INTERVIEW: Ken Stringfellow 1

INTERVIEW: Ken Stringfellow


Ken Stringfellow has been involved in some of the best bands of the last couple of decades – there’s no saying otherwise. The Posies, REM and Big Star alumnus has also earned himself something of a reputation as a mixer and producer working with bands as diverse as Lagwagon and Jim Protector over the same period. I spoke to Ken just as his tour in support of his outstanding solo album ‘Danzig In The Moonlight’ was beginning last month and found a realistic but hopeful longtime musician and songwriter who may well be aggrieved at his status in the music world at large but recognizes that the quality of his work will triumph. A funny and extremely open interviewee, Stringfellow’s intellect and perceptive nature are evident throughout as are the paradoxically supremely confident and humble sides to his character…

M: Hi is that Ken?

K: Hi yes

M: Hi Ken it’s Michael calling from God Is In The Tv

K: Cool. Hi

M: How are you?

K: Not bad.

M: Thanks for doing this it’s appreciated. Congratulations on the record, I’m seeing positive reviews. Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process on this and how you put the band together?

K: Some of these songs I had for a while. I’ve had a couple of songwriting sequester sessions ‘cos I’ve got a pretty busy schedule. If I wanna get some writing done I have to go and hide somewhere. I always have ideas but giving them a blank canvas to allow them to come to light? I need to make that happen. I did that on a couple of occasions. Most of these songs are written that way and that those writing sessions took place only a couple of years after my last solo album which was in 2004.

Why didn’t I make a record then? It just wasn’t the time. I had other projects and nothing made me go ‘yeah this is exactly it’. There had to be some other factor and that factor came about last year when a guy I’ve been doing a lot of production work with called JB Meijers said ‘let’s go to ICP studios’ which is our favourite plae to work, a great, world class studio in Brussels. I can get a good rate there and we can do this wrecking crew thing where we play with people that we work with on lots of albums anyway,, bust out a couple of albums – one for JB, one for me – thereby cutting the studio price in half by working twice as efficiently. It was a great idea. That’s what we did. The players were all great guys, all from Amsterdam, JB played bass and guitar, Tim Cupps , who’s in a really popular band in Holland on keyboards – they sing in Dutch so you’ll never hear about them. They’re all very high level musicians without being session players. They play on lots of records but they’re a level above that. They are well known musicians from well known bands who happen to be very good and can play at a very professional level. But they have the sensibility of someone in a band – someone who lives music rather than makes a living from music. They have taste. Taste is important. You have to have a reason for how you respond. If you are too much of a studio person you can be agenda-less. Studio people, they’re like software. Here you need people who can make choices and you can trust that those choices will be cool choices. That’s what we had. There are several albums made with this band – this big album that got released by this Dutch actress Carise Van Houten (star of Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Black Book’) that I helped produce and played on. That’s a number 1 album in Holland.

M: It sounds big, expensive and expansive. I’m guessing this is down to the people you have faith in who were on the record.

K: Thank you for saying that. There was a mainstream newspaper in Sweden today who occasionally write small, short reviews and the guy said ‘yeah he’s all over the place blah blah blah’ – ok, this has been the main criticism of my album. What keeps the album from getting 4 or 5 stars everywhere – because I think it’s a quality album, and it should be getting reviews like that in my humble opinion -what blocks that is the reviewers say it’s too diverse. OK, fine. BUT this reviewer also said ‘he’s a great songwriter, it would be interesting to hear what he could do with a budget’ but this isn’t a cheap sounding album. I pay the price that I don’t hit people over the head with what I’m doing. It is an expensive record. Not compared to Muse or whatever but also it’s a quality album done in a pro studio with really pro people and it’s not slick but it’s very natural. I don’t want it to sound any more expensive but it’s got strings and horns and stuff going on.

M: It sounds like a lot of time and care was put in to the record…

K: Yeah, the time factor is important though. I haven’t made the world’s most immediate album. Especially at 54 minutes there’s a lot to deal with that, over time, you’ll keep finding new surprises and this has also been an issue for many reviewers saying this album is very long and very dense. But I haven’t made an album in 8 years and I have a lot to do and a lot to say and a lot to show. One reviewer, also in Sweden, gave it a very complimentary 3 star review which has been a common theme…it’s heartbreaking. In the review he said ‘I know a year from now I’m going to regret writing this review because I’m sure the album over time is going to reveal even more of itself to me’. Well, if you can see that coming can I have the extra star please?

There are times when I wonder, if I was Dr Evil and I wanted to sell (Dr Evil voice) one thousand records. If I was like that I would play it a lot more safe and play to type. ‘here are the records I’ve done, let’s find the best elements of those and recycle that into this years model. But I’m not there. This is a very honest and accurate representation of who I am musically and philosophically and I’m into trying new things and working in new ways. It’s a solo album. I’m supposed to be indulgent, right?

M: Is there a logic to your approach? Is there any kind of long term plan for you?

K: These days I have a vision laid out for what I’d like to do next. I may be the only one but I have faith that this record will carry me for a while. I believe in the album and I believe in its quality so if it takes a few months before people are talking about it more I’m still going to put effort into it and tour and make videos to keep infusing the atmosphere of this album with more data so eventually people will come around to saying ‘this is a well conceived art project’. I can tour a lot as it’s just me. Hopefully people will go to the shows. Traditionally my live draw has been good as a solo artist but releasing the album has had the opposite effect to what I thought would happen. It’s suddenly harder than ever for me to sell tickets and I’m totally confused by that. Hopefully things will pick up and it will be great. I plan to keep pushing and doing more collaborations and show that this is a serious thing, there’s nothing tossed off here. As you said you can hear the care that’s been put into the album and everything that will surround it. I put a lot of care into my live show too. I also have this Carise Van Houten album which is already a hit album in the Netherlands and that will involve touring. I’ll be juggling these two things. I’m very proud of that album too. It’s got Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on it and Antony Hegarty too. It’s a good, good record.

Also with JB Meijers we’ve got another instrumental electronic album. We recorded it woth Trevor Morais from Liverpool who is now 70 something and he’s played with Bjork and Underworld. He’s kept up to date and he’s a cool person to play with. We recorded that in Trinidad last year and it needs to be finished.

M: Are you always this busy?

K: I mix a song a day 7 days a week, 330 days a year. I take august off. Today I’m gonna do touch-up mixes on some songs, I filmed a video and I flew in from Istanbul and right now I’m packing to tour and I’m talking to you. It’s amazing that somebody working that hard wouldn’t be a little bit more renowned for it but the work is its own reward. The more good stuff I do, the more people will catch on. My life is like my album. It’s a real reflection of my eclectic interests and being all over the place…I keep doing lots of interesting projects. I love doing them and I keep looking for more interesting stuff and keep changing and doing new things and rolling with the ways music has evolved. I’ve been doing music for 30+ years. I hope I’m always this busy.

I make a decent living doing this stuff. I think right now I’m trying to decide if I should be an absolutely die-hard believer in my album or is there some reality about my expectations and the performance of this album that I should quickly recalibrate? Or is there some other thing I should think.? You’re catching me right at that moment. To let you know my mental state (laughs)

M: (laughs) It’s good to know someone’s state of mind when you’re speaking to them. I understand that you are disappointed with the reviews. I get that. On twitter there are things from fans and you are really well respected among a certain group of people and there are even people are saying you’ve made the album of the year…

K: There HAVE been very good reviews. I see a divide though. Blog-world has been really, really good and somehow there’s some other issue with mainstream press. It’s really hard for me to get a really, really good review in the mainstream press. I don’t know if they are more critical or there are some other politics. I have been told for example in X (unnamable magazine)it has a 3 star review but I heard the reviewer intended to give it a 4 star review but then the editor said there are too many 4 star reviews and we have to remove stars.

That has a serious outcome. The difference in public perception is ‘ooh it only got 3 stars in X so I’m gonna have a hard time giving it 4 stars in my magazine.’ Nobody wants to be the only one sadly. It seems they should be wildly divergent though – you should have one star reviews and nine star reviews of the same album over a spread of magazines so that there’s a debate.

But normally once a band has 4 star reviews other people are afraid to give them less and vice versa.

M: I think the divide between print press and the blog world often is that a blogger will spend time with the record and the major press don’t necessarily pay enough attention maybe….it’s a sad state of affairs.

K: It’s very apparent. If you listen my album once, depending on your familiarity with what I do, on your agenda, one or two listens, you might not get it. And it has to be an attentive listen. I’m not always the most attentive listener ‘cos I’m busy. I’m guilty of that BUT I’m not reviewing albums. If I were, I’d take it seriously…but you never know.

I don’t want to come across as ungrateful about the good things that have been written about my album and there’s an interesting mix of feature articles in big newspapers and anyone who’s willing to take the time to do that is obviously into it and helping me a lot . It’s that or ‘this is a great record but I’m giving it 3 stars ‘cos he tries too many things’. Those are my options.

M: It’s not ideal

K: It’s a challenge. There’s a philosophical idea that the world will check your commitment if you say ‘I’m super-committed’ the universe will throw you a question like ‘really? How committed are you? Here’s a not so great review and deal with it’.

I’m still remaining chipper , I’m still excited to get on the ‘plane and go to Sweden and start playing a proper tour.

M: You’ve not started the solo shows yet?

K: One could say I never really stopped, though I started to play less frequently. I was still going to new places and playing shows even while making this record. These songs, some of them have made appearances for years now in my live shows because they were there and why not. It’s how the songs can come into alignment before you record them. Shall we say that the tour proper started in Istanbul on Monday and that I played a couple of songs I was yet to have played live and people enjoyed it. Istanbul’s an interesting market because I don’t have a history there, I’ve never been there before and people don’t know what I’m about. That was a good litmus test for whether the songs are good or not because there was not much context and people loved it. It was nice. It was a Monday night. There was a decent crowd there, 40 people or something in this little jazz club which I thought was great. People taking a chance on something they don’t know is good. Then this weekend I’ll be going to Sweden where I do have a history and I’m hoping people show up. Advance ticket sales are not so good but the thing is there are medium to slightly deluxe price tickets and there’s no incentive to buy in advance. They’re just the same on the door except no booking fee. I don’t really see why people would bother. I’m hoping for good news. We’ve got a lot of great press in Sweden and even the reviews that are so-so at least there are a lot of them! Every big publication has done something.

Then I go to Finland which has always been a supportive market for The Posies and me, it’s been one of our best. It’s reflected in that I’m playing 5 shows in Finland as opposed to playing 4 in the UK.

M: For the size of the market that does give a fair indication of where your support lies. You’re playing the Lexington in London on 15th November?

K: Yes, then the Louisiana in Bristol the next day the 16th then I’m supporting a band called Paper Aeroplanes who are quite nice. That’s at the Cluny 2 in Newcastle on the 17th then on the 18th I play Nice N Sleazys in Glasgow.

M: Have you been to Sleazy’s before?

K: Yes. Several years ago I played with Eugene Kelly

M: Excellent. Such a grand venue.

K: Had a really nice time. He was my crash pad up there I wonder if it’s still available…

M: Sounds like a pretty good show.

K: It was awesome, yeah.

M: Let’s talk a bit about Big Star and the Third tour…

K: Please

M: When we spoke previously you said you put a lot of work into getting the gig and getting to be in Big Star. Was it all that you hoped for when you found yourself a member of Big Star?

K: It was fascinating. I’d never met Alex and I’d never even seen him play solo at that point. He was a cipher. He was difficult to get a lot of information about. Whatever he was up to in the 70s when those Big Star albums were made, that had been 20 years before I started playing with them so who knows what he’d be into? Turned out he was into all kinds of interesting stuff. He was a person with very wide interests and into knowledge of all kinds and enjoyed talking about literature, history, astrology – that was a particularly large interest of his – gardening, landscape architecture…whatever. Especially he liked to talk about anything except for Big Star. Of course.

When fans would try to talk to him about Big Star after shows it seemed he couldn’t be less interested.

M: That’s so strange

K: I think I understand it in a way. There’s not much to say really. You’re in a position where suddenly someone’s gonna be complimenting you over and over again and it’s tiresome because it’s not really a conversation. It’s nice in a way but it’s not a conversation.

Alex really enjoyed conversations. I’ve seen him talk to people after shows – anybody that might be around – for an hour about hockey. He really liked the Detroit Redwings. If you got him talking about something he was interested in then he was a fascinating person to talk to.

M: I missed my opportunity to speak to him. We saw you play in support of Tindersticks at Hyde Park.

K: Yeah. That was our last London appearance.

M: Phenomenal show. A friend of mine, Dexy, plucked up the courage to speak to Alex and Alex seemed interested in his Big Star t-shirt. Dexy had bought it from e-bay and Alex was like ‘At least someone’s making money from Big Star’

K: (Laughter)

M: Seems unfair that a band like that maybe didn’t make the money they deserved?

K: They didn’t do too bad. By the time we were playing shows in the last decade they had been well recompensed and Alex had a couple of secret things. Not only the ‘That 70s Show’ cover version (by Cheap Trick)but there was also a Heineken ad that had ‘I’m In Love With A Girl’ on it and it ran one year during the Grammys. There was quite a bit of coin involved.

M: Great. Do you think Alex knew the level of influence he had on younger musicians?

K: I think he tried to consider that as little as possible. People mentioned things. Hearing Teenage Fanclub at a certain point it would be hard to deny a certain influence but for some reason that was ok. He enjoyed hanging out with them a lot.

M: But his legend wasn’t something he was interested in?

K: He did a conscious job of ignoring it. It didn’t affect him the way you might think. I saw many an audience going completely crazy and he was like ‘yeah whatever’. That could have been an act. I also know that by the last time we played in Brooklyn at the end of 2009 and people were so into it, a sold out show in a decent sized venue and the adulation and the response were very strong. I could see he actually enjoyed it. He was like ‘you know, I can’t get rid of these assholes so…’

M: May as well enjoy it

K: That’s how it looked. He was smiling. He was smiling and he had a great time. At the same time there were shows where people would go just as crazy but he was like ‘yeah, whatever’.

M: I saw Third (various artists performing Big Star’s seminal ‘Third’ album live) in Barcelona. That was a pretty intense experience.

K: Christ. Especially for me!

M: From a fan’s point of view it was hard to cope with. Incredibly enjoyable but a huge emotional deal. Was it similar from the players’ point of view and the guests?

K: Yeah. We did London and Barcelona and we’d done one earlier in the year at Austin too. We did not want for lack of great singers. Some of it came together late. I’d been working on getting the Wilco guys involved. I tour managed the whole thing. My job was to handle all of the production and the logistics, travel, money, taxes for that show. We had a 30 person travel party. That’s a lot of work. It was beyond intense. The organization around that show in Barcelona for example. There’s the building which is…there’s a production company that does production for the whole festival to make everything work and they totally didn’t have a handle on that building. My job that day was running around trying to get people in and out. It was absurd. We had a hotel across the street but we had to drive there down the street and do a u-turn. It was only a loading door to get into? That was my day. In the midst of that there was the question of whether Wilco were gonna be able to do it. First they had this in-store so probably not. I know those guys and obviously they know everybody involved – Jody and Chris – so it was just a matter of getting them to figure it out and how easy I could make it for them. They had other stuff to do.

But the results speak for themselves. That worked out great.
We had Yo La Tengo. In my mind I wouldn’t have put the presence of Yo La Tengo at the top of that list in terms of name recognition in that way but I now can see the error of my ways . Yo La tengo, especially in Spain, might have been the most popular artist we had in that line-up.

K: They had the headline set at a major stage. A few years ago Superchunk had the same – 25,000 people going crazy for them. You don’t get that anywhere else in the world but in Spain…

M: Yeah. Yo La Tengo are special. They had a book written about them and in Spain they were a major part of the draw. The Ray Davies thing in London was also last minute. We couldn’t announce him as he wasn’t sure that he could do it. Was he gonna have the energy? He was involved in the stage show at that time too I guess (the musical version of The Kinks’ ‘Come Dancing’)?
He finally did show up and was totally into it. That was something. It was great to have him around.

M: It was easy to work with him then?

K: He’s a mature gentleman. Because of that he seems remote in a way. I gleaned on to the fact that he’s preserving his energy. He is old. He’s got to be really calm to stay on target and so when it came to performing he was totally ‘on’. Initially he said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to sing the song (‘The Letter’ by Chilton’s first band The Box Tops) in the original key so it was moved down. We transposed. We tried it and he was like ‘it sounds better high doesn’t it? You guys want to play it in the key of the record’. We were either way but he said ‘I’ll find a way’. He did and he sang and pushed his voice and it sounds like that voice from my earliest years of music fandom. It was phenomenal to sing with him.

M: Are there any more Big Star plans?

K: Everything has been culled from the archives that could possibly be culled. So that’s about that. The Big Star ‘Third’ project has plans to continue. There are some really cool things in the works for next year. We’re doing a gig in New York this month, again with different people involved. Next year, if I have my way there’ll be a handful of performances but it requires an event that can afford to host this massive thing. It would have to be a special event. If everything I have in my head comes to pass then great. At least one thing I know will come to pass.

M: The Big Star film ‘Nothing Can Hurt Me’…

K: The continental premiere is in November at the international documentary festival in Amsterdam and there will be a live set with Jody and John and JB Meijerss and myself and various other local musicians. That’s the 21st Novemebr at the Milkshake.

M: The Posies. How do you feel about the band? Is it something you’re still part of?

K: Yeah. If there are new ideas to be had in there I am interested in doing things. There is interest in us occasionally. We’re playing at the Todos Santos festival in New Mexico that Peter Buck organizes in January and there’s some thing sbeing discussed for next year. It’s a milestone for us. It’s the 20th anniversary of ‘Frosting On The Beater’ for example. There are things to think about. I plan to be busy with the projects I’ve already listed but there’s always room for one more.

M: Is there really?

K: Somehow, yes.

M: I guess you’ve been approached to do the whole of ‘Frosting…’ live?

K: We did that a few years ago! In Spain, Seattle, New York and a couple of other places and of course it’s great. We tried to get one going in London but we couldn’t make it work. That card can be played probably at some point. Much like with my album – and I hope the results are at least as good or better – I think the last Posies album was really a big leap musically from our earlier stuff. It packed a lot of info and colour into it. It wasn’t a dad-rock, going through the motions album. It was a fresh and exciting album that still felt like us.

Our live draw outside the North West seemed to go down though. We didn’t really get any new fans despite having some nice indie rock names on the album and trying to bridge the gap between the pop end of indie rock and what we have always done. The answer to that equation is ‘Why can’t we be Nada Surf?’. Kids half their age have no problem accepting their thoughtful, well-written, fresh guitar rock. Why can’t that apply to us? How come we’re not doing it as successfully? I don’t have an answer. My band can look a little more beat up than them (laughs). I was not too happy with the dad-rock body types they were developing (more laughter). I know it sounds dumb but it can be an issue. Maybe it’s not but I was like ‘God DAMN guys can we at least try a little bit, please?’

M: And you?

K: Me? I’m looking fine! I was in good shape. I don’t know what else to say it was a bad time for my bandmate (Jon Auer) who went through a divorce in that time. I can’t kick him when he’s down. Now he’s back up again I can kick him.

M: Ah, now it’s time to kick.

K: He’s getting married next week. The funny bit – the gal he’s marrying is just outside Paris strangely enough.

M: Synchronicity

K: Get your own country! I actually see it as we’re in the same time zone – that could be useful for something, you know?
There’s no plan but it’s there. It’s just so weird. There are people like you – and I think there are a lot of them – people who have been following what I do and what we do and still care about it and see the quality of it – I think there are some thousands of people who share that viewpoint. Somehow (laughs) it’s getting lost in the general cosmic background chatter. I’m having a dilemma.
I’m very active on-line. I’m trying to tweet and blog and facebook and link and everything and keep you guys aware of what I’m up to but it’s…..almost working.

M: The troops are there, you just have to corral them…

K: Indeed. I’ll do my best with my album and it’ll be interesting to see how many records I sell but then again that doesn’t really matter all the time because, for example, in Sweden 90% of people listen on Spotify so the idea of selling albums is almost irrelevant. But still…we’ll see.
I want people to come to the shows. I need to find journalists like you who can translate me for others so that people know that I’m not just good in one context – that would be the ultimate compliment that would be totally cool – if people say I’m a good songwriter.
Not a songwriter who’s liked because he played with these people so he’s got a golf handicap and we can walk him in a little bit…but just HEY he’s a good songwriter doing interesting stuff and please enjoy. That would be ace.

M: There are many people who hold that opinion and it’s just a case of getting it to the tipping point. Pushing it over. It’s totally plausible, it’s do-able…

K: We keep trying. Thank you so much for doing this piece and the other piece you did on the records thing was so cool (a piece for Q online published last month)

M: I’m sorry it got cut down. It seemed to come out well.

K: Even edited down it was a really good piece. Thanks.

M: No problems man. I was gonna ask some more specific questions about the album.

K: That’s good.

M: Stylistically it moves around a lot. It’s always bound by a sense of melody. Is it your skill with melody that allows you to move around and experiment comfortably?

K: Yes. I would say there’s very little blues-scale melodies on there which would be the typical Sonic Youth melody. That doesn’t happen much even in a piece of music as daunting as the string piece ‘Odorless…’ I managed to find a melody in there out of what could be seen as arbitrary chord progressions. I guess having a melody is important. It doesn’t have to have a melody – I could avoid all of that. This instrumental album I’m working on with JB has no melodies and that’s great but it’sthe basic DNA of the song. It’s how you know it is what it is. There are times in my show when I actually do sometimes go into a melody a cappella and stop playing guitar or piano and the song can totally make sense. Melody is a powerful thing. It’s a great conveyer of info.

M: There are times on this record where you think as a listener ‘this is harder than I would expect – this is more purposely awkward’ but there’s accessibility through melody. The sound of pop music…

K: Melody is the focal point or the mathematical mean of the chord progressions. There’s always a melody possible. There are jazz tunes that have wild chord progressions but you still weave a melody. Thelonius Monk’s music often has a strong melody. Sometimes it wasn’t but sometimes the tunes were tunes. There were some strange rhythms and chord progressions happening in those tunes. I listened to that as a kid, I listened to be-bop albums when I was a teenager. That music made a strong impression on me. There’s a jazz influence in the way I found the melody for ‘Odorless..’ it’s kind of a Bjork, jazz thing…

M: ‘Shittalkers’ is a very vicious assault. Are you drawing on personal and autobiographical material there and in general is it personal stuff that you’re talking about however obliquely you’re approaching it?

K: Yeah. Sure. That writer is always in there. The writer’s agenda is always in there. It’s a game to present the truth in a way that’s more effective than if you just told the truth, how about that?
The truth is interesting but a story is how deeper truths can be displayed. It’s like parables. If you just say the moral of the fable without the fable…the fable is the fun part! I don’t lack for experience and it should be presumed to the age of almost 44 that I’ve had a lot of experiences, of all kind. Things you know about like the musical adventures I’ve had but in the meantime I’ve also got a family and I’ve got kids and things have gone right and wrong and all the normal life stuff and on my own personal journey from being less mature, less aware and less conscious to trying to be more so, which Is really ultimately the subject I talk about the most….’Shittalkers’ is a distracting left turn. For once im not really talking about transcendence or evolution but still it’s not as serious as it sounds but, er, it kinda is. The person I was thinking about when I started to write those lyrics, someone who I thought was backstabbing me really wasn’t and the person telling me this was the liar.

M: Nice

K: Interesting twist. Too late though, the song’s already written. There’s some humour in there too and also my own personal indictments of those people who don’t really give me the credit I’m due. That’s a terrible thing to say but when it’s people writing about you in public then I feel I should be able to strike back. We all want to be taken seriously, right? That song might be the result of my biggest fear: In all of this, for as hard as I’ve worked people might think that I’m either a/ not competent, which is possible, or b/ not serious, which is impossible. I’m really serious about what I do.

M: On 4AM Birds you’re talking about transcendence, you’re discussing the apocalypse. These are the big topics – spirituality etc. these are serious topics, they’re not the usual stuff of pop music but they’re certainly serious!

K: I think that’s a great compliment. There’s fun and interest to be had if you look for it in the lyrics and it’s another thing for the first time or casual listener. They might not be looking for that much content right away. They just hear the sound. But there’s lots of references buried in there and there’s fun to be had if you want that kind of fun. The most unsubtle literary references of all-time have been done by Sting but you know I have literary and other references in the lyrics but they’re just woven in, dare I say, with a little more class. They’re more subtle.

M: ‘You’re The Gold’ – a great pop song. It sounds like a tribute to a friend or lover. Was that aimed at a specific person?

K: I was trying to figure that out myself. My one talent is is that when my subconscious is clueing me in that there’s a song to be written I’m really good at stepping out of the way. It’s very rarely that I write a song ABOUT something as a conscious choice. My subconscious has done the math for me. I should just shut up and let it speak and then I can analyse it later. There’s usually a clear answer. This song is like that. I wrote it and then who? And what? And in a way it’s an apology to my family for the unorthodox aspects of my life and my absences etc. a little bit like ‘She’s A Jar’ by Wilco. It’s one of those ‘I’m sorry I’m fucking this all up even though what I do is important to me and ultimately to us’ but in the end it was really about…a tribute…an I can’t wait to see what you do and how much ass you kick and here’s the instructions on kicking ass. So it’s for my daughter.

M: On the website you say you want everyone in the world to hear the album. You’re justifiably proud of it. If someone has never heard you before what can they expect from ‘Danzig in the Moonlight’?

K: I would say that they would get a kind of …it’s as all-encompassing as I can make right now… you know…representation of a 30 year career in music,absorbing styles from all over the world but firmly rooted in pop culture being sort of… a summation of everything I’ve learned from 30 years of making music.

M: It’s a culmination of your experiences?

K: Big time. I’m a constantly working, record making man. Now I’ve learned skills through making those records of all different styles. Is that appealing to someone? I don’t know…
Cross a short story collection with a very appealing box of candy that also has meat in it.

M: Meat and candy. Mmmmmmmm

K: Meat and candy. That’s this record. I’m not saying it’s as good as the Beatles but it harkens to something I enjoyed about the Beatles at their creative peak in that the albums were intellectual but showed a sense of fun by changing costumes. It’s an album with a lot of costume changes. I don’t know if that would convince someone but that is what it is. What I’d like it to be presented as is Serious Fun. A brainy and smart creation that has the joy of experiencing things and trying them for the first time. If that’s appealing? Great. If not then I’ll just listen to it myself.

M: (Much laughter)
I hope you keep faith with the record. It’s superb. Don’t give up on it.

K: Thank you so much.

M: Thanks for talking to me.

K: Well thank you for helping make it possible for me to continue. Here’s where the game gets interesting…

Ken Stringfellow plays:
Thu 15th November – The Lexington, London
Fri 16th November – The Louisiana, Bristol
Sat 17th November – The Cluny 2, Newcastle
Sun 18th November – Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.