James Kennedy will release his book ‘Noise Damage’ this weekend (18 October) and it should be required reading for every aspiring musician or band leader.
James Kennedy – Noise Damage (Eye Books)
Release Date: 18 October 2020
‘Noise Damage’ an engrossing read and sure to smash home with many truths felt by most musicians, whatever their level.
In Part One of our recent interview with James, we spoke about his hearing difficulties and how that shaped his life, as well as the stories around trying to push Kyshera to the next level, be it by self funding and promotion, buying on to tours and his relationships, or not with managers and the record industry.
We pick up the story taken from the book, about the first Canadian tour which James and Kyshera played, which seemed like a good time for the band.
MetalTalk: There were some successes.. the first trip to Canada was a blast.
James Kennedy: “Well I suppose that trip was a success in the sense that we had an absolute f**king blast doing it. Whether we gained anything as a band from it is another thing, though. [laughs]”
But again, something always seems to creep up… the Second Canada trip, getting shafted by the Rising Records deal.. the struggle continued.
“Yup. Moments in the sun don’t last very long do they ha ha! And that ‘struggle’ is a theme that still continues for me even to this day – like when YouTube took down the first single from my latest album ‘Make Anger Great Again’ after one day because they found the protest footage ‘shocking’.
“Protest footage that came from within Youtube!
“You’ve got to fight so hard for even the smallest things, but I’m used to it now. When I checked to see how the video was performing and saw that it had been completely blocked by Youtube…I just laughed.”
You say… “I hadn’t had a holiday in over ten years, anyway, and while everyone else had spent their twenties travelling, drinking, and shagging, I’d spent mine ‘building’”. Have you caught up on any of this in recent times?
“Oh, I’ve been making up for lost time, believe me. [laughs]”
The book covers ‘Sing For Life’, which is a nice highpoint, though. Working with Cat [Long term friend] too. How did you feel about that?
“Ah! That song will always have a special place in my heart. Both of us are so proud of it.
“For those who don’t know, it was a song we were commissioned to write for a cancer charity to be sung by choirs – choirs made up of people suffering with cancer.
“We wanted to write about the subject in a respectful but non-patronising way and we seemed to have got it right because it continues to really resonate with the members of the choirs many years later.
“Watching the song being proudly and beautifully belted out by a choir of several hundred people at theatres in Cardiff, all in varying degrees of ill health, is one of my proudest moments. It had no connection to the silliness of wanting to be a Rock star but tapped in, instead, to that primal, universal power of music to move people that I’d long forgotten about, at that point in my life.”
You talk about the transition to the digital model of the music industry and how you are “all for this brave new digital-music world”. Is this just in relation to being able to home record and push your digital content out there? What about the controversy around the so called broken streaming services at the moment?
“I think the new model has its strengths and its weaknesses – as did the previous model.
“The music industry has never been a meritocracy and so many insanely good bands have died broke or given up because of just how needlessly shit the music business is. So for me, I like that the technology takes away the complete dependence on getting a record deal.
“In the old days, if you couldn’t get signed you were f**ked. There was NO way you could make a record yourself and put it out there.
“So there’s that. But that comes with its own set of problems and as you’ve mentioned, there’s the march now towards the complete dominance of streaming – which is something I just can’t get my head around.
“But then, I’m old and I’ve still got a dusty, romantic attachment to putting on an ‘actual’ album or CD and getting really into a handful of bands rather than liking just one song from a gazillion different artists.
“But hey, that’s awesome too. It’s just different.”
Do you think the streaming services have a good enough model for bands outside the very top tier?
“No, financially its a joke and there is a lot of work to be done still on figuring that out. But we have to remind ourselves that the music industry has ALWAYS benefitted from a tiny top tier and absolutely ravaged everyone else.
“So it’s certainly no worse than before and if played right, can actually be way better for unsigned musicians than it’s ever been.
“But these days it’s not enough to just be a good band, you’ve got to also be a marketing genius, a graphic designer, a lawyer and a professional computer programmer.
“The days when a good song, good hair and an arrogant singer was all you needed – they’re over. And the bands who stand a fighting chance of survival under the new digital oligarchy are gonna have to have their shit together.”
As well as the book, you have an album out, which is really great. ‘The Power’ is a great song. Stompingly Heavy, with powerful lyrics. Just right for now. Are you proud of it? Does it re-light the fire? This is lockdown creativity at its best?
“Thanks man! I can’t WAIT to play that song live! I’m proud of the whole record. I played every instrument on it and produced it myself and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.
“As soon as the apocalypse is over, I’m gonna be out there playing the f**ker anywhere that’ll have me!
“That is, unless live music isn’t by then being ‘consumed’ through anti-bacterial VR goggles, in which case, f**k that. F**k that totally.
“We seriously need a resurgence of small, dirty live music venues man.
“And a resurgence in the type of people that go to them. Please, for the sake of humanity can everything stop being so f**king nice.”
James releases his book 18 October 202, through Eye Books. It is an engrossing read and sure to smash home with many truths felt by most musicians, whatever their level.
You don’t have to be an arena touring band to have great stories and while much of this book is a succession of painful knock-backs, even almost relentless, it is something which every aspiring and practising musician should read.
James says in the book “My failure wasn’t just a little bit gutting; it was fucking soul-crushing. But life goes on and you’ve got to deal with it or spend the rest of your life being an irritating, moany pain in the arse, in which case the only people you’ll attract into your life will be other whining losers.”
Do he still see it all as a failure? In the context of the book, there is not a million selling album and there are lots and lots of set backs, but it was a great ride……
“Well that’s kind of how I see it now.
“Would I trade all those knockbacks for a simpler, more comfortable younger life?
“Hell no! I’d have been bored out of my mind if I’d chosen the straight and narrow all those years ago.
“I’ve had amazing adventures, made incredible friends all over and learned a hell of a lot of lessons through the struggle.
“And I got to experience the electric thrill of standing onstage with your best mates beside you & the power of a thousand watts in your hand! Over and over again.
“It was an awesome ride and I only saw it all as a failure because I was measuring everything I did, relative to some unattainable dream that only really happens to less than 1% of the musical population.
“It’s a cliché but I think it really IS all about the journey, ya know.
“And I wouldn’t change a thing…actually that’s a lie ha ha, I would change a lot!”
You can read Part One of our interview with James here, in our recent Sunday Supplement article.
You can read about James’ recent album ‘Make Anger Great Again’ here.