SMM:Context - Interview with Leyland Kirby

March 2, 2011

SMM:Context - Interview with Leyland Kirby

Leyland Kirby broke cover back in the mid-90s as the sinister music intelligence behind V/VM, an anarchic music project-cum-production house that specialized in feeding kitsch pop hits – Chris De Burgh’s Lady in Red, Robbie Williams’ Angels, and so on – though a grisly sonic mincer. The results came out sounding like the karaoke booth of your worst nightmares, humorous and nauseous in equal measure, but you had to admire Kirby’s dedication to the cause: he certainly knew how to turn your stomach and put a smile on your face at the same time. (bio courtesy of BBC Music)

1. On Discogs you have over 20 aliases. Why so many aliases? Would you say that your most well known aliases are The Caretaker, V/Vm, and Leyland Kirby? Could you describe the differences in these 3 projects in particular?

Electronic based music has always lent itself well to many pseudonyms for projects over the years due to the possibilities of audio creation and manipulation. There has never been a plan for so many aliases. V/Vm was what it was, a reaction to the time and a response to what was possible due to computer evolution. It was as creative as it was destructive and there’s more of a resurgence these days out there in terms of style.

The Caretaker project has been ongoing since 1998 and that deals with memory recall and how our brains can disintegrate and also there’s an emphasis on amnesia and specific forms of amnesia. Music recorded using my own name also can be based around memory, but carries a different age as everything is composed whereas the music of the Caretaker uses a lot of 1930’s/1940’s ballroom music as its starting point. The last project which will gain more exposure is that of The Stranger which is darker still, often it has been seen as the missing link between the work i did as V/Vm and that of The Caretaker.

2. In 2009, you released the epic Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was to critical acclaim. Can you describe what you were going through to create such beautiful, haunting art?

It was a changing time on this end. For the years preceding that release, I was very isolated and nobody was taking much notice of my work so I just shut myself away and worked very hard for twelve months on that project… looking and focusing on how we used to see the future in the past, how the future turned out and looking at how the new future may play out. It’s a large scale release and kept growing organically to the point that it was a 3CD set. For many people it was too much as it can be a long, introspective and dark listen in places with the sun maybe only escaping from the dark clouds now and again.

3. You been quiet since 2009. What plans do you have for 2011 and beyond?

Right now I’m being very austere about information regarding what is coming this year. I took a full year off from releasing audio last year as I needed some time to recharge after the last album came out. I took a couple of impromptu road trips with some chaotic girls and had as much fun as I could financially afford. I have now been locked away again for some time and everything is sounding and looking very strong. I have been fortunate to find and be working with some amazing people at the moment. The label has a definite look and feel thanks to the amazing artwork of Ivan Seal. I have the amazing Lupo at Dubplates mastering all the new work and adding a sprinkle of his own magic to the proceedings. I have just scored Grant Gee’s very special film “Patience,” which is an essay film based around the W.G. Sebald book, ‘The Rings Of Saturn’. Grant has done an amazing job and the audio placement is stunning as it’s there, but often it seems to just disappear and appear so you’re unsure if you didn’t just imagine it being there. I have some very exciting releases coming on my label, History Always Favours The Winners, with some surprises too I hope. Right now, the main aim is to build an honest body of work which sounds as amazing as it looks and has an exceptional value for those who wish to expose themselves to it.

4. You have a reputation for some well known performances. Some people have described them as brilliant, wild, disturbing, ridiculous, genius and more. What is your philosophy on the live performance and people’s reaction to them?

These days I seldom play live, but in the past it’s been a little crazy with the V/Vm shows. Many ending in fights, being thrown off stage, audiences in shock as I used to roll around venues like a bowling ball at people. It’s at odds with my audio works now, but the tension is still inside of me to be honest. When I was in New York last year, I was having a terrible time as we couldn’t get the visuals to work (which were of these road trips with the girls earlier that year and a big part of the show). Also, there was a techno beat over everything from the other room which was impacting on the audio so it was a real mess. I decided there and then to just launch into some harsh noise and try to knock over as many people as possible who were watching this fiasco unfold. That ended very well as I also did a running jump and pulled down the visuals screen from out of the ceiling and I shut down the audio to more or less stunned silence. The promoter told me he was unsure if what he’d seen was the best show he’d been involved with or the worst. Proceeding that show, I played at Mutek and sank almost a full bottle of whisky on stage in under forty minutes before singing “The Way We Were” to the 1,500 or so people watching and was amazed at the warm response I got for doing that. I mean it’s an honest show and something you’re not likely to get from my contemporaries I guess and I’m a risk which is I guess why I seldom get asked to do anything. If you book Fennesz or Tim Hecker, you know what you’re getting and people and promoters like that.

5. Why the move from Stockport, England to Berlin? How are you feeling about Berlin now? Any plans to move soon?

Britain is a very hard place to live and survive in if you’re making music. Berlin at the time I moved just about still had a good feeling about the place and was affordable and I had tried to move here twice before in the early 2000’s each time falling at the last hurdle. Everything comes to an end though and here these days it’s changed beyond belief and non of it for the better. Money is moving in fast and it seems to be a city of creatives who when it boils down to it don’t create too much. I think it could be time very soon to head for some sunshine and some new experiences as I don’t rely on much here. I must be the only musician here who has never played here whilst living here.