Tim David Kelly talks return of Kicking Harold

After a short absence following 2010’s Zombies, Cars & Evil Guitars, Kicking Harold are back with a new record in Red Light District. They\’ve finally made their triumphant return and singer Tim David Kelly took some time to talk about the band\’s latest release.

FRR: Were here to talk about Red Light District which released back in January. Listening to it there’s so many different sounds on this album, it’s just an eclectic sound, which is something you guys do on a lot of your albums. Can you tell me about writing this specific album and what you wanted to accomplish with it?

Tim David Kelly: When I’m writing albums I don’t necessarily have a complete vision of “I want to accomplish this” but there was one guidleline, which kind of made it come out this way, which was the band’s been around for so long that when we started our sound was more of a grungy heavy rock kind of thing because we were in the mid-90’s, I – the middle of that whole scene. And as things progressed through the years, myself as a songwriter and having different musicians play with me over the years and things, the sound changes so I wanted to have an album that was half the heavier riffier side, and then half the pop dance side, stuff that’s really current like Young The Giant, stuff that I listen to on my own that I really like. So what I did was every other song was in that configuration as much as possible. So if you’re an old fan you never got too many dance songs, and if you’re a new fan you like the dance, so you can kind of have a little bit of both going on. That’s what I was trying to do to make it more eclectic, but then it always takes its own course.

FRR: You can headbang to some of the songs, you can dance and groove to some of the songs too- it’s really cool.

Tim David Kelly: Yea, thank you, thank you!

FRR: You re-recorded “Kill You” for this one. It keeps the essence of the song and you also did a video for it which is a really, really cool music video, and Mary Carey is in the video. I know the single is out of print, why did you decide to redo it now, and what was it like making that video?

Tim David Kelly: Well to answer the first part of the question, I decided to remake it, it kind of came up in the process of recording, the whole album was done and I needed one more song. Our manager suggested that “have you ever thought about redoing “Kill You” because the fans can’t get it” and a lightbulb went off and I was like “that’s a really cool thing” it’s like something that’s happened for the last 15 years people are like “Kill You is out of print, I can’t find the album, I can’t get it” and we’re still being played on radio stations permanent retro rotations since like 1995, and these poor people can’t get it anywhere and I was like “What the hell?!” I thought it would be fun. It was a good experiment in the studio to see how’s it gonna turn out, is it going to be horrible? Because you’re trying to recreate something you did 100 years ago but it came out really well.

I kind of incorporated the things I’d done live vocally and made it sound a little bit more current with the production and the way I sing. I’m actually happier in that way with the song than I am with the original one in that way, because when I listen to the original one in a weird way because the original was of it’s time, so it’s kind of dated because it’s back then. But I love both versions. If someone likes the old one better, that’s fine, it doesn’t matter to me.

We just put it on there and as the discussions came to do the first single it became an obvious choice, because we’re reintroducing the band to the new people and it’s like a sign to the old fans that okay we’re coming back and yes we’re acknowledging our past and we’re finally give the song the video it never got to have because our label pulled our budget at the last second so we never got to do a Kill You video back in the 90’s. We were all set to do it, we were all ready to go and it just got canned by RCA. It was kind of my own little vindication for the song because I never felt like it got its due way back when, when we were on a major label. it was just a nice way to put it to bed and bookend the whole thing. And what was your second part of the question?

FRR: How did Mary Carey come about being in the video?

Tim David Kelly: It was very random and was a really cool happenstance. We worked with a company called Big Machine who also did the intro to Overhaul and our song Gasoline. Big Machine was doing the video and they’re a big full company where they cast it, and we’re just like the clients coming in and here’s all the people we have for casting for the main role and then we have this little role in the end for the girl coming out for the surprise kiss and we find out they’re actually girlfriends and he never had a chance with them.

So as we were going through the whole process we were just looking people and Sarah, who played the girl with red hair, that’s her actual hair and we just thought she’s perfect because her role was called Superhero Girl, so we said she’s perfect and then as we were going through all of the other actresses that auditioned and someone was like “That’s Mary Carey” and I was like “Is it really? Mary Carey?! Oh my god, that’s so cool!” I think she had auditioned for the original role and we didn’t even know if she’d want to do this little cameo, but we just asked her because we thought it’d be really fun, that it’d be such a fun surprise because she’s kind of, not kind of, she’s really well known. The people who don’t know see this pretty blonde come out and the people who do know who she is it’s even better for them. It took it to the next level for our video ending.

FRR: It’s a fun video too. The whole video you’re chasing after this girl and at the end you couldn’t get her anyway.

Tim David Kelly: Yea the whole idea was to do something that was kind of a throwback story video to the ones we liked from the 80’s and 90’s and then also incorporate, which was totally Big Machine’s idea, to incorporate the current Vine effects, the smash cut effects, the guy who hits the rubicks cube and it turns into candy, that kind of thing. So it’s all those kind of effects, when she pours the beer on him, there’s this long set up where she’s holding the beer right next to the camera and our drummer was way in the background and they had to pour a giant vat of water on him and it just happened that the water looks like it’s coming out of the bottom of glass because it’s just perspective, it’s all real stuff done in real time and just cut together, so it’s really cool, they did a great job.

FRR: You guys did a cover on this one, you did “Need You Tonight” by INXS. Did you guys want to do a cover initially when you sat down to do the album, did you set down during the recording and go “let’s do another cover, because I know you guys did Eleanor Rigby a while back, I believe.

Actually Eleanor Rigby was in another band, when Brett was with me, that was called Zombie Oil. Kicking Harold, it’s kind of a roundabout thing, but Kicking Harold used to play Eleanor Rigby live, and we never recorded it. So when we were doing that project we took it down. But we’ve done many, many covers over the years, we’ve done “Centerfold” and “Born To Be Wild” just different stuff. Again, it kind of fits in to my philosophy of the album, I wanted to do a cover and I wasn’t sure what song to do and I was looking at the sequence of the album and how many dance songs we had and that came on the radio and  sounded like the songs I was writing in the dance mode and it’s a band I always enjoyed updating. We used to play another one, Devil Inside live, it was really heavy. So I’ve always felt that their songs were ripe for doing more modern production with it because they’re of their time too, and the guitars sound tiny and stuff so it sounds cool that they’re a little bigger, and I’m just a fan. It’s just a cool song and it seemed to work out.

FRR: It fit so well in the album too- it just flowed.

Tim David Kelly: Thank you, thank you. I think I’m like one of the last people who still cares about sequencing because everyone is in the mindset of singles and everyone just buying what they want. So even though that happens and that’s totally cool if people do that, I sit and really try to make an album flow from top to bottom if you want to you’re not gonna get jarred out of it, and nothing that’s too long or too whatever. I want it to all flow and the ending going into the next part, the keys and the lyrical content and so I really work at that, that’s one thing I really try to do with the Kicking Harold albums. I’ve always tried to do that.

FRR: You did this on your own, your own label and all of that. Doing stuff DIY record-wise and independently, how has that experience been for you as opposed to a major label. I know a lot of bands have a lot of issues with major labels and I know you guys have had your issues as well. I assume it gives you a lot of freedom that you wouldn’t have any other way.

Tim David Kelly: Yea, freedom is the best part about it, the worst part about it is budget and promotion. Everyone has a problem when the major label wants to tell them what to do, all the things that the artists don’t want to be told but if you step into the shoes of one of these companies that’s doing these kind of things, if you were a company and you were going to put a million dollars into a band, you’d probably have a little bit of a say into what was going to happen.

So that’s the deal with the devil that you have to make if you’re going that route or if you’re lucky enough to get those kind of things, it doesn’t really happen as much anymore as it used to, but when we were signed, the difference now and then, we recorded in a big studio with boards and 2” tape, kind of the old school way to do things, and a little bit of digital coming out at that time but we were mid-late 90’s when we started. I remember editing our first album and the engineer was doing some edits on the final mixes, not even the whole track, but these two track mixes and he was doing it in this thing called Sound Tools. And I was like “What is Sound Tools?” and Sound Tools because Pro Tools.

So that was the very first thing that came out, this little program that barely worked and you could just edit one song just like you’re doing on a soundboard now. Netween now and then, you flash-forward now, I did this whole album in my living room studio by myself, playing everything, programming everything, I didn’t have to mic anything up except for the vocals and acoustic guitars., everything else is direct.

The sound comes out very good, and it gets better and better over the years In the beginning, it was a process and you didn’t really get what you did for, but now it’s really hard to tell on a lot of the albums what’s done where. As a producer I’ve worked on major label albums with main bands where I’ve recorded vocals in the guys living room. People do that, and then you hear the stories of Pink recording in the hotel room now, with just a laptop and that becomes a single. That’s just the way it is. It’s much more flexible. I’m able to get it to a level that it needs to be without needing to hire somebody or going to a big studio. A lot of bands don’t have that luxury, they like to separate it out, for me it just kind of comes second nature because I did it for other people for a long time.