East Northamptonshire musician Kenneth J Nash has been a crucial cog on the scene this past decade, consistently putting out top notch albums, running festivals and recording bands. His New Boots interview time has been long overdue, so the release of his new EP ‘The Explorer’ gave us the excuse to get more solid nuggets on his journey so far.
You’ve been making music for a while now; solo since 2010 but before that too. For anyone uninitiated in the way of the Nash, is there a potted history you can give?
My first band was in 1984-6 where I played rhythm guitar. We were still at school and our first proper gig was at the end of term in front of the whole school. We had around a ten minute set of originals penned by our frontman Dominic and the rest were Bob Dylan covers. We didn’t really have a band name as I recall. From there I joined numerous bands, all with little success, but found success as a DJ. I’d grown up with the emergence of early hip-hop and loved cutting and scratching on my hand-me-down 1970s double disco decks (no speed control – just slipmats). My DJ sets were mainly hip-hop, with a bit of soul and reggae thrown in. Spending most weekends DJing and working daytimes meant that I had no spare time for bands. However I kept playing guitar and began to become interested in singer-songwriters. Over the next two decades during periods where I was taking a break from DJing I joined various rock, punk and metal bands as a guitarist or bassist, but it wasn’t till 2010 that I started writing songs for myself to sing. I wrote a song called ‘Tattoos Over Scars’ and added a YouTube video of a picture I’d drawn accompanied by a badly recorded version of the song. It got quite a few views and some great comments so it drove me to become a singer-songwriter.
I’d always used poetry as a means of expressing my feelings but had kept the poems to myself. I realised that poetry and songs are kind of the same thing, and began writing a series of songs that proved cathartic and helped me deal with the issues that spending a life ‘on the road’ had given me. Around this time I was asked to join a band as the lead singer and second guitarist; this was called The Ghost Chorus and featured Rob Reeves, Scott Warner and Cliff Lambert. We fashioned our sound on Nick Cave meets The National, and our first gig was supporting Blacklight Pioneer to a large audience. Unfortunately as these things go we only got to record a couple of tracks before we disbanded. I then made the decision to pursue a solo career.
Who are your main influences in 2019? Musically/non-musically…
I listen to a lot of music. My current favourites include Gregory Alan Isokov and Glen Hansard. Outside of music I would say that I’m influenced by nature and love.
What was the reaction like to your last full-release album Luna? Were you satisfied with the finished work?
It got a good reaction, with some lovely reviews, and the stream numbers now mark it out as my most listened to work. It was a long time in the making though: including being signed to a label, recording it twice for them and then them folding. Meaning the version I released was self recorded and produced. I listen back now and I feel happy with it, as it was a snapshot of the band and I at that time. It was recorded live, so has the feel I wanted. It is the soundtrack to an as yet unmade movie. I had plans to shoot a movie, but they’re still plans at this time. I am satisfied with it as an album, there is some excellent musicianship by my band which includes J M Jones on guitar, Max Mclean (of Miyagi Car Wash) on drums, Jamie Gilbert on bass, Alan Tang on keys and of course Fran Taylor providing beautiful backing vocals.
Tell us everything about this new EP, ‘The Explorer’.
Over the last few years I’ve been working with Musicians Against Homelessness [MAH], having being through some pretty bleak periods of my life. I have been homeless and suffered mental health issues. I wrote the song ‘The Explorer’ about this period, and hope that it can convey the message for those that suffer in silence. I approached MAH who are helping me to promote the release of the EP. There’s been two remixes of the title track so far: Max Mclean has put his Miyagi Car Wash touches on one, and Rob G Nichols has produced an electronica version. I’ve also included an acoustic version, and ‘Around Again’ with just myself and Veronika Rauchfussova, who is a Czech Republic classical violinist. She’s staying with a friend of mine and he introduced us. She is an incredible musician, and unusually for a classically trained musician she enjoys the free flow of playing without sheet music. Which is a bonus as I’m not very good at theory! I’ve also included a live recording of a song of mine, which is called ‘She’s The One That Saved Me’. This was recorded in a log cabin in Wales and is a song about my wife, who saved me from being homeless.
What can we expect from the next album?
I’ve got a couple of album projects on the go. I’m putting together an album of my most listened to tracks from the last ten years, but redone with my band as we are now. This will have the feel of the Miyagi Car Wash remix of ‘The Explorer’, as it’ll be produced by Max Mclean. Then the second album is all new[ish] songs, which will include the songs on ‘The Explorer’ EP, plus some other new ones – and two or three songs from the limited issue album ‘Room 7’ that I released to my core fans last year. This album will be very sparse, whilst hopefully being intimate and totally acoustic and live. I love Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and this has been an influence, as well as Damien Rice’s back catalogue.
You run the “Old Hotel” record label and studio. Tell us how you operate and why you do it.
When I started releasing my own material I had some label interest, but after reading the small print I was shocked about what I was going to have to give away in order to be signed. I declined this, and further record label interest, as I felt I could do a reasonable job myself. I saw some of my contemporaries caught out by these labels and decided that there was a gap for an honest decent label. Old Hotel Records was born to take care of the artists and bands I knew. I would offer a low cost recording service specialising in live recordings, and coaching on performance and songwriting, then use my network in order to gain the artist recognition. It still operates in the same way to this day. I don’t pretend that I can give artists the rock star lifestyle, but I will help them release their songs and keep all the rights and royalties for themselves. I offer my artists festival slots, radio airplay and contacts to take them further than I can. We have a pretty eclectic roster, but all of them are excellent.
You are very much part of a music scene here in Northamptonshire. Any favourite acts, venues, or festivals you want to give a shout out to?
As a supporter of original music I would like to give a shout out to all original music creators, promoters, bloggers, journalists, radio DJs, venues and festivals. The live scene has been taken over in the towns by covers bands and tribute acts. It’s tough to keep going if you feel your work isn’t valued. But keep on keepin’ on. Art is art whether the public pay to see it or not.
What has been your favourite KJN musical moment of the past 12 months?
My favourite musical moment has been hearing the audiences singing along with my songs. It always gives me a buzz, and I’ve been noticing it happening more and more, especially during the last year.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Gregory Alan Isokov – This Empty Northern Hemisphere. I’m a fairly recent fan, but love this 2009 album.
What is your burning desire to do in the future? What plans do you have in the next few months?
My burning desire is to get both planned albums recorded and released within the next twelve months… I’m not sure if this is achievable! In the next few months I’m on the road playing festivals all over the country. I’d like to also get some demo’s recorded of some new songs that I’ve recently written. Plus I’m exploring some collaborations with other artists and producers.
The Explorer is out now