Crannk Interviews Guitarist/Songwriter/Singer Kelly Carmichael
Legendary guitarist for doom pioneers Internal Void Kelly Carmichael who first formed the cult band way back in 1987 with friends Eric Little, Adam Heinzmann and J.D. Williams. Internal Void’s three albums are Standing on the Sun in 1992, Unearthed, s (2000) and Matricide (2004) , released on his own label, Dogstreet Records. Kelly was also a one time guitarist for Pentagram’s sixth studio album Show ’em How. Recently Kelly Carmichael released his third album under his own name “Heavy Heart” in October on his label Dogstreet Records and follows on from the Delta/Chicago blues sounding albums of Old Stock (2005) and Queen Fareena (2008). Heavy Heart is a departure from the sound of the previous two albums with a more riff-driven rock doomy vibe to it with Kelly’s deep roots in blues and interwoven with piano and violin to create a truly unique sounding album that will resonate and echo with the listener.
Recently I had the absolute pleasure of catching up with this legendary musician to find out a little more about Kelly and his music.
Kelly Carmichael songwriter,guitar virtuoso and having played with Pentagram & Internal Void and having recently released your third solo album “Heavy Heart” thank you for taking some time to go through some questions with Crannk, our readers, and myself Jai I really appreciate your time and congratulations on a really great album in “Heavy Heart”.
Jai Q: First off can you tell us a little about how your musical journey began with guitar when how and did you first start playing guitar?
Kelly A: My first experiences on guitar were with my dad, he taught me a couple of songs from ‘The Ventures’ called ‘Driving Guitars’ and ‘Walk Don’t Run’, I guess I was about 9, I’m thinking 1977. My dad played in bands throughout the 60’s covering Motown, rhythm and blues stuff..
Q:When you were first starting out who were some of the people that had helped influence and inspire you as a musician?
Kelly A: “People” as in personal, well I’d have to say my dad certainly kept me interested in it as he was always playing along and picking out the leads to The Allman Brothers, Steppenwolf, The Rolling Stones and such, but once I started listening to bands like Black Sabbath, Zeppelin and AC/DC, and started to identify with these bands, influence began there. On the level of truly influencing me as a player, Tony Iommi certainly was a huge influence early on. Within a local tangible sense, was Wino from the Obsessed. While still in high school a couple friends and I were able to catch the last show of the original lineup of The Obsessed, we were already fans after hearing one of their songs on a Metal Massacre LP, so when we saw them live at that age it really had an impact.
Q: What was your first guitar that you bought?
Kelly A: My folks got me a Fender Bullet in 1984, but a few years later the first guitar I purchased on my own was an early 70’s SG Standard w/ the Bigbsy Tremelo. I used this on the early Internal Void demos. In ’89 I upgraded to a 1961 Les Paul Jr SG and still play it today. I’ve had a couple Les Paul Standards and other SG’s but the Les Paul JR SG is my favorite.
Q; And what guitar’s did you use on this latest recording “Heavy Heart”?
Kelly A: I used the ’61 Les Paul Jr SG.
Q:When and How did you first get into heavy/rock music and what was the first album you bought?
Kelly A: In ’76 or ’77 I had gotten the Kiss 45 ‘Detroit Rock City’. I guess the life changing record was the Black Sabbath ‘We Sold Our Soul For Rock and Roll’ album, but I didn’t discover that until ’82
Q; You played guitar with Internal Void and one of the founding members a really great doom metal band if you had to pick one track from your time with Internal Void that you are most proud of which would it be and why?
Kelly A: Man that’s always tough, I think mainly because we evolved so much over time. So I’m gonna have to break it into categories and then I’ll flip a coin, haha… Early daze with Eric Little behind the kit I would say ‘Utopia of Daze’ off Standing on the Sun . Later daze with Ronnie Kalimon on drums I would say ‘Blindside’ off of Unearthed, alright time for the coin toss……… wait… uh… looks like its Blindside!
Q; So you spent some time with classic legendary doom rockers Pentagram from around 2003-2005 and recorded guitar for their sixth album “Show em how” what was that period like?
Kelly A: Uh, stressful, crazy, insane? haha… at times this was Bobby at his worst especially at our first and only live show overdosing in the dressing room, revived by paramedics, only to collapse for good on stage in front of hundreds of fans, then to be carried off my paramedics, so I’m sure you know his history… but you know, prior to all of that it was exciting being able to write a few songs with Bobby, and record some classic tunes which were some of my favorite Pentagram songs. On that level “music wise” he was great to work with.
Q: How did you approach the songwriting and the song composition for “Heavy Heart”?
Kelly A: Well my process is usually the music first on guitar, and after a basic arrangement I’ll find a vocal harmony, and the words fall in. The same for the bass lines and especially the violin parts I found in vocal melodies, and wrote out the more basic violin parts for Lavinia (violinist) to work with and improvise from.
Q: You have been playing guitar and wowing fans with your fine guitar skills since around 1987 now and with this your third release as a solo artist are these songs that you have built up over the years and just waiting for the right time to record them?
Kelly A: I had written ‘Shadows Will’ while writing songs for a different album, a more bluesy than heavy batch of songs, and it did’t fit in. So I decided to write an entire album around it, so no it wasn’t over a period of years, but I guess about a year once I decided to do it.
Q:Can you tell us a little about the recording and production process for this album?
Kelly A: Yeah man, While we still hadn’t found the right bass player, Jesse (drummer) and I were fully rehearsed for recording and wanted to capture the momentum we had going, so without a bassist we decided to just go ahead and get the drums down along with scratch guitar/vocals. I decided to go to a different studio for tracking guitars and actually recorded all of the rhythm tracks and it just didn’t sound right, and it felt rushed as well, I just wasn’t comfortable in the studio there… Also at the time I had been dealing with some serious chronic pain so that played a part in not being able to focus in the studio as well. So I decided to purchase the recording software we had used in the studio, and re-tracked all of my guitars and finished the vocals in my home studio. I had put some bass lines down just to hear some with the guitars, and while my pain issues weren’t fully subsiding I realized this should just be a solo studio album, and so I decided to finish the bass tracks myself. I also mixed the record as well. My longtime friend and co-producer with ‘Internal Void’, Chris Kozlowski got me started with the mixing on one song, specifically on the drums, and I kinda took it from there, with Chris and Jesse lending their ears throughout the process.
Q:Who else have you got playing with you on “Heavy Heart”?
Kelly A: Well, Jesse Shultzaberger is on drums, as for now it’s he and I as a duo, we still may bust out some shows if I can get it together “physically” on my part, but for this we will bring in a bassist. I was fortunate enough to land a couple of incredible session musicians. The violinist Lavinia Reid, she’s in a local band that pays gypsy jazz, she’s truly amazing. For piano I found Choo Choo Hu, she’s a prodigy and performs world wide. She was just mind blowing to work with and I was really lucky to find her.
Q:If you could pick one track off “Heavy Heart” that you are most proud of which track would it be and why?
Kelly A: I would normally say ‘Shadows Will’ since this song was the inception of the entire record, but I’d have to say ‘Soupers’ is the one, as much as on how it evolved. I originally wrote this in 1998 along with a batch of other acoustic songs. For ‘Heavy Heart’ I updated it both musically and lyrically, and it was still to be only an acoustic track. We went back to the studio two more times to do new drum tracks as I kept rearranging it, and then I decided to make it electric and the verses really heavy, so the drums definitely needed redone to match the heaviness. The demo version has acoustic choruses with bells and so it’s quite different. With the addition of the violin and piano, specifically its big intro, ’Soupers’ just really took on being a whole new song in the end.
Kelly Carmichael thank you so much for taking some time for Crannk myself and our readers to get to know a little more about you and your amazing catalog of music.
Kelly A: Thank you Jai! I really appreciate the interview!
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