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Interview: KEVAN KEELER

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Five O’ One Nine is the postcode of the Adelaide suburb musician Kevan Keeler grew up in. It is also the title of his debut album, a collection of songs inspired by rock ‘n’ roll, science fiction and B grade horror movies.

“It’s the first album I have ever done. It was one of those bucket list things I suppose.”  Kevan has been in cover bands for much of his life. This album came about from a conversation Kevan was having with some mates but it was actually one of his mate’s young sons who inspired Kevan to record the album. “He said to me ‘Hey Kev, have you ever done any of your own music?’ and I said ‘Actually, no I haven’t,’ and he said ‘Why not?’ I said ‘You know what? That’s a really good point.” Eighteen months later, Kevan has released the album Five O’ One Nine.

Initially Kevan had visions of the album being a singer/songwriter style album, similar to the works of Tom Petty but when he started talking to his musician mates, the album took another direction. “They started offering me song ideas, offering songs that were partially written or even fully completed songs and said ‘Here mate, have a listen. What you think?’ It became apparent pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to be an introspective album. It had to be a full blown rock ‘n’ roll album which is what it has ended up being. It’s fundamentally a rock ‘n’ roll album. It’s very rooted in the 70’s and 80’s genre and style of music.” That said, Kevan did also point out that “There’s a few flavours on it and that was deliberate. I could’ve just stuck with one genre but I always loved albums that took you on a journey and that had different feels and different styles and different flavours on there and so that’s what we’ve done with it. It’s not all just one style.”

Kevan was very fortunate to have some experienced musicians record with him on this album. Dave Blight, who is Cold Chisel’s harmonica player and is famous for his sublime harmonica playing on Khe Sanh, plays harmonica on the bluesy ‘Black Cat Bone’ track. Also on this track is Pete Jenkins who was in Angry Anderson’s band for a while. He plays slide and rhythm guitar and co-wrote the song. Kevan’s best mate Ward Purcell “Who is just a fantastic guitar player. His style is very much that 80’s hard rock style,” plays on the high energy rock style tunes. Steve Williams of Wa Wa Nee and Choirboys played on three songs. “Steve is so versatile. Originally he was going to put some 12 string guitar on just one track. He came to the studio with all these other guitars and he started putting down some nylon string acoustic on one of the songs as well as the 12 string and it just blew our minds.”

Also on the album are the Bissonette Brothers, Matt and Gregg. These musicians have played with some of the biggest names in music history. Both have played with Ringo Starr  and David Lee Roth, whilst Gregg can add Toto, Linda Ronstadt, Doobie Brothers and more to his list and Matt can add Joe Satriani, Boz Scaggs, Don Henley, Rick Springfield, Elton John and more to his. “To have those guys on the album is just fantastic. They were doing my sessions and fitting me in between touring commitments with Ringo Starr and Elton John. That was surreal in terms of having guys of that calibre, being so cool about doing it, and really enthusiastic and so professional with the way they go about everything.  It was an absolute pleasure to work with those guys.”

Amazingly, the Bissonette Brothers’ recordings were done in LA, whilst Kevan and the other musicians were recording in Adelaide.  Tracks were being sent back and forth across the internet.  “One of the beauties of modern technology is you can be in different recording studios in different parts of the world and end up with a final outcome that sounds like you were all together in the one room,” Kevan explained to me. There was also a lot of old school style recording with all of the other musicians being together in the studio playing songs live. “We had an engineer and a producer. A lot of people now try to do it all themselves because you can be a one stop shop. But if you are a songwriter and are prepared to collaborate with other musicians and songwriters you are going to get other ideas thrown at you that you wouldn’t necessarily think of yourself. You’ve got to learn to be not too precious or fall in love with your own songs too early in the process either, because you’ve got to be prepared to give up something, particularly if you are working with other songwriters. You’ve got to be prepared that what you think might be the way you want something, that somebody else is probably going to come at it from another angle.” Kevan went onto say “With songs, and I reckon any songwriter or musician would say this, is they are like your children and it’s really hard to give it to somebody else and then be prepared for them to not necessarily rip it to shreds but to critique it and you need to be open to that and take it in the right context and not be too precious about it.”

Kevan originally thought he would be inspired by his family and friends for the songs. “I was going to write songs about my friends and my family but that’s not what we ended up with.” Instead, the songs, with the influence of Ward’s rock guitar licks, ended up being inspired by some of Kevan’s other loves. “I’ve always loved science fiction movies and B grade 1950’s/60’s sci-fi horror movies. The song ‘Conspiracy’ is all about conspiracy theories. I’m not saying what ones I believe or don’t believe, but it’s a tongue in cheek song about people out there who believe the moon landing was fake, that Elvis is still alive and working at 7/11 in Memphis and in area 51 and all that stuff.”

Crazy Kid is about a serial killer. ‘Wrong Side of the Tracks’ references the legend of Robert Johnson but told from the perspective of a smoky hot female guitar player that follows the legend of Robert Johnson. She goes down to the crossroads and does the deal and sells her soul for fame and fortune and rock stardom.”

Kevan is very proud that this album is a collaborative effort and of the mutual respect from all involved. “It has my name on it but it was a collaborative thing and everybody that was involved in it was so critical to the final outcome. I didn’t given anyone really very much direction in what I wanted. I was specific in a few things but for the most part I was ‘Hey, you know what you are doing. You just do your thing and we’ll be totally happy with what we get.’” 

Music runs in the family. Kevan’s oldest son has recently formed a band with some mates. They are writing and jamming together regularly but this dad is concerned about how they will be able to progress. “I am a bit concerned about what kids are going to be able to do and achieve as young musicians moving forward. I don’t want to harp on about the good ol’ days but there was a time period in Adelaide when just in Hindley Street alone there would be, on a Friday and Saturday night, twenty live music venues just along this one strip. It’s one thing being a cover act but it’s a whole different ball game trying to be an original act these days.”

He told me his son enjoys the same sort of music as himself; the old stuff like Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Kiss and Sabbath. “There has always been disposable pop music. That’s been around forever but the stuff that has stood the test of time and has real integrity and sounds as fresh now as the day it was written…  well, there’s a reason why people are still listening to The Beatles, The Stones, The Angels, Chisel and the Oils. It has integrity and it just stands up.”

Talking of music standing up to the test of time, Kevan told me that he recently went to see The Rolling Stones in Adelaide. “Mick Jagger, what an incredible front man, the energy he had. I was just blown away.” Mick’s performance reminded Kevan that, just as we say here at Rock Club 40, ‘You are never too old to rock ‘n’ roll.’

 

 

by Suzanne Bunker

 

 Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2014. All rights reserved

 

 

Kevan’s album can be purchased at www.cdbaby/cd/kevanKeeler

 

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