By Conor O’Neill
With over two decades in the music business, eight studio LPs released so far, Irish singer/songwriter, producer, DJ and touring musician, David Kitt talks to Culture Crush NI on his latest release Idiot Check, the pandemic and how it shaped his music, his new tour and how he’s kept his head and career in the uncertain world that is the music business.
CC: Welcome David, we’ll get straight in. Why did you choose the title Idiot Check for the title of the new album?
DK: “Well it evolved. Initially the idea, Idiot Check comes from when I was touring with various bands. When we were packing up and about to leave a venue or hotel we would always send someone back to do the ‘idiot check’ and make sure we hadn’t left anything behind. And then when the pandemic struck I was going through some old hard drives and making sure I hadn’t left any ideas behind. There were ideas and tracks unfinished that didn’t make it on to Yous. Some of them were from as far back as 2014. Ideas that I felt were worth finishing. When the pandemic hit it put a different hue on some of those ideas and for some reason it was a more interesting place to be creatively.
“I think a lot of people, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, myself included, yearned for a weird form of nostalgia. I found myself listening to bands I hadn’t listened to since my teenage years and watching reruns of old snooker matches. It was almost a craving for a simpler life. Everyone sort of went into panic mode and ideas I had from the past went part-and-parcel with that nostalgic thinking.
“There’s that line which I’ve used a lot over the years, I think it came from Seamus Heaney when he said, ‘You write your way into things and you write your way out’. I always think the more you get on your way in the easier it is to write your way out. These ideas I found I hadn’t really written that far in but something about the pandemic made it more interesting to be creative.
“I think up north you call it the MOT, here [in the Republic of Ireland] we call it the NCT [a vehicle’s annual safety check]. I was doing a bill of health kind of check-up on myself. A lot of people, including myself, were struggling when it came to creating and the powers of concentration. People seemed to be tethered to their phones and being manipulated by media and outside forces. I noticed a kind of dumbing down with a lot of people I know, at times myself included, so connecting with that and the symptoms of that and trying to find a remedy within myself. Idiot Check seemed to work on a micro and macro level.”
CC: I have written in brackets ‘yourself, others, geopolitical’. Would that be true?
DK: “It really is. A lot of the voices on the record are not my own. I’m writing from the perspective of people I know or from a certain ilk of people, and the geopolitical is coming through strong, too.”
CC: If 2018’s Yous is your ‘Irish’ record, what bracket would you put this one into?
DK: “I think it’s more to do with nature and remoteness, but it’s also related to more global and geopolitical forces. I think in a way there the death of ‘me’ [as in the individual]. I think it peaked in 2019 and 2020 where we all seemed tethered to some kind of international loud speaker system or media manipulation or whatever it was. It was a very loud time. For me personally, things have got quieter and quieter. The LP is a map of that progression, it’s a document of the forces that pushed me and people I know into that fight or flight mode. It’s a look in the mirror and saying ‘Something needs to change here because something isn’t right’.”
CC: The LP was recorded in Paris, Dublin and south Kerry where you now live. I’m interested in what you call your ‘Breaking Bad roving recording studio’, can you elaborate on that?
DK: “Pre pandemic I was supposed to move to Australia then Covid hit and all the borders were closed. I had sold my car, some of my clothes and I was preparing to go to Australia. I was left in a state of not knowing what I was doing. I went to Paris, then I went to my parents’ house for quite a while while they were in their holiday home in Wexford. I was in the house I grew up in and had my music gear set up on the dining room table. I was still working but I was going from one place to another. It might be three weeks in one place then three weeks in another and moving my recording gear back and forth in my Corolla [type of car] doing three or four runs and those runs might have been from one country to the next or just moving from Dublin to Kerry. Eventually I found a place and have been in Kerry for two and a half years. There were points of recording this album when things were very desperate.”
CC: I’m interested in your choice of singles to date. Why did you pick Wishing Well as the first single and the double A-side Till The End and Balances as the second single?
DK: “I though Wishing Well was the best introduction to the album. There’s a kind of bone to it sonically and thematically that made it the perfect introduction to the album. The recent singles Till The End and Balances go really well together. Till The End was a real break through moment for me recording the album. I felt I was singing in a different voice and writing from a different perspective. It was me and it wasn’t me simultaneously. It was just a really interesting creative space. There are very few words to that song. It’s like distilling something down and really getting to the essence of it. And I just love Katie Kim’s contribution to the song so much.
“Balances is probably more for people who have followed my work. I t has that more traditional outro that you’d associate with me. I feel it was a little bit influenced by The Beatles Get Back, there’s something about it. I was on the home straight, it had that Beatles kind of orchestral sound. I think the two songs go really well together.”
CC: I like the narrative arc to the album. It has a definite start, middle and ending and song the last Waves Of Peace feels like us as individuals and as a society breaking through and seeing the light after the gloom of the pandemic. I assume that was intentional?
DK: “Yeah. Very much so. At the start Waves Of Peace didn’t sound like it belonged on the album. The label were so mad about. I think it’s like an epilogue of a movie where they show you the ‘six months after’ shot and the suburbs are all leafy and spring has come back. It’s like a coda, the only way it could work thematically was if it was at the end of the album. Now that I’ve lived with the record for a while, for me it really works.”
CC: You took a long break from releasing solo material from 2009 to 2018. Since Yous in 2018 we’ve had an album roughly every two to three years, can fans of yours expect more of the same?
DK: “Yes. I’m in a spot where I have three albums on the go at any given time. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of. I’m constantly working.”
CC: You said back in 2018 you felt really free just releasing material though Band Camp and not having a label, what’s things like with Warm Records?
DK: “It’s incredible. First and foremost, they’re music fans, and they’re of a similar vintage as myself. They’re also really plugged into the UK music scene. That really helps me with getting my music out whether it be record shops or DJs and other music lovers.”
CC: You’ve played four shows so far with the tour for this album, how is the new material going down with audiences?
DK: “Pretty great! The response has been really good. I think you just know by the response, you just get a sense that the new material is really strong. I do think the electronics help. There are a lot of the songs that stand on their own acoustically, but mixing the new material with some of the New Jackson stuff makes for a really good show.”
CC: So you’re playing the Duncairn in Belfast on April 29th and Echo Echo Dance in Derry/Londonderry on April 30th, what can an audience expect from the live shows?
DK: “I’m focusing on this album but I will be playing some of the earlier stuff too. It’s kind of weird how it works out sometimes. I did the 20 project during lockdown and I went through the back catalogue and was finding strengths in the old stuff, playing them in different keys and looking at them in new ways. In the set there’s a couple from The Big Romance like Song For Hope Street and Step Outside To The Morning Light which I wasn’t sure if I’d ever play again but now I’ve found a new connection with them again.
“I’m also going through a reissue of the album Not Fade Away where I’m rerecording some of the tracks and making it a more interesting project so there’ll be a few from that too. It’s a mixture of everything really.”
CC: You’ve been in the music businesss for 23 plus years now, what does it feel like to have survived this long in such a hectic industry?
DK: “It’s not easy. I think there have been moments where I’ve literally had to think about getting another job, and there have been moments where I’ve thought ‘How am I going to survive?’ but something always just happens just in time to get me over the line, survive the next month or the next year.
“It’s still a challenge and it’s not easy at the moment but there’s definitely a sense of things getting more streamlined. I’m back working with David Gray, I have my own gigs and the calendar is looking pretty full and I think this year is going to be okay. You go through phases when you think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ but at the moment it is worth it and I’m feeling really excited.”
David Kitt’s new album Idiot Check is released on March 31st. It’s available on digital, CD, cassette and vinyl. He’s currently touring the UK and Ireland. For all details visit http://www.davidkitt.com
For updates from this page follow Culture Crush NI on Facebook