- • Dr. Snitch
- • Johnny Society
- • Jonathan Spottiswoode
- • Kenny Siegal
- • Mother Fletcher
- • Spottiswoode and His Enemies
Many musicians will tell you their music has a strongly “spiritual” side. But for Kenny Siegal, that particular adjective carries with it a much more literal meaning – especially when it comes to his long-awaited solo debut, Eleccentricity.
“I believe the song ‘The Wake’ was written by ghosts using me as a medium,” says Kenny. The 36-year-old singer-songwriter and producer composed and recorded the album in his own Old Soul Studios, a facility that’s well named, to say the least: the converted Victorian house dates from the 1850s and is reportedly haunted. “The lyrics [of 'The Wake'] are from the perspective of someone that’s already dead,” he explains. “The song even creeps me out.”
But creepiness is just one stripe on the colorful, endlessly spinning pinwheel of Eleccentricity, a disc with as many dazzling sonic surprises as the rich New York music scene that spawned Kenny’s band Johnny Society. The album is also home to mini pop epics like “Well Well Well,” a track that oozes bittersweet romantic redemption and brims with hooks big enough to snag a whale, and “Shamaness,” a bewitching bite of bent exotica with swirling strings and watery vocals; and then there’s “Love Alive,” a chest-swelling slab of Zepp-ish swagger with pounding beats and short-circuit fuzz guitar. The styles are all over the place but somehow complement each other perfectly.
Thanks to this sense of alchemical, wide-eyed experimentation, it’s not surprising that Eleccentricity was recently nominated for an Independent Music Award in the Eclectic category. “Eclectic is what people call your music when they can’t categorize it – which is a great category unto itself,” says Kenny, who plays acoustic and electric guitars, analog keyboards, vibraphone, programmed drums, and bass on the record. “Music transcends labels and categories. It transcends words. It exists beyond the mind.” Eleccentricity also features such guests as Kenny’s wife, singer-songwriter Blueberry, Joseph Arthur, Trixie Whitley, Nina Violet, and others.
A blood relative of the legendary songsmith Ralph Rainger, Kenny grew up in Island Park, New York (“between the Oceanside dump and the Atlantic Ocean”), where the rock ‘n’ roll bug took hold after his dad brought him to a Kiss concert. Guitar lessons started at age 11, followed by his learning piano, bass, and drums. Discovering his hero Prince opened him to new levels of songwriting and arranging and the limitless possibilities of the studio.
In 1995, he started Johnny Society, and the group fast became one of New York’s most popular indie acts, garnering praise from Ray Davies, Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, and producer Rick Rubin, and winning an IMA for 2000′s Clairvoyance. In 2001, Kenny opened Old Soul, where he creates his music; has produced records with the late Chris Whitley, Joseph Arthur, Larkin Grimm, and others; and has engineered sessions involving Garth Hudson, Michelle N’degeocello, and Tony Visconti.
While Johnny Society remains an ongoing concern (the outfit is currently working on its sixth release), with Eleccentricity Kenny felt the time was right to put his own name on an album – one that comes directly from his innermost core, rather than through the prism of a “band” image. “I finally had enough self-respect,” he jokes. “Sometimes there needs to be a distinction between the ‘artist’ and the man.”
“[The album] is an example of me living my philosophy through work,” Kenny adds. “Which is that playing music is a direct path to spiritual, psychological, and literal freedom.” Indeed, Eleccentricity is a path that listeners will find themselves walking again and again – maybe even meeting a few friendly ghosts along the way.
(Written by Peter Aaron)