Kurt Riley Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
KR: I’m a composer, musician, and performer, specializing in metapop.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
KR: Born 1987. Fell in love with DC Comics. Oppressive religious upbringing. (But a beautiful, loving family.) Reborn 2002, when I discovered The Rolling Stones. Taught myself how to sing, write, and play multiple instruments, with an eye deadset on returning pop music to its former glories. (The pretension of youth.) Asked to leave high school in junior year. Got my GED and said goodbye to that kind of education for a while. Led a ripping punk R&B band called The Steel Hearts; adored them. Died a death in 2007; took too many pills and spent time in a mental ward – the result of a square peg shoved into a round hole for two decades. Recorded my debut album in 2009 with Beyoncé’s producer. Wrote two more while I did the proper square thing and went to university; did 2 years at a community college, then 2 more at an Ivy – the first person in my family to do so. Reborn 2015 when my music started to get coverage in newspapers and media for the first time. Released 2 more albums and two singles since then. Still alive and kicking today, with the best band I’ve ever had. As the Chairman said, the best is yet to come; the fellas and I are releasing a killer new single at the end of December, called Be Cool.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
KR: Brian Jones, Oscar Wilde, T.Rex, George Orwell, Chuck Berry, James Horner, Iggy Pop, Ridley Scott, Bo Diddley, Grant Morrison, Bryan Ferry, Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee, Gary Numan, John Williams, The Beatles, Reddit, Drew Struzan, Vangelis, and Jimmy Reed.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
KR: To realize the ambition which has driven me since I can remember. When I was a teenager, rock and roll saved my life; ever since, I’ve felt that it was my duty to return the favour. I intend to make good on the faith of fans, journalists, friends, and family, and to do my part to restore popular music to its former levels of quality, diversity, and power. We deserve a better class of culture than what this meagre inheritance; the human imagination is capable of much greater heights than the lowest common denominator promulgated by Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
KR: I compose and arrange my own material, and it is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever known. The act of creation is a very powerful, beautiful thing. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve released 3 albums (Brighthead, Kismet, and Tabula Rasa) and 2 singles (Love Is In My Heart and Failure of Imagination); almost twice that number is sitting in my vault, awaiting future release. I write constantly, and the subjects range from interstellar travel to the zeitgeist. My works span many genres, often combining elements of disparate styles; rock n’ roll itself was an amalgam of rhythm & blues and country & western music, and I wholeheartedly believe that combining genres is the genesis of new styles. It is in this alchemy that we divine the sound of the future.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
KR: The Internet, social media especially, has certainly afforded a great deal of opportunity in this regard. But as Facebook and Instagram have been glutted with posts about “coming to see my band this weekend?”, traditional forms of press have regained a degree of their former power. Newspapers, both digital and physical, have very kindly covered my performances and releases; radio (terrestrial and satellite) is very helpful, as well. One of the oldest, most tried-and-true methods is the best – word of mouth. That is why the fellas & I deliver 150% with every concert and each new release; building a credible public brand is critical. Luckily, fans have really loved our shows and our music; honestly, the only challenge is getting out there often enough. When we do, the response is incredible.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
KR: Pandora’s Box has been open since 1999, and despite the best efforts of the music industry, it will never return. A consumer’s enjoyment of music has been irreversibly detached from the purchase of a physical piece of media – and the industry has struggled to retain their desire to obtain a digital copy, as well. Why buy a song when one can simply open YouTube and stream a music video? And the streaming services, Spotify foremost amongst them, provide a notoriously small amount of remuneration to content creators, whilst signing massive deals with the majors.
That being said, the access to media the Internet has provided is simply incredible. At my command, I can listen online to everything from Moroccan tribal music to obscure 80’s post-punk. Prior to this modern age, I would have had to search multiple record stores – physically – to find those songs, and it would have taken me a much greater amount of time. However – what would else I have stumbled upon in Tower Records or Borders? That, I believe, is one critical problem; the listener is mainly encountering what they seek, and accidental exposure to other music is unlikely.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
KR: Hoo boy – that is a great question! There are quite a few. Foremost amongst them would be John Lennon’s Love. It is the most intimate, innocent, and sincere expression of its namesake that I have ever had the honour to hear. The man had a singular gift for wrapping a beautiful sentiment in an equally gorgeous melody.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
KR: Rude music business folks. Flaky people. Ice cream that melts too quickly. Valve’s inability to release Half-Life 3.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
KR: Getting this band together. They’re absolutely perfect, and I owe them so very much. My bassist, Rick Kline, is a ridiculously versatile musician; he can play everything from keyboard synthbass to fluid, fretless jazz lines. (Plus, his repository of groan-inducing dad jokes knows no end. Ha ha.) Our keyboardist and synthesizer player, Charlie Jones, is a kindred spirit; not only is he capable of creating everything from sweeping soundscapes to lovely, classical lines, but he shares my affinity for retro gaming and David Cronenberg. And our drummer, Sesu Coleman, is a gift from heaven; after spending months searching for drummers – and failing miserably – he popped in out of nowhere. Sesu formed The Magic Tramps, a NYC glam/proto-punk troupe who were fronted by Warhol superstar Eric Emerson. They were among the first to play at CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City in the early 1970s, and Sesu later recorded and toured with Suicide founder Alan Vega.
These fellas can play everything from 1950s boogie to experimental synth blues. No matter what challenge I bring to ‘em – be it a little acoustic number or some complex, acyclical song – they pull it off with enthusiasm and professionalism. My next proudest moment in music will be when I introduce them to an audience of thousands.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
KR: The fellas and I are finishing up the recording of our new single, Be Cool, which will be accompanied by a lovely little b-side called Precious Angel. The video for Be Cool is going to be hilarious and ebullient, a goodbye kiss to the first phase of my career. When 2019 begins, the band and I will be starting a completely new chapter, stylistically and sonically. It will be called Chrome Empire – futurist rock and roll. It will address everything from gynoids to the social credit system, from climate refugees to augmented reality. Chrome Empire will be the sound of the future to come – one possible future.
PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
KR: We’ve performed extensively across New York state during 2018, and we’ll be hitting the road again in the Spring of 2019. Until then, stay tuned to kurtriley.com – Be Cool will be premiering there on December 28th. It will be an absolute blast!
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