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Published: 1999/11/15
by Dean Budnick

Eastern Revival: Steve Kimock Finally Returns with KVHW

Steve Kimock was raised in Pennsylvania. In the mid-seventies, the self-taught guitarist, traveled west with the Goodman Brothers, eventually settling in Northern California. Over the years he has performed with a number of individuals including Keith and Donna Godchaux, John Cippolina and Jerry Garcia. In 1984, Kimock and Greg Anton formed the band Zero, which continues to generate high praise and a fervid audience. Last summer he joined the surviving members of the Grateful Dead in the Other Ones. He also performed a number of dates with the varying incarnations of the Phil and Friends (although he elected to leave the current tour in late October). Kimock’s current passion is the group that he and fellow Zero member Bobby Vega assembled in January of 1998. KVHW, is an acronym drawn from its members last names, as Kimock and Vega are joined by former Frank Zappa vocalist Ray White and drummer Alan Hertz. In December the band will begin its inaugural east coast tour which will carry it from Vermont down to Georgia (with stops in Boston, and two shows at the Wetlands, among others).

B- Let’s jump right into it. You current project, KVHW began as a one-off, right?

K- We put it together the week of the gig. We were trying to raise some money to send our buddy Kenny to Europe. Bobby and I decided to put something together- he knew Ray, and Alan lived up the street, he had come crashing throughout the studio once or twice before for various reasons.

B- How did Bobby know Ray? Had they worked together in the past?

K- Bobby grew up with Ray. It was a neighborhood thing.

B- When did you decide to keep it going, and continue to perform with that line-up?

K- Well like everything else in my life that’s a day-to-day decision I guess. Every day we get up and we move on. I don’t think all of us have ever sat down and said “Okay here’s what we’re going to do for the rest of our lives” or anything like that. I think we played another gig at the studio and then went to a bar and played unannounced, and it just kind of picked up so we kept after it.

B- What are your musical aims with KVHW?

K- I don’t know if there’s a specific musical goal or aim that goes out ahead of the desire to try to create an environment or situation for the players where you’re getting the most benefit from the chemistry of having those players perform together. The goal is to get the most out of the personnel that you have,and figure out some way to get everybody in a happy, creative space where they’re able to really give of themselves and enjoy doing it. And then some music results, the product of which is unique due to the individuals. But I never plan to make a certain type of music with a certain group of guys

B- So in any group you’ve played in, the resulting music has just been organic to the players?

K- Not all the time. I’ve been drafted into certain situations where people have said we’re going to play this way. But that’s not a feature of the relationship I have with the guys I’m working with now. Normally it’s just “Let’s play something.” Or “We’ve just come up with a bunch of slow songs with odd time signatures, why don’t we do a fast song in four.” We might get that specific with it.

B- How do you write songs with KVHW and is it different from how you’ve written songs in other contexts?

K- The KVHW treasure hunt for material is way more inclusive and democratically spread around than any other band I’ve been in. When it’s time for a tune we all bump our heads together on the way to getting our noses to the grindstone to come up with something. It’s completely collaborative across the board.

B- Is that true in terms of the lyrics as well?

K- Very rarely will someone other than Ray pipe up with a lyric. He usually has either a head or a notebook full of some crazy visionary poetry at any time.

B- Speaking of which, it is difficult being a very expressive, emotive guitar player who doesn’t sing?

K- I think what attracted me to playing music in the first place was that it seemed the clearest way for me to speak the unspoken. I sing along with what I’m playing but I’m just not a singer. I am completely comfortable with expressing myself without using words whatsoever. I say that of course while I’m doing an interview (laughs). If I could play you the answer I would.

B- Fair enough. Do you have plans to record with KVHW?

K- For better or for worse our technical minded fans record every gig and every couple months we do the same ourselves in a multitrack format. We’ll probably have something come together after New Years.

B- You say “for better or for worse.” Has it been odd for you over the years that people have been taping your gigs? I would imagine that adds an element of pressure to any given show.

K- It’s part of the territory. When we rock we rock and when we suck, we suck. I stand by my performances. If I thought that for some reason I was not going to be able to get up there and do a good job or something was terribly wrong and I feared that I was being ripped off or in some aboriginal sense my soul would be stolen by the cameras, then I would say “Hey, don’t make a tape.” But I’ve never felt like that. I think it’s great that people tape, I think it’s great that they trade tapes. I think it great that people are able to network and get exposed to music other than the commercial kind of crap that the record industry has been shoving down everybody’s throat.

B- Along those lines are you a net denizen?

K- Not really. I’m not much of a computer guy. I’m certainly no typist. In fact there’s a computer sitting right here, and I never turn it on. (laughs) I’m not sure I know how. There’s a bunch of guitars sitting right here, I turn those on.

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