SONNY KAY INTERVIEW
CONDUCTED THROUGH 09/2018
Sorry for lagging, Ian. Just slammed with work nonstop right now, for the next month and half in fact then I get a break. Gonna start that with 10 days in Mexico with my girlfriend! Cannot wait... But I digress. Here's some answers.
1. you are a man who has called many places home. in order, can you tell me what cities you've lived in, where you currently live and a most and least favorite thing about each city?
I was born in London, but soon moved to Johannesburg (South Africa), then Barcelona, then back to England, and then eventually to Los Angeles. That was just the seventies! In 1987 I moved to Boulder, Colorado and since then I’ve lived in Berkeley, Oakland, Anaheim, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and now Hot Springs, Arkansas. I’ll comment on the last 3. Best thing about LA is the sheer amount of stuff going on, and the worst thing is how long it takes to get anywhere. Best thing about Vegas is the proximity to Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, the Grand Canyon, etc. and the worst thing is “the Strip” and everyone on it. Best thing about Hot Springs is the scenery and the hodgepodge of retro vibes. My least favorite thing here and almost anywhere else is the humidity. Having said that, it isn't that bad.
2. what was the first album you ever bought with your own money? what is the most recent album you have bought with your own money?
“Disco Duck” by Rick Dees on vinyl and Journey’s “Escape” on cassette were the first. The Frigs "Basic Behaviour" LP was the most recent.
3. what was the VERY first band you were ever in? what was the very first show you ever played?
The band was All But One, and the show was June 15, 1990 opening for Dead Silence at Penny Lane in Boulder.
4. when and where and with whom was the most recent show you've played? what and when do you anticipate will be the next?
I think it must have been about 8 years ago in LA with this cover band I was in briefly called Millions of Dead Comps. I imagine maybe doing a show with Planet B somewhere when their new album drops, I sing on one song on that. Beyond that, hopefully this new project with Russell and co. will result in some shows, eventually.
5. since this is an interview with 25 DIAMONDS, specifically, i want to focus on the ways you are connected to the label. you and i have known each other for over 20 years in some facet, but our first project together was the OPTIONAL BODY 7". tell me anything and everything you would like a public audience to know about this band and this experience.
We spent the entire calendar year 2008 writing songs as Optional Body. We rehearsed once or twice a week, never playing a show, never even really having a set rehearsal space or anything. It was hard to get everyone to sync up, we were all very spread out across Los Angeles. Eventually we recorded a few songs and then basically called it a day. It was sad to see it end but I felt powerless to stop it, everyone was going in their own direction. For me, this band is the one that got away. I loved the music we made and enjoyed playing with all three of those guys so much. I wished we could have done more.
6. tell me anything you're willing to share about current musical projects you are however loosely involved with.
As you know Russell and I have been jamming periodically with Demetrius and Bill in California, a project without a name so far. There’s 6 songs recorded I need to write and record lyrics for. What will happen beyond that, I can’t say. There isn’t a plan at all. Besides that, I’m on the track “Disease Control” on the upcoming Planet B album and also one on the newly released Echo Beds LP. A couple years ago I did a song with MSTRKRFT. It’s fun to keep coming back to it.
7. on a scale of 1 - 10, how much do you miss doing GSL? 1 being never once, 10, every moment. can you tell me some releases you wish you had put out on GSL but didn't?
About 3, I guess. Sometimes less, very occasionally more. I miss the community and the traveling the most. I was offered the first Liars album and passed cause I didn’t like their demo. In hindsight, that was stupid. I could probably tell you more records I wish I hadn’t put out, actually.
8. when push comes to shove, do you consider yourself first a musician or a visual artist? is there a distinct differentiation? could you live without one or the other medium? do you?
I love music and enjoy making it but I feel like an imposter calling myself a musician. When I do, it’s only for the sake of convenience. I drum on tabletops constantly and I love writing lyrics, but those are my only two compulsions. For me, the innate drive is for the visual, that’s the one that feels hardwired. I enjoy combining music with visuals, a lot. But it doesn’t have to be my music. I still like jamming for fun though and when I do that these days I usually play the drums, but there’s not really a goal with that other than the personal challenge in trying to get good.
9. do you believe earth will eventually no longer exist? would you care to take a however-educated-you'd-like guess on when, if so? if given the chance to populate a new planet, would you choose to, or would you perish here?
Yes but I couldn’t tell you when as my suspicion is it’d be very, very far in the future. I would love the chance to explore a new planet. Don’t know how I feel about the human disease spreading but I suppose it’s gonna happen eventually...
10. do you have an all time favorite author? book? magazine?
Not really. I’ve never been big into literature but I’ve read a million rock biographies. I also have read a lot about evolution, consciousness, psychedelics and cultural anthropology. No single author comes to mind except perhaps Graham Hancock, but he’s one of many for me. Magazines is easy, I read every issue of MOJO I get my hands on cover to cover.
11. what are you afraid of? this can be approached however superficially or existentially (or both) you may like.
Failure, destitution, and living without purpose.
12. will you share what you believe gives your own life meaning?
Nurturing many friendships over long periods of time. Creating work of value to me that other people can relate to and find enjoyable. Traveling and collecting experiences and memories.
13. tell me 5 of the best live bands or shows you've ever seen in your life and an anecdote or memory about each...
- Laughing Hyenas @ Art gallery in Boulder, fall 1990. Tiny show organized that day, late at night on the floor of a gallery. Intensity and a sense of danger like I'd never experienced before.
- Heroin @ Che Cafe in San Diego, March 1992. They just ripped so hard, and there was such a clear sense of excitement in the air. People went bananas, too.
- Clikatat Ikatowi @ Boulder rehearsal trailers, January 1994. They were magic every time they played but that first show in Colorado was so anticipated and so unique (freezing weather, back of a semi trailer) that it was unforgettable. Incredible video of this one exists on YouTube.
- Nine Inch Nails @ McNichols Arena Denver, October autumn 1995. Part of the Outside tour with Bowie. I worked as a runner for the show but got to watch NIN, after seeing them as a solo act solo twice before. The energy and chaos was just off the chart, they were coming apart at the seams (it seemed) but at the same time it all felt a little choreographed and tongue in cheek. The stage production was like something from Close Encounters and the whole spectacle, after 5 solid years of only hardcore shows in basements, just blew my mind entirely. At some point that night, I spent 60 seconds in a hallway with Bowie and Trent Reznor, just the three of us, with me trying to look busy while the two of them briefly made small talk. That was a surreal moment in my life.
- The Mars Volta @ All Tomorrows Parties, Camber Sands, England 2005. I’d seen them probably 70 or 80 times at that point and that night was just next level, something magical. They were the best band in the world at the time. My streetwise English cousin gave me some ecstasy before they went on which may well have played a role in my memories of the night.
14. finally - what is one question or topic you have never been asked in an interview that you would like to discuss or share in a public forum?
This was interesting to think about and the reason it's taken me so long to finish this and send it to you. How about this... I absolutely do not mean for it to be an underhanded jab at you or anyone else - just postulating! Why is it that green movements never seem to encompass the music industry, in particular vinyl? Having spent a lot of time in a vinyl pressing plant, it's clear to me that few artistic endeavors - oil painting maybe the biggest exception - pollute to the degree that vinyl production does. The plating process alone pollutes the ground below the plant so much that when vinyl factories close, they sometimes become Superfund sites where the EPA (crooked as they are) come in and have to replace the soil, etc. The fused plastic/paper labels can never be recycled, so they must be punched out and thrown away if a defect or otherwise finished record is ground down for re-using the plastic. Then there's all that paper... Don't get me wrong, I love records, I love this culture and am not trying to sound its death knell. I would, however, love to see it somehow adapt or evolve, which might not even be possible. CD's of course are equally bad. But vinyl, so often the domain of the self-righteous and "woke", gets a pass. Would Crass be pressing records in 2018? Makes you wonder...
Thanks a ton for the opportunity Ian, and sorry for the wait!! Let's get on the horn soon.