Any Leaving Cert. English teacher, struggling to make MacBeth more appealing than sending dirty MMS messages underneath the desk will tell you that you learn most about a man by what others tell you about him. So when good friend (and jolly good musician) Neil O’Connor of Somadrone says that at the advent of Ireland’s singer-songwriter era “he stood out, I guess because he was essentially a singer-songwriter but he used different musical elements to take himself away from being one,” we should take out our notebooks and write that quote down. When kindred geek spirit Sharon Phelan styles him as a “a tall, skinny and hairy intellectual and idealist” we should remember that as a key quote. And when I say that David Kitt talks like a blissed-out junkie waiting for his next hit when it comes to music-making, with a maniacal intuition for his chosen drug, maybe scribble it down in your character description.
Enough of what everyone else has to say on the matter though. What does David Kitt have to say about himself?
Is being a musician in Ireland the most inadvisable career path right now?
Yeah, I reckon so. Musicians coming through now probably look at somebody like me and think “He’s minted.” Unless you live at home with your folks and get the bus into town every day it’s nearly impossible to live off it. Like Richie Egan said at the Choice Awards “Great, the prizemoney’s going to pay the rent for a month.” I don’t know how much I can live with that kind of uncertainty. I don’t really want to be under that stress while making music. It can give you a certain hunger but… particularly when you’re a solo artist, without the band solidarity, you spend a lot of the time just motivating yourself.
Where else does that hunger come from then?
When you’re a teenager and you start making music you get such a hit off it and think “This is all I need.” I really feel more than ever, that in the last couple of years, through fumbling around with an idea in my head and working on the vision of it and trying to realize it… that moment you’re chasing the whole time, every second, it’s completely returned. It’s that whole Joe Strummer thing: “No input, no output.” You have to feed it all the time, take in other works, other people’s visions. Somehow I’d been drifting from that, and when I came back to it I couldn’t really stop. It came down to having to restrict myself a little bit, not just sit down at the computer for hours, because that road can go on for infinity. What I’m doing at the minute is I’m collecting samples from other records and building up a library… I want to make a record like Nas’ ‘Illmatic’. 10 songs, 40 minutes, but with some singing, as well as just rapping. Illmatic mixed with After The Gold Rush.
Would you put that out as David Kitt?
Yep. I mean my first record has a Roland 303 and a 909 in it, there’s always been a sort of hip-hop influence there. It’s weird when people tell me “Awh, yer gettin’ well into yer beats.” I saw Wu-Tang Clan on their first world tour, like! Back in 1994, I was working in a bar in Paris and they were playing in a school hall. All 9 members, playing stuff like ‘Tearz’, black combats, black boots and smoking crack backstage.
Did you get the t-shirt?
Couldn’t bleeding afford the t-shirt. It was amazing though… Anyway this is talking about the NEXT record!
What was the ‘input’ into this record then?
With this record, a lot of it was following my imagination without reigning it in. The breakthrough was reaching a point where I had the same freedom with synths and machines that I have with an acoustic guitar. I spent two weeks just sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop, turntable, and CD player, just sampling songs. It’s like making your own stock to make soup, instead of using a stock cube. All these little preparatory bits that need to go in to giving the end product your own flavour. One day I’d be making Detroit leftfield techno, the next some weird Toronto soul thing. That process might have never ended, and I’d have happily played around forever and made a disjointed, weird record (and I’ll probably put that out as Out-Takes kind of album), but then it started taking a thematic shape, a lot more personal than the sort of fictionalized, fantastical stuff that I’m singing about on the Spilly Walker record [David’s synthpop side-project with his brother Rob, with an album due out this year too]. Some of it is very dark, but that’s exactly where the songs were coming from. It’s probably bolder, and better. I never considered myself to be a great lyric-writer. If you get two or three really memorable lines you’re happy, and there’s that on there for me.
You take a pretty big interest in new, subterranean Irish music, right?
Yeah, it’s really positive at the minute. It’s good to see the language changing. Music had got so stale, derivate, predictable, boring. But now college kids, like Angkor-Wat, Patrick Kelleher, Hunter Gatherer are coming through, and expressing themselves individually through this rich heritage of other fantastic music. We got wrapped up in this whole Make It Big, Make It Off The Island thing, but now there’s a new wave of music that’s just about self-expression, personal interest, you can see it so much thanks to the influx of the amount of music everyone can find on the internet. When I was 17 or 18 you HAD to make a choice between the Aphex Twin record and the Plastikman record, and you’d get home with one of them and wish you had bought the other. My big thing at the minute is getting the most value I can out of everything I own. Because I’m so broke, obviously. If equipment doesn’t have any use to me anymore, or I’m done with records, I’ll pass them around. You’re such a sponge when you’re that age, and I like to think I am one to some degree. A slightly less functioning sponge.
You’ve always struck me as strongly individualist. Is it more difficult to work without a collective support?
I think I’m a… gregarious loner. I like company, but… it’s not like I’m a social retard, but I spend a lot of time alone. The only conflict I see really is that you go looking for something in social situations that isn’t always there. I don’t think anybody’s necessarily a leader the way we paint them out to be, in art, culture, history, wherever you like. We always set benchmarks, but those people are usually people who are good at getting attention and not necessarily innovators. If you look at DFA – they’re not innovators, they just know what way the zeitgeist is moving. I’ve seen trends go around so many times… I’ve seen Hall & Oates go around twice! It all gets quite predictable, but you realize that it’s a collective consciousness thing. When I was making these records I was totally on my own, without any popular culture influence, but I went away to New York and saw other people moving in the same direction as me, it’s just the way we’re propelled forward.
David Kitt’s ‘The Nightsaver’ is out now on Gold Spillin’ records.