Ladies and gentlemen, sorry to have kept you waiting. Without further ado, please put your hands together and give a warm welcome to Steve Kinghorn, founding member of Australian alt-metal band, Ditheramb.
MP3U: Steve, it seems like you have been a part of the mp3u community for quite a long time. Can you tell us roughly when Ditheramb joined the site?
Steve: Hahaha yeah, I’ve been around for a long time. I think about 2004. We had just built our own studio, and were looking for a place to start posting tracks. I tried a few, but I was comfortable at MP3Unsigned right from the start and made it my on line home. I’m not as involved as I used to be, but still pop in all the time and have a look at whats happening. I just prefer a back seat until I have something new to offer.
MP3U: How was the first track you ever uploaded received? Lots of instant positive feedback, or relatively unnoticed at first?
Steve: No, like I said I was made to feel welcome right from the start, recieved lots of comments, and formed good friendships. I can’t remember the absolute first track I uploaded… hmm. Back then you could only load 3 tracks for free, so initially we rotated tracks. But one of the first must have been ‘Crushed to Dust‘. Only because it was among one of the first tracks we recorded in our studio, not the best recording. I am old school and was used to recording analogue, I really struggled with digital at first, and some days I still do.
MP3U: Out of the tracks currently on your artist page, four of them – “Premis“, “Euphoria“, “Fell Apart” and “Darkest Hour” – actually went all the way to the number one position in the mp3u charts. That’s quite an achievement! Which one was your first number one?
Steve: Truthfully, I have no idea. I never joined with a view to dominating charts, I just wanted some honest feedback so I could improve my recording techniques, and until you just told me I didn’t even know that these tracks had reached #1, which when I think about it now is really quite bizarre.
MP3U: I had often wondered what the band name Ditheramb meant… I tried a google search and found that “the dithyramb was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility”. Quite an obscure reference! The Beatles deliberately changed the spelling of “beetle” to play on the word “beat”. Is there any significance to the change of ‘y’ to ‘e’?
Steve: “A poem of impassioned frenzy and irregular character,full of transport and poetical rage” ….Its actually a Jazz term. Have you ever seen “So I Married an Axe Murderer” with Mike Myers? Well during the movie there are little jazz clips: they are dithyrambs. But when I found this meaning I really thought it described what I was trying to do musicaly… it’s either that or I was a sex mad drunk, who worshipped my god, I can never really remember hahahaha. And the reason for the spelling change was when I showed people it they could never pronounce it correctly, so it’s written phonetically.
MP3U: Stands to reason You hail from Australia, a land that has produced many very successful bands, from megastars AC/DC to INXS, Crowded House, Silverchair, Midnight Oil, etc. These bands must be a great inspiration to all Australian musicians, but musically I hear more of a grunge metal influence in your sound. Would you say you were influenced by Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, such bands?
Steve: A Scotsman, an English man and an Aussie walk into a bar… I’m actually Scottish! Edinburgh born and bred. I packed up my family when Thatcher was in power 1990, and gave up on the country that had given up on its people… I’m still very bitter about it, and may that woman rot in hell. But don’t get me started on this subject or I will be here all day. There was Chris Douglas, who was actually responsible for the original line up and he’s English, and Glen was brought in on Drums he’s the Aussie. The line up changed a few times for different reasons, you know the usual band stuff. My influences go way back, before Metal was invented, but I’m a metal head at heart. I love anything that is done well and with thought and I’m a sucker for meaning in a track. Music should make a statement, it shouldn’t be inane dribble… I hope I’m not offending too many artists out there… oops, sorry.
I think its worth mentioning that Australia has a lot more depth than the bands that make it over there. Bands like The Butterfly Effect, Karnivool, Birds of Tokyo, Dead letter Circus, and my favourite COG. Brilliant alternative Rock bands. I also take pride in the fact that I have mentored other musicians that have went on to form other bands – Overfiend, and We Live Forever to name a couple.
MP3U: Isn’t We Live Forever the band featuring Scott Kinghorn?
Steve: We Live Forever has two ex-members of Ditheramb – Scott and Jack, and a phenomenal singer, Grant Denman. Now, I’m biased because Scott is my son and Grant has been like my adopted son. He started hanging around my house when he was just a young lad, and I like to think I have had good influence on making him the artist that he is. I hear flashes of ditheramb in what they do, so it warms my heart to know that this will be part of my legacy… Go onto Youtube and type We Live Forever – I am born, brilliant live track from just a pub gig.
MP3U: No problem, a direct link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYOcasU0jf4
One of your tracks, In My Shadow, had many comments (out of a whopping 111 comments at the time of this writing!) referencing Pearl Jam and comparing your vocals to Eddie Vedder. Is this a comparison you would be humbled by, or something you’d rather distance yourself from?
Steve: It’s funny, I never wanted to be the singer when I started this project, but after many many auditions and one last failure I ended up standing in a booked studio with a sacked singer who couldn’t even be bothered learning the lyrics and we had paid for studio time and the music tracks were done. I had already put down tracer tracks and the rest of the guys basically said I had to do it. I had little choice.
As for the comparisons, I’m flattered we have been compared to all sorts and I’ve been compared to everything from Chris Cornell to James Hetfield. I don’t think so, but people feel they have to associate you with someone to put you in context of how they percieve you. Thats OK. It’s cool because it’s usually a comparison of someone they like, which is a massive compliment. So that’s always cool.
MP3U: I can understand the comparison with Hetfield, a guitar lover who never wanted to be vocalist, as he had a very similar experience to you – they auditioned numerous singers, but in the end they couldn’t find anyone so he shrugged and did it.
Another song of yours has a very different sound completely, evoking images of rainforests and tranquil nature – Mary’s Lament. The song title alone might imply a sombre, mournful track, but the track itself it quite beautiful and has a timeless, eternal peacefulness to it. Without intending to invade on your privacy, is it OK to ask who the Mary of the title was?
Steve: Mary G was actually an MP3Unsigned artist. I don’t want to type her name just in case it offends any relative, but she was a vital part of the site. Unfortunately she died as a young woman. I don’t know why, but I took her passing extremely hard, so much so that it set me off into depression. There was a tribute page on the old site, but I checked and it appears to be gone. So Mary’s Lament wasn’t just my tribute it was my way of dealing with the whole conflict I had inside. I think that’s why I never put it up on the tribute page, it was purely laying her soul to rest in my head.
MP3U: I’m very sorry to hear that. To be honest, I had imagined the Mary of the title was someone you knew in the “real world”, offline. I am surprised to hear she was a member of the site. I guess it’s a testament to how “real” the MP3U community is. Sadly, a few talented artists have passed away since the site’s inception but their friends in the community have always continued to lend their support and pay their respects. I bow my head in respect.
Your music covers a broad spectrum of styles well outside of the oft-mentioned grunge, from very mellow tracks like the Lament or “Her Caress”, an acoustic track with string section accompaniments, to a very crunchy distortion sound any Thrash metal band would be proud of (like in “Visions of Meaning”). What kind of pedal set-up do you use to achieve this sound, and what kind of rig in general?
Steve: 99% of everything I have ever done, has started with my acoustic. A wise man said you can do a good song in any style, but a bad song only in one. I’ve always went for a good musical foundation. Everything after that is just sequencing/orchesration, call it what you will. I hear almost right away what a track will sound like once it is recorded with the band, but that can’t happen till the basis of the track ebs and flow and feels right.
My rigs and techniques for recording have changed many times. When I had my own studio, I worked out that I had $50,000 in equipment sitting there at one point. I have recently been messing around with a new all digital rig, and to be honest I am getting a better sound. But you will all hear that soon once I complete some of the tracks Im working on this year. Superior drummer triggered by a midi kit is phenomenal, I could never get dums to sound like this unless I spent an absolute fortune. I’m currently using guitar rig and amplitude, but none of my older tracks were recorded with this. I really think the new sound I’m playing with are huge, and I’m really quite excited to be making complete tracks again. I am bringing in guest musicians, and have been working with Chris Douglas (original Ditheramb bass player) once again.
MP3U: Sounds great! Looking forward to hearing tunes from this ‘reunion’.
I noticed recently on the forum you posted a thread about a collaboration bewteen you and Carol Sue Kirkpatrick, Only If I Could, which for some reason reminds me of “The Lost Boys” and many comments have agreed it would not be out of place in a vampire flick soundtrack. How do you feel about the process of doing a collab rather than a track by yourself?
Steve: Yeah, Carol’s an absolute sweetheart. She has been very supportive and enthusiastic about what I do musicaly, and has always visited the Ditheramb page and left comments. I can’t remember how it came about, but Carol always said she would love to do a collab track. Then one day I said I would do one, and immediately chose ‘Only If I Could’. Now this track had been previously done by another artist and Carol, but it was one of these immediate moments when I knew how the track would sound if I did it. So I started the process and it was coming along nicely and then my computer crashed. Then a huge delay on trying to complete it, and then I managed to refire up the old girl (the computer that is) and work on it again. I kinda rushed the final production on it as I was trying to complete it before my system crashed again! But like I said I knew what I wanted to do, even the lead parts fell into place effortlessly. But I think I caught the passion of the piece well.
MP3U: What other artists have you collaborated with on mp3u?
Steve: I’m not good with collabs. I always worry if I do a track and people don’t like like, or vice versa, if someone was to go to the effort of doing a track and I had to say I didn’t like it. It’s different in a band, you can sit and work on bits until everyone is happy. That being said, I must admit I got a kick out of doing Carol’s track, and there is talk of another, but on my new system so I can spend some extra time on it. And like I said earlier the new Ditheramb tracks will have guest artists on the tracks. So if anyone out there thinks they would like to work with me then I think I would.
MP3U: Do you have any particular favourite mp3u track that you weren’t involved with, but just love listening to?
Steve: For tracks I wish I had worked on, sounds like a cop out but too many to mention, and not all in the Metal/Prog Rock vein. It’s only when you join a site like MP3U that you realize that there is so much talent out there.
MP3U: There is one last mandatory question. A pseudo-scientific study to find a connection, or lack thereof, between sports fans and musically creative people, which has become a kind of MP3U interview cliché Which football team do you support, if any? Feel free to change it to rugby, Aussie rules, whatever.
Steve: I was never a massive football fan growing up, I liked it well enough but never had the fanatical rage that most everyone around me had, but did follow the Glasgow Rangers. Since living in Oz, I have become a huge Rugby League fan, I don’t know whay, I think its the respect I have for the players. It’s the nearest thing to battle in a sport, quite brutal, and yet when played well, has flashes of pure genius throughout, and there are none better in the world than The Brisbane Broncos.
MP3U: I’ll have to take your word for it Steve! Not a lot of sports at my end of the galaxy, but we do get kick-ass bands from time to time in the Cantina bar. Thanks for your time!
And that wraps up today’s interview, from admin side. If you have any follow-up questions for Steve, feel free to ask in the comments section below, and he might pop in to answer from time to time (this goes for all the other interviews too). Closest thing we have to a live podcast at the moment! Cheers, over-and-out.