An Interview with Kevin Godley of 10cc

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Kevin Godley, the long-time member of seminal Art Rock bands 10cc and Godley & Creme, is with us today to chat about his new album, Muscle Memory, and his long career as a musician, director, and artist. If you would like to learn more about Kevin, or his new record, Muscle Memory, you can head over to his website here and snag your very own copy. Cheers.

Andrew:
Kevin, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to pass the time?

Kevin:
My pleasure, and yes, it has. I’ve been working pretty much non-stop, and most of what I do is from home, so it hasn’t been too difficult to get on with things. I’ve just recorded the first of a series of spoken word pieces (Conversations with Myself) that are companion pieces to the tracks on Muscle Memory and are, essentially, me talking to myself. It’s an experiment to see if the subject matter of the songs can be explored in different ways, and I believe they can. Whether people will enjoy listening to them is another thing entirely…

Andrew:
Tell us about the backstory. How did you get into music? What was the gateway, so to speak?

Kevin:
When I was a kid, it was the early days of Rock ‘N’ Roll, and everyone wanted to play something. I started on guitar in a local Manchester band called Group 17, but I was useless. I switched to drums and joined The Sabres, then The Mockingbirds, which eventually led to Hotlegs and 10cc. My whole world revolved around playing drums. Far more attractive than growing up and getting a proper job!

Andrew:
As an artist, who were some of your earliest and more important influences?

Kevin:
Anything that came from America. At first Modern Jazz, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, Lambert Hendricks & Ross, Miles Davis, etc. Then early R&R, R&B, and Pop. Anything from Gene Vincent to Bobby Vee, From The Shadows to Phil Spector, The Everly Brothers to Muddy Waters. Eventually, Motown and Stax recordings becoming more and more influential. The bass and drums being more prominent in the mix made everything push a bit more, so I was hooked on Soul in the late sixties. However, the big shift was when I started writing songs with Lol Creme. As were most youngsters back then, we were buzzing on The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Beach Boys, etc., and trying to emulate/capture something of the period we lived in. It took us some time to find our own voice, though. 

Andrew:
Let’s talk about Muscle Memory. This is your very first solo album. What was the inspiration? Tell us about the recording process and how this record came together.

Kevin:
Around about 2016, a couple of musicians who I didn’t know and completely independent of each other sent me pieces of instrumental music asking if I’d be interested in turning them into songs and recording them. I’d never done that before. Songwriting was always about sitting opposite someone who could play guitar or keyboards and thrashing stuff out between us until it worked. This was way different. Half the equation already existed, and after bringing both of these unexpected tracks to life, a lightbulb went on over my head. What an interesting way to make an album! Being a drummer, I needed music to write to, so why not put this process out to anyone and everyone. Ask for music from anyone and everyone and, if their track ended up on the album, I’d share the copyright 50/50 with them. I did this via PledgeMusic, a music crowdfunding site, in order to finance the final recordings and got to work. It seemed simple at first; all I had to do was conjure the melodies and the lyrics. Easier said than done, but great fun because in pretty much every case, my co-writer was in another city, another country, so I was left to take things in any musical direction I saw fit without critique until I was happy with the outcome.

I received, in all, 286 pieces of music in WAV or MP3 format, dragged the twelve I thought I could develop into Garageband, then recorded all my vocals at home, did rough mixes, and sent them to my co-writers, and awaited their comments. In virtually every case, they liked what I’d done, so I carried on recording, re-recording, and tweaking until I was 100% happy with my parts. I then asked everyone for “the stems,” which are the separately recorded parts of all the instrumental tracks, and set about mixing each song with my second pair of ears, brilliant audio engineer Ivan Jackman, until the finished, mastered songs sounded exactly the way we wanted them to. Of course, it wasn’t all straightforward. There were glitches. I had a few false starts. Some tunes had no stems. Some people sent me finished songs, and then PledgeMusic went bankrupt. The final straw? No! Thankfully, as I was despairing about getting back on track, The State51Conspiracy label took over the project with great enthusiasm and some innovative strategies and took it all the way to release in 2020. Whew! One hell of an expedition, but it took me to many new musical places that I may never have explored but for this project. 

Andrew:
You’re one of the original members of 10cc and also have been a part of the collaborative duo Godley & Creme, but this is your first solo record. What led you to finally record a solo record after all these years?

Kevin:
A strange mix of coincidence and opportunity and, perhaps, a subconscious desire to make more music. I’d been so involved with the visual side that the original spark of actually making audio had lain dormant for several years. Then all the strands suddenly came together and out it all came, and what a thrill it was to discover that I could still, after a fashion, actually do it. Hence the title – Muscle Memory.

Andrew:
On the subject of 10cc. You were the band’s drummer and provided vocals for the band from 1973-1976 and again in the early 90s. 10cc made some wonderful records during that time. How did you end up with the group? Ultimately, what led to you choosing to leave?

Kevin:
Like most things in my career things kind of just fell into place, I was in the right place at the right time, with the right amount of enthusiasm and hanging with the right people.

The chemistry was right too. It worked in all musical incarnations because everyone involved was committed to exploring the parameters of what Pop / Rock / could be. It only became weaker once success had defined what 10cc was. Up to that point, it had always been about recording whatever we could in a specific time frame, and then suddenly, it was about fulfilling expectations. We had a market, and the market was expecting this and that. One of those songs, a long opus type song. A big ballad, a few weird ones, a couple of funny ones. That wasn’t where the excitement was for me and LC. The excitement was about not knowing what you had until you’d recorded it. Calculating the results upfront was anathema to us art school graduates, so in the end…the the end was predictable and inevitable. 

Andrew:
How about Godley & Creme? How did that project start? Any chance of a revival in the future?

Kevin:
Godley & Creme was the experimental half of 10cc being allowed to continue experimenting without the constraints of pandering to commercialism. It took a few peculiar turns and went up some blind alleys but was immensely fulfilling and led us, almost by accident, to a whole new medium—music video. Revivals are about doing the same thing repeatedly, which is not something on my current bucket list.

Andrew:
One of the more interesting records you’ve been a part of was …Meanwhile by 10cc, which marked a sort of reunion for the band. I feel this is a very underrated record. Looking back, what are your thoughts and feelings on this record?

Kevin:
A lot of water had flowed under the bridge by the time this project came along. We’d all grown as people, found other things to do, so this was a strange prospect. I should point out that my and Lol’s contribution to recording took place separately. We were “guests” on the album, not fully functional band members. I was flown out to New York, wined and dined, and spent 2 or 3 days singing at the Hit Factory. It was fun but odd. The old chemistry was somehow lacking. Session players were in abundance, and Steely Dan associate Gary Katz produced the record. The whole thing felt kind of orchestrated towards breaking America but nevertheless was an interesting departure as I was free to just sing minus the responsibility of writing and producing. I still, to this day, haven’t listened to the whole album and very much enjoyed performing “The Stars Didn’t Show,” and I absolutely love the album cover.

Andrew:
I’d like to circle back around to your new record now. Lyrically, what themes did you explore during the writing on Muscle Memory? How was your writing different for this record compared to your work we’ve seen in the past?

Kevin:
I had no ideas going in what the lyrical content should be. I wanted to be moved by the music I’d chosen to work on, but that, plus witnessing a world that was going through some strong social and political convulsions, informed what the songs became. I’ve never been drawn towards making big statements, but in this case, I couldn’t avoid it. I recall looking for a way into the track that became “All Bones are White” and listening to the music whilst watching the Charlottesville debacle unfold on TV. I was so appalled that such a thing could still happen that words simply began to flow, and when that happens, you follow where they take you and, if you’re lucky, a part of you lets go, and the song virtually writes itself. The same thing happened on a good few occasions during the whole MM writing process, so I guess the more fucked up the world gets, the more helpful it can be to lyricists. Thank goodness we’re not politicians!

Andrew:
How about the production side of things? Did you self-produce, or were outside voices allowed to come in? What went into the decision either way?

Kevin:
When I launched the project on PledgeMusic, I included a set of terms and conditions for anyone interested in collaborating. One condition was that I would have the final say on how much or how little of the original recorded music was used in the final mix, which I guess means that I was essentially producing the final results. However, outside opinions were always welcome, but mostly I was left alone to follow my own audio instincts. 



Andrew:
Also of note is your work in the space of music video direction. You’ve directed videos for Fine Young Cannibals, Bryan Adams, Blur, U2, Phil Collins, The Black Crowes, and more. How did you move into that space? Who influenced your style as a director?
 

Kevin:
As ever, accident meets opportunity. Godley & Creme had a single out called “An Englishman in New York” in 1979 and, as we weren’t a touring band, making some kind of film to show it off seemed like a good idea – the only idea that made sense. So we did, but we worked with an experienced director and were really only supposed to be the artists, but something about the medium seriously grabbed our attention. This, we instinctively knew, was where we belonged, and once other artists gravitated towards working with us at a visual level, we were proved right. Style-wise I’ve always shied away from cliche and still do. I want to discover ways to help experience the music outside genre and outside predictability. My methods can challenge both the performers and the technology, but in the end, it’s just like making music. That search for something original and uncompromising is made of the same stuff. It just comes out as pictures instead of sounds.

Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Kevin:
I’m passionate about directing my screenplay based on Orson Welles early experiences in Ireland. I’m passionate about writing, period. I’m passionate about working in new media. Video Games/VR/AR/AI etc. I’m passionate about design/film/making music/making Art/making things that haven’t been made before and sometimes just being with Sue and our dogs instead of always making things.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Kevin:
I don’t really care what the carrier is. How, where, or on what it’s distributed. It’s the actual content, the music, the pictures, the idea itself that drives me, and I mostly stream or download now. Why? I prefer to listen whilst walking or driving. It is difficult to choose specific recordings that mean a lot to me but for starters – Sgt. Pepper, Graceland, Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, Anything by Marvin Gaye, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, FKA Twigs, Kanye West (to a degree), Lou Reed, David Bowie, U2, Gavin Friday, Billy Eilish, Stormzy, Massive Attack…

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve had a long, successful, and multi-layered career. With that being said, as a veteran of “the scene,” what advice would you have for young artists looking to take the plunge?

Kevin:
When it comes to the business/legal side of things, listen to as many people “in the know” as possible. When it comes to creating your own art/work/product/content, or whatever you call it, listen to your own heart and nothing else…

Interested in learning more about the artistry of Kevin Godley? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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