Look out for
Jim Kroft

Here at the Vinyl District, we are pretty excited by a lot of music. I mean, hardly a week goes by without us stumbling upon, being sent, or buying some great new single, download, album or even cassette (yes…) that has us excitedly proclaiming a great new talent, the return of some forgotten genius or simply another wonderful recording by an old favourite.

In this particular instance, we are grateful to Diana at Cannonball PR, who made us aware of Jim Kroft. Believe us when we tell you that you are going to be hearing a lot more from this truly gifted songwriter. We caught up with Jim this week, and he proved a warm, open and honest interviewee, much like his music, the sincerity cuts through….

Waiting For A Healin’ by Jim Kroft.

 1. Tell us a little about yourself, where you were born, grew up and what drove you to be a musician.

I grew just outside Brechin in Scotland, which is north of Dundee. My parents separated, and so I went to school in London, where my accent morphed in to however the hell I sound now! I came to music very late. I always aspired to be a writer as a teenager. However, when my mother contracted terminal cancer I felt like all ideas lost their meaning. When you experience the death of a loved one young, it is very hard to process, and there is little guidance about how to grieve or make sense.

One day I picked up a guitar and started howling. It was the only way I felt capable of expression. Grief is not a single emotion but myriad, complex, changing, sometimes static, always oppressive. One of the hardest things I found was dealing with the void after she died. And I gave myself the hardest time and felt like I was a monster that I couldn’t connect all the time with the sense of sadness and loss. But we are hardy creatures, and we do “love, smile and go on”  and that is what the dead would want of us. So I ended up doing a removals job that summer to keep my mind together. And at night I would light candles and howl, and that is where my first songs were written. Every day since then has been about songwriting and connecting with its different faces. It is one of the greatest and strangest lessons of my life – that what I do was born out of death. But that is characteristic of this barking, paradoxical strange little world of ours!

2. The video for “Waiting For A Healing” was shot in East Berlin. Tell us how that came about.

I’ve been living in Berlin for sometime. I was essentially forced out of London by the costs, and found myself in Berlin in 2007 with a van full of my previous life and not much of a plan. I soon crashed the van, and life was further simplified. I started living in a deserted building, doing residencies and things rolled from there.

Over the years I have become friends with all types of good people and it is the privilege of my life to know them. “Waiting for a Healing” is a video for a song off my forthcoming new album which is called The Hermit and the Hedonist. This song was recorded in Urchin Studios and features Laura Marling sticksman Matt Ingram on drums, Gbenga from Metronomy and the wonderful Lianne Charlotte Barnes on vocals.

With the video I wanted to carry on the spirit of collaboration inherent in the song, message and performance, so called up many of my favorite musicians underground and overground to come along and get involved. Everyone came down and it just became a carnival atmosphere – which is what the flea market at Mauer Park is like anyway. Mauer means “wall” and the divide between East and West passed right through there. It felt very fitting to be singing a song about healing with so many great artists, friends and strangers on the very place where Europe was divided both physically and ideologically. There is no shortage of things that need healed in this day and age, and it just felt that the spirit of the song was at the heart of a great day.

The album is released on 22nd of October in Germany and there will be a new acoustic video performance on website with many established Berlin musicians every day from 10th October.

3. Your material seems to combine edgy material with a sweetness of delivery, would you agree?

Ha ha – well Lennon used to say that “Imagine” was just “Working Class Hero” with candy on top! I am glad that you picked up on the edgy aspect of the material because sometimes people hear strings and don’t get past their own pre-conceptions. When Ben Barritt was writing the string arrangements we had one rule which was that they were going to be a violent and powerful second voice, rather than a lush accompaniment. I think if you listen to “Modern Monk” (link below) there is a sense of Lawrence of Arabia and the great film soundtracks, and that was a space we were thinking of.

The lyrical themes in the album reflect what it is to be a Western man growing up in this day and age. It’s a fascinating time, a world where we create idealised cyber versions of ourselves to stop people getting too close or really seeing what a mess most of us are much of the time.

In the west we have made it a cultural imperative to project “feeling okay” or that we are “dealing with it”, blah blah. But what is really interesting is when someone opens and up and lets you in to what is really going on – that is where the good stuff is. It is a paradox that only by allowing oneself to be vulnerable and have a give and take exchange with the world, that we can find ways to transform/ develop as people. It feels to me in the west that people seem to lose faith in our ability to actually develop spiritually – and once we are adults we accept a deadened form of ourselves – deadened in that we stop developing, or even worse, expecting that we can. That is what I mean when I sing “this world is waiting for a healing”.

Anyway – when you talk of an edgy quality, I think it is about that fact that there is no bullshitting on this album. No hiding or will to protect myself. And I think that honesty is always edgy, and I think that most spiritual development, though wonderfully transformative, is painful, slow and takes a lot of energy and discipline. This album is a reflection of that process – of a man trying to move from one place to the other, writing himself out of the void, or at least off the mattress. Ha ha!

4. How do you survive as an independent artist in the current climate?

With difficulty, ha ha! I never meant to be a bum living in Berlin, but when the industry collapsed I had to put the jacuzzi with Beyonce on ice and knuckle the hell down, ha ha!  In London it was either a case of get a full time job and watch your musical aspirations sink into the ground or take a leap of faith.

I was reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” at the time and was very influenced by the idea of the hero’s journey. Essentially the thesis is that you have to go into exile, face your trials and discover whether you have the strength to endure them. Only if you do will you be able to carry the elixir – that which you discover – back home. I just felt that as a songwriter you have to go after the source – as Charlie Parker said “If you don´t live it it won´t come out the horn”.

Anyway, to answer the question, I lived cheaply – and for long periods of time with no rent as the building was abandoned – and I played hundreds of shows with the band I was in – old school residencies, every weekend, some times in the week, 2 or 3 sets a night.

Due to my idiotic commitment to my path, I am somehow inching my way out of the underground – and things are beginning to roll. But I don’t hold my breath about great success and all that nonsense. I just want to write era defining songs, or at least the best damn songs I am capable of, and leave the rest to God or whoever has taken over the universe at that particular given moment in time.

5. What are your plans for the rest of 2011 and beyond.

I am playing the biggest show of my solo career when the album is released in Germany, at Lido in Berlin on the 22nd October with a capacity of 700. After that I am on tour with Anna Calvi and very excited about that.

I also have a 14 date tour through Germany in January, so very excited to be getting the band on the road!

Other than that I can be discovered most other days in any given bar in Neukölln, probably drunk and banging my fist and talking some seriously nonsensical armchair philosophy about the state of things that is ill researched, doesn’t add up and liable to make little sense. Never got wise, but remain a beautiful fool!

6. Name 5 great works of art (book, film, painting etc.)

Dizraeli and the Small Gods – Engurland City Shanties

The Ghost of Tom Joad – Black Music (Best thing I heard this year)

Vienna – The Tourist

The film of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” w/ Daniel Day Lewis

Ken Dolman (America´s greatest living songwriter)

7. Name 5 records you can’t live without.

John Coltrane – Blue Train

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

Suede – Dog Man Star

The Beatles – White Album

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

8. CD, Vinyl, Digital? Where do you stand on these formats?

Ah, you know, mp3’s really do suck ass. I mean, it just amazes me that people actually listen to these watered down versions of stuff.

I grew up listening to albums, and I still like to have the damn thing in my hand. Yes, I am old fashioned, cantankerous, and so the hell what?

But what can you do? The new generation has grown up listening to music and expecting it to be free. How do you combat a paradigm when it has so fundamentally shifted? The positive thing is that in general, if an artist is going to last nowadays, you have to be a proper music man/woman. You have to be willing to dive off that cliff and eyeball the shore. And you know what – it makes you a better songwriter. You just can´t fake a good song. And that is the beauty of it. The difficulty is getting the damn things out through the spam and sludge and bullshit that congests the airwaves, and the vested interests and back handers that govern much of the industry.

9. What is your favourite mode of performance? Live, in the studio, or writing songs.

If I had it my way I would spend the next two years in the studio full time working on a vast amount of projects. I miss the studio all the time. But music needs to be played, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to getting myself on the road and taking the songs where they want to be, which is, and always will be to the audience.

10. Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

My greatest inspiration is my brother Ed who is the single greatest songwriter I have ever met. When the fates allow for him to get his tunes out, believe me the world will take notice.

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