KURT DEEMER BAND
Antenna Like A Lightning Rod
(Kurt Deemer Music)

 

Baltimore-based Kurt Deemer Band are turning heads with an excellent sounding 2018 CD EP called Antenna Like A Lightning Rod. Self-released, the 6 track CD highlights the music and vocals of Kurt Deemer who is backed up by a tight band including John Christensen (guitars), Kris Maher (bass), Steve Rose (drums) and others. With a catchy approach to Americana pop and rock, Kurt sounds influenced by AOR giants like the late Tom Petty and Chrissie Hynde. Speaking about his M.O. on this brilliant mini-album, Kurt adds, "I really wanted to make a full-length record, and in retrospect kind of wish I had. I envisioned the EP on vinyl with a side “A” and side “B” but it’s only on disc for now. The previous KDB records were self-produced and then mixed. This record was recorded at Drew Mazurek’s place as well as mixed there. The idea was to keep it as live as possible." Kurt’s six-piece band is super tight and the whole album rocks up quite a storm. Over the past few years, Kurt and company have released several albums but Antenna Like A Lightning Rod is so strong, with each track a standout. A 6 track taster of his latest recordings Antenna Like A Lightning Rod may very well be the one to put The Kurt Deemer Band band front and center among 21st century pop-rock enthusiasts. www.kurtdeemerband.com



mwe3.com presents an interview with
KURT DEEMER


mwe3
: Where are you from originally and where do live now and what do you like best about it? What countries have you traveled to and what are some of your favorite cities to visit and perform concerts in?

Kurt Deemer: I’m originally from Baltimore Maryland which is also where I currently reside. I best like the quirky, gritty, small town vibe. Everyday feels like I’m living in a John Waters movie. I’ve visited much of Europe and love it. As far as performing, I enjoy playing for people anywhere.

mwe3: What era of music did you grow up in and who and what are some of your favorite artists, guitarists and album releases over the years? In what ways have you been influenced by other artists and guitarists?

Kurt Deemer: As a kid I grew up hearing 1960’s and 70’s rock constantly and when I first picked up the guitar was fascinated by a lot of the hard rock I was hearing and could begin to play. But as I began creating my own music and was exposed to new music, my tastes evolved. I remember hearing guitar players like The Edge and much of the new wave of 80’s bands and I remember it opening a new door in how I thought of the role of the guitar in rock music. I also remember getting hold of the Sex Pistols and it cracking my head open to a whole new attitude to the power chord. But I was probably most notably influenced by some of the songwriters I encountered. Lloyd Cole’s Rattlesnakes made a really big impact on me as did his later work. The way he crafts a song and composes lyrics has the effect of dropping me into a book or movie.

One of my all-time favorite songwriters and bands has always been Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The simplicity and timelessness of the song writing as well as the way they arranged the music and produced the recordings has always stuck with me in a powerful way. Another legendary artist who hits me on every level is Richard Thompson. Right now I’m really enjoying James Maddock seemingly effortless arrangements and performances and such an emotive voice.

mwe3: The new CD starts off with “A Dream In The Dark”. What are the references to the statue of liberty in NYC? What gave rise to the line “built a radio to tower to the gods”? It’s a great lead into the album title. The song has a lot of imagery in it.

Kurt Deemer: When I sat down to write “A Dream In The Dark” the number one thing on my mind was the rhetoric I was hearing about immigration. The other thing was the notion of ‘The American Dream’. I really wanted to ask big questions about how we collectively regard this “dream”. Where it comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going. The references to the statue of liberty was an unveiled look at our origins as a nation and why people came here in the first place. I think at this moment in time it’s important to remember our origins. The line about building a radio tower signifies for me the desire to create and project and strive for higher purpose.

mwe3: “Liars And Thieves” is brilliant but the lyrics are very scornful and even scary. Is it a political song? It kind of reminds you how the world is shrinking in size and how it’s kind of the same all over. You make a cogent case that the people hold the key to a better world but it’s hard to be an optimist these days. How do you feel these current times will play out over the next year or two?

Kurt Deemer: I think I wrote “Liars And Thieves” the day after one of the last presidential debates in 2016. What I wanted to convey is that most people are inherently good and the things that really matter are the things we are most apt to take for granted. I read that 4 percent of the population is psychopathic - has absolutely no moral compass. This was a major theme in my 2016 release, Gaslight. That’s a really scary figure. But the optimism comes from the fact that that leaves 96 percent of the population that is not psychopathic.

To quote Jim Morrison: “They got the guns but we got the numbers”. I think that it is inevitable that people will experience inner truth and honesty and will reject obfuscation and lies. I’m not sure what it’s going to take before that happens but I believe in the triumph of the human spirit… I have to. It may get worse before it gets better. But in the end people will come to their senses. The overarching idea of the song is that we all cherish the same things and we just need to build the kind of world we want to live in and stop being conned and manipulated by those with nefarious intent.

mwe3: “Listen To Love” takes you back to a more optimistic state of mind. Is “Listen To Love” the opposite of “Liars And Thieves”? Is it harder to write a good love song rather than a socially critical or a cynical song? Nice guitar solo on that.

Kurt Deemer: “Listen To Love” was written from a personal place. Maybe some of the optimism comes from this well. Good point. I don’t know that it’s harder to write a good love song. It used to be, once upon a time. I remember years ago asking myself what I was really getting at with my songs. I had a touch of angry young man in me I’m afraid. I remember being in my early 20’s and thinking it was stupid how many love songs there were out there. I guess I was pretty deeply cynical. I remember when I asked myself what I was really getting at and having a bit of an epiphany that it took real skill to write a good love song and that it was a more noble pursuit any ways. I try to just write what comes up. These days I feel more love than ire or cynicism. Happiness can be a good thing… But depression can be a well too… I’m hoping to write more love songs. Johnny played the solo. He’s good like that. I think that track was his live take.

mwe3: Tell us about your Gibson Firebird guitar. What do you like about the Firebird and what other guitars do you have that you enjoy playing and sometimes record or perform with? You also have a jumbo acoustic right? What do you look for in a guitar and what do you make of the whole vintage guitar scene? What amps are you using on the Antenna album and do you have some favorite strings and effects you like to record with?

Kurt Deemer: The Firebird has always been my holy-grail guitar. But its grail-like quality keeps it elusive. She stays in the case more than I care to admit. But I’m hoping to change that once I have a minute to pull it apart and check the solder connections. I was playing an SG for a while and digging the humbucker but I recently started playing my tele again. I wanted to get back to thinking less about what I was doing. To play more like I play the acoustic and the tele helps with that. Playing thru a tube compressor pedal has rekindled my love of the tele and single coils. But the sg factors on this record. There’s also some Ricks on this record. And acoustic. Yeah I play a jumbo Guild. I like an acoustic to be big and loud.

mwe3: Where did “Shadows Pass” come from? Wow, it’s like a modern day paisley pop song. Right up there with the great songs of the decade, is it kind of power-pop or a kind of Springsteen influenced song? “I’ll reflect on the light”… great line.

Kurt Deemer: “Shadows Pass” is actually about an old friend that died from drug addiction. I was thinking about him one day when I was playing some chord forms he used a lot. And it occurred to me that I was no longer angry at him, that I had forgiven him for the mess he had made of his life. I decided that I was ready to consider his life in its entirety. And to reflect on the positive impact he made on me in some ways. And the song came from there.

mwe3: “Walking On” seems sort of pensive in a minor key kind of way. I was thinking a kind of Roger McGuinn influence. Would you say that song was influenced by a certain kind of rock sound that manifested in a memorable rock song?

Kurt Deemer: “Walking On” was written closer to the batch of songs that I released on Gaslight. Somehow it fell through the cracks as far as getting a good recording of it realized. But it hung around and came together on this record. When I think about what I was going for musically on this tune, I think it kinda started- I kind of always saw it as like a Smithereens kind of tune. The 12 string came later and the riff the 12 plays. But I always heard it as a Smithereens kinda thing but I really wanted to get the 12 string up in your face and Roger McGuinn definitely came up when we were playing with the tone in the studio.

mwe3: One thing is that the album is only six tracks. How would you compare making Antenna Like A Lightning Rod with earlier releases from Kurt Deemer Band?

Kurt Deemer: I wanted the record to have the depth and impact of a full length, but the power and focus of an EP. I felt 6 songs was enough to sink your teeth into but short and sweet enough to keep pace with this one-two-punch world we live in. The past several records I've made, I did the majority of the tracking myself and didn't start to let go of the controls until mix-down. Antenna was almost exclusively tracked and mixed by Drew Mazurek at his studio in Lutherville Maryland. He's worked with some heavy hitters like Foo Fighters, LCD Sound System and Jimmy Eat World to name a few... I wanted to make a record where I didn't touch a knob or fader and keep as much raw energy as possible. And even though I didn't get out of the producers chair entirely, it was good to sit back and let Drew work his magic. He has mad skills.

mwe3: “Little Hand” closes the EP and it’s a pretty rousing sounding track. Did you write it for someone in mind or is it more universal in thought? There’s a kind Dylan influence on it and I thought Al Kooper would like this track.

Kurt Deemer: I had someone close in my life in mind when I wrote this tune. I wanted to dig down and find some inspiration for them. I think I found some for myself in there. Hopefully some of that got transmitted onward.

mwe3: How are the albums different and do you strive to make each of your releases different and unique.

Kurt Deemer: I’m always churning something. The process of writing, arranging, performing, producing and ultimately packaging a recording is still always a unique experience. I always have an idea in mind when I start out but it’s usually a longer process than I would prefer. I get a lot of ideas when I write and arrange, but getting those ideas fully realized in a recording is another matter altogether. The title always comes last though. I usually look at the music I’ve made over a period and try to glean the underlying themes that have been at work in my psyche through the process. I try to balance the desire to shape those processes and the need to allow them to take their own form.

mwe3: You’re playing an upcoming show with Andy Bopp later in January. I remember Andy’s great albums with Myracle Brah. Who’s playing in your group at the Metro Gallery?

Kurt Deemer: We did the official release party at Metro Gallery in Baltimore in January. Andy agreed to open the show and he was great. I've known him for years and really respect his work. We've discussed working together on the next record with him producing and it looks like that's going to happen, which I'm psyched about.

The KDB lineup for the show was Steve Rose on drums, Kris Maher on bass, John Christensen on lead guitar, Shawn Hemming on mandolin and Jamie Wilson on percussion. We did the new EP, some off Gaslight, Afterthought, and a couple of never-before-heard-ones as well. We had a great time and are looking forward to our upcoming regional dates.

mwe3: What other plans are you working on this year? Seems like the lead up to 2020, is going to be quite historic. What about predictions or future plans for 2019? I imagine you have a lot of ground to cover…

Kurt Deemer: I’m hoping to jump into recording the next record as soon as possible. I’m working on putting together some tour dates but nothing too major right now, just a few jaunts this spring and summer. I’ve got the next record written and just need some time to make the recording. We’ve held back performing most of it until we are able to get into the studio. That’s my main focus right now. Got some new tunes burning a hole in my pocket.



 

 
   
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