Writing Philosophy

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.

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.


‘Quicksand’ Kerry JK wrote his first song aged 5 – it was called “Every Time I Die I Get Buried”. To his deep gratitude his parents sent for a piano teacher instead of a child psychologist and he’s been intriguing and alienating audiences ever since, under an assortment of solo guises and bands. At one point he was the world’s only performing drag escapologist.

Proudly gender and genre fluid, Kerry’s style of misfit art pop incorporates jazz, funk, rock, layered choral vocals and anything else that fits his muse at the time. He sums up his writing with the mission statement, “Be yourself, as yourself. There is no greater fulfilment and no sweeter revenge”.

Born in the Lake District and growing up on the Isle of Wight, Kerry spent his formative years playing and singing everywhere he could, in school and county groups, in hotels and restaurants and as a member of any band that would have him. A county music award enabled him to travel to London to take jazz piano lessons with Nick Weldon, before he moved to Leeds in 1995 to enroll in the BA Jazz Studies course at the City of Leeds College of Music. There he formed and ran the Great Escape Big Band, an anarchic jazz orchestra featuring many players who went on to international careers.  He self-produced the solo acoustic albums Playing With No Friends and Proud To Be A Failed Waiter, was a regular house band member at the Duck and Drake Jazz Sessions and toured and recorded with James O’Hara’s blues band The Detonators, before a bout of tendonitis left him unable to perform, leaving him to focus for a while on singing and studio music.

Turning to darker and more electronic music under the name Miles From Anywhere, he released the album Ending through Peoplesound in 1999, followed up by the Submission EP in connection with a festival performance. He settled on the name Quicksand Kerry for the electro-punk album Sick Parody of Normality in 2001 while touring and recording with Electric James & The Ladykillers.  He also set up and recorded a collaboration with leftfield poet Mik Artistik (in his pre-Ego Trip days) and developed his first femme performance persona as gothic chanteusse Felicia Devile, resulting in the mini album Witching Hour.

In 2003 he joined gothic industrial band Zeitgeist Zero, going on to record two acclaimed albums, the eponymous Zeitgeist Zero and the Jon Fryer-produced Dead To The World. The band toured around the UK and Europe, including an appearance at the Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig.  Kerry also developed a sideline as a juggler, magician and escape artist, most successfully as the singing drag escapologist Helen Held (The Girl No Man Can Hold), under which persona he was a regular performer at Manchester’s The Cabaret of Ida Bucket and was a part of the World Escape Artist Relay event in 2007.

In 2009 he moved to Northampton to be with his now wife, stepping away from touring in order to move full time into the classroom as a teacher. He gained qualified teacher status and taught at a number of schools while producing studio releases in order to keep his musical skills up, under his own name and as industrial metal project Player Versus X?. In 2015 he rebooted as Kerry JK with the album Songs From The Age of Human Error, followed up with the 3-track single I Am, which was released to coincide with Trans Visibility Day, and Sunlight In The Heart Of The Machine, both of which developed into his 2018 album Human:Beautiful. Side projects at this time included the acapella vocal looping project Unangelic Voices and the experimental trans jazz vocal persona Jenni Bluish, which led to 2016’s No Fury EP and collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland’s Adam World’s Choir, culminating in his curating and producing the trans and non-binary compilation album Songs Of A New Gender Nation, released in 2017. Kerry also spoke and performed by video link at NTS’s Beyond the Binary symposium.

In 2018 Kerry released and promoted the album Human:Beautiful, the climatic track for which was played by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music and described by him as “an anthem for trans and non-binary people everywhere”. Kerry went on to join the moderating team on Tom’s site Fresh On The Net .

In 2019, his song “Game of Games”, from the first in a planned trilogy of concept EPs, was nominated for “Best song” in the Radio Wigwam Online Radio Awards. Third album Tales of Addictive Games and Exotic Pets was released in 2020, bringing together material from the EPs Addictive Games, Exotic Pets and Only Robots Need to Think in Binary.

Kerry now divides his time between his own musical projects, writing for the MABNO blog and Fresh On The Net and teaching and lecturing on musicianship, singing and production for the University of Wolverhampton.