Before receiving an email from my friend at Rogue PR, I had never heard of Kurt Riley. This is a shame, because Kurt Riley is a very fun band. He is all about performance and art. For a fellow artist, this is very appealing and demands respect.
In our conversation Kurt revealed some exciting news about the next phase of his brand: Chrome Empire. We also touched on his influences, his thoughts on streaming music and what music he has been indulging in lately.
Be sure to find him on Facebook, YouTube, Spotify
1) What are your biggest musical influences?
Bo Diddley, Roxy Music & Bryan Ferry, Jimmy Reed, Vangelis, Prince, ionnalee, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, The Kills, David Bowie, and Nat King Cole.
2) Do you listen to any band or genre that would surprise your fans if they found out?
I must admit that I have a great affinity for ABBA. The arrangements, songwriting, and performances are exquisite; “Waterloo” and “The Day Before You Came” are two of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever heard.
3) What’s next for the band?
2019 begins an entirely new chapter for myself and the 3 wonderful fellas in my band. We are starting down a path which few may follow, but it is honest, and it is new. And those are two ethos which any artist would be proud to adhere to, I believe.
The new phase we’re starting is called Chrome Empire. Not an album – but a collection of singles – the music is decidedly futurist in sound and in execution. Topically, it will discuss everything from gynoid companionship to the social credit system – from megacities to augmented reality. It is a refit and a reconstruction of the rock and roll combo, the inimitable model which Muddy Waters and Buddy Holly set in stone. We’re upgrading the chassis for the 21st Century. Imagine Keith Richards & Brian Eno forming a band in the world of Blade Runner.
4) How do you think streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have changed how bands release music? Has it made it easier or more difficult?
Streaming (and the Digital Age as a whole) has made music instantly deliverable for the creator, and instantaneously accessible for the listener. That is a great closure of the power distance which heretofore existed between the fan and the famous. One can even respond to a celebrity musician on Twitter or Instagram – it is surreal. Unfortunately, the post-Napster age has also seen an utter destruction and uncoupling the profitability of recorded music; things are so dire that the Billboard Top 100 now counts YouTube views and other forms of streaming in their metrics, for the sale of physical and digital media is so low across the spectrum. That makes is quite impossible for the independent artist to make any money in the enterprise – which is, in part, the reason why we haven’t seen this generation’s Beatles or Bob Dylan. People who could see it coming got a job in IT, and they play guitar in their basement as a hobby. That’s really the human cost of this tragedy – it robbed our culture of the next crop of heroes, the next champions. In their place we have a bevy of histrionic models who have their songs written by committee. That is a huge loss for our culture – but what can one expect when the brass ring disappears? Only a madman would stick to this business. (Perhaps I am mad, after all. Ha ha!)
5) Do you have any non-musical influences that show up in your music?
To be sure! Oscar Wilde, for his indefatigable wit and defiance in the face of conformity. George Orwell, for his vision of a future which reality mirrors far too closely. Grant Morrison, for his intertextuality and his blazing creative courage. And Christ of Nazareth, for a model of what humanity can be, affiliation be damned.
6) Can you describe your sound?
7) What are you listening to lately? Anything you would recommend?
Of late, I’ve had a few numbers on constant rotation, to be sure. “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” by A-ha; Paul McCartney’s lovely rendition of “I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”; “Song I” by Philip Glass & Wendy Sutter. I would strongly recommend “Fountain” by ionnalee, “Hook and Line” by The Kills, and “Modern Love” by Peter Gabriel.
8) What made you decide to “get into” music and start a band?
I spent an inordinate amount of my teenage years reading DC Comics, playing Goldeneye and Half-Life, and watching the Terminator and Alien series. So really, if I was ever going to speak to a member of the fairer sex, something drastic had to be done. (laughs)
Flippancy aside, I first became enamoured with music at a very young age. I recall being moved so deeply by Philadelphia Soul and Motown as a little one. As I grew older – and more rebellious – my collection of influences grew to include The Clash, Little Richard, and Iggy Pop. Growing up in an age of plastic celebrities – Britney Spears and the manufactured Lou Perlman boys – I took it upon myself to become a self-made musical superhero. A one-man composer, musician, and performer, akin to Prince or Bowie. And I did just that.
I’ve released three studio albums and three singles , and I have much more than that sitting in vault, awaiting release. But things really took off, ironically, when I put the music on pause and went to college, halfway through my twenties. I tried going straight, and the muse wouldn’t have it. (laughs)
Within the past few years, I’ve received more newspaper, radio, and television coverage than ever before in my life. The band I’ve assembled are an absolutely magnificent – and totally unique – assembly of fellows. Each one is an incredibly gifted person, and a great friend. We’re now poised to make music which will be unlike anything people have heard.
9) How does your writing process work, do you all collaborate on the lyrics or is that job reserved for just one person?
I compose and arrange all of my material. The fellas add the humanity to it – the fairy dust – the magic. I give them the skeleton and the sinew.
10) If you had to pick just one, which album would be your favorite?
That is a monstrous thing to ask any music lover! But a quick way to get one to reveal their heart. (laughs) My desert island disc would be Avalon, Roxy Music’s apex, in my humble opinion. Perfect melancholy and world-weariness. A view from the summit of supermodels and country homes, desperately longing for true love and meaning in a changing world. A refuge for my soul.
11) Are there any bands you would desperately love to tour with someday?
Oh, yes. I would open for Mr. Bryan Ferry in a heartbeat. And I’d love to open for Blondie, as well. Spent some time backstage with Deborah Harry and Clem Burke after their performance last year in Syracuse, and they were lovely, charitable people. That would be one hell of a show.
12) What are your thoughts about bands releasing more singles, rather than following a traditional route and just releasing albums?
That practice reminds me a great deal of the heady days of 1960s pop, when you had killers like “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and “Ruby Tuesday” on the same damn disc. I mean, can you imagine?
I’ve received a greater degree of attention for the three singles I released in 2018 than for the three albums released prior to that point. In today’s world, with our attention pulled from one thing to another so quickly, a single is the best form of delivery for new material. And it allows the artist multiple luxuries – we can spend much more time developing one song, and we can stretch our material out for much longer (laughs). All of the Chrome Empire material will be released as singles in 2019 and 2020, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Welcome to the future.