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Kelley Stoltz - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 16 / 4 / 2007

Kelley Stoltz - Interview


Kelley Stoltz is a San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist. Anthony Strutt speaks to him about 'Crockodials', his re-recording of Echo and the Bunnyme's 'Crocodials', his new album 'Below the Branches', and his early career working with Jeff Buckley

Kelley Stoltz is a San Francisco-based home recording multi-instrumentalist. Stoltz released his debut album, 'The Past is Faster' on his own Telegraph Company in 1999, which he sold locally at shows in San Francisco. His intention was to do the same with his second album, 2001's 'Antique Glow', but after receiving attention from firstly Green on Red's Chuck Prophet and then Dirtbombs'drummer Ben Blackwell, it began to receive international interest being picked up for release in 2002 by Corduroy/Raoul Records in Australia, and then by the British label Beautiful Happiness label in 2004. The San Francisco label Jackpine Social Club gave 'Antique Glow' its American release in 2003. For his next album Stoltz turned his attention to the tribute record: a song-by-song cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s 'Crocodiles' which he entitled 'Crockodials' and which came out on Beautiful Happiness in 2005. Stoltz's latest album, 'Below the Branches', received an international release on Sub Pop last year. Like his previous efforts, it was recorded at home on an 8-track reel-to-reel and flits through a variety of musical styles including psychedelic rock, folk, blues, and pop. It incorporates a range of instruments including guitars, drums and toy xylophones, but is more piano-based than his previous recordings. Pennyblackmusic met up with Stoltz on a recent European tour and spoke to him before a show at the London Spitz. PB : I believe you were born in Detroit. KS : I was born in New York, but then lived and spent a lot of my childhood in the safe area of Detroit, Michigan. I moved out of there and back to New York for a couple of years, before finally moving to San Francisco about ten years ago. PB : I discovered you when I found 'Crockodials',the tribute to Echo and the Bunnymen and their 'Crocodiles' album. Why did you change the name of it ? KS : Well, its 'Crockodials' against the real 'Crocodiles'. It's a lie, a crock of shit. I knew the real album was good, and I knew it wasn't a crock of shit. It just made sense. PB : I like it. The real album is amongst my favourite albums of all time, but you didn't do a note-to-note copy of it. You added to it and you did it your way, which made it much more interesting. It works because you use different instruments and you add a touch of Tom Verlaine and Lou Reed to the mix. KS : I'm doing 'Heaven Up Here' now, and I am three songs into 'Porcupine' too, but I have stopped now. I'm learning the sitar now, and that has taken over instead. PB : When did you start making music then ? Your press release says you worked with Jeff Buckley. KS : Yeah, that was in '94 in New York. That was for about two years. I started to love music when I was like 14 or 15 as soon as baseball wasn't fun anymore. I stopped wearing my Detroit Tigers or Pittsburgh Pirates uniform and stopped talking as a baseball player. I turned into David Bowie or Ian McCulloch. I used to sit there pretending I was Mac which is what any teen will do. It stopped being about baseball points. It started being about 45's and music. That was in 1984. 'Ocean Rain', which came out that year, was the first record I bought. My mates and I thought we were very cool getting into that. A lot of people think they had sold out by then, but I don't. PB : The Bunnymen were still small then over here. What did you do for Jeff then ? KS : He was always on tour in places like Japan, and I worked with his management and his manager in a little box room. I had to go to the post office and collect his mail, and go through it and decide which stuff he should read. There would be people wanting autographs, and I would organise that. He had a woman in Paris, naked in a bath, waiting for him to come over. PB : Did you deal with him directly ? KS : Yes, just a few times. He was very nice, a very funny guy, who used to put on silly faces and funny accents. PB : When did you start to write music then ? KS : When I started to read this stuff about naked women in Paris bathtubs, and then I wrote really crappy songs for years, before I finally figured out how to do it properly. I grew up playing more guitar on tennis rackets than on actual guitar, so at 23 or 24 I worked out you have to learn to play the guitar properly to write music. You can't pretend forever no matter what your hair looks like. The songs weren't any good, so I borrowed a 4 track when I lived in New York, and spent four or five years recording at home. That is when I evolved into a solo artist, because everyone I tried to work with was too far advanced or too far behind me. PB : I think that your new album, 'Below the Branches', is your 'White Album'. KS : Oh, yeah, thank you! PB : Because everything is different on it. There are John songs on it, Paul songs and your mum sings on it. KS : Yeah. she's my Ringo. I think all my albums are a little all over the place, because I like all different types of music. On my first album 'The Past Was Faster' I was getting turned on by music. I was listening to Captain Beefheart, and it was a homage to him. It was a cassette for my buddies to listen too. On my first two albums, there are rock songs, some music hall numbers, some blues songs... PB : It's good you experiment because bands get struck into a style, and then that is their career. KS : I can't tell you how boring I find it to sit through 90 mins of that, of the same uptempo stuff. I'm trying to do something different. PB : 'Below the Branches' has come out on Sub Pop, which our generation know for Nirvana, but there is a lot else on that label other than grunge. KS : That's the thing. When you think about them, you think loud punk rock, but Beat Happening had a single out on them, and the Shins are their biggest seller now. PB : What else have you got planned for the future ? KS : I'm working on a new album. That's going to be on Sub Pop as well. I want to put another album out in about a year. I don't want to wait another four years. I want to have six or seven albums out by the time I'm 40, then disappear into obscurity and just put out Bunnymen cover albums. PB : Thank you.

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