On his upcoming debut album, ‘Future Relics’.
Kevin Cahill has a lot to say. Not only while we chat in a busy Hackney coffee shop about his upcoming debut album – but musically too. A classically trained guitarist from Airdrie in Scotland, his music taste is varied and far reaching, including everything from rock to hip-hop, classical to jazz, and some unexpected favourites (more on that later!). ‘Future Relics’, out in June 2019, is an amalgamation of all these different influences.
A project which aims to effortlessly move between genres without ceremony, the album includes commissions for classical guitar from composers Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Jay Capperauld, Rory Comerford and Richard Greer, as well as Kevin’s own writing on electric and improvisations with other collaborating artists. We asked him more about the recording process, his inspirations, and what being a guitarist means to him.
Is this your first album?
Yeah, it’s a debut album. It started when I was studying, a couple of composers said they would write a piece for me, and it gradually just snowballed into a full album with five different new commissions.
Does it have a title?
It’s called ‘Future Relics’. The idea is that it’s new music but presented in an old format, it’s a lot of contemporary music but I’m going to release it on cassette tape. The whole project is inspired by nostalgia. I was going to put it out on vinyl but I don’t really feel like that was my generation – growing up I caught the end of the cassette tape era. I’ve been documenting the whole experience on old school disposable cameras, too.
So there are new commissions, but there are other styles of music in between?
I like the idea of it being a soundscape. The album goes from start to finish seamlessly, like a cinematic score fading in and out of different styles – electric, new commissions, my own compositions. I didn’t feel comfortable for my first release to be a strictly ‘classical’ guitar album, because I don’t feel like [that would represent] my true self.
Who were your main influences for this project?
Instrumental post-rock, This Will Destroy You and Explosions in the Sky, that sort of thing. I really wanted to try and fuse styles together. I love Tupac, I love Kendrick Lamar, but I also love Schumann and Takemitsu – I’ve got a broad taste in music and I’m really glad about that. Whatever I put out is going to be a mixture of all the different styles I like.
Guitar seems like the perfect multi-genre instrument – do you feel it allows you the freedom to go between all these different styles of music easily?
You’re so right, you can do so many different styles. I started playing electric guitar before I played classical. The first thing I heard was the White Stripes, that’s what made me want to play. From there I got into jazz players, and then into rock and metal stuff. And then I saw someone play classical guitar – it was completely different and I didn’t know you could play like that. I hope I can bring everything together in this project.
Were there big differences in the way you prepared for the different styles of music on this album?
I rehearsed the classical pieces as if I was going to give a classical performance, and workshopped all the new commissions with the composers. But the stuff I wrote included improvisation on live takes, which is why my collaborators and friends were so important: Graham Costello [drums], Georgia Cècile [vocals], Luigi Pasquini [synthesizers], Abigail Young [violin] and Mike Truscott [Cornet]. We booked the studio for one day, I said, ‘do anything you want’, and they were all incredible. That’s what I wanted that side of the album to be. Like if you take a picture on a polaroid, that’s it – a moment in time captured.
So musical collaboration has been an important part of it?
I don’t feel like the tracks I wrote are necessarily mine, they wouldn’t be what they were if it wasn’t for everyone’s individual input. The improvised nature of the sessions was so that I could give the guest musicians as much space and freedom to share their own unique and amazing voice or style – that’s why I asked each of them to play on the album in the first place. It’s become a shared experience – a mixtape. As a guitarist you can spend years playing and practising on your own, and through doing this project I’ve really realized the value of how important it is to share music with other musicians, and how special it is.
Are you having an album launch?
The album launch is going to be in an independent cinema in Hackney. At the beginning of the year I went to hear Jeff Buckley’s album ‘Grace’ in a cinema. You go in and you take a beer and a sleeping mask in with you, and they turn the lights down and the speakers up and you just listen to the whole album like that.
So the first time you’re presenting the work to an audience isn’t through live performance, but a shared listening experience.
That goes back to the whole nostalgia thing – I was listening to tapes when I was younger and me and my friends would all go round to each other’s houses and listen to an entire album in that way. You can’t skip tracks on a tape in the same way as you can now. When’s the last time you listened to an album back-to-back and didn’t do anything else?
Do you remember your first cassette?
I remember the first piece of music I ever bought, and this is so embarrassing, my mum gave me £5 to go into Airdrie town centre and I went into Woolworths and bought the Big Brother theme tune on tape! I loved it! It’s terrible, man. My mum went mental.
Do you have plans to perform ‘Future Relics’ live?
I’d love to do gigs in Berlin, London and Glasgow because they’re the three main places where everything’s happened. There are so many musicians who have performed on this album. If I was going to do a live show of the album I’d love to get everyone together and score the concert in the same way as the album where it runs through from start to finish. Rehearsing that will be the next step – life after the album release!
It’s a step that would undoubtedly result in an incredible live experience, so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements. The passion with which Kevin speaks about marrying the different aspects of this project together is infectious; it’s clear to see how much he cares, not only about the various styles of music, but every part of the process of putting the album together. As a guitarist, he is picking and choosing the best bits from the various disciplines he has spent years developing and abandoning genre to create something authentic to him. Find yourself a Walkman before June* – you don’t want to miss this!
*also available as a digital download
FOR DECKARD (ft. Georgia Cècile) the single | May 2019
FUTURE RELICS | 27.6.19