If you asked me to point you toward a contemporary overseas artist who is really shaking things up, my first port of call would be Kirin J Callinan. With the release of his debut full length Embracism and a prodigious amount of touring both in Australia and the US, his name is on everyone’s lips, front page and airwaves. Needless to say, I was pleased and honored to be able to steal a moment or two of his schedule to ask a question or several.
Press Gang: Even though there have been a few tantalizing smaller releases, your first full length solo album seemed to be a long time coming. Why did it take so long to get to Embracism?
Kirin J Callinan: Well, I don’t think it actually took so long. I mean, I am a young man and I’ve been productive to date as well as occupied in my personal life. For Embracism, now is the perfect time. Any artist needs the necessary experience, whether it’s the emotional or technical experience (both, likely), to deliver with authority the work they want to deliver. For me, finding a source to draw from in live performance has been relatively effortless. It’s squeezed outta you once on stage, you know… kinda forced into it. And I’m comfortable in letting a show be whatever it is. But a record is more permanent, and I have, perhaps unreasonably, a particularly high quality control. Letting go was part of the process. It also simply took me some years and some specific experiences to get me to this place where my convictions we’re formed and assured.
PG: Your music has found listeners in a variety of musical genres. Is there a particular musical genre you feel most aligned with creatively?
KJC: Ha. Well I’d like to make smooth, easy music but haven’t worked that out yet. So, nope. This record, at least, is not defined by genre but through its themes, palette, the process and delivery.
PG: The words ‘provocative’, ‘polarizing’ and ‘controversial’ are often used in articles about you. Do you find this image to ever get in the way of the music itself?
KJC: Yeah sure, this perceived idea propagated in the media can tarnish the music a bit, but these simple terms of course also fuel interest, promoting the music and ideas too. It’s funny how people can think too much but still not much at all.
PG: Embracism discusses themes in and around physicality and gender performance, among other ‘human’ issues. Do you think it’s your deliberate exploration of such topics that led to said descriptors?
KJC: I reckon the album explores a lot of themes, some of them physical or gender based or human, other’s more ephemeral or abstract. Most of the themes on the record were conscious and deliberate, though some others have been highlighted, hinted at or revealed themselves since.
PG: Do you feel the overseas touring has affected your live performance?
KJC: Yes. I’ve grown and the shows have evolved.
PG: There may be readers who are unaware of your body of collaborative work, including with artists who are (for a lack of a better term) more ‘conservative’ in their artistic vision than yourself. Why do you choose to collaborate with artists that may moderate your challenging stance?
KJC: I don’t. And I don’t believe my collaborators moderate my “stance” at all. I have a range of musical & creative interests and I have good friends whom I’m excited to work with. Jack Ladder & Lost Animal both inspire me and their songs provide another framework to work within, another challenge. My solo, uh, vision, is once removed from my collaborations. It’s healthy.
PG: Your music videos are as equally well focused and potent as your music. How important is the visual aspect of your work to you creatively?
KJC: Equally as important as the music. No half-measures. If there are other sensory experiences that I can explore (which there are), they will become equally as important.
PG: Do you feel it is important to get your audience to ‘react’ to your work?
KJC: Nope. I’d prefer a response. I’m certainly not fishing for a reaction, I don’t want anybody to lash out, to go out and torch the village or severe ties with a loved one, to shave their head or get a rash. What I would like is a response, either felt or thought, discussed etc. In terms of reactions, live or otherwise, applause or silence will be just fine thanks.
Press Gang hosts a radio show on a community radio station in Melbourne, Australia.- Press Gang