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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!

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