James O’Hara’s Detonators (1997-2000)

Paying my dues by playing the blues.

After college I joined blues guitarist and singer James O’Hara, who was forming a new line-up for his band The Detonators, alongside Richard Ormrod and Gideon Marcus.  James gave me my first serious experience of life on the road; I became used to not sleeping a great deal (or when I did, between speakers in the back of the van) while touring gigs and festivals throughout the UK and Ireland.  As well as being a fantastic singer and guitarist and a mine of information on all things blues, James is one of the hardest working musicians I’ve known (and there are a lot of candidates for that title), who would think nothing of driving the hire van for six hours from Leeds to Cornwall, unloading, getting changed, performing and driving back as the morning sun rose to get an hour’s sleep before taking the hire van back.

I recorded two unreleased albums with The Detonators (‘Make Up Your Mind’ and ‘Covers’) and contributed original songs.  James is still going strong and can be reached here .

Kerry Samson (1998-1999)

Early works.

For my first solo albums, “Playing With No Friends” and the follow up “Proud To Be A Failed Waiter”, I wanted to come up with a  new name, partly in an effort to reinvent myself but also because I’d heard there was someone else releasing music as Michael Jackson, though I’ve no idea what became of that guy.  The first name Kerry I chose partly in homage to Slayer’s guitarist Kerry King, then Samson was pretty much a random surname I chose to go with it.  Kerry stuck, Samson did not.

These albums got a decent reception at the time and I sold enough copies to keep my CD burner, printer and scissors busy  (for those who’ve grown up with CDBaby and Bandcamp, that’s how we did self releases back then).

Cockroach Blues (1997)

Motorway Enui (1998)

The Great Escape Big Band (1996-1998)

Anarchic big band jazz adventures.

Formed in 1996 while I was doing the jazz degree at Leeds College of Music, the Great Escape Big Band was an 18-piece jazz orchestra made up of students on the course, many of whom went on to international careers.  I set myself the task of writing a new chart and preparing all the parts for the band every week – inspired as much by Django Bates and Frank Zappa as Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton, so the band’s sound included some unique quirks, including a six-piece sax section and liberal use of collective improvisation and BGN (Bloody Great Noise).

The below recordings were taped from a 1997 concert in the college recital room at Leeds Civic Theatre) and is still one of my favourite things to have done in music.

Addictive Games (EP)

Addictive Games is the first in a trilogy of EPs planned for 2019, to feature tall tales, strange characters and dark satire to a punk jazz/art pop accompaniment.

The 5-song EP is bookended by a Kentucky murderess by the name of Bandsaw Suzie. The story of her betrayal, brutal act of double homicide and subsequent fate is told in driving opener The Ballad of Bandsaw Suzie, while Suzie herself gets the last word at the end of the record with the dark cabaret melancholy of Suzie’s Lament.

In between…

Game of Games:
Some time ago I went walking in the Yorkshire Dales and came to the top of Malham Cove, a high cliff formed by ancient ice movements. I stood on the edge of the precipice, taking in the landscape far below and the wind blowing around my ears. At that moment it occurred to me that I was standing in a mortally dangerous place with absolutely no fear of the height or deadly consequence were I to lose my footing. This lack of fear startled me far more than any actual peril, so I carefully made my way back away from the edge to safety.

I spoke about this experience to a friend who used to do base jumping. He nodded in recognition and said, “The urge to jump off is incredible, isn’t it?”

Game of Games is about the seduction of self destruction in all of its forms. Those that play the Game of Games tend not to do so through any conscious choice and the motivations and responses of the player cannot be safely guessed at or easily understood. But however you come to play, the only way to win is by choosing life.

Taking The Blame Again is a song of liberal anxiety, but as there are deliberate branches of interpretation written in to the lyrics I refuse to be drawn further on the precise message. Pathetic self-loathing, justified concern or sincere acknowledgment of past injustices? You decide.

The accapella My World was produced in 2018 as part of my vocal looping project Unangelic Voices and has received radio play on a number of stations, but has not until now been formally released except as a contribution to the Demerara Records compilation Vanishing Point Vol. 1. The observation that “Self destruction is an addictive game” inspired the title and overarching concept of Addictive Games.

Addictive Games (EP) by Kerry JK

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What’s your musical background?

I first started piano and violin lessons aged 7, later giving up the latter instrument in favour of alto saxophone when I discovered jazz through a stack of LPs given to me by a relative. I spent my formative years playing and singing everywhere I could and went to Leeds College of Music in 1995 to study jazz. I was also a fan of metal (especially Iron Maiden and Slayer) but lacking guitar skills I didn’t do much about that at that time, mostly producing jazz and electronic music.

After graduating, I worked as a jobbing musician doing piano vocal in restaurants and touring with James O’Hara’s blues band The Detonators, before realising that the mercenary existence of playing for a living was removing everything I ever loved about expressing myself through music. I began teaching singing and music so I could play and write on my own terms, also I became heavily involved in the Northern goth, open mic and alternative cabaret scene, developing guitar skills along the way.  I toured and made two albums with gothic industrial band Zeitgeist Zero and also developed a sideline as a singing magician and escape artist.

When I moved to Northampton in 2009 I went full time into the classroom, but eventually found that while teaching music and other subjects suited me, being Mr. Jackson the institutional authority figure did not. So now I’m back on the fringes as an independent artist.

Isn’t “independent” just the same thing as “unsigned”?

‘Unsigned’ suggests it is the goal of every musician to find a record company to take charge of them like a maiden longing for a husband, even an abusive one. I hold no grudges about record companies or those who sign to them – I just see it as a business decision rather than a necessity and, for various reasons, not the right path for me.

First of all, signing to a subsidiary of the big 3 majors is important if your objective is to become a star. If that is your ambition and you are willing to dedicate your all to accomplishing it, your chances of cracking the mainstream are still next to nil without the support, investment, promotion and professional advocacy that comes with being signed to a major. I however am not motivated by fame or celebrity, more repelled by it – as far as I can tell it would involve giving up far too much personal and artistic freedom, whatever the financial compensation.

Secondly, I happen to be a very difficult artist to market. My music is too weird and eclectic to fit a reliable marketing strategy and I am drawn to niches and ideas I find interesting rather than ones that are profitable.  I like to challenge listeners with my lyrics and when I do find myself in a particular scene (I have passed through a few, most significantly jazz and goth circles) I have a knack for doing whatever is most unpopular and unfashionable within that scene. I don’t aim to, I’m just really bad at fitting in and most admire artists who are as willing to take on their immediate peers as the commonly agreed ‘enemy’. That I am now over 40 years of age would also have to disqualify me as a rocking teen sensation. In short, if I were an A+R representative at a major label, I would not see me as a good investment.

As an independent artist I am free to make the music I wish, on the topics I choose, to express myself honestly and stand next to the results. The internet has made it possible to accomplish all this in way not possible twenty years ago.

Why don’t you go on X-Factor/The Voice/<country>’s Got Talent etc. ? (actual frequently asked question)

See above. Especially the part about being motivated by expression rather than fame.

Who are your influences?

Many and varied, you’ll likely get a different answer from me on any given day, but people who have particularly influenced me include Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner for piano, Thomas Dolby, Vince Clarke and Johnny Violent for electronics, Paul Simon, Justin Sullivan and Tom Robinson for songwriting, Bobby McFerrin, Sam Brown, Tina May, Bruce Dickinson and David Coverdale for singing and Frank Zappa and Django Bates for composition. Over the years I’ve also worked with and learned from many fantastic musicians, some of whom are credited on my ‘past projects’ pages.

What’s with the whole ‘genderfluid’ thing?

To be genderfluid is to identify and present beyond traditional binary gender definitions.

I’ve never been comfortable in a conventional masculine persona, have a very pronounced feminine side and find much of what passes for gender definition to be based on arbitrary and often destructive values. My early gender explorations took the form of mild cross dressing, although I would from time to time go all the way into a female identity (particularly as a performer –  I’ve had numerous female/drag identities onstage) I was happiest incorporating skirts, dresses and feminine aspects while just being myself, taking an androgynous, in-between approach. I often stated that had I been born a girl, I would probably have dressed as a boy.

Even in full drag I’m no sissy girly-girl, but then neither are any of the women I admire.  This occasionally has caused friction within the trans scene, where someone once tried to insult me by sarcastically calling me a “tomboy transvestite”, but I loved that description so much I used it for years.  Back then, the term ‘genderfluid’ did not exist (early versions like ‘genderfuck’ did but were unsatisfactory – I didn’t like the suggestion that this is all about shock), but now the term genderfluid suits me perfectly – not so much a rejection of gender as refusal to be limited by it.

Pronoun-wise (he, she, they, zhe, xhe etc.) I answer to whatever suits how I’m presenting at the time, but don’t really get hung up over it.  Anyone trying to upset or demean me by deliberately misgendering will need to try a lot harder.

So when are you getting the op? (actual frequently asked question)

I have explored my gender identity enough to know that my place on the transgender spectrum does not necessitate, nor would be aided by, gender reassignment surgery. I am a passionate advocate for transgender issues and support and respect those who do need to transition fully, but in addition I believe it important to understand that a person’s choices about their gender presentation are a lot more complex than to either commit to invasive life changing surgery or shut up and conform to a conventional binary identity they may not be comfortable with.

Are you a Christian artist? / Stop cramming your beliefs down my throat, you jerk!

I’m really just an artist. Though I try to have an overall positive (if sometimes satirical) message, mostly it’s about encouraging people to think openly and find the courage to be themselves rather than pushing a religious agenda, any religious language in my lyrics should be seen simply as a point of view.

Mostly my beliefs are that every religious viewpoint is an attempt to quantify and understand something far greater and intangible than any of us are equipped to process. We can break down bits of it and develop scientific understanding, but to be absolutely certain of anything (and especially to use that certainty to attack others) to me is an act of supreme arrogance that theists and atheists alike can be guilty of.

Do I believe in God? Yes, but probably not the one you’re imagining right now. Do I take every word of the Bible literally? Absolutely not, if it was meant to be read that way Jesus wouldn’t have spoken in parables and the worst thing that ever happened to the Bible is when it was broken up into a bunch of neat, numbered quotes to be presented out of context as Absolute Truth. Do I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead? I choose to, on the basis of what that stands for. Do I reject science? Absolutely not, nor do I see science and religion as enemies, just ways of exploring the tangible and intangible, respectively.

Ga’Louche – Animals In The Zoo

Rich in rocking electronica, layered vocals and biting sarcasm, Animals In The Zoo is the debut single from UK electronic artist Ga’Louche, already gaining attention and airplay from BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson.

The three-track release features the main track, a house remix and b-side It Must Be Due To Mass Hysteria and is available on the download and streaming platforms seen below, with two bonus video files included if you buy from Bandcamp.

Animals In The Zoo by Ga’louche