Ahead of his album launch at Cork School of Music, Kim Griffith talks to Mike McGrath-Bryan about his new project and work in sound design
KIM Griffith is a man of many names and talents, gigging and producing under a multitude of pseudonyms around Cork and further afield. Newest project Slim Tremens harkens back to his roots.
“I picked up the guitar about 15, I was on holidays visiting a friend of the family in Wales. He took me into his studio and showed me his immense guitar collection, he also cranked a vintage Fender amp and blasted out some Rory Gallagher. I left Wales with this impossible guitar, a Steinberger. They’re an electric without a headstock, pure eighties hell and carbon fibre on wheels, mad feckin’ thing, but it got me started.
“He also gave me a cassette of one of Rory Gallagher’s first bands, Taste, and a passion for the blues. I used to practise four hours a night most nights — Hendrix, Rory and then the more teenaged type of acts like Rage Against the Machine and Smashing Pumpkins.”
Slim Tremens. Grand name, that. There’s surely some story behind it.
“I have an aversion to playing under my own name, something buried deep psychologically, but also a lot of my heroes have blues names or pseudonyms, so I decided to go down that road. I went for ‘Slim’ as it’s close to ‘Kim’ and I’ve always liked it as a blues name; ‘Tremens’ is for my shaky demeanour!”
No stranger to acoustic music, Griffith recently spent time in trad/folk outfit, the Racklers. He’s quick, however, to differentiate his solo work from his former band.
“This is its own beast entirely, though with songs we did update electronically. I really enjoyed my time with Racklers, but between us all we had too many projects on, it was turning us into a bad band. I also realised, and I’ll get into this more later on, that I need/enjoy a certain amount of freedom when I play live, I like to be able to go off on a tangent and not have to worry about people keeping up or it falling apart, which I had when I was doing The Handless Organist.I could bring things in or out as I wanted to. I’m a control freak when it comes down to it.”
Griffith’s work as The Handless Organist earned him plaudits at the local and national levels, and the name is being taken out of mothballs for his forthcoming show at Cork School of Music, as Griffith positions himself on stage as his own collaborator.
“That originally came about with a mate of mine; we were making electronic noodlings and posting them to MySpace, never thought it would go anywhere but got offered a gig in Limerick and then at Electric Underground in Cork, so we got the finger out and put a live set together. We eventually went our separate ways, but I went on to have some success with it, collaborating with Katie Kim and supporting Mr Scruff, Loops Haunt, Kanji Kinetic and a few others. It was a really prolific time for me.”
Most recently, Griffith has been dabbling in scoring and sound design, including for Cork animation company Gobstar Film. Griffith explains the differences in composition.
“I think the simplest way I can put this is to refer to structure and reality. Most pop songs or genres have standard ‘tricks’ or characteristics, like, say the blues, you know the blues when you hear it, you almost know and sometimes do know what’s coming before it does, like dubstep and the ‘drop’, and that’s ‘songwriting’.
“Sound design is more about creating a sonic ‘reality’, and reality doesn’t move in 4/4 time all the time, or change or keep time like a song. A good way of hearing the difference is to go on a sonic walk and just pay attention to the sounds of the city as they change around you, it becomes musical but not a ‘song’.
“Another good way I’ve heard it described about sound design is the ‘tricks’ used in songwriting are avoided. You try and use everything except those standard tricks to make something altogether different and more immersive, again its own world, but there are also artists who combine the two beautifully, like Jimi Hendrix and, again, John Martyn.”
Support on the Cork School of Music show comes from Emma Langford and Cara Kursh.
“Emma is a Limerick lady who reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald a little, she has jazz, blues and trad in her bones. Her EP launch is in Dolan’s in Limerick this Sunday; if you are in the vicinity, I highly suggest you go. Cara is from Galway, and one of the young, intelligent, caring promoters bringing the fight to the big boys in the city via Sofar Sounds, running exclusive gigs in boutique venues around the city. Her music is also something to be heard, she has a voice as clear as a bell and will leave you broken in the best possible way, in a manner not unlike Nick Drake or Eva Cassidy.”
Slim Tremens and The Handless Organist plays Cork School of Music on Wednesday, June 22, in a byob show, launching his new album Skylarking: 6.30pm, free in.