KAV KAV… From baggy to blaggy

Interview: KAV

Published on February 23rd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

Formerly Happy Mondays’ live guitarist and co-launcher of the Getloaded club night, Kav Sandhu is set to launch what should be a very successful solo career if last week’s showcase performance at Gibson Guitar Studio in central London is anything to go by. Rocksucker was fortunate enough to be amongst that select crowd, and as such were witness to the kind of rushing blast of noise and energy that one would imagine to go down an absolute storm at pretty much any (non-folk) festival this summer.

That’s quite a band he’s put together; and, if forthcoming single “Blaggers and Liars (2012)” is any kind of barometer, that’s quite an album he’s recorded with helping hands from Eastern Conference Champions singer-songwriter Josh Ostrander and legendary mastering engineer Stephen Marcussen.

We sat down with Kav just before the showcase for a hearty natter about the album’s genesis, his time spent in LA and why songwriting is a bit like needing a piss…

“Blaggers and Liars (2012)” – single out 26th March

How did you come into contact with Josh Ostrander, and why did you decide to work with him?

I was in LA about three or four years ago playing Coachella with the Happy Mondays guys. It was amazing, we had five or six days off in LA and it wasn’t anything I’d expected it to be. I’d never felt any attraction to go there before, but I just I fell in love with the place. As soon as I wasn’t playing with Shaun anymore, I started recording my own stuff and went over to LA; I wanted to test the music and develop the band to an LA audience, places like The Viper Room, because it has a bluesy sort of rock and roll sound.

We were playing a few acoustic gigs over there and basically I needed a bass player for a gig on Sunset Strip which we’d decided to play as a full band, so I got in touch with a friend of mine in Philadelphia called Billy Nicgorski, and a girl called Leah Blewitt. Those two people are so important to the band, the kind of people who are around music scenes all the time and know everyone; for example, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club rehearse and record at Billy’s place, and Kasabian spent a lot of time there.

So I called Billy and said, “Look, I don’t really know anyone in LA, could you suggest anyone who could fill in on bass for us?” and he suggested Josh. He came over, we got chatting and we were thinking, “This guy’s great, cool as fuck and really talented,” and then he says, “Oh, are you from Leicester? One of my best friends is in a band from Leicester. He left our band to join a band called Kasabian.” I’ve known Tom and Serge from around and about Leicester for a few years – I still chat with Tom quite a bit – and their bass player [Chris Edwards] used to be an engineer for us. Anyway, Josh’s friend happened to be Jay Mehler, who’s such an amazing guy, from the same town as Josh and Billy’s best friend. So Josh filled in on bass for us and made us feel really at home in LA.

The album wasn’t sounding how I wanted it to sound in London. I don’t know if it was just because I was so familiar with the city, the studios and my general life living in Camden, but something wasn’t quite right with it. LA opened this big hole of creative energy.

“Sonic Soul Lovin” (featuring Marner Brown)

Was it through similar channels that you got in contact with Stephen Marcussen

Yeah, because he worked on Josh’s album with Eastern Conference Champions. He’s incredible, worked with everyone, and he seemed to like the stuff. It was the right way to go, because he made the album sound incredible. It’s the kind of sound I’ve always wanted. It took me years to learn about the science of mastering, why it’s so important and what it can do, and when you get someone that talented to work on your stuff then you can actually notice it and say, “Ah, now I understand.”

How much of the instrumentation do you handle on the recordings?

Obviously vocals and guitar, and bass on five of the tracks; mainly the album was recorded between me, Josh and my drummer Jim. We had different people come in to add a different sort of style, to the guitar playing for example. Jon Dunn, who’s playing with us tonight, he plays for Shaun Ryder’s solo stuff; he’s from San Diego and a great slide guitar player, so he played slide guitar on the album.

Do you have material in mind yet for a second album?

Yeah, there are lots of songs. I’m writing songs all the time. Not because I have to, but because I enjoy it, and I know that I’ll probably have written a few more by the time it comes round to making the next album. The songs that we’re playing at the moment were written a few years ago now, and we can’t really bring the new ones into the set at the moment because for the next twelve months we’ll be promoting this album.

“Soul Kid”

Any idea which festivals you might be playing this summer?

I don’t know. At the moment, they’ll just be looking for the headliners, I’d imagine. I guess we’ll probably find out more in the next month or so.

How does a KAV song tend to start life?

From a writing point of view? Usually I’ll think of a riff and record it on a little Dictaphone with my acoustic guitar. It’s very quick, a ten minutes sort of job, and it has to be quick because my attention span has never been great, so it has to instantly hit home. It’s often at 3am or 4am, like when you’re dying to go for a piss in the middle of the night; I’ll have a riff going round in my head and I know if I don’t play it and quickly record it then it’s gone, won’t exist in the morning. So I’ll get up, put this riff down, but then I’ll start singing, then lyrics and then the song’s kind of done. It’s like an annoying itch, to be honest!

“Pass the Gun”

Who are your major inspirations?

There are so many. I’ve got to be honest though, a lot of older stuff; Bob Dylan, The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, Small Faces. They were my early ones because my aunty left her vinyl collection at my mum and dad’s house before she went away travelling or whatever. She had this amazing record collection, and when I was 7 or 8 years old I used to pick out the vinyls before mum and dad came home and listen to stuff like Sgt. Pepper’s, which was actually the first record I ever put onto a record deck and played. I was blown away by the title track instantly. It was amazing and I couldn’t stop listening to it, and then The Stones after that.

As I was growing up, the first band that I discovered for myself was Guns N’ Roses, I guess; everything about them excited me. I got onto Appetite for Destruction a while after it was released because I was too young, but at around 11 or 12 I was really into Guns N’ Roses. Then came Oasis and The Stone Roses, stuff like that. I’m a huge Black Rebel Motorcycle Club fan, and I love Primal Scream – I think they’re just incredible – but there are so many, the list goes on and on. I DJ a lot, and that’s kind of when I realise what kind of music I actually really like.

Do you have a residency anywhere?

I did in LA over the summer. I was doing quite a lot of stuff for all the British sorts of venues (laughs), like The Cat & Fiddle on Sunset Strip and a few other places. I don’t really have the time to commit to a regular slot anywhere at the moment.

Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to give a shout-out to?

There are so many! I love a lot of the bands in LA at the moment. Eastern Conference Champions definitely, I’m a big fan of theirs. They’re incredible live; when you watch an ECC gig, it’s justy…you know, they could be playing a big stage at Glastonbury. That’s the sort of vibe I get from them. I like The Black Angels, although I suppose they’re not so obscure anymore. Same with The Black Keys.

I think it’s a good time for music again. When we’re playing our own night sort of thing, especially in the States, we’ll pick three or four bands for it, actually go out and look for the right acts. We’ve been really happy with all the bands we’ve played with in the States. There’s a really good scene in LA at the moment, a group of acts that are really good. A band I really like is our friends Marner Brown. They’ve been around for a while, and they’re really good.

KAV, thank you.

“Blaggers and Liars (2012)” will be released on 26th March, with an album to follow. For more information and a list of live dates, please visit kavblaggers.com

Click here to read KAV talking to Football Burp about his love of Manchester United FC!

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.