The Hiram Key released an album about a month ago and they are about to tour the U.S.A.and play a few countries in Europe, as well. The frontman in the band is singer and guitarist Gary Clark, who also sings for The Cureheads, the original tribute band to The Cure.
tribe4mian: So, Gary, this is not the first time you’ve been on such a big tour. Since 1990 you’ve been playing around the world. What feeling do you get with The Cureheads and how different is that from the one you experience with The Hiram Key? You recently released an excellent album, “Amerikafka”. What does Kafka mean to you?
GARY CLARK: Playing with The Cureheads is more of a party than a gig. The audiences belong to The Cure and not us. We feel more like we are going to one big Cure party rather than playing our own show. We get loads of people who sing along with us and afterwards tell us we took them back to the first time they danced with their wife at the school disco to “Lovecats” or “Boys Don’t Cry”. The main letdown, though, is when people tell you how great the show was… you get a little depressed as it’s not your own music. I don’t know how classical musicians who play Mendelssohn or Holst get truly fulfilled from what they do. It is tremendous fun, though, and it has, as you say, taken us all over the world. There are only a handful of bands from London that ever get to buy huge fuck-off amplifiers and nice guitars and play them really loud in full stadiums. We’ve done it several times now and it never ceases to amaze us or blow our minds. We’ve been bloody lucky and taken advantage of every single second and enjoyed it to the max.
The album Amerikafka was inspired by Kafka’s novel Amerika. it’s a book that spoke volumes to me when I was living all over Europe. Every song is the story of a different side of my midlife crisis and I tagged each song onto a character from the book.
Kafka is for me somebody that reflects my own personality. I know morally and intelligently all the moves I should make in life and I know them at the time that I make the decision to do something completely different and end up in another scrape. (I get bored very easily.) When Kafka reports his character’s thoughts and actions, I see my own thought processes mapped out on the floor and it amuses me highly that I am able to empathize with someone I never met who is reading me like a book too (before I was even born). He was ahead of his time. I am sure that were he alive now he would be employed by the FBI as a serial killer expert. Nobody knows human nature better than Kafka.
tribe4mian: When you tour the States, you’ll be doing so with the American band, Strap On Halo, a new up-and-coming band. What do you think about the new generation of the so-called Gothic scene?
GARY CLARK: Strap On Halo, for me, are superb. They have taken sounds from Xmal-Desuchland, Siouxsie, NIN, Christian Death and made something totally new and shiny and big.
I listen to online radio a lot (Snuff Monkey, Nightbreed, Cathedral 13, etc.) and I follow a lot of Mick Mercer’s recommendations for new music. There is definitely a stirring in the belly of the scene. You must remember that the scene is over 35 years old and it has encompassed a lot of stuff… excellent, mediocre and total shit. TBH I have no idea of what Goth is anymore. I wouldn’t even describe The HK music as pure Goth. I would say it’s Goth by the merits of its influences and by the subjects that it broaches being what a lot of the scene might be interested in. I’m listening to a few amazing bands right now including Deadheaven, Luxury Stranger, NightPorter, New Zero God, Lotus Feed, and Last Cry, to name a few.
Some of the older bands have recently come out with some amazing stuff, too. Inkubus Sukkubus, The March Violets, The Ugly Bugs (GLJ). It’s interesting as I was never into The March Violets before, but they recently released a tune called “The Dandelion King”. I saw the video when I was pissed and loved it and went back to check it the next day. I played it five times back to back. I haven’t done that since Bowie’s “Heathen” album was released.
There is a bit of negativity on the scene at the moment that seems to be fueled by some of the older members of the scene who don’t ever like to see people come surfing past on a black wave that they never saw coming… it’s a real shame that they don’t just get in the studio and jump in…
tribe4mian: What connection do you have with The Cure? I know you worked with some of them in the past.
GARY CLARK: I don’t really have any connection to The Cure apart from the fact that I play occasionally in a tribute band to them LOL…. Our guitarist is now Robert’s personal assistant and guitar tech.
Perry Bamonte remains a close friend and LoL and I met up in La a couple of years ago for lunch and subsequently recorded a track together for The Album, he is a really sorted and gentle man.
tribe4mian: Can you please give us the names of the rest of the musicians that will be on stage with you for The Memento Mori U.S. Tour?
GARY CLARK: I will be playing the US tour as a two-piece with my long time guitarist and friend Darren Botrill. For the European Tour Darren and I will be joined by Belle and Irish Dave (ex Killing ~Miranda).
tribe4mian: How difficult is it for a band to function when the members are living in different countries?
GARY CLARK: With the internet it’s very easy. For the upcoming European tour my band has been meeting up inLondonwith a click track which has my vocals. Living in Istanbul, it’s not always economical or viable to come back to the UK very often. The internet is a real blessing.
tribe4mian: What is Robert Smith’s idea about The Cureheads?
GARY CLARK: I have no idea. I guess he is fairly ambivalent. Though he has always been kind and supportive. Jeremy mentions that he enjoys hearing about our scrapes and adventures.
tribe4mian: I know you were also associated with the band, Nosferatu. How was it working with
them and what lasting impressions do you have of your time spent with them?
GARY CLARK: Nosferatu is a band that has always been plagued by neurosis and bad luck. They should be far more popular and in the main-stream than they currently are. When I joined the band they were surfing the 1990’s second generation wave of Goth. They were becoming extremely well known due to the shear guts and determination of Andy and Vlad. They (we after I joined) went out in all weathers, spent every spare bit of cash they had on printing up fanzines and flyers and forced themselves out onto the scene.
Again the bitter twisted old farts of 1980‘s Goth decided to give them a hard time too, as they (just like the remnants of the 1990’s scene), like to do today. They took a lot of shit from the old guard of the then-new scene and ignored every word. We rehearsed really hard. We toured really hard and we played any venue that would take us.
I was really proud to be part of it. I had no part in the music writing though and was only permitted to write lyrics and vocal melodies which frustrated me endlessly. I also found Andy very hard to get along with and so began a 20 year personality clash haha…
I have always thought they should have done more after I left and pushed over into the mainstream. Unfortunately they never did. Though recently they released a really good new album. It’s been widely well-received and they have shifted a lot of units. I am genuinely happy for them. Though I hear the curse hit again recently resulting in them having to cancel a show or two. I wish them well and better luck for the future. If The HK does 25% of what they have achieved despite the shit they got back then I will die a happy man.
tribe4mian: What is your opinion on the current political climate? Do you see any hope for a resolution to the strife and gloom which has been cast upon all of us?
GARY CLARK: Fuck politics… I’m not interested in people whose ambition is to rule the world for five minutes.
GARY CLARK: My favorite Cure track is probably Halo though it changes with the weather.
My favorite HK tune is probably the opening track of Amerikafka… I started writing it after finding out that Mick Karn was dying of cancer and I wanted to write something atmospheric with lots of space just likeJapanused to do and I was really happy with it.
tribe4mian: Apart from The Cure, can you name additional influences of yours?
GARY CLARK: TBH The Cure doesn’t really feature in my writing style. They do, however, tend to surface in a guitar lick or with a pick up setting or the odd special delay.
I’d like to think Bowie was a huge influence on me, as were 60’s bands like The Searchers and The Merseybeats and even the Monkees. I also love Siouxsie and Placebo and Nick Drake and of course Japan and Pete Murphy. One of my secret pleasures has always been Nick Kershaw.
tribe4mian: You had the idea of bringing a number of bands from different continents together to work on David Bowie’s track “Everyone Says Hi” in order to raise donations for The S.O.P.H.I.E. Foundation. That was a great project. How was the whole thing put together?
GARY CLARK: Very quickly and in a 72 hour session…
tribe4mian: Please add whatever you would like to say to our readers.
GARY CLARK: Don’t believe everything you hear. Listen to everyone then ignore them all.
We know you’ve been very busy of late, Gary, and we would like to thank you for setting aside some time for this interview. We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming tours and with The Hiram Key’s new album. Have a safe journey and please be sure to fill us in on your adventures when you find a bit of spare time.