag a static image across the screen with the mouse and that’s it. My animations are just different static drawings dragged around by a mouse!! The trick is creating all the different layers – background, foreground, the figures themselves and coordinating all the movements. It can takes weeks to months, unlike say the video for All India Radio’s “Rippled” which was frame by frame ‘light animation’ and took over six months.

You drew a wryly hilarious comic book of your and Steve’s adventures as Kilbey-Kennedy, and it can be viewed and/or downloaded for free (!) at http://www.kilbey-kennedy.com/ (check the April 21st post). Is there any chance that you’ll get the comic book printed up on paper and maybe sell it in that format?

I’d love to print it up, but it’s not economically viable. I do them mainly for enjoyment and they kind of have a promotional element to them (even if it is about a fictional disastrous tour!) and I post them all over the internet, so I would be uncomfortable then trying to sell them in a book. However the free PDF book version (download here http://www.kilbey-kennedy.com/2011/04/kk-in-usa-complete-comic-strip.html) looks great on an iPad!

You do have an entrepreneurial spirit, as I also noticed on your site at http://www.martinlkennedy.com/p/original-cartoons-for-sale.html that you’re selling some of your original illustrations (with proceeds benefiting the creation of the third Kilbey-Kennedy album) and they’re a hoot to view. I especially like, well, pretty much all of them! Will you be adding more to the line-up?

I quit my day job two years ago to concentrate on music, so I’ve become entrepreneurial via necessity! But a musician has got to think outside the music box these days. I will definitely add more original illustrations. Many of them were created in Photoshop, so it won’t be possible to sell those, but all the older ones that were done with pen and coloured pencils or paint are for sale. I don’t consider them particularly good, especially some of the lame jokes, which is why I’ve waited years before working up the courage to sell them. It’s amazing what a financial imperative does to your pride! Anyway, people seem to like them and I’ve sold quite a few.

Speaking of illustrations, on your site, in the January 11th post, you drew an awesomely funny Star Wars poster, with Steve as Luke Skywalker and you as… No, I’ll let the read find out for him or herself on that point. LOL You’re a self-described “science fiction nerd.” What kind of sci-fi stuff are you into? Do you collect collectibles and go to conventions dressed up as a Storm Trooper? I’m into sci-fi in a low-key way and like the TV shows The X-Files, the latest Battlestar Galactica (Starbuck rocks!), and Farscape.

Haha! I just had to do that illustration. It’s a little like the Family Guy Star Wars thing. I’m not so much of a nerd to go to conventions or dress up but I’ve always liked sci-fi ever since my mother took me to see a re-run of 2001 A Space Odyssey in the mid 1970s (really, whose mother takes the kids to see 2001 A Space Odyssey?!!). Anyway, it lit the spark and then Star Wars came along and KAPOW!, at age eleven I was ripe for the picking. So I like all sorts sci-fi but not everything. For example I liked Tom Baker’s Dr. Who, but disliked everything after him (except the new series), I loved the original Battlestar Galactica (I used to tape record the audio of it from the TV speaker – who had VCR machines back then?) but HATED the sequel series Galactica 1980. I love Star Trek The Next Generation but not the original. The remake of Battlestar Galactica is a masterpiece. I love Lost. I loved the hardware in Space 1999 but the stories were boring (even to an impressionable young boy). I found X-Files too drawn out over nine seasons, but I love its modern cousin Fringe. I have a few collectables – mainly spaceships. I could go on….

You released The Silent Surf as All India Radio (or A.I.R.) several months ago. I’ve been meaning to ask you about the name All India Radio. Is there any connection to India? Am I missing a historical or pop culture reference?

There is a vague connection to India. Back in the mid 1990s a friend travelled to India and spent a lot of time recording street sounds and radio programs. I heard the recordings and in 1998 it inspired me to name the band All India Radio and record the first album The Inevitable. The wasn’t really any connection with Indian music although many of the more abstract street sounds and radio voice samples found their way onto the first album. The name mainly appealed because it had a nice ring to it.

You recently made an All India Radio album titled Free Me available online for free download. Can you go into the details of this album? How is it related to The Silent Surf and other A.I.R. albums?

Free Me is just a collection of remixes and unreleased tracks. This is our second ‘free’ album. The band is quite prolific and there are many songs that basically end up sitting on the shelf. I felt it’s better to give them away than have them gather dust. Some people ask why make them free, but I don’t feel the need to sell every single song – we have enough ‘official’ paying releases. Also, for various reasons most of these songs never made it onto official albums, so I feel uncomfortable charging for them. Because our output is large, we can afford an EP or album of freebies once a year or so. Beside, people love getting free stuff and (with my entrepreneurial cap on) it does wonders for the bands mailing list and fan club!

What is the latest news for All India Radio? Is there any new material in the works?

So many things happening with All India Radio. First of all we are releasing our first ever 7″ vinyl single in the USA. It is a split single with fabulous US instrumental band Signal Hill. We’ve known Signal Hill since the days of MySpace – in fact they were our first ‘MySpace friends’ back in 2006! It’s going to be a beautiful red vinyl single and limited to 250 copies. Then we are releasing a special remix of the bands very first album The Inevitable (the album discussed above that includes the abstract Indian street sounds). This will also be on vinyl and limited to 250 copies. You can see the pattern here: vinyl records. They are making more and more sense (again) in so many different ways – they are collectable, last a lifetime, beautiful vehicles for artwork, still most expensive than CDs but moving closer, etc.

Lastly and most importantly for All India Radio we have started rehearsing for a new album which I hope will be released late 2012. It’ll be album number 9 or 10 – can’t remember! But I think it’s going to be the best.