Kev Bayliss: From Graphic Designer to Musician, dreams can become true

Kev Bayliss is not a musician like the other ones, he began his professional career as… designer for a video games company and re-created and re-designed a very well known character: Donkey Kong.  As a musician, he collaborated with many artists, such as Voodoo Johnson, before starting a solo career and released his album ‘The Project’ on 11 September 2011, a good omen?

Where do you come from?  What did you study at school?  Which instrument did you learn to play?

I’m from the Centre of England, and at school I mainly studied Art. I always loved music but didn’t really study it at school. Instruments? A bit of keyboard, and a bit of Guitar. And a little bit of the Fool !

What is your musical background?  Which bands or singers did influence you the most?

I used to listen to a lot of Rock music but love all kinds from Chill-out to Heavy Metal. I really used to enjoy listening to an American Rock band called Tesla, and I’d say their lead singer Jeff Keith, along with Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes influenced me a lot. To begin with I think you try to ‘sound’ like someone, but now after singing for a while I think I’ve found my own voice.

You were the lead singer and frontman of Voodoo Johnson.  Why did you quit and start a solo career?

I think the band were a little too ‘Classic Rock’ for me, and although they had some good tunes, everything was starting to sound the same to me. I’d have liked to have gone in a different direction and tried to make the music sound a little more modern, but ‘Classic Rock’ is ‘Classic Rock’ I guess.

I loved the gigging and performing live, but I decided to leave rather than sing and perform music that my heart wasn’t really into. Now I can choose whatever kind of music I want to sing, rather than just stay in one particular genre. I love Rock, but I don’t see why that means you can’t also love other styles. A lot of different music appeals to me so I like to have a go at everything, it keeps me fresh!

Your voice and your music have been quite often compared to Darren Hayes’s, what is your opinion on this?

I guess that you could compare it a little, and there are few other singers that I might also sound similar to. There’s always going to be a similarity somewhere, and I guess he has a similar tone to me. But if you hear some of my harder stuff with VJ, I don’t think I sound so much like him when I’m really ‘going for it’. Perhaps some of the softer music and more recent stuff I have done does.

Either way, it’s nice to be compared to anyone who has made a success out of their voice.  Darren Hayes is a great singer and writer, so it’s cool. Some of the reviews I’ve had with the Rock music compared me to the likes of Chris Cornell, and even Mike Patton, which is extremely flattering. But I guess different characteristics come out in your voice when you sing different types of music. I just try to sing as naturally as possible.

Your album ‘The Project’ has received a lot of positive reviews.  You worked with several other musicians on this record, who are they?

Ah the other guys I’ve worked with are great.  Lucky Singh was the main guitarist on some of the tracks on the album. He’s a great all round musician too. Nick Daniel is a friend I met a while back and I’d worked on some projects with him in the past, and I love his work. Kev Bartlett is a fantastic drummer and also another friend who writes some great tunes. Last but not least is Kevin Drake, who was formerly a guitarist for 30 Seconds to Mars.

How did you meet them?

I met Kevin Bartlett a while back before I joined VJ. I was originally going to be in his band at the time, but it never happened, but we still kept in touch. Lucky actually lives real close to Kev and they are good friends, so I was introduced to him at the beginning of last year. Nick, I met a few years ago after responding to an advertisement on the internet looking for a vocalist for his tunes, and Kev Drake, well funnily enough, I met across the internet again. I sent some random friend requests out on Myspace, and Kev popped up, just to make keeping track of names a little more confusing! [laugh]

What inspires you when you write your music and your lyrics?  The first time I listened to ‘Quicksand’ I was like ‘Ok, this is my life that’s depicted in this song’.

Well, to be honest, I start with a tune and then immediately a melody line comes into my head. But it’s of course just notes and noises. So I tend to slot words into the notes depending on what ‘vowel sounds’ seem to be going around in my mind at the time. Then I turn them into words, and build up a sentence. The sentence is usually then the blueprint for the rest of the song. Most of, if not all of my songs rhyme, it’s just the way I do it. But I always try to put some kind of message or story into the song, all stemming from the first sentence. Some of the songs relate to me, some of them are just ambiguous and I try to write the song so it can appeal to anyone. Quicksand is probably one of those songs! – glad you liked it! That one was Lucky’s tune, and last year I worked out a vocal line and lyrics for it, in the same way as I described here.

Do you have a favorite song in ‘The Project’?

I do. I like a few of them, but I think I like “Kung Fu Master” and “My Sorry Cinderella” are great as they’re ‘gritty’ and like the kind of stuff I was used to singing before. But if there was a song I really had to take it’d be “One Day Older”. Kevin Drake wrote the music, and I put the words and tune over the top, but at the time I was about to say goodbye to my lovely dog. It’s a bit ‘soft’ I guess, but I love my dogs and this song is about saying goodbye for the last time. I guess you could listen to it and it could be about anyone close you’ve lost. But, for me that’s what it was about. I’ve no idea what Kev was thinking about when he wrote the guitar part. Probably not that! – Who knows?

You’re recording a new album.  What kind of album is it going to be?  More electronical?

Well actually at the moment I’m just putting things together. There’s no album release date as of yet and I’m working with a lot of Dance / Electronica / House producers, and I’m really loving it. It’s different for me, but as I said, I like all kinds of music and I used to listen to a lot of that kind of stuff when I worked as a Graphic Designer. It helped me concentrate…!

Are you planning to release a new song soon?  A video?

Well, the Dance songs coming out will be released through the labels that I’m working with, so couldn’t really say at the moment when any of them will actually be released. As far as videos, I might try to put something together if I have time, like a cartoon or 3D graphics video to go with one of the songs from the album or maybe even a new one. I’ve lots of experience doing that kind of thing, but I don’t want it to take me away from creating music. So we’ll have to see!

What about playing on stage?

Well last year I think I did two gigs, ha!. I do miss gigging but at the moment, I’ve not focused on that for 2012. I’ve a lot of things to catch up on outside of music that got left behind last year as I was so involved in putting the album together. I’m spending this year sorting out my house, and spending time with my family as I’ve not really done that since I first joined VJ years back. Probably next year I will concentrate more on gigging and putting some kind of tour together. Unless the Dance music takes over and then I’ll hopefully jet from club to club across the world and gain millions of fans… [laugh]

I’ve read that you did some design for Independent Record Labels and for video games.  Which ones?  What is your graphic style?

When I was really young I joined a company that made video games, they were pretty much the most popular in theUKat that time. The company grew and I stayed with them for many years. While working with them we created games like Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007, Diddy Kong Racing and many many more. I was head of graphics for a long time there, and was really lucky because I got to re-invent and re-design the Donkey Kong Character. I developed a lot of characters while I was there but that one was a cool one to work on. I loved drawing, animating and building characters, and still do a little of that at home too. I love cartoon style graphics, but anything cool. I’m a geek, and love to look at 3d Graphics and what you can do with your imagination.

What is your dream in life?

Just to be really happy with what I do? And probably to be happy with what I’ve got.

I’m one of those people who unfortunately can’t be satisfied for long, and I’m always looking for something to keep me occupied. I’ve a lovely family, and lots of nice things from hard work (and luck!) that I’ve done in the past, so I really need to try and sit back and appreciate it. The music, I’m doing as a hobby really as it’s always something I’d wanted to do.  But I do take it seriously and give it 100% effort, so if it takes off, that’d probably complete my dream after making people happy with videogames too!

In order to know you better, I would like you to answer the Proust Questionnaire.  It’s a questionnaire that was traditionally proposed by Bernard Pivot, who hosted a very well known TV show here in France called ‘Apostrophe’, and then, a few years later, by James Lipton, in his TV show ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’.  These questions were traditionally asked to their guests at the very end of their shows:

What is your favorite word?

Food.

What is your least favorite word?

Hate.

What turns you on?

Things that smell nice!

What turns you off?

Anything that smells bad.

What sound or noise do you love?

Birds singing in the morning.

What sound or noise do you hate?

The alarm clock going off in the morning.

What is your favorites curse word?

B*llocks.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

F1 Racing car driver, or Park ranger…!

What profession would you not like to do?

Politician or anything involving that.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Welcome!! – You’ve been a good boy! – You will eat curry and drink beer for the rest of time!

Kevin Drake, the magician of music

Kevin Drake started his musical career with Thirty Seconds to Mars and he did tour with them in 2001-2002.  Then he quits the band to compose and write his own music.  After a very dark period, he is back, strong and very talented.  A resurrection?

You are well known for being a former member of Thirty Seconds to Mars, but we don’t know you that well. When and how did you start playing music?

I started playing piano around 5. I also tried the flute before guitar. At 10 I got my first guitar and my mom signed me up for lessons. I took lessons weekly for about 7 years.

You play synths, guitar, bass and drums… which one did you learn first?

After piano it was guitar… then my neighbor across the street started drums so I learned from him. I got my own drum kit when I was 13 or so and have also been playing drums ever since. I only really play chords on Synth or simple melodies and I am not a master of technology when it comes to synths. I just look for a sound I like on a synth and go from there.

You were very young when you became a member of Thirty Seconds to Mars. How did you meet the band?

My friend John had a friend named Ransom. Ransom worked at Guitar Center and told John about the open call Thirty Seconds to Mars were having looking for a bass player. He didn’t want to do it so he told me about it and I showed up. I played Buddha For Mary on bass along with a few other 100 people who showed up after having 2 minutes to learn it. When I was done they asked if I was a bass player or guitar player. I told them mainly guitar and jammed Buddha For Mary on guitar with them. They took me as an additional guitarist and a month later Matt [Wachter] filled the bass slot.

How many years did you tour with them?

I only toured with them for about a year.

Why did you quit the band?

Well for starters I did QUIT the band and wasn’t fired as Jared [Leto] would like to have some believe. I quit because it was hard to work with Jared and Shannon… I didn’t really get along with Shannon and Jared was very controlling. I thought when I joined the band I would learn his songs and then be able to participate more when it came to writing new material. When I found out that Jared wanted to keep writing 99% of the songs and parts I decided that it wasn’t for me anymore. I quit in the middle of the tour in Atlanta but they convinced me to stay… I had a plane ticket and everything and refused to get back on the bus but they persuaded me to stay.

When that tour ended we were supposed to have 1 month off but a week later he [Jared Leto] called saying we were going out on tour again right away and I needed to get my things ready. I was drinking some beers at Ransom’s sisters house -I had become friends with Ransom and still am to this day- and I told her that I was going to quit Thirty Seconds to Mars. So I picked up my phone and called our manager, at the time John Witherspoon and told him I quit. He said ‘Are you sure mate?’ (He was from England) and I told him yes. A few hours later Shannon called saying to be at his house to practice and I told him ‘You didn’t hear? I quit’ he was pissed and hung up on me.

I found out later that John Witherspoon quit the next day or so as well. Then Solon [Bixler] quit a few months later. They had to retool the album artwork when I quit and instead of taking new photos they just airbrushed me out. So on the pic on the self-titled album I am the ghost in the space in between them.

        

Before                                            After

The night I quit the band I went onto the bands website and told the Echelon [name of Thirty Seconds to Mars’s fans] that I had quit and wished the band nothing but success. My post was only up for about an hour before Jared removed it and blocked me from the site. I can’t say for sure if Jared was the one who started a rumor that I was fired for beating up a female fan but whether he started the rumor or not he never denied it to people when he knew I quit, so that was pretty cruel on his part because some people to this day still believe that awful rumor. And if I really wanted to clear my name all I would have to do would have anyone ask John Witherspoon, Solon or Matt and they would tell you I quit.

Who did you work with during all these years?

I wrote a lot of songs for myself and worked with my friend Kris Jung on a band called BlackCast and was in a band called Dillusion with Jason Evigan who is now the singer of The After Midnight Project. But mainly I just drank and partied a lot during the years between 2002 when I quit and 2006 when I got arrested for DUI [Driving Under the Influence].

You write songs too, for Kev Bayliss, Melissa Mishelle and Polaroïd Kiss. What inspires you when you write?

I don’t know where the inspiration comes from… it just seems to come natural to me. If I want to write a sad song I focus on something sad and the music comes to me… focus on happy and I have a happy song.

Can you please tell me more about your collaboration with Polaroïd Kiss?

Polaroid Kiss is composed of Brandun Reed and Ian Pickering -check Wikipedia for more info of all the people involved- I had been following the progress of the group on Facebook and I made a random comment on one of the songs Brandun posted saying ‘I wish I had played on that track’ He said ‘Maybe you can still’. So I started messaging him and next thing you know we were collaborating on some songs.

You’re a multi-instrumentalist, do you think you’ll release your own album one day?

I might. I put so much random stuff up on Soundcloud or Youtube that I have about 6 or 7 albums worth of original material. But if I were to pick my favorite ones and go into the studio it would either be an instrumental album since I don’t sing well or I would have to have guest singers. I guess if people wanted to hear it I would do it… but for now I am happy just doing my original solo songs for myself and whomever happens to listen on Soundcloud or Youtube.

Youtube

 

Soundcloud

I’ve seen that you’re a painter too. What is your style and which painters do you like?

I know nothing about art and haven’t painted in a few years. Most of my paintings were done in a drunken blackout and a lot of the ones I have posted on Facebook were done by my ex girlfriend Lauren. So my style is no style. I have done 2 or 3 that I am proud of but the rest are no better than a grade school kid fingerpainting! (laughs)

What are your passions apart from music?

I don’t have many passions apart from music. As shallow as it sounds I would like to just make a decent amount of money from my music so I can send my daughter to college and make sure she is taken care officially.

What is your dream in life? 

My dream in life is to just be happy and make my daughter, family and friends proud.

In order to know you better, I would like you to answer the Proust Questionnaire.  It’s a questionnaire that was traditionally proposed by Bernard Pivot, who hosted a very well known TV show here in France called ‘Apostrophe‘, and then, a few years later, by James Lipton, in his TV show ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio‘.  These questions were traditionally asked to their guests at the very end of their shows:

What is your favorite word?

Fuck

What is your least favorite word?

Definitely

What turns you on?

A woman who is sexy and smart

What turns you off?

Fake people and liars

What sound or noise do you love?

Waves crashing

What sound or noise do you hate?

Alarm clocks

What is your favorites curse word?

Motherfucker

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Ninja

What profession would you not like to do?

Politician

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Something in an unknown language with an unknown sound that resonates through your entire being, of all that once was and all that will ever be, that explains everything and makes you feel pure peace and love… all within one unknown word.

Bonaventure: ‘Our dream is to touch people with our music’

Bonaventure is a young American band from Nashville.  Andy Albert (ex-Holiday Parade) and Dan Smyers (ex-Transition) met a few months ago thanks to a common friend.  After releasing their second single ‘I Dare You’ on 16th April, they are announcing ‘Come Hell or High Water’, a 4 songs EP for 15th May and planning a tour in the next few months.  The quality of their music, their lyrics and their voices are going to conquer the world.

First of all, thank you for your kindness. As we don’t really know who you are, could you please make a short introduction to yourselves?

Andrew: I’m Andrew and I sing for the band Bonaventure.

Dan: I’m Dan and I play guitar for the band Bonaventure as well. We are a Rock/Pop band based in Nashville, TN.

Where do you come from?  What did you study at school?  Which instrument did you learn to play?

Andrew: I grew up in Atlanta, GA, only a few hours south of Nashville. I actually went to school to study Economics and Entrepreneurship. Not exactly what you would expect from a budding musician, but it is actually more useful than you’d think.  I started playing guitar and singing when I was about 13 years old, and haven’t stopped since.

Dan:  I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I grew up there and went to school at Carnegie Mellon University to study Finance.  I have been playing guitar and singing since I was very young and have played in numerous bands over the years.

What is your musical background?  Which bands or singers did influence you the most?

Dan: I started touring when I was 15 in a band called Transition. We traveled around the country several times and toured with bands like MXPX, The Rocket Summer and Reel Big Fish. My favorite artists include Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace), and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Andrew: I have been playing in bands since I first started playing guitar, but didn’t really do it professionally until a few years back when I started recording/touring with my old band, Holiday Parade. My favorite singers/artists are Ryan Adams, The Counting Crows, and Augustana. We both grew up listening to a ton of 90’s alternative, and those influences definitely shine through in our music.

You both started to be band members very young.  Dan, you belonged to Transition for several years and then started a solo career, and Andrew, you were the leader of Holiday Parade.  How did you become musicians?

Andrew:  Music is one of those things that has always been a huge part of my life. No matter how distracted or sidetracked I sometimes get doing other things, at the end of the day music has always been the core of it all. As I said before, I have been in bands since I first picked up the guitar when I was 13, since then it’s just become a bigger and bigger part of my life.

Dan:  Similarly to Andrew, I have been playing in bands and wanting to make music my life since I was very young. I had the chance to sign to a record label and start touring when I was about 15, and ever since I first felt the rush I get from playing in front of people, I haven’t been able to stop. I took a break for a few years when I went to college, but the time away only made me want it more. Since we put Bonaventure together last year we’ve been going non-stop with it all, and I couldn’t be happier.

You met each other thanks to mutual friends a few months ago.  How did you start your collaboration?

Dan:  We met through a good friend of ours who we both have known for years. We were both looking for someone like-minded to collaborate with, and when we started talking and exchanging song ideas things fell into place very quickly. Since then we have moved to Nashville and have been writing/recording full time and are getting ready to release our debut EP, “Come Hell or High Water” on May 15th.

For those who did not watch your video ‘Introducing Bonaventure’, could you please tell us how you choose the name of your band?

Andrew: I was living in downtown Atlanta at the time and Dan was still up in Pittsburgh. Whenever I would hit a wall writing or get stuck on a lyric idea, I would walk laps around the block in my little downtown neighborhood. On this particular day, Dan and I were trying to think of a name for the band, something that would be synonymous with the sound and vibe of the music.  After about an hour of making laps around the block, I looked up and noticed the street sign adjacent to my house was called “Bonaventure Blvd”. Something about that word stood out to me, so I ran it by Dan and a few other people and everyone loved it. We decided to run with it and it’s been the name ever since.

Andrew, you’re from Georgia and Dan, from Pennsylvania, why living in Nashville?

Dan: First of all, Nashville was central to where we were living previously, so that made it easier to meet in the middle.  Also, it is much more affordable than New York or LA, so that played a big part in our decision to relocate.

Andrew: Nashville is an incredible hub for songwriters, musicians, producers, and music in general, so it is a great place for us to be right now as we are developing Bonaventure.  No matter where you go in Nashville, you are constantly surrounded by music, and that is certainly inspiring.

What inspires you when you write your music and your lyrics?

Andrew:  We are inspired by many things, but as a general statement, life itself.  Life throws you lots of twists and turns, and what better way to cope with changes than writing a song. 

Dan:  Like Andrew said, we are very inspired by all facets of life, but a lot of our songs are inspired by the ups and downs of past relationships.  Being in our twenties, we are very familiar with this, and are able to easily translate these emotions into our music. 

Do you both write music and lyrics?

Andrew:  Yes, we both work together on songs.

‘These Shoes’, your first single, was released in November 2011?  Why this choice?

Dan:  We chose to release ‘These Shoes’, first simply because it is a light-hearted, fun song that almost everyone can appreciate.  Since it is slightly different than the rest of our EP, we chose to release it on its own. 

Andrew:  We love that song, and it has become a fan favorite, so we are glad that we released it on its own.  We still really believe in the tune, and think it stands just fine on its own! 

Your second single ‘I Dare You’ was first aired on 16 April.  Are you going to release an album in the next months?

Andrew:  Yes, we will be releasing an EP on May 15th, and it will feature 4 new songs, one being ‘I Dare You’.

[For more information, go to this websitehttp://bonaventure.bigcartel.com/]

You seem to really appreciate your audience and the people that are following you from the very beginning.  Are you planning to appear on stage soon?

Dan:  We absolutely can’t thank everyone who has taken the time to support us enough, especially since we are still an up and coming band at the moment.  It really means a lot to us when people take a chance on a new band, and we will never forget that.  We are planning our first tour very soon, and once we start, we will be on the road nonstop!

What is your dream in life? 

Andrew:  Our dream is to touch people with our music.  Whether we are playing for an audience of 1, or 1 million, we want our music to hit home with people on a personal level.

Dan:  We don’t measure success in money earned or records sold, but the extent to which people are moved by the music we create.  If we can inspire someone, or brighten their day with our songs, then we have succeeded.

In order to know you better, I would like you to answer the Proust Questionnaire.  It’s a questionnaire that was traditionally proposed by Bernard Pivot, who hosted a very well known TV show here in France called ‘Apostrophe’, and then, a few years later, by James Lipton, in his TV show ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’.  It was a tradition for them to ask these questions to their guests at the very end of their shows.

What is your favorite word?

Naveed

What is your least favorite word?

#WINNING

What turns you on?

Confidence

What turns you off?

Insecurity

What sound or noise do you love?

Rock Organ

What sound or noise do you hate?

Nashville Cicadas!

What is your favorites curse word?

Fuck

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

College Professor

What profession would you not like to do?

Truck Driver

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

The pizza buffet is that way!