John Kirtland On Touring and Building a Record Label
He's a very busy man, indeed...running Kirtland Records (Boom Boom Box, Toadies, The Fixx, The Hourly Radio, Polyphonic Spree, Bob Schneider, Sarah Jaffe, more) and Sonar Management as well as part of a building developer partnership in downtown Dallas, he's not the easiest fella to catch up with.
But Kirtland, despite being quite a honcho in our local music community nowadays, is a pleasant chat, always. He's laid back, intelligent and well-versed. My suggestion, if you'd like to find out for yourself, is to keep an eye out for him enjoying the music and weather at his camp's annual Texas Barnburner, Dia De Los Toadies, which is only about a month away.
Do you remember the day something lit up inside of you that said you were ready to make a move away from playing music and into more of the industry side of it all? Was there even such a moment?
There was, it was around the time my eight year run on the road with Deep Blue was coming to an end. I was getting married, working on music in my home studio and wondering how I could make a difference beyond just recording/producing music. How can I affect getting music actually heard out there in the real world? There is always this feeling when you finish music you think is great....you think "so now what?" That's the part I needed more influence over. The distribution and marketing aspect. So I went about the business of building a company.
To further that question, where in the world do you start? When you decide to build your own operation,I mean. What was the first step and what were the biggest headaches and difficulties associated with a "startup" business venture?
Headaches? Learning from your mistakes sucks! I'm kidding, not really. But seriously, I always paid attention while I was on the road working with everyone from Interscope. I paid attention. I watched them work... From Jimmy Iovine to Chuck Reed and Cindy Villano....I was in awe of what they did. When I had this idea to start my own biz, and was serious, Taz Bentley told me I needed to talk to Tami Thomsen, and we have been working and building ever since.
What do you miss most about just playing music? Least?
I miss the road, exploring the world like a pirate. New people, new places, new venues, everyday is different. I miss the studio. I miss most having only music be the thing that consumes my life, it's a special place to be- to be in that mind frame 24/7. I am jealous of the artists I see now working in that head space. It's a wonderful place to be.
Apart from your own Kirtland/Sonar roster, who is some of your favorite talent from the area right now?
I am a big fan of The Burning Hotels, Toby Pipes/Nolan Theis' projects, and Descender.
Were there skeptics when you first started your own venture? Especially being a drummer, I imagine there were at least some who didn't think you could build something as great as this....correct? Of course! I have a special gene that doesn't allow me to hear negativity. I just put in the work and hope for the best. What else is there?
Any plans to sit down and play again sometime? Or do you occasaionally?
I play all the time, I listen to music all the time, 24/7. I have a drum set in my house and a studio set up. It's something I will always do, I don't feel good if I haven't played in awhile. I guess that the "itch" people talk about. I have "ghost" drummed for a couple of songs which is really fun, and I'm currently recording new music with Todd & Toby Pipes and Kirk Tatum.
What inspired you to point in the music direction when you were a pup?
I went to a Fabulous Thunderbirds concert wayyyy back in the day. Mid-eighties. I was mesmerized. Was this Rock? Blues? What the heck is this? The rhythm section was putting in what seemed to be so little effort, yet delivering this wall of sound that moved through you, and the groove was just so deep in the pocket. I was just so mesmerized how they were doing it. Of Course Kim Wilson was on the Harmonica and Jimmy Ray Vaughn on the guitar. It was all too much to take in. Shortly thereafter a buddy gave me a copy of Depeche Mode 101 and it was officially ON at that point!
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