Realising that the career of the rock band Del Amitri was, as he put it, ‘fizzling out’, and becoming ever more despondent about the whole music industry, he decided it was time to head in a different direction. With a complete disregard for his financial future he turned his back on the corporate machine to continue his musical journey as a solo artist.
Kris takes up the story.
“We didn’t fall out with each other or anything like that,” he said, “the band had just run its course and I in particular was pretty fed up with the way things were going. We were not under pressure of a record label but you still had to comply with their demands. I just wanted to put a bit of distance from the world that really thinks of artists as just being a product. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to make a lot of money, have a big house and a flash car but I didn’t want to carry on working for the establishment that was only interested in making money and ripping out the souls of the artists. I had been on that treadmill for years and years and I had become tired of it, we all were. I have been in some great bands, working with The Ramones, The Damned and Adam Ant, but I wanted out from that format. None of us had any fallings out, it was just time to move on.”
Kris had, for many years, admired the likes of Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker, singer songwriters who only relied only on their voice and guitar to perform … and they had what it takes to perform in front of an audience. Could he do the same and ‘did he have the bottle’ to stand on his own two legs?
There is a world of difference between the two.
Kris explained: “It’s like chalk and cheese, a massive difference in the way I approach my music as a solo artist. When I was in the band I had a big Marshall (amp/speaker) stack and now have just a small, very portable sound system. The other big difference is that in a band you are part of a team, but in that team, everyone wants to be noticed so I always had my guitar slung low and like the rest of them, pulled a few shapes and poses to try and grab the spotlight.
“Playing solo is completely different, I try to dress OK but I’m not worried what I look like when I’m playing, I just close my eyes and play and hope to draw people in and come with me on a musical journey, lock them into my world.
The answer to if this has been successful has to be an emphatic ‘Yes’. As a solo artist he has toured extensively across the UK and Europe and to date, with the release of his new record, has recorded four albums. He describes his latest work, much of which will feature in his set list when he comes to Kettering Arts Centre on July 16 for the Midsummer Acoustic Blues Night concert.
“It is mostly my own compositions,” said Kris “and I make a fairly good noise when I play on my own and the songs cover a diverse range of styles. There are blues, I love North Mississippi hill country Blues tracks and am a massive fan of John Fahey who captured my heart 15 years ago. There is music inspired by Lou Reed and many other great musicians which I am sure people will spot, but I hope it is not blatant plagiarism.”
The hard work and dedication Kris applies to his chosen career can have adverse effects upon what many consider to be the normal way of life. Hours of travelling, unsocial hours and being away from home for long periods of time.
He said: “Music is what gets me up in the morning and it’s the last thing I think of at night, be it a lyric I’m working on, a riff I am trying to perfect or thinking of an upcoming gig. It could be a bit of a curse, especially as a solo artist when you have no one else to rely or fall back on. Sadly, my hobby is music so sometimes it can be hard to see the wood for the trees.
“Fortunately, living in Cornwall to some extent I have escaped the rat-race and the pressures of which I was speaking about earlier. I have two young children and the youngest, a girl, enjoys a kick about with a football on the beach. That and going for walks along the coast I find most relaxing.
“A couple of years ago I had pangs about forming another band with a bass player and a drummer. I was brought up on rock ‘n’ roll, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and the like but where I live makes that a not too realistic proposition. I have jammed with a couple of guys but the answer to my question about meeting up again for another session on another night the reply is “Sorry, have to take the wife to yoga class” or something similar. However, there is a local guy, Mike Jelly, who plays fiddle, guitar and banjo and we did a charity event and that went well. We will be playing a few more gigs together, particularly the Cornbury Festival in Oxfordshire at the beginning of July.”
In addition to playing concerts and festivals, Kris also teaches guitar. It therefore seemed obvious to ask what advice he would give to anyone thinking about learning how to play, believing he would start with choice of instrument – electric or acoustic? – or scales and tunes.
He replied: “You have got to listen first. I teach a few kids and none that I have met say they have anyone in particular they have listened to or how something is being played. I tell them they have to figure out what it is they like, the beat, the rhythm or the lyrics then listen to as much as they can to determine what it is that moves them then you can start to play. It doesn’t matter what on, there is so much out there, just pick them up and if it speaks to you, that’s the one you want, it doesn’t have to be a £20,000 Martin, it could be a £20 junk shop purchase but if it sounds half decent that’s okay, it’s not the guitar that makes the music it’s down to who is playing it and their imagination and creativity.”
It is this creativity that you will hear from Kris in Kettering at a venue which, when described to him, said: “It sounds like the greatest venue I could play in. I love quirky venues, I have played in an old nunnery which had a nice vibe and I’ve played festivals and café bars. If you play in pubs you expect it to be noisy but at a concert I do get annoyed if people talk when I’m playing, and don’t even mention mobile phones. People pay to come and listen to me and though I can’t tell them to shut up I like to be appreciated, that’s what I practice for.”
To listen to examples of Kris’s music please click here after which I am sure you will, if you have not already done so, be booking tickets for this concert which also features Robin Bibi and this area’s best known acoustic trio, Jacksboro Highway. Tickets cost £7 in advance (£9 on the door) and can be booked by clicking HERE, you may also like to visit our event page which can be accessed by clicking here…
Tickets for this and other events are available from Waterstones, High Street, Kettering. By post including an SAE to Jaime Ferreira at 4 Litchfield Close, Kettering NN16 9BS (cheques made payable to “PCC of St Andrew’s Kettering”).
You may also buy tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at We Got Tickets (subject to a booking fee) or call 07759765824 if you prefer to pay by card. All major credit cards accepted (subject to a booking fee).