David Kitt’s first two long players, 2000’s 'Small Moments' and 'The Big Romance', released a year later (both Blanco Y Negro) , were critically-acclaimed records that were packed full of well crafted songs with deep layered instrumentation and Kitt’s soothing vocals. Two years after that, his follow-up, 'Square One', which came out on Warner Brothers. was released, and it took the Kitt sound in a more mainstream direction. It was a less unhappy record to many ears, having been made after Kitt got married and started a family. After being dropped by Warners, Kitt went on last year to release on Rough Trade his fourth album, a collection of cover songs, 'The Black and Red Notebook.'

Pennyblackmusic caught him on the hop in his native Dublin while he was preparing for a nine date January 2005 tour of England. “Do we have an interview now? S**it. No, that’s cool, let’s do it,” he says after picking up the phone. He’s supposed to be on his way to the rehearsal, he says, but he’s still at home.

He says the year so far (it is only two weeks in when we talk) has been good to him. “It’s been going pretty well, I suppose, the last couple of weeks. It’s been pretty productive, actually.”

Is he rehearsing new material as well as the hits for the tour? “We’re working on new stuff for these gigs as well. And I’m working on new stuff at home as well. There’s always got to be an element of that on tour. You have to have an element of that to give it that bit of excitement for you. Last January was the last UK tour I did, and that was just after the release of the last record of my own songs. So having done the covers record there’s gonna be a build-up of material there. It’s about time I suppose I tried out some new stuff.”

'Square One' went to the top of the Irish charts. You might think that being fairly well known in Ireland must make it harder to try out new material over there than over here. “Yeah, I mean–” something falls in the background with a loud clang. “Sorry, just getting my s**t together,” he says. “It’s funny. I’ve played so many gigs in Ireland that I feel there’s more of an onus on me to move on, to do new things, because people have seen maybe the same show so many times. Whereas over there [in the UK], there are certain things that we’ve never done over the years. You kind of think, ‘Oh, we’ve never played in Liverpool before, maybe we should do just the greatest hits’. There are certain songs that I’ve played so many times over here that I find it somehow harder to play. But when you go into a situation or a town you’ve never been in before it’s easier to pull out some of that stuff. ‘Cos you don’t feel that it’s as predictable as it would be over here, you know?”

The gigs get bigger every time Kitt comes to the UK – the Electric Ballroom, where the gig is scheduled, will be the biggest London venue he has played. “Obviously every time you do a gig you do have these concerns that, ‘They’ve overshot the mark this time, we’re going back to the Borderline’, you know. When I filled the ULU last year, I was really blown away by that. And the promoters at the time were really excited, and everything was looking really good last year, we were doing all the festivals and everything, and then I got dropped by Warners. This time round, hopefully, any momentum that we do have on this tour we can sustain throughout the year and, you know, keep things going.”

In the end, the Electric Ballroom date is moved on the night to the slightly smaller Lock 17, just up the road. “Did many of you go to the Ballroom tonight?” he asks the crowd from the stage. “We weren’t famous enough. We got too big for our boots,” he adds. The smaller venue works well in the end, though. It’s fairly well-packed, and the crowd is supportive and knows his work well. A wispy version of Thin Lizzy's 'Dancing in the Moonlight' is particularly popular, and gets the crowd singing along. His set takes in all four albums, as well as a smattering of new songs, as promised. One of them, also as promised, is almost house-like in its four-on-the-floor beats and dance vibe. Several of the songs end with squalls of feedback, reverb, or other unconventional devices. It’s an intense set, and the crowd, several of whom seem to have made the trip across the Irish Sea especially, enjoy it.

He doesn’t agree, though, that he’s as big in Ireland as people say. “I’m not huge over here, you know. Not as big as people think I am. Not as big as the press releases say!” But he has been successful there. “Yeah, I mean, my last record was a number one record. But just when things could have gone really big, I mean if I was doing the job of some of the people that were looking after me I could have made me much bigger,” he laughs. “But unfortunately I’ve got to stick to the music. Or fortunately! I think I had the potential to be really big last year. It’s not really for me to worry about, but you do have to spend some time thinking about it.”

Is that something he doesn’t spend a lot of time agonising over? “Yeah, well, you kind of have to. I mean I’m lucky now ‘cos I’m on a decent label. I’m on Rough Trade, and that makes such a huge difference in terms of just actually feeling that there’s a proper home for your recordings. I mean if I was to record an album of recordings of me and just an acoustic guitar, Rough Trade would probably say, ‘Yeah, cool, let’s stick it out’, you know. That’s the level of freedom you have. When you have that freedom you really want to do something special each time. Something you’re really proud of and something that the label would be proud to put out. It’s nice to be a part of something that you feel has a kind of identity of its own and a kudos of its own.”

Kitt says that he feels freer now, on Rough Trade, than when he was recording for Warners. So is the new material going to be going in new directions? “It’s basically split in two. Half of it is going to be a band record. It’s not necessarily one sound, it’s like we kind of jump around a bit It’s quite rocking at times and then it’s kind-of soul, kind of Curtis Mayfield vibe on a couple of songs. And there’s a more kind of folky 12-string buzz off some of it. And then the other half of the record is kind of mainly electronic, you know. Some of it is kind of akin to stuff I’ve done before and some of it is totally different.”

'Square One' was written and released after Kitt got married and became a father – something some suggested was responsible for the album’s more upbeat tone. Is the new record going to be even more happy?

“No, I think I’m getting less happy! No, it’s a darker record than the last one. But I mean, you know, I never heard 'Square One' as quite an up record as everyone else. There’s kind of a darkness in it as well, I thought – that I suppose people weren’t hearing. People saw it as a kind of two–dimensional cartoon version of the record I felt. But, you know, I know there was other shit going on. But it’s a record I love more than other people are going to. But some people loved it. I mean it did have a decent reaction. It was kind of flawed, as well. I kind-of see how I could have done it better. And it was the first time I’d worked with other musicians on a larger scale. The first two records I’d kind-of done most of the playing myself. So your vision gets a bit confused sometimes when you hand over the responsibility to other people. Whereas this one, the band is rehearsing properly together. I’ve found three people who are really on the same wavelength.”

'The Black and Red Notebook' includes covers of tracks such as Thin Lizzy’s Dancing in the Moonlight, and Toots and the Maytails’ Pressure Drop. His live act has long included such covers including a famous version of Prince’s 'When Doves Cr'y, which doesn’t appear on the record. Where did the idea come from? “It just came from me deciding that I didn’t want to sit on my arse doing nothing after getting dropped, straight after doing the record. You know, you put all that work into doing something and then all of a sudden you’re just going, ‘OK, that’s that’, you’ve got to move on to the next thing. And I really wasn’t ready to do another record of my own songs. I thought I had to spend time on that to make it a really really good record. It thought in the meantime, ‘I’ll just work on this covers thing and keep myself busy and get something out’. You know, ‘cos it’s just nice to feel that you’ve something out there that you’re working on yourself. And I released it first here on my own label, so that kind of helped me start that label up."

"It wasn’t on a huge scale, where it’s ‘Oh, it’s a record of your own songs,’ where you’re really really precious about it, even though it’s an album that I like and a lot of love went into it. A lot of care and attention – the same, maybe even greater care and attention than 'Square One' in some ways, ‘cos I had more time and you know I did a lot of it at home. It was done on a smaller scale so I could spend more time getting it, banging it into shape, I suppose. It just meant that I had something out, you know, and it’s not like I’m starting again, without having to come into a full record of my own songs."

Are the covers just a bit of fun, then, or is it something deeper for him? “It’s a bit of both, really. Sometimes it’s a bit of both,” he replies. “I’ve done songs that are slightly tongue in cheek. Well, not tongue in cheek–” Whenever you record something that’s not in your genre, like 'Pressure Drop' or 'When Doves Cry', it’s going to be slightly tongue-in-cheek, isn’t it? “It’s going to make people laugh [laughs]. And whether they’re laughing at you or laughing with you. It’s going to horrify some people as well. I spend a lot of time moaning about other people’s songs, so I expect that people are going to be moaning about mine.”

Has he ever horrified anyone with a cover version, then? “No – um, you know, people did react quite well to this record. Particularly 'Dancing in the Moonlight', because we’ve gone to the other extreme with it. I was a bit scared that people wouldn’t get it at all. But the reaction’s been quite cool, even amongst the rockers, like the hardcore Thin Lizzy fans.”

Once he’s back from the UK, he says, he will be working on the new album. He’s off to Italy after that, and then Brazil – for the first time, for some solo gigs. It was prompted by the Rough Trade people in the country, who liked his music and invited him to promote it over there. After that, it’s back to Ireland for more work on the record. Is it likely to see a 2005 release? “I kind of want to leave a gap. I don’t want to rush it out this year and not get it right. I’d prefer to wait till next January and really go for it. I’d like to leave a little time to create expectation, or something. If I were to throw out another one that would be three records in two years. It’s just, I don’t know, I think it is a bit much. I like people who are prolific, but my next record is a really important one to me. This one wasn’t as important, that’s why I kind of rushed it out, you know. In a way to take the emphasis off it, you know what I mean? The next one is a really big deal to me.”


















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