British Singer And Composer, Jim Kroft Talks: William S. Burroughs, Nietzche, Self Funding His Album And More!
“Jim Kroft is a magnificent composer who showcases his songs beautifully. Parallels can be drawn from Scottish pop-romantics to David Bowie and Nick Kershaw”
~ Rolling Stone Magazine
The tale of Jim Kroft is an old fashioned adventure story through the crumbling music industry. Inspired by William S. Burroughs, in his late teens he traveled from Mexico City to La Paz, studying ancient civilizations, writing free form poetry and experimenting in the way a young man does. Getting a call from home that his mother was dying from cancer he returned to his native Scotland to nurse her.
After relocating to Berlin, Jim realized that it was time to go solo in 2010. Beneath the radar of the industry in a foreign land, he quickly cut two independent records with no industry backing. The second one of these picked up heavy radio play and Jim became the first artist to break into the German national charts as a purely independent artist. Jim signed a deal with EMI Records, but little did he realize he would be the last artist to ever release a record on EMI. With Universal swallowing the label, Jim was discarded along with most other newcomers.
In 2014 Jim cut a new album with producer Richard Wilkinson (Adele, Kaiser Chiefs, Liane La Havas) and mastering engineer of the year Matt Colton (Coldplay / James Blake). Jim is currently self-funding his new album through his work as a freelance filmmaker.
All Access Music Group writer, Nicole DeRosa recently had a chance to chat more with Jim Kroft. Check out their Q&A here:
How would you describe your music? Why is that Jim Kroft style?
I guess I´m with Frank Zappa – “talking about music is like fishing for architecture”! But in essence I love song – it is in the writing of the song, or its discovery that I find most joy. Songs are always like sign posts for me – indicators of where one´s self is in relation to its surrounding. In terms of style, I´m not sure either. But I only get “style” when it is something unthought out – when it is an extension of being, rather than something assumed or the ways someone dresses up.
Where did you grow up? How did your location influence your style?
I grew up in the North of Scotland, near Brechin. It wasn´t so remote that it didn´t have a few cassettes of Little Richard and a few Beatles compilations in the local Woolworths. I have no idea, but the 11 year old in me decided that my pocket money.
Little Richard howling on the cover just seemed more exciting than Now 11 or whatever it way back then!
What experiences most influence the songs you write?
Songwriting is an extension of life for me – so songs always follow life. That might be a personal breakthrough in my understanding of things, experiencing all the manifold things one goes through – or just discovering something cool while I am practicing. I´m just thankful to have songwriting as one of my partners on this adventure. It is always teaching and challenging me, and I´m just glad to be carrying on learning as I grow older.
Who are your major influences as a performer, singer, and guitarist, composer?
I am very interested in “path” – so I am always interested in people´s biographies and how their experiences shape their work. I stumbled across a book by a Japanese writer called Matsuo Basho recently – totally by chance. The book was called “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” and it was just beautiful – Haiku poems with accompanying prose about the journey. The Haiku´s are just an extension of his ability to “see” – or even to remove himself completely and express the nature – the true nature – of what he witnesses and sees. So much of what he goes through – back in the c17 or whenever it was – is so similar to what we go through today. It was just vivifying to think how relatable the human journey is. So in terms of influences, I´m always just looking towards people and their experiences. Especially when things go badly. You just have to remember that what you are going through is just a moment. Life has the capacity to change, and no matter how stuck you are, or how crappy things can be, it always does. You just have to take a beat and a breath & keep on going.
What are your fondest musical memories growing up? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?
I am not hugely sentimental about that past. But music was a great companion, and I was glad for it. When I´m on the road it always amazes me how important music still is for people and it heartens me. Despite the problems with sales and the industry, music is as important as ever for people.
Out of all your live performances so far, what has been your best memory? Worst?
I have many happy memories from the road. I always love the adventure in playing in far off places, especially places where maybe bands don´t go so much. I have a residency in Beijing starting in a month and I´m grateful for the opportunity to play somewhere which is I guess still a frontier in terms of the travels of rock n roll. But looking back, I think that the residency in Zapata in the Tacheles in 2007-2009 in Berlin was the most exciting time – just in terms of playing night after night, set after set, crowd after crowd. It was something old fashioned, and back then there wasn´t so many local rock n roll bands – though of course there was a great electro scene as well as all the bigger bands coming through. I have always loved residencies.
Have you found a difference in the audiences around the world?
That´s a good question. I do think that from the stage, if people are having a great time, there´s just a unity of energy you experience. Sure sometimes people mosh, or others people listen, or other times people are taking their clothes off and dancing on tables. Or chucking bottles at you for that matter! But music is music, and generally people will give you a chance if you are doing a good job & engaging & giving your fucking heart. I was in Moscow recently and was on the bill with 3 of the best known groups in Russia. The crowd was sceptical for a few bars but during the first song it just started coming with us. It was the same at Night and Day in Manchester in 2002 when I first played there. Scepticism doesn´t last long when its faced with old fashioned heart.
What is your process for songwriting new albums?
I am always writing, its a continuing process, an extension I guess of how I chose to live. But nothing focuses a human being like a deadline! That´s the only time I ever really knuckle down and deal with the nightmare last 5%- which actually allows you to play a song eventually! I find that last 5% takes longer and is harder than the other 95%. It just takes total commitment – not just in terms of sitting down and doing the work – but living right. I have to have a sense of balance and growth and work flow to really see it though. But once I get “it” right, the process will gradually take care of itself. And that´s the joyous part – when you allow it to become effortless. It´s what you feel Matsuo Basho was getting at – allowing this experience of being and life to flow through you. Far easier to talk about than to get to ha ha!
What advice would you have for other bands and artists who are trying to succeed in the music industry and maintain their identity? You have taken a very DIY approach and have done quite a lot on your own. That is highly commendable. What do you tell other artists when they feel like they want to “throw in the towel” and give up?
I think that you just have to keep going forward on your own terms. I think we often use our dreams as an excuse to stop us actually concentrating on what we can do. If you wait for other people, you can wait for ever. You have to take responsibility for your art. Abandon the notion of perfection. Don´t be so suspicious of compromise – it can be an unexpected ally.
When I couldn´t afford to make new videos, I got a camcorder and made all the videos for my first album. From there its developed into making videos for other artists and become a revenue stream. If you work hard mysterious helpers arrive. There a quote that comes to mind – we overestimate what we can do in a day, underestimate what we can do in 5 years. What really matters is discipline – can you thread your days together and turn them into a wonderful pattern. Neil Young just kept working hard, kept going forward. Suddenly, retrospectively, you see that you are building a life, a career.
My deal with EMI is a case in point. I lost it a year ago after Universal took over. Of course I was gutted at the time. But I´m now able to do things quicker than you ever can do with a huge record company. The excitement of knowing that I can release again sooner has turned my songwriting into over drive. And that will in turn turn into my musical future. “Catastrophy” often turns out to be our best friend. As Nietzsche says – you have to learn “love of your fate” – the idea that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
It seems that you have been working non-stop. Is there a schedule for the next album?
Ha ha! I think I am more in a process than working non stop. I feel a deep sense of gratitude, that underneath certain darknesses I lived through in my earlier life, there was possibility and positivity that I never quite imagined. I feel pretty humbled before that. It is just too dam easy to forget what a gift your life is – how rare, how precious and how many years of evolution, chaos, war, big bangs, creatures eating each other, struggle, conflicting stars, primeaval soups & God knows what else have preceded you.
Anyway, to answer the dam question ha ha! Yes I absolutely have plans for my next album. Funnily enough, the financial limitations of not currently having a record label are currently informing that – I am spending the time improving my musicianship. Then I hope to record something pretty quick and fresh and alive – and see where the journey leads next!
JIM KROFT | THE LONELINESS OF THE VAMPIRE
To learn more about Jim Kroft, visit his website here