A surly rock ditty from the point of view of an old, bitter and frustrated muso. You decide how much acting was required for me to portray this particular character.
Hey, Mr. DJ! I think you stink!
Now play my music please!
No, I don’t listen to your show
You should be glad of proper songs like these.
2 – Not at All Blues
I first wrote this tune back at music college for the Great Escape Big Band, the idea was to use Miles Davis’ All Blues as a starting point and end up with something completely different. Since then I added the lyric narrative pretty much by working backwards from the title.
Don’t come to my home expecting any sympathy
I know you’re all alone, and quite frankly I think you deserve to be.
3 – Why is This Your Hill to Die On?
Mostly instrumental with a little choral recitation of the title towards the end, a jazz funk groove with a shifted meter.
4 – Cosmic Haiku
This started out as a mock haiku in my notebook (the syllable count is the only aspect of the form really observed – Matsuo Bashō, please forgive me), then gradually expanded over the years into the 8-stanza piece presented here, looped and textured in Unangelic Voices acapella.
High Contrast is loosely inspired by classical Shakespearean epilogues, where the actors would break fourth wall and apologise for any offence caused over the course of the performance. In the past I have described artistic process as turning my worst personality flaws into something positive, think of this as part confession, part provocation, part fiction.
Too Many Gurus – the internet is full of people willing to improve your life for a fee, qualified mostly by an overabundance of self-glorification. This is a salute to that particular breed of guru, middle finger fully extended.
This album brings together material produced between 2017-2019, telling the stories of a cast of characters including an exploited angler fish, an obnoxious boy racer, a homicidal housewife, an overzealous street evangelist and many more. The album combines full band arrangements with my “Unangelic Voices” acapella vocal looping.
Made up of remastered and remixed material from the EPs Addictive Games, Exotic Pets and Only Robots Need To Think In Binary, the single Life as a Tourist (Dance Redux) and one brand new track.
Track by Track:
01 – My World
Part of the Unangelic Voices vocal looping project, a statement of attitude to kick things off.
“My world is frightening… fear can be befriended, but self-destruction is an addictive game”.
02 – Ugly Doris
Doris is a deep ocean angler fish, who finds herself exploited as a freakish aquarium exhibit following an encounter with an oceanologist.
“Way on down, out of sight, making culture in the night. We don’t need your approval to make us feel alright”.
03 – Animals in the Zoo
For those whose idea of cultural empathy is to collect diverse specimens like fashion items, along with their causes.
“They’re so cute when they act like people, with all the funny things they say and do… and look at you, so noble, kind and caring for the animals in the zoo”.
04 – Herbie’s Annoying Kid Brother
Inspired by a terribly modified Volkswagen I once encountered, which crawled up the street at a speed inversely proportional to the noise of the exhaust and obnoxiousness of the driver.
“He revs it hard to show that he’s the man, at the pelican”.
05 – Suzie’s Lament (I Broke the Law)
A crime of passion confessed by its perpetrator, whose full story we will learn presently.
“If I hadn’t have been so deep in love, I’d never have known just what I was capable of”.
06 – The Ballad of Bandsaw Suzie
The grisly tale of Kentucky housewife-turned-murderess “Bandsaw” Suzie and her philandering musician-husband.
An account of self-destructive urges. Those that play the game of games don’t generally choose to, but you win by choosing life.
“I was Ophelia bathing in the stream. I was Sydney Carton smiling at the guillotine”.
09 – Taking The Blame Again.
A tale of liberal anxiety, guilty privilege and self-flagellation.
“Then it turned out that the higher power was human just like me”
10 – The Truth Hurts the Teller
It is a fine thing to fight with conviction for the truth as you see it. But conflict and truth have a way of affecting each other.
“Before you go marching on another crusade, try not to think about the mess that your hero complex has made”.
11 – Saint Virtue
Inspired by an encounter with an apocalyptic street preacher on a rainy day in Leeds, who I suspected to be less interested in convincing non-believers than they were about claiming martyrdom.
“She keeps herself going smiling over the fate that awaits them after they’re dead”.
12 – Eight Days (La Chanson de Craonne)
An English translation of the French WW1 song La Chanson de Craonne (Adieu la Vie), anonymously written following a notoriously botched campaign that caused the surviving soldiers to mutiny en masse.
“If you must make war, pay for it with your own blood”.
13 – A Poem to be Forgotten
My response to news that the UK English curriculum was to focus on rote learning of classics.
“This is a poem they do not want you to memorise. But feel free to do so if you wish. And always ask questions of your own”
14 – Only Robots Need to Think in Binary
A salute to all shades of grey and those that refuse to pick a side.
“It’s about time to erase the lines”.
All songs written, performed and produced by Kerry JK (Michael Peter Jackson), with the exception of track 12: La Chanson de Craonne written by Anonymous (1917) to a melody by Charles Sablon. English lyric translation by Kerry JK with thanks to Jackie Stoneygate for her assistance.
Tales of marginalisation, featuring a displaced deep sea angler fish, an apocalyptic street preacher and a song once classified as an act of mutiny by the French military.
Track by track:
1 – Animals In The Zoo – A twisted piano-led samba with a message for those that like to fashionise diversity while avoiding any inconvenience or loss of status.
2 – Ugly Doris – a fishsploitation boogie telling the tale of Doris, a deep ocean angler fish taken and displayed in an aquarium exhibit under the unflattering eponym.The original inspiration for this was a flyer for a sealife centre advertising a “Nightmares of the Deep” attraction. The text encouraged visitors to come and marvel at the hideous monstrosities, which struck me as adding insult to injury to the poor creatures who were perfectly happy on the ocean bed before some asshole turned up to abduct them for a seaside attraction.
3 – Saint Virtue – A choral ditty inspired by an encounter with an apocalyptic street preacher on a rainy day in Leeds. The sort who is less about converting non-believers and more about claiming martyrdom.
4 – The Truth Hurts the Teller – for those who take pride in judging others and “telling it like it is” without holding themselves to the same standard.
5 – Eight Days (La Chanson de Craonne) – An English translation of an anonymous French song which arose during the first world war, when French soldiers went on strike following a notoriously botched campaign with a body count that was horrific even by WW1 standards. With thanks to Jackie Stoneygate for her help with the translation.
The second track to be released from the upcoming Exotic Pets EP, this is a fishsploitation boogie telling the tale of Doris, a deep ocean angler fish taken and displayed in an aquarium exhibit under the unflattering eponym.
The original inspiration for this was a flyer for a sealife centre advertising a “Nightmares of the Deep” attraction. The text encouraged visitors to come and marvel at the hideous monstrosities, which struck me as adding insult to injury to the poor creatures who were perfectly happy on the ocean bed before some asshole turned up to make them to a seaside attraction.
I dream in high contrast, burning ice cold Melodramatic, bipolar and bold When I go light I am cheery and droll But when I go dark you will fear for my soul.
I mostly write about people. I happen to be one of the those people, but if it’s not obvious I like to be ambiguous about whether I am writing about myself, behaviour observed in others or fictional characters. In the age of social media, there is pressure for artists to more or less present their lives as an open book with their work judged as honest representations as their views, but that is extremely limiting (not to mention uncomfortable) from the point of view of the artist. Art is proposition as much as it is position – the purpose is not just to reflect life, but to explore fantastic and dark themes in the safest way possible.
In other words, I ain’t no psycho killer just because I write the odd song with dark or violent imagery. But when I do, it’s usually to make some kind of point, satirically or otherwise. I do not condone any such behaviour in real life.
The more positive side of my writing is about encouraging people to be and express themselves with confidence. I feel most fulfilled when I am able to reach people who feel alienated, misunderstood or just different to the people around them and want to be told it’s OK. I have no particularly beef with mainstream pop, good luck to everyone who finds themselves moved by it – but if for whatever reason you do not identify with what the mainstream offers as agreed identity, it’s nice to have alternatives.
Over time I’ve tried to move away from definitively explaining the meanings of songs and will often deliberately build in different avenues of interpretation via double meanings, puns and ambiguity. Partly this is to avoid writing songs that are patronising or preachy – no-one likes that – but also I’ve come to realise that once a song is out there it has a life beyond your control anyway. If someone finds a meaning in my work that I hadn’t intended, who am I to tell them they’re wrong? The only exception to this is if anyone ever tries to appropriate my work for hate propaganda or views strongly against my own, though in that hypothetical situation I would want to highlight whatever misunderstanding led to it and take any opportunity to subvert.
Musically I have three main stylistic influences: jazz, rock and DIY cabaret culture. I am a trained musician and make no apologies for deploying whatever advanced musicality I see fit for the job at hand, but I never want my statement to be “look what a good musician I am”. I like the term “punk jazz” (coined by Jaco Pastorius in the 1970s) to describe jazz and progressive music that is not concerned with being nice or institutionally valid so much as provoking a response.
Quicksand Kerry is the name and persona I settled into during the ten year period between 1998 and 2008, a time highlighted by expressions of gender fluidity, forays into DIY performance art and gothic industrialism. This album is a compilation of music recorded in various guises during that time, remastered in 2019.
1: Quicksand Kerry – Music Kept Me Sane
I first wrote and recorded this in 2001, with the Ladykillers’ ‘Electric’ James Martin guesting on lead guitar. It then went through assorted remixes, overdubs and additional programming before I settled on this final version around 2003.
This is not a heavyweight lyric. As a discussion of mental health it’s on the level of They’re Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha, but I picked it as the title track of this retrospective because music really is one hell of a coping mechanism – there’ll be more honest expressions of my emotional foibles on the coming tracks.
2: Kerry Samson – Motorway Enui (1998)
Kerry Samson was my first recording and performing
alias (Kerry stuck, Samson did not), under which I self-released two
solo acoustic albums Playing With No Friends and Proud
To Be A Failed Waiter. I no longer have suitable master files
from those albums, so here is an early foray into digital multitrack
recording (combined audio and midi in home computer sequencers still
felt revolutionary in the 1990s).
3: T.M.O. – Desire Could Never Be More
This was the theme song for a series of messy transgender skit videos I made with a group of friends. The lyrics aren’t particularly deep, but the title was inspired by a line in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, “…neither male nor female, because Desire could never be satisfied with just one gender”. This quote came to define much of my gender identity at a time when non-binary had yet to be established as a grouping and all you could be was transvestite, transsexual or drag queen.
4: Quicksand Kerry – If Only They’d Taught
From the 2000 album “Sick Parody of Normality”, this is a sarcastic statement on the rejection of conformity. For this retrospective, I had to clean up the audio a lot on this one – audio processing wasn’t my strong suit back then and there were a lot of signal and EQ problems.
5: Quicksand Kerry – You Left Me and You Jinxed Me (2005)
Recorded in a single take on each instrument (organ, guitar and vocals over programmed drums), this is from the point of view of a dysfunctional, abusive and justifiably dumped protagonist.
I later wrote a sequel from the point of view of his aggrieved former partner – Nothing For You Here appears on the Jenni Bluish No Fury EP.
6: Excretia – Despair (2001)
Excretia (singer Felicia Devile and her guitarist
boyfriend Darrel Pthisis) was a gothic drag act and affectionate
pastiche of the witchy gothic rock I was listening to at the time. It
was very much what it was, but Felicia was my first full femme stage
persona and I still like some of the music I made under this guise,
even if the vocal style was underdeveloped. “Despair”
was one of the more serious tracks on Excretia’s mini-album “Witching
7: Devilish Deeds – The Mysterious and the
Composed as incidental music for a sword box
illusion routine with Devilish Deeds, a magic act I rehearsed and
performed with a dancer friend.
8: Miles From Anywhere – Thinking (1999)
Darkwave project Miles From Anywhere was one of my
first full scale multitrack recording vehicles, the album Ending
was distributed by Peoplesound in 1999. I was in a bad place mentally
at this time – I’d been unable to play for a while due to a bout of
tendonitis, severely affecting my livelihood. I was also developing
severe anxiety around my identity, the struggles of life as a jobbing
musician and the feeling of my music not belonging to myself anymore.
The second side of the album featured some
particularly dark moments which I’m not sure I want to revisit.
Thinking is fairly measured in comparison to those cuts, an
exploration of depression-induced paranoia and distrust of those that
9: Miles From Anywhere – Inner Child
Also from the Ending album. My progressive
jazz background accounts for the irregular time signatures that put
paid to the track being played in the goth clubs that inspired me,
but the stilted rhythms just worked too well to dispense with.
10: Quicksand Kerry – Curious (2006)
A song about the awkward and dangerous time of life when the thrill of exploring the adult world combines with childish eagerness to please and need for attention. I experienced some of this on my way out of the trans closet (when you’re made to feel your identity is wrong and fetishistic it can leave you vulnerable to predators), but I knew that my experience was nothing compared to that of the girls I’d known from the alternative club scene.
The line “she wants to know about what she’s read in all the magazines” was inspired by a young singer songwriter I saw at the Duchess of York in Leeds. In the audience I found myself stood next to the singer’s Mother, who beamed proudly as her teenage daughter sang angsty songs about rape, drug abuse and other sinister life experiences. I asked the Mother if she was worried about the choice of lyrical motifs, to which she replied, “she reads a lot of magazines and has a great imagination”.
11: Quicksand Kerry – Don’t Want to Choose
Though I have spent a lot of time presenting as a
girl, I realised early on that full transition was not my path – I
often said that had I been born a girl I would probably have dressed
as a boy. Though the term had yet to be popularised at that time,
this is non-binary identity in a nutshell.
A question that sometimes gets asked in trans
forums is, “If you could only express one gender ever, which
could you live without?”. Personally I would 1) demand to know
who is defining and policing this arrangement and 2) rebel on
“Don’t Want To Choose” is not only about
gender identity, but every instance where you are forced into
arbitrary choices to fit roles assigned by others. This is the first
recording I made of the song, I later re-recorded it for the 2015
album “Songs From the Age of Human Error”, which was in
turn was remixed for the 2017 EP “Only Robots Need To Think In
12: Quicksand Kerry – Beelzebub (2006)
A piece of silliness that came about during an
improvised rock jam at the Primrose in Leeds. As I recall, the chorus
structure and story pretty much came to me on the fly, I then went
home and wrote it out as a proper draft.
13: Quicksand Kerry – I’m Smiling (live,
First appearing on the 2000 album Sick Parody of Normality, this fanciful yarn became my signature song. I have often been criticised for smiling too much (I can’t help it, I have that kind of a face) so this is kind of a rebuke to that.
Reading it back now, I guess the “angry young man” antagonist is a personification of my own insecurities, though I didn’t give it that much thought at the time. In any case, this sums up my mission statement throughout my time as Quicksand Kerry, a period during which I dealt with anxiety, depression and alienation by embracing misfit identity and just being myself.
Never stop smiling, and don’t care what they think.