Interview: Kevin Tihista
Published on September 2nd, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Tihista gradually fell off the radar after attracting glowing reviews for his 2001 debut Don’t Breathe a Word, but – with these two wonderfully melodic and lyrically heroic records in back-to-back years – it is to be hoped that he will be granted the eminence his talent so richly deserves…
Congratulations on another excellent new album. Do you anticipate this ‘second wind’ of productivity continuing, and if so do you already have material/ideas in mind for the next album?
Thank you! Yeah, I’m back in action one hundred per cent now. I went missing for a bit, but never stopped writing. I have the material for the next record, and the next few after that. My label and I are in the process of picking songs for the new LP now.
How much of the instrumentation and harmonies did you handle yourself on On This Dark Street and Modern Standard, and who else was involved in the recording process other than Tom and/or Ellis Clark from Epicycle?
Ellis and I pretty much handle all the instrument duties. Me mostly on guitar and synth stuff, he mostly on piano and bass. I do all the vocals. His brother Tom did some drums, but the bulk was done by Danny Severson. Sean Rice did some slide guitar. Danny and Sean are in my live band.
Previously you have released music under the name Kevin Tihista’s Red Terror. Why did decide you drop the Red Terror bit from your name for Modern Standard?
I just thought it was time for a change. I wanted to get away from the word “Terror”. My first record came out one week after 9/11 happened. That word was plastered everywhere.
We were putting this record together right after the Boston bombing. Again, the word was plastered everywhere. It was time to get rid of it. I’ll come up with something else. Something pretty.
Is it true you described the title Modern Standard as cursed, and if so why did you decide to go ahead with it anyway?
I came up with the title many years ago when listening to some old jazz standards. I thought, “I wish I could write modern standards.” It sounded good to me. Every time I would get ready to record, something would happen that wouldn’t allow me to. That went on for years.
Finally I let it go. I then started recording again, the new record being On This Dark Street. I still loved the old title, so I thought I’d risk it and give it another chance. I’m glad I did.
How much of your real self and hometown go into your lyrics? They can get pretty sordid at times; how much of it is fictionalised?
I always consider the songs to be fictional, although my girlfriend reminds me that this is not always the case. I suppose there are elements of truth in them. Some are inspired by true events.
If you haven’t already covered it in the previous question, is “Don’t Let Him In” based on a true story?
That one is loosely inspired by an event that happened to me as a kid. It’s a long story. There was no murder.
Might we get to see you perform in the UK in the near future?
I’m hoping. My label and I are talking about it now. I have an issue with my passport. It’s expired, and missing.
What have been your favourite albums from 2013, that is if you’ve had the time to be listening?
I hate to say it, but I really only listen to old stuff. It’s not for lack of trying. I just start to listen and can only get about one minute in before I switch off.
It amazes me sometimes, the stuff that’s being passed off as great music these days. I sound like my Grandfather! I will say that I do love everything that Arctic Monkeys put out though.
Finally – with regards your lyric “I know you think Dylan’s a genius, but that doesn’t justify two plays on the deck” (from “Jack K”) – who *does* justify two plays on the deck?
The Smiths, and KISS.
Kevin Tihista, thank you.
Modern Standard is out now on Broken Horse.