Musician Snapshots: Kevin Hewick

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Today’s Guest: Kevin Hewick

Please give us an overview of who you are/ what you do and how long you’ve been a professional musician?

I celebrate (?) 40 years of appearing in public venues this year. I had attended Countesthorpe College in Leicestershire which was a very enlightened and experimental place, and had been in a band called Life as early as 1972. I was ‘music mad’ and by the time I was 15 was writing songs/jamming etc. However, I lost this youthful burst of energy somehow though had fun with friends in ‘bedroom bands.’ We’d drink and make up things and make a racket but none of them progressed to performing anywhere.

Then punk rock happened, The ‘anybody can do it’ ethos reached me but I couldn’t do the year zero thing, pretending you’d never listened to Pink Floyd and all that.. but it got me going, writing songs seriously, making tapes and sending them to record companies. For 2 years nothing stuck and then Tony Wilson And Factory Records said yes which threw me overnight into some historical and hysterical situations. My first ‘proper’ gig was on a bill with Joy Division, A Certaun Ratio and Section 25.

It’s hard to imagine now but someone on their own with an instrument was a rarity then on the gig circuit; because people had seen media coverage of punks pogoing and spitting solo performers often faced a lot of hostility.

I saw Patrik Fitzgerald get loads of stuff thrown at him and jeered at when he played at the famous Clash Rock Against Racism show in Hackney in 1978. So much for the supposed idealism at that event. It was tough and then Billy Bragg came along and became the one who became a multi -millionaire.

My ‘angular’, weirdly explicit songs came from the edge of a breakdown that I actually had by 1984.

It was a commercial, artistic, financial, emotional disaster. I gave up for 4 years. Dust gathered in the guitars. Then I started making the world’s slowest ever comeback. I still haven’t come back. I’ve experienced everything from unexplainable rapture to total humiliation through music, just like life. So, it’s true: Music is life. That’s the bottom line.

Would you consider your self part time/ full time musician – do you do anything else job wise?

I am a musician 25 hours a day.. but I’ve always run at a loss financially.. but when somebody says it’s my hobby I go “No!” I’m like a priest or a nun, in fact I’d say a nun really, it’s a vocation, it’s holy to me.

I worked 6 years at a social security office, a place where quite a few punk rock types lurked. Ian Curtis of Joy Division worked in a similar job in an employment office, he was a ‘full time musician’ for 8 months and then killed himself. I get that.

I then had a time on the dole and I’ve now done 32 years – 32!!! – working with adults with learning disabilities. A heaven and hell job: The hell being some of the other staff. Never our friends who we have supported. They are some of the finest people I have ever met. I saw the ways of the ‘old school’ including meeting men who had had lobotomies in the 50s, and I saw modern progress and then privatisation and everything going sideways, a bland modern box ticking culture. I blame Ed Sheehan.

I just wish I could reach more people, I’m not important, the songs are what’s important…

How did you get to the point of making music your job?

I went full time in the 80s and ended up on the dole, you could regard that as like your government grant as a musician then, but in my case I ended up having a breakdown. With my care work I enjoyed fantastic flexibility in return for some long hours, 14 years of alternate day and night shifts, but hey you could sit with an acoustic at 3am and write a song. In some ways I’ve been very lucky and unlucky all at the same time but my job was often great for also working in music. Even in an office job they can’t stop you thinking. They can’t stop you writing lyrics either.

Do you travel a lot for your music job? Where has music taken you geographically?

I’ve maybe done too many locally. People take me for granted even though I constantly write and experiment with styles and like to do a very inclusive show that is like a dialogue with my friends the audience. Or a confrontation with my enemies.

I have and still go further afield, London and Manchester especially and quite a bit in the East Midlands. I’ve played in Scotland but never in Wales yet. I’ve played abroad. Quite a bit in Holland and Germany especially, and in France, Belgium, Italy, Finland, Sweden and Norway. It’s amazing to go there and nearly always be treated better than you are in the UK, I highly recommend getting gigs abroad subject to our new Brexit system of course, a great idea to end our free movement as musicians.

Did you train in school or ever receive lessons/ take exams to do what you do now?

I was shown a few chords by a lovely guy called Rob who died young, 19. I was 12 and it profoundly shocked me. A couple of years later I had a few lessons with a great old jazz guitarist Reg Coleman but he was very anti-electric guitar. I actually lied when he asked me had I got one. I said no. It just didn’t work so I just played along with Records like Led Zeppelin. That did it. Countesthorpe College was like a liberation. You could do anything. It had lost that years later when the Kasabian guys attended it, but in our time; it was all about freedom.

I personally find exams repressive. I realise you’ve got to hit certain standards to be say a classical violinist or whatever but for me, no, not my thing.

Can you remember some of the very first steps you took to becoming a professional singer?

We played at Countesthorpe College, concerts we called Sounds then Sounds 2, Sounds 3. I bet you can’t guess that the next one was called. It was wonderful but I got to into a college cocoon. We did the odd thing outside of the campus like a Wild West show with music and dancers and a storyline on parks and in pubs and so on but otherwise no.

I was just thrown into when Tony Wilson Of Factory Records said come and play at this show and it turned out to be with Joy Division topping the bill! Soon I was on a tour opening for my great song-writing hero Roy Harper. I was greener than grass and cringe at what I was like then!

Did anyone’s advice really resonate with you when you were starting out and do you mind sharing it. Also; is there anything you learnt early on that has stayed with you during your career?

I had 3 years of Tony Wilson, one of the greatest mavericks in the music business, and one of the most exasperating. Tony thought I was a genius and he was right but it’s just not my world, never has been, never will be. I am closer to death now at my age and I will die knowing the wars and the cruelty and corruption aren’t over.

But as a musician you can create beauty. You can in film, painting, sculpture, poetry… Anything! But you can sing your beauty in music. I look like an old bald bloke with a walking stick, which I am, but I can still sing my beauty.

Something to do on the bus – Kevin Hewick – 2007 Pink Box Records

What are some scales/ warm ups you do when gigging? Is there anything else you do to prepare for a performance?

I like to think. Everybody says ‘Hi’ and it’s lovely but really – I find it best to be quiet and alone.

It may be like a party, if you can party then do a great show that’s great but I like being backstage if there is one. I’m not there to party and drink and party. I’ve gone onstage drunk years ago and I made a right fool of myself. I’ve been the only one in a dressing room NOT hoovering up speed or coke but it’s just not my scene.

What equipment have you invested in to become a professional musician?

Loads of guitars and pedals and amps and notebooks and thousands of pounds-worth of studio time. Yes, I know you can do it at home, but I think that suits synths and beats, Grime and Rap, those kind of human and machine artforms. The old guitar – bass – keyboards – drums and brass/strings/woodwind world I am personally in, its better in a studio for me,

Are you doing your dream job now – where else would you love to get to with your career?

I just wish I could reach more people, I’m not important, the songs are what’s important…

I worked 6 years at a social security office, a place where quite a few punk rock types lurked. Ian Curtis of Joy Division worked in a similar job in an employment office, he was a ‘full time musician’ for 8 months and then killed himself. I get that.

What is an aspect that you feel is not considered enough when people are starting out with gigging/taking their singing to a professional level that you think would benefit them?

Mutual respect, taking care of people’s mental health and don’t be mean to anybody. It can be great fun for everyone but care for each other

Share with us – one of the highlight’s or great memory you have from your career to date?

I love playing small intimate places where I can do what I like. I miss The Criterion in Leicester. I could do two to four+ hour long sets and it was like my Royal Albert Hall. I’ve done some amazing support slots with artists I admire.

You can be as they say “King for a day, fool for a lifetime”, so when I did something like Paul Morley’s Meltdown Festival tribute at the Purcell Rooms at The South Bank with Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Ray Davis popping in and you’re like hanging out with the man who wrote ‘Waterloo Sunset’ it’s like, wow.. and then you are back in Leicester walking through the rain. I once played at Finnish Festival with 15,000 people there one week, a Manchester wine bar with 6 people in the audience the next. ‘Them’s is the breaks’

For a bit of fun – tell us about when something went really wrong – and what you learnt from it?

Everything goes wrong! It’s all one big awful mistake! I was in a band where the bass player quit in mid song in front of 400 people, he just walked off. I once even had two lads walk on stage and ‘moon’.

And the time a very ‘high’ lady danced around me as I sang and played guitar and then she came close and put her hand between my legs. I pushed her away and then she lost her balance fell off the stage and for a moment I thought the worst, but she was ok.

If you could offer advice to someone starting out.. what would you tell them?

Enjoy it but think deeply about it and try to be original, and try and move your audience.

Ignore Ed Sheeran.

Listen to Lou Reed ‘Metal Machine Music’. No melody. No rhythm. No beginning. No end.

Have no quarter with sexism and racism.

Finally, where can we find your music/pages online?

You can find me on Spotify and Bandcamp is it? I am on Facebook and Twitter a lot just as plain Kevin Hewick.



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