The Kinky Wizzards are the musician’s musicians, but oh, can they jam.  They have a slick, groovy, funk stream running through every song that provides a great backbone to be enjoyed by the rock music lover’s ear.  I heard their set at The Cambridge Rock Festival last weekend as they went through all of their songs from their latest album, ‘Quirky Musings’ and watched knowingly as the tent filled with more and more audience while they played on.  This band is technically superior and has an organised complexity all the while being very endearing rockers.  This is not rock in the traditional sense as they have opted to keep it solely instrumental and they shift easily between jazz funk to something approaching prog rock.  Their enthusiasm is deeply infectious which is impressive despite them having driven down from Cardiff that morning to be in the first performing slot on stage that day. The band sounds tight with a fluid guitar that is precise in execution, exactitude in the drumming, and smooth, almost languid bass.  After their set, we discussed their inception, their musical form, the recording of their album and what the rock scene looks like today.

When and how did you guys come together as a band?

Ryan (Guitarist)-I joined much later.

Johnathan (Drummer)-Myself and brother, we sort of started jamming when we about 5 years old so it was orchestral based, my brother used to play clarinet and I tickled the ivories as well, I am a pianist, we kinda went into orchestra and I started studying percussion.

Matthew (Bass)-Yeah, I said I can’t play clarinet with the drums so I started playing bass.

Johnathan-So that’s a long story short.   We started jamming together and it made it quite tight.  We then auditioned for a guitarist but we didn’t really find anyone that kind of suited.  What we didn’t realise that we searched everywhere while we were gigging all over London, Bristol but only little tiny venues.  We were trying find people along the way that we maybe gelled with.  But this guy (Ryan) lived down the road and around the corner.  But we didn’t know him.  We were two years older than him at school.  So, then Ryan came on the scene.  We were in a cover band at the time to start with and then we just started playing and feeling a connection of creativity and charisma.

Matthew-I remember Ryan saying, ‘I’d love to write the Kinky Wizzards album with you, but I am going back to university in Guildford but he sent over some riffs back and forth and he came home again and we got into it then.

Ryan-I joined them Summer 2014.  The same time I graduated.  I kinda grew up listening to a lot of instrumental guitarists.  Guys like Jeff Beck, Steve Vy and Eric Johnson.  What’s brilliant about these guys who are brothers (the drummer and bassist) is they have this blood relation where they just have a tight rhythm unit as a result and its really exciting as a guitarist coming into that.  I can write perhaps very audacious things for the guitar and they chew it up and spit it back out at me, so to speak!  So, um, it’s nice to have a project for a musician’s part as ambitious as ourselves where it can be instrumental led.  There is something to be said for instrumental music.  I think a lot of people are afraid of doing it because of alienating an audience without a vocalist.  We struggled finding a vocalist and we just decided to do an instrumental project.

Matthew-The energy, we have all got individual personalities, on the stage, and it just works as it is.

Johnathan-It’s not to say that we would never go down that route, a vocalist is something that we would look into, but it would be very hard for us to hold back.  We have written such complex stuff but it’s easy listening.

Ryan-We didn’t want to make it cerebral, we wanted to make it fun, very tongue-in-cheek, very much the ethos of Frank Zappa.  There is not many other bands doing this other than the Aristocrats, who are a big influence for us.  But, our main ethos is having as much fun as we can doing as much as we can with our instruments.

Did you know the sound you wanted to produce straight away or did you have to experiment a bit to find it? Did you know you wanted just music and no vocals?

Johnathan-Yeah, it’s not something, given the chance, that we wouldn’t do (having a vocalist).  But we like pushing the boundaries a little bit.

Ryan-That’s not to say that we don’t have other projects that involve singing because we do.  I have my own project, Eden Shadow.  We do have separate work as well.

Johnathan-Ryan is a freakin’ genius.  He’s written is own work.  It’s mental.

Ryan-Besides the instrumentalists, I grew up listening to the likes of Rush so naturally ended up falling into this scene.  And Kinky Wizzards is very fun but the Eden Project is more me in my straight jacket and is highly conceptual.  We have different facets as musicians.  We don’t streamline ourselves.  We like to be as busy as possible.

Matthew-We did a gig actually, a Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason bought an album off us!

How did you find the recording process of your second album compared to your first?  Did it come easier?

Jonathan-It was interesting, but it did come easy.

Ryan-I would say that with this album, it was very much driven by our process as a live band. So, a lot time we come in with ideas and jam it out together.  Until it became something more sophisticated, we played a lot of jokes before we ever recorded the album and road testing everything.  There was a lot of improvisation before the album became what it was. When we were actually in the studio, we had essentially five days.  They were five intense days.  On the Sunday during that process, I played from 10 am until 4 am the Monday morning.  I was in bed for a week after that.  But it required a lot of stamina, it was exhausting to make, but we had so much fun in the studio.

Johnathan-A lot of drummers, they go into the studio, and they will fine tune to the point that it suffocates the track, they then can’t portray that live.  But we just went in and wanted it to feel and sound live, there’s a bit of spill, but it’s not tweaked to the point of being too particular.  There is no vocals to support it so that’s was the biggest thing we wanted when we went in to record.  We got an amazing space [to record].

Ryan-Well, he has a huge drum kit. That’s drum kits. So, we had to get a soldering iron to get it in.  We used the studio space he had access to and it had an old 70’s style recording desk, so it was quite retro in some ways.  It also had a theatre in the space, so we mic’d up the room as well so we got a lot of room sound as well.  Bands like Led Zepplin used to do that as well. It was quite experimental but we wanted the feel of the album to be quite raw and fresh.

Matthew-We wanted to melt people’s faces!  We only wanted to work with people who cared about the output.

Ryan-The key thing is that we didn’t do any overdubbing as such.  What you hear on the record is very much what we wanted.

Are there any bands you would like to see this weekend at the festival? 

Johnathan-Son of Man, a bunch of Welsh boys! And, I am playing with Magenta tomorrow night.  I’m really curious to get stuck in and wander around to have a look.

Who are you inspired by and who do you default to when you are listening to music?

Johnathan-Rush being an obvious one, what I love about Neil Peart is he also writes the lyrics and he is an orchestral player as well as a percussionist.  And a lot of the songs are composed not just, ‘show me what you got and I’ll put the drums parts to it.’

Ryan-In terms of guitarists, Jeff Beck and Eric Johnson. They have a lot of a very unique sound.  The thing is, in an instrumental band, the guitar has to be quite lyrical, so I listen to a lot of singers.  I like Bjork, I listen to her a lot. I have to carry the melody a bit so it’s like the vocals.

How has the rock scene changed in recent years, is it a bit more open to interpretations of rock?

Ryan-Yeah, I’m religious when it comes to studying music.  We are almost in like a dormant state right now.  I read an article recently that rock is almost the new jazz now.  Um, I think it goes without saying that rock belongs to an older demographic.  I think it’s considered country music in America in some ways.  What’s definitely dominating is electronic dance music and hip hop.  There’s a lot of stuff in that but not so much guitar orientated in that, for at least now.  But things tend to work in 20-30 year cycles. I suppose that’s not a bad thing necessarily for us.  It means we are ready when it does.  I think no musician should ever be swayed because there is a particular trend or fashion.  You should do what you want to do.  But, I’d say it’s not as exciting a genre to be working in at the moment.  It’s being carried by very well-established bands like Arcade Fire and Muse. So, who knows it may turn back around again and rock/blues may become more popular.

Johnathan-You gotta lot of the old boys and they have been doing for years and fair play to them.  Why shouldn’t they? And, that’s a good thing because what that’s doing is keeping it alive and it does attract younger fans as well as mums and dads.

Ryan-Arguably, there are more young metal bands coming through than traditional rock bands, bands like Carnivore and Tesseract and managing to get really good audiences and festival slots.  If bands like Metallica are still touring, and you can’t deny people, they want to see them.  But things are moving along I think.

What’s up next for you guys?

Matthew-Me and my brother live in Cardiff area, Ryan lives in Dubai. We see him twice a year.

Ryan- I have only been out there a year, but I get summer off as I’m a music teacher.  What we are hoping to get more and more opportunities together when I am over.  I would rather play half a dozen to a dozen really good shows that are really, really good shows that are proper gigs.  As a young band, we are very appreciative and we just go in and play.

Matthew-We were asked to come back next year so that’s really good.

Ryan-We are writing album three at the moment.  It will be out next year.  I am kinda doing my Eden Shadows album simultaneously so it will be out when its ready.  We are working at that youthful, prolific rate at the moment! We’ll see. But, we will be back here next year!

 

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