Backstage Pass: Kevin Kirk (of Kirko)

Originally published 11/21/14:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~The Beatles

WHEN DID YOU START PLAYING?
“My Uncle Frank, who was the patriarch of our family, he’s the one that would sit around at parties and play his cherry red coupe Gibson guitar. He’d play “Puff the Magic Dragon” and this Irish song called “The Pots and Pans and the Dirty Dishes”. He got me my first guitar when I was 8. I had it for a day and my brother sat on it and broke it. So then I got another guitar and started playing when I was around 9. When I got serious, I was probably 13.”

DOES YOUR CHILDHOOD, FAMILY PLAY A PART IN WHAT YOU LISTEN TO OR PLAY?
“When I sing or write my own music, I like a lot of slow songs. I was in Shriners Hospital when I was a kid. I had Legg-Perthes disease. Shriners actually saved me. I would’ve had braces like Forrest Gump, had a stump for a leg, not been able to walk. And when I was in the hospital there, in the 70’s, there was a drug they were giving women that caused all kinds of birth defects, babies with no arms or legs, body parts growing in the wrong places. I think that humbled me. My mom always says my demeanor as a person is very empathic towards people (because of that experience). I think that’s why I like ballads and certain bands. It touches you.”

DOES ANYONE ELSE IN YOUR FAMILY PLAY?
“We all play, except for my father. My mom played piano every morning for us, a Mozart piece that went really fast while she told us to hurry and get on the bus. My brother Matt is a guitarist, he was the first one to show me how to play chords. I just took to it from that point on. When he was out riding motorcycles, I sat in my room for 6-9 hours a day playing music, just learning. I showed my oldest brother Johnny how to play guitar and he’d play a song from the radio, but he could sing. He could sit down and sing like four hours of Bob Dylan. He would tell people, “My brother Kevin is awesome on the guitar!”
They’d say, “play Brown Eyed Girl, play American Pie!”
“I don’t sing”, I’d say.
“Oh. John….”
So I thought, oh I have to sing and play guitar! So I started singing when I was 15.”

DID YOU HAVE A BAND BACK THEN?
“Yeah, I always had a band with my brothers. My brother Chris on drums, and we always had a different bass player. Our first big gig was Fourth of July at Oxford Valley Mall (in the early 80’s) in front of 4,000 people. We did a lot of Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, CCR. A lot of Sabbath though.”

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT BAND ENDED?
“Then my brother Scott, who’s younger than me by five years, started playing bass in the band. We had been playing keg parties, a few bars locally, nothing really serious. And then we were playing originals later in the 80’s. We opened for Cinderella, big Philly bands, Tommy Conwell. Our band was called No Frills. We had bad mullets. We had make up too. My dad walked out when we were opening for Cinderella. He walked in and I had make up on, a leotard (leopard jumpsuit) on, and he just walked out. That was the image then. He didn’t understand that. Then we broke up. I went away to college and I heard an interview with Jon Anderson from YES. They were practicing in a studio in Bucks County (they had a show in town), and he said to those listening to the interview to get an education first if they wanted to pursue a music career so you had something to fall back on. At the time, I was gonna join this band. They were awesome, but I went to college instead. Then I graduated and I was dating this girl for like 7 years, and I didn’t play music for a while. I decided I wanted to pursue music full time. She told me she would leave me. I said, “then leave me then …after 7 years of being together (we were gonna get married), you should know this is my love. I breathe this.” Everybody that knows me knows that. So she left me. That’s how that went.
Me, Scott and Chris had our band. We were doing a lot of originals. Played some places in Center City, The Khyber Pass. Originally, we did a lot of covers to make some money. Then we would play nights where people would play original in between playing covers. I was in five bands at one point. A band with a female singer, church choir every Sunday after being hungover. I just always had to play music. I was in choir, musicals and plays in high school. Anything with music I did. I didn’t care if people made fun of me. I loved it.”

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
“I still have a band with my brothers Scott and Chris, call Kirko. I play solo and duos with Scott. I write my own music. My CD is done. Been done for a year and a half. It’s called “Big Wheels and Sunny Days”. It has a 70’s vibe. You remember when you were a kid and had a big wheel and it always seemed like it was sunny out? It has that kind of vibe. I’m so stoked about it.”

BEING IN A BAND WITH YOUR BROTHERS, DO YOU GUYS EVER ARGUE?
“Oh yeah. Not as bad as Oasis. But we’ve gotten into it. Even recently we got into a little scuff.”

WHAT DO YOU TEND TO ARGUE ABOUT?
“Who’s doing more. As far as the physical work, sound, setting up. Who’s not practicing their craft. I practice all the time. They have jobs besides, and right now I’m a freelance salesman and musician. I’ve always practiced. I’m gone for a week and I feel like I’m going through withdrawal.”

IS IT DIFFICULT TO WRITE OR DOES IT FLOW FOR YOU?
“Certain times it’s easy so I always have a recorder near me because things just come to me.”

WHAT DO YOU TEND TO WRITE?
“I’m really into writing ballads. Something that I’m feeling. I probably have about 25-35 ballads, easily. If I had the money, I’d record them all. When we (he and his wife) were getting married, we didn’t know what we were gonna dance to. So I wrote a song called “The Only Girl For Me” that I recorded. I love ballads. I’m a big Beatles fan so a lot of my originals are Beatleesque. You can hear the influence.”

WHAT OTHER BANDS INFLUENCED YOU?
“Queen, Mott the Hoople. I love metal. I like all stuff. But if I had a band I would’ve loved to be in, the Beatles, absolutely.”

DO YOU CARE ABOUT PEOPLE’S OPINIONS ABOUT YOUR WORK?
“I actually want to make a poll for my CD asking for people’s honest opinions about it. Carolyn (his wife) is my best critic. She’s totally up front. She’ll tell me when I suck. I don’t want smoke blown up my ass. Who wants to hear you’re good (if you actually weren’t)? I’d rather be told if I wasn’t good.”

WHAT’S YOUR DREAM VENUE?
“That’s hard ’cause all the venues closed. I would’ve loved to play the Spectrum. But now I would say Red Rocks. I saw Zach Brown Band there last year and it was incredible.”

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE ?
“I would say playing with the Beach Boys at the Hard Rock Cafe and playing with Tony Orlando. We were playing in a cover band. I already knew a bunch of Beach Boys songs. The Beach Boys, to me, were like the Beatles of America. So I made my band learn like 7 Beach Boys songs just in case they would show up at the Hard Rock. Well in comes Mike Love and Bruce Johnson. I was like “this is awesome.” But I was nervous as hell. I got star struck. Mike came up and said he heard we had some songs we could play with them. And we played Surfin’ USA, Little Douce Coupe, and Barbara Ann. It was funny. We offered them shots (I was a big shot drinker then) and they said no. That they did that for 40 years and their livers couldn’t take it anymore.
At the Hard Rock(Cafe) again, Tony Orlando was there. Which kind of brings me back to the beginning of my story of being in Shriners listening to music like “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”, while I sat crying behind the window bars (waiting for my dad). I loved that song. It all came full circle for me in a weird way by playing with the same guy that sang that song and others that were special to me.
He heard us playing “Obladi Oblada”, and he loved it. He said “I want to play that ‘Oobladi Ooblada’ song”. (He pronounced it wrong). That was a highlight for me.
Playing with Fuel was pretty cool too. The Beach Boys and Tony Orlando both signed my Strat.”

LASTLY, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
“Most bands, and I’m not knocking anyone, will just do their 3-12’s (3 sets of 12 songs), take a break and go through the motions. No energy. We play for like 3-4 hours straight. We’ll be scheduled and contacted for 3-50 minute sets at Parx (casino) but I don’t wanna stop playing if I’m seeing people singing. I feel like you’re cheating the audience by stopping. I’ve had people say to me over the years that we make them look bad, that we have to stop playing so long. I just tell them they need to step their game up. Again, I don’t knock other bands, I know I should stop, but I just can’t.”

Visit Kirko to see where they’re playing and to hear some of their music:
http://www.thekirkoband.com

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