Cyclic Selects: Kevin Purdy


I first heard the music of Kevin Purdy via his Sydney based three piece Tooth and their woozy tripped out psychedelic masterpiece 2001’s Sirens From Here to Titan. It’s safe to say I hadn’t heard too much like it before. It was like 17 genres in one, Krautrock, psychedelia, downtempo, prog all enmeshed into one grand coherant vision. Whilst Tooth eventually signed off sometime after their similarly mindblowing 2006 album Mudularking, Purdy was concurrently releasing solo albums. A multi instrumentalist and composer, his first album Kevolution appeared 1999 and this year saw the release of his seventh album, the imaginatively titled Kevin Purdy. While his solo works have moved between lush cinematic pop, to minimal ambience, and more than a few other diverse locations, he seems to possess a unique musical filtering system, incorporating so many diverse influences, yet retaining his own distinct identity.

You can check out reviews of his 2010 album Deviant Nature here, 2012 album Illumination here, 2015 album Body Variations here and 2017 album In Transit here. We also spoke with him in 2011 about his duo Geoff Kevin with Geoff Towner (El Mopa/ Decoder Ring). You can check that out here.

With the release of Kevin Purdy we figured it was probably time to find out about the music that moves him.


Before I get started on the selection, I just want to say, I’m a music freak. I’ve been crazy about music since I was a toddler, making music was always a part of me and listening to music was my greatest joy. I grew up to the sounds of Girl Groups, British beat, the Troggs and Traffic, dancing in the loungeroom to the 3 in 1 playing Dave & Ansell Collin’s Double Barrel, along with Yummy Yummy Yummy and the Eagle Rock. I started buying records when I was 12 and never stopped. Every style, genre and movement I liked, that I discovered, would be feverishly devoured, pouring over NMEs, Melody Maker, The Face and later Mojo, Uncut, The Wire and biographies. My appetite has led me through pop, rock, glam, prog, new wave, punk, post punk, jazz, psychedelia, soul, R&B, funk, Jamaican, Brazilian, latin, hip hop, trip hop, jungle, folk rock, post rock, experimental, ambient, krautrock, rockabilly, western swing, cajun, surf, soundtracks, sunshine pop and exotica.

The reason I say all of this is because I Love a lot of music and could rave on for weeks about The Byrds, John Cale, The Kinks, Lee Scratch Perry, Neu!, Elvis, Elvis Costello, Wire, James Brown, Al Green, Television, Zappa, Wu Tang, Morricone, Ornette Coleman, Luke Vibert and Fats Domino. They’ve all moved me, they’ve all shook my world, but where can you put a line? Which album is the more important? Did discovering that album change my life? Of course, but how much? A lot of stuff here is from my formative years, I guess that’s because that was when I was more a clean slate. A lot of records I love, especially 40’s, 50’s 60’s black music aren’t really albums, they’re collections and if you’re talking James Brown or Miles Davis, where do you start, let alone stop. So I have to focus on particular albums that set a marker, that still hold a deep place in my heart. So here we go….

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (Parlophone)
This is where it all started for me. A five year old magnetised to the wild technicolour beast that was the Beatles. I saw the film, at the movies, around when it came out. I adored every note, every chord, every harmony, with all those weird 7ths and diminished colours “Iiiiiiiiiiii should have known better…”. Every dress up day at school I came as a Beatle, well more a Beetle, but I was five. Being the youngest in my family of four siblings I had the whole Beatle journey unravelled before me from album to album and I love every one, except for side 2 of Abbey Road. This album still sends shivers and the film…forget about it…ecstasy! The film was revolutionary in in its use of Nouvelle Vague and auteur stylings, that were well admired by Scorsese and the like. It was one of the earliest music video clips, where the song made you think of the visual. It was the unveiling of their more Dylanesque and avant personas, moving away from their rock & roll, teen formula.

David Bowie – Aladin Sane (RCA)
I Loooooove Bowie. Well I did until I was 22 (resuming again in my late 30’s) before he went all pop weird with duos and shit and lost his ‘art’. Granted, I was drenching myself in Coltrane and experimental oblique musics and throwing away my childhood whims. But in those hazy teenage years for an outsider kid with a penchant for the ‘weird’, Bowie was a god, I had every album. Hardly a day went by without listening to Bowie, but the album that resonated the most for me, digging deep into my teen soul was Aladin Sane. To be honest, please forgive me, it was erotic. It made me all tingley and warm, it hugged me, it made me want to sing at the top of my lungs. The cover is album cover perfection. The progression of his albums almost logically tracked my journey as a young human, from glam teen to art rock deviant in my early 20’s. They all resonated intensely through me, all holding their own life shattering effects but Aladin Sane holds the highest place. As a composer, it is a high water mark as far as revealing the power and the magic of music and where you can take the listener, if you’re lucky.

Brian Eno – Before and After Science (Island Records)
I first saw Eno on telly with Roxy Music around ‘74, him cavorting with a stack of synths and processors, dressed in gold, mascara and feathers, me thrilled, my father, nearby, horrified. It was probably Virginia Plain. Roxy quickly became part of my coterie of lairy friends, along with Lou Reed, Mott, Marc Bolan and Alice Cooper. I, of course, bought every album as they came out, but Low, by Bowie, made Eno’s presence electrically vital in my life. The first album I bought of his was the newly released Before and After Science, which I flogged mercilessly, it came with a set of cards I Blu Tacked to my bedroom wall. Eno’s presence in my life helped create the me I wanted to be. A non rock outsider, with intelligence and style. I quickly amassed everything I could get of his. Each album resonated with me intensely. The first two, which apart from being fucking awesome, were a powerful introduction to the world of composing mad art forms, almost from the subconscious. I became a devotee of his cut and paste and textural ambient ideas, as well as the bash things, go looney and see what happens template. Oceans in Time owes a lot to tracks like King’s Lead Hat and song’s like Julie With… and By This River have been the core of a great deal of my work as Purdy aka Kevin Purdy.

Captain Beefheart & His Magic band – Mirror Man (Buddah Records)
This album is a trip! It’s hard to say if it’s his best and it may not be officially be an album as such, as it was released way after it was originally recorded. This album is from recording sessions they did for Buddah Records that were shelved, then they brought in Ry Cooder to coordinate and play on their next lot of sessions that became Safe As Milk, another perfect album by the Don. The Mirror man sessions were a wild swelling of free squalling artforms, tying together Howlin’ Wolf, Ornette Coleman and almost Arabic sounds doing a Sufi dance, which sweeps you into the air and swirls you around. I lived Alpha House in Newtown, around ‘83 ‘84, with, alongside others, my friend Stephen Nibblet. Stephen (maybe Steven) was a wonderfully eccentric cat who would delight me with long sessions of late night disc spinning, his small portable turntable on the floor and his collection of finger snappin’ glory. Fuelled by a constant flow of Nescafe, Styvo reds and weed. We’d end up, on the rooftop at dawn with the boombox watching the sunrise. During those hours we marvelled over Alex Chilton, Elvis at Sun, Charlie Feathers, The Cramps and Suicide, but Mirror Man was the shit, and it filled me with a mad passion to make music somewhere as good as this.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Westbound Records)
I’d know of the P Funk thang from the late 70’s via my musical partner in Aural Indifference, Brian Hall. We recorded a very cool cassette album called The Sound of Indifference, which we released independently, as well as a 7” under the name Denial, on M2 Records. Anyhow, Brian had a copy of One Nation Under a Groove, which I guess is my introduction to the whole James Brown, George Clinton world. I thought it was cool, but I had other things on my mind. Some years later, after digging deeply into the world of Rhythm & Blues, which led me to Soul, which led me to Funk, I discovered Parliament, now I thought that shit was extra special and I bought everything I could find and spent all of my spare time trying to play the guitar just like that. Around that time I moved to Melbourne (long story) along with R&B and a swag of southern American roots music I started listening to a lot of stuff like Dr John, Sly & the Family Stone, Hendrix and crazy rock soul fusion gear and then, the gates of heaven opened when Westbound rereleased Maggot Brain and America Eats its Young by Funkadelic for the first time in 15 years. I was electrified ! Maggot Brain took everything I loved, turned it upside down, blew it up and stuck it back together again. George Clinton was the kind of cat that you couldn’t say no to and luckily for all of us, Westbound happened to be a label that let him do whatever he wanted to. You want a 10 minute guitar solo with backwards slowed down vocals? Sure. It was challenging, revolutionary, evolutionary. There was no ruffled shirts and no tricky dance steps. He and his glorious troupe of sensational freaks took music somewhere else completely, defying stereotypes and being risky, poignant and funny.

John Coltrane – Ascension (Impulse)
In my late teens into my early 20’s I was mad on music that went outside the boundaries, that took no prisoners. This included Pere Ubu, Rip Rig & Panic, The Boys Next Door/Birthday Party, P.I.L, The Contortions and many other wild experimental and industrial sound makers, but I’d never caught onto Jazz. I’d listened to a plethora of artists that were heavily influenced by Jazz, but I didn’t know that, I’d never connected the dots. Then, through the guitarist in my band Madroom I heard some wonderfully bent and unconventional Jazz that really struck me and the dots started sticking, I went to Didgeridoo Records in Darlinghurst after breakfast at the Tropicana and I said to this guy Graham, who 20 years later was my boss at Hot Records, I said to him ‘I want to get the kind of music that’s wild, like the Birthday Party, but with screaming saxophones’ or something like that. He went off and came back with Ascension. He put it on the turntable and within a minute I said ‘yeah, that’s it!’. Now Ascension ain’t everyone’s cup of tea, even the drummer on the session, Elvin Jones, said ‘I’m out of here!’ It was the beginning of Coltrane’s next phase, which a lot of people can’t cope with. The session is two tracks played freely by eleven musicians, at the same time. This was exactly what I wanted, to shift and move forward. Along with that I took home the Archie Shepp & John Coltrane album New Thing at Newport, which is phenomenal. I took those two albums home and played them continuously for days on end, probably driving the neighbours insane. My life was never the same after that. Like people say about acid, it opened me to a whole new way of approaching my art, my drumming, my writing, what books I read, what films I watched, what was worthwhile and what was trite. I now have a ridiculously large collection of Coltrane’s albums but I’ll always remember the effect Ascension had on me.

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (Capitol Records)
I grew up with the Beach Boys, I grew up going to the beach. The whole beatnik, surfnik jive, stripey shirts, goatees, Big Daddy Roth Ratfink decals, bubblegum, dragsters, beach party films and all of that shtick were big in my universe. I always wanted to be 10 years older than I was. All of the Beach Boys singles were integral to my youth, but when on Christmas day, probably ‘69, Pet Sounds turned up that was IT! That album, with it’s stupid Australian version cover was glued to the turntable. It was divine. Brian Wilson succeeded his mission, for this kid from Revesby, to create a teenage symphony to God. I agree with the chorus that Sloop John B maybe should not have been there, but it still gives me shivers. Pet Sounds was the sunshine pop album everybody wanted to make afterwards, but they all failed, they didn’t capture the melancholy, the dreaming, the warmth and the musical glory. This album is alone and will forever be perfect.

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (MGM Records)
Lou Reed entered into my life around ‘73, via my older brother, with Rock & Roll Animal and Transformer vying for position on the 8 Track and turntable with Bowie et al. I was an immediate convert, adoring every album as they entered my life. In no time at all The Velvet Underground entered the picture, becoming a vital life force in my life. Oddly, out of all of their insanely perfect releases, the third, self titled album and Live in ‘69 were the first to enter my stratosphere. The Velvet Underground album is one of the most important albums in my life on so many levels. Sterling Morrison’s guitar on this album has always been a cornerstone for my own playing. Lou instructed him to not play blues licks or anything obvious, but he was already on it, he made his guitar sing like an angel, being insanely loose and fluid. Lou and Doug’s vocal harmonies are beyond comparison and it is the pinnacle of Lou’s songwriting, everything illuminated. Murder Mystery is the crowning glory, it prepared my way for a freaky future. Eno, Bowie, Alex Chilton and many more agree.

Pink Floyd – Relics (Harvest/HMV)
I love everything Pink Floyd put out, before The Wall. I first heard them when my brother got a bootleg 8 Track of Dark Side of the Moon. The albums I discovered next were Meddle, Obscured by the Clouds and Relics. Now Relics isn’t an album as such, but a compilation and that’s something I’ve avoided here, but Relics is so much more than a compilation, it’s the album you had when you didn’t have the first 5 albums, and, it’s got Syd Barrett on it! A lot of my discovery of him and the band with him and without him came later, but for a while Relics was the shit. I was crazy about it. Arnold Lane, See Emily Play and BIKE for god’s sake – Jeeesus! I fell asleep once with the headphones on with Bike playing, and the wacky looney bird ending fed into my dreaming and in this dream I was being attacked by hundreds of big black beetles (they existed back then). The light came on, waking me up and there’s my mum looking freaked, having been woken up by my cries in the night and me in big muff headphones not hearing a word she’s saying. The album was the labels idea to sell the rest of the early catalogue while …Moon was riding the charts. It certainly worked for me. If you’ve avoided Floyd because you think they’re old people hippy shit please don’t. There stuff with Syd is freaking mad groundbreaking avant shit (as are his two solo albums) and their next few follow up albums without him are the genetic formula that is the essence of Amon Duul ll, Popol Vuh and other many other German and English experimental groups and pushing forward, many of the influences on the Orb and other ambient Techno sounds.

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (Impulse)
This album was a revelation for me. I was diving headlong into jazz, getting kapowed by the magnificence of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, The New York Contemporary Five, Archie Shepp et al, but then I bought this album. It just didn’t make sense. It was labeled The New Wave of Jazz, in some place the new folk wave. It was like like listening to Bulgarian folk music compared to the other “Jazz” I’d heard. It was a shining example of what many great artists from that field have expressed, that they don’t play jazz. Jazz being the original slang for gutbucket music of the New Orleans bordellos, it meant sex. This album had such a potent effect on my perceptions of musical forms. It directed me back to Ellington and other greats, who were composers firstly, with a desire to entertain but also, more importantly to make buoyant, progressive, intelligent music, that was a kick in the butt to white America’s perception to what an African American was capable of. This is an album that is difficult to describe, it is Mingus’ music. I have been amassing his work ever since. He is a glorious example of an uncompromising, intensely passionate artist who took no prisoners.

Kevin Purdy is out now via Soft Records. You can find it here.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.