It has only been 3 years since Kevin Tihista’s demo tapes first started arriving at Atlantic Records. Atlantic Records recognized the Chicago based guitarist and singer's talent immediately and in early 2000 signed a deal with Kevin and his band Red Terror. A 7” single ‘Oh No Not Again’ was released later that year, and this was followed by his debut album ‘Don’t Breathe A Word’, which while it was released on Atlantic in America in 2000, did not come out in Europe until 2001. A six track eponymous EP, which features selected tracks from 'Don't Breathe a Word', also came out on Rough Trade, again in 2001. The album has deservedly earned a great deal of publicity for its soft and soulful music and described as one of the most "romantic" records of 2001 of the year, reached # 19 on British Uncut’s top 50 of 2001. Kevin’s music also attracted the attention of the film business when some of the songs from 'Don't Breathe a Word' were picked by Greg Walloch to be used in his film 'White Disabled Talent’. “Kevin is an amazing songwriter, wry and romantic" Greg says. "It’s such a beautiful, dreamy and melodic album.” Pennyblackmusic was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to ask Kevin some questions about his music. We began by asking him when he first started performing music, and his work with his two previous bands, Triple Fast Action and Veruca Salt

PB: When did you first start playing music and when did you decide to make a career out of it ?

KT: My first instrument was the air guitar which I started playing when I was in the second grade to my Kiss Records. I then moved on to real guitar when I was in the seventh grade. I knew at an early age that that was what I wanted to do.

PB: How did you first become involved in playing with both Triple Fast Action and Veruca Salt ? Did you enjoy the experience, and did you record any albums or singles with them ?

KT: Triple Fast Action got together in 1994 and we released two records that I am really proud of. We broke up in 1997. Our drummer had to move to New York and a guitar player had already left, so Wes and I, the other remaining member decided to pack things in. After that I stated working on a VerucaSalt record. While I was doing that I started writing my own songs, so then I quit Veruca Salt and just focused on my own stuff.

PB: How did you get in touch with Atlantic Records, your US label?

KT: They actually got in touch with me. When I first started recording I wasn’t looking for a record deal or anything. I was just giving tapes to my friends. My friends were the ones that actually started sending it around to people. One wound up in England with this guy Widom Wallace who released the single and then Rough Trade wanted to put out an EP so that was them. It was after that that Atlantic started showing an interest..

PB: On your new album 'Don't Breathe A Word' you use many other instruments than just the guitar. How many of them did you play yourself, and which other musicians did you collaborate with?

KT: My other partner in crime is a guy named Ellis Clark from the band Epicycle. He played most of the piano and bass, I played most of the guitar and synth. His brother Tom Clark (also from Epicycle) played most of drums. We hired other musicians to play all the other instruments (cello, violin, trumpet, etc.) Ellis and I produced the record together.

PB: The lyrics from 'Don't Breathe A Word' are mostly about losing love and the desire to have it back. How many of them are based on personal experience?

KT: That is a very hard question for me because I really don’t know what these songs are about. If you ask my girlfriend she will say that the bad ones are about past relationships, and the good ones are about her. She thinks I'm in denial. These songs may have their influences, but I have never sat down and tried to write about a specific subject. I just really like tragic love songs. The Smiths are my favourite band, if that helps to answer your question.

PB: Various critics have described your music and lyrics as "romantic". Are you happy with that interpretation, and how would you describe your music?

KT: I guess you could some of it is romantic. I would describe it as “music to hang yourself to”.

PB: You have toured both the USA and Europe in the last few months? How did those shows go, and did you enjoy the tour ?

KT: The tours have all been great. I have played a lot more in England than in the U.S. My favourite person that I have toured with so far has been ‘Ed Harcourt’.

We came to England in December and we were with They Might Be Giants. for about three weeks. That was also really good. It was weird being with with them because their music is so different to ours. I was worried that the crowds were going to hate us, but they were great.

PB: Will you be touring again soon ?

KT: I’m hoping to. I was going back to England in February to tour with Ben and Jason, but that fell through. I hope to get back there as soon as I possibly can and to hit more of Europe.

PB: You have become popular and received a lot of acclaim very quickly. Has it been hard to get used to that and has your life changed much since then?

KT: The only change I have noticed is that I don’t live at my girlfriend’s Mom’s house any more.

PB: I've heard that you have written about another 100 songs. Will you be recording another album?

KT: We are putting another record together right now. A lot of it is stuff that I recorded while doing ‘Don’t Breathe A Word’. I recorded so many songs then that I ended up with another three records. I would like to put out two records a year. The next one is going to be called ‘Judo’.

PB: What other plans do you have for the near future?

KT: Just to keep recording more songs. If I could do that every day for the rest of my life I would be as happy as a clam.

PB: And a serious one at the end. Have you ever run out of inspiration?

KT: No! Not yet. I’ve been lucky!

PB: Thank you very much.

KT: Thank you too.
















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