An Interview with Kenny Siegal (Johnny Society)
Name: Kenny Siegal
Based in Catskill, New York
Occupations: Singer/songwriter, Recording studio owner/engineer/producer
(Photo taken by Brian Geltner)
There are certain vocalists who really stand out from the crowd because they just don't sound like everyone else. Some of our favorites over the years have included Marc Bolan, Ray Davies, Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart), Donovan, Sufjan Stevens, Roy Wood, and Robert Pollard. Although he might not be as well-known commercially, New York's Kenny Siegal stands out as one of the all-time great vocalists ever. Kenny's voice is immediately recognizable and unique...and he writes incredibly smart and effective pop/rock songs that stick in your head like glue. Siegal has been writing and recording music since the 1990s with his mindblowing band Johnny Society (who have released a handful of incredible albums...all of which we recommend highly)...as well as recording and producing other artists at his ultra cool recording facility in Catskill, New York (Old Soul Studios). He has worked with and/or produced a variety of other amazing artists including (but not limited to) Chris Whitley, Blueberry, Tears For Fears, and Joseph Arthur. In March 2010 Siegal released his first solo album entitled Eleccentricity...a mind-boggling dose of smart modern pop with plenty of odd twists and turns. At the time of this interview Siegal and his bandmates were also in the process of recording a new Johnny Society album due out later in 2010...
What is in your head?
Layers of thought ranging from garbage to gold.
What is success?
Having a lot of love in your life and holding onto your sense of humor in the face of adversity. Other than that...? Having the freedom, tools, resources, space, and ability to execute your visions in peace.
What do you think about?
I think about how to survive in these times, remain inspired, be a good husband, father, business owner and musician all at the same time.
Does anything matter?
Of course things matter, just none of the things our culture shoves in our faces 24/7.
Is technology good or bad?
It's definitely good. Cavemen didn't have access to 24 track tape machines. Their bands probably sounded better than the bands do today but they've got no recordings to show for it.
How do life and death differ?
They don't if you're a ghost.
How do you feel about you?
Pretty good lately.
What do you want?
For my family to be in good health and for me to have constant access to inspiration. That's about it.
Which is more important...intelligence or instinct?
It'd be nice to have both, but since I'm not that lucky I'll stick with instinct.
How do sounds that people make differ from sounds made by animals?
I've never been able to detect a difference. We have two Akitas. If you recorded me having a phone conversation with a record executive and simultaneously recorded the sound of our dog greeting someone at the front door the recordings would sound exactly the same. You can laugh, but it's true. People--when they are at their worst (and their best)--sound like animals. Get someone pissed off enough (or turned on enough) and you'll see what I mean. By the way, wasn't that the whole point of rock and roll? To remind us we're all really just a bunch of animals?
Who do you think you are?
Depends on the day.
If you had your choice of anything, what would it be?
Peter Luger's steak for two.
Does everything happen for a reason?
Yes, the reason everything happens is to make my daughter laugh.
What was important to you in 1980?
Collecting baseball cards.
If you could live forever, would you want to?
If you're getting at striking some sort of deal with the
devil have him call my lawyer, I'm not that easy.
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