Steve Kimock started his musical career in the mid 1970's with the folk-rock band The Goodman Brothers and then shortly there after went on to join the Heart of Gold Band with Keith and Donna Godchaux in 1979. It wasn't until sometime in 1984 when he co-founded the band Zero with John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service that he became recognized as a well known national guitar player. In 1998 Kimock joined along with Zero band member Bobby Vega with Ray White and Alan Hertz (Garaj Mahal) to form the group KVHW.
In 2000, after the break up of KVHW, Kimock formed the Steve Kimock Band along with Grammy Award winning drummer Rodney Holmes (Santana). Six years later Kimock would re-form the band Zero and they toured up until the death of Zero member and long time friend Martin Fierro, in 2008.
Steve Kimock has toured and seen it all, performing and recording with such great acts as the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir's Kingfish, Merl Saunders , Phil Lesh & Friends, The Other Ones, Ratdog, Rythmn Devils, Bruce Hornsby, Mike Gordon...the list goes on. Steve Kimock himself is one of the greatest guitar players performing today and he continues to surround himself with musicians of the same class. He is currently touring with Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads), Wally Ingram (Timbuk 3), Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tea Leaf Green, Marco Benevento Trio) and Andy Hess (Gov't Mule, The Black Crowes).
Interview By Maisie Leach
Photos courtesy of Steve Kimock
HGMN: What have you been doing the past couple days?
SK: Oh you know, all kinds of crazy stuff. I fed the fish at the fish hatchery with my family. Oh...where did we go? We went to this park and had an adventure...just hung out with the kids mostly. I have 2 littles....2 littles and 2 bigs. The bigs are 22 and 18 and the littles are 8 and 4. When the weather gets nice I go out with the littles.
HGMN: You've been playing with your son in Crazy Engine. How do you approach that as a parent? My parents would probably be pretty critical and tell me to do this, this and this. But how do you handle that?
SK: Actually I'm not critical at all...Maybe I'm not critical enough. I'm a huge Johnny fan, my son John. He's just a great drummer already just by himself. It's not like he's got some kind of giant problem with his playing or listening or anything like that. I don't have to be like, "Man, you better get your shit together" or anything like that. He's great and he keeps me in line.
Oh, here's a little one right now, (speaking to one of his children)"Hey! I've got to talk on the phone for a little bit for work and so you need to go downstairs please. I love you so much but please go downstairs."
HGMN: You've done a lot of improv and sitting in. What benefits do you get from these things as opposed to being in an organized group all the time?
SK: What I get out of my own band is the joy of having to be responsible for everything and working on the song writing. The big part of having your own band is that you just have to take all the risk. That part of it makes it very stressful. I'm just not natural at that. I like it when everybody gets together and hangs out and treats everybody fine. I'm not a big fan of the whole leadership idea or role. Somebody will point the way when it's time to do something. "Everybody, the beach is this way!" "Oh, okay, thanks!". (Laughs) It doesn't need to get a whole lot deeper than that necessarily. Having your own band just comes with a cost of greater responsibility...which is a great cost for a very irresponsible person like myself (laughs). The nice thing about sitting in is that somebody else will take all the responsibility for getting everyone together so you can just relax and play. Not as much stress.
HGMN: From things I've read about you, you seem very laid back and not really type A at all. I like that.
SK: (Laughs) Well, it's kind of amazing because a lot of people that I know in the music thing...because there's that performance aspect to it, It's sort of like, "hey look at me! Look at me!" I'm just not super good at being like "Hey everybody look at me!" But most people I know are very class A. Just like suuuuper driven and, you know, bouncing off the walls. Yeah, I'm not like that. It's gotten even less like that in the last couple of, ten years or so. My practicing is so much more meditative than frantically energetic or directed.
HGMN: You've compared playing music to church. How is playing a religious experience for you?
SK: Maybe "religious" isn't the right word. I think there's a pretty obvious spiritual/emotional connection and response to things that are beautiful and profound or unexpected. Sometimes that's music or things that are visual. You know, you get up on a hill and can see really far and you see beauty and you are filled with it...its like, Wow. That's the same kind of experience. It's digging it. It's spiritual.
HGMN: You've played with so many different people. Does anything make you nervous?
SK: Sure! You know, today I'm about to hop in the shower and drive to New York when I put down this phone. I'm playing at the Meridian with the Les Paul Trio. And if you're a guitar player that's kind of a big deal just out of respect to Les Paul. It's a little jazz club with a famous guys name tied to it that everybody loves and respects. So there you go. You know, I don't' know what I'm going to play. I still don't know what I'm going to play (laughs). That's sort of my nature. You know, being laid back with it. I still know that that's more right than second guessing everything. When I see that room and I see that stage, I put my feet on it and I look at the chairs and stuff. And I know I'll know what to do. And I know it's better not to second-guess it. Yeah, I get pretty nervous about that.
HGMN: Besides your extensive resume...why do you think you're so well respected amongst other world-class musicians?
SK: Why am I well respected? (Laughs) I don't know. If I am that's sweet. If I'm not I would understand that just as easily as I wouldn't understand. I think just generally, if you're doing this long enough, you come to realize there are manners among musicians. And there's professional courtesy all the time. And that generally to get anywhere with this and all the people and stuff you have to do. You have to be a pretty positive person. There's not a whole lot of leeway. I think for the most part, if indeed there are musicians out there who are respecting me or dig what I'm doing it's because that's what kind of people they have to be in order to be musicians in the first place. You can just elaborate right there and make up a story.
HGMN: What haven't you done in your life that you want to do?
SK: I have the need to travel more. I need to spend a lot more time playing music and working with people outside of the United States. If there was any one musical thing, I hope that by one giant musical act of God, I hope to be spending a whole lot more time in Europe, in India and Africa or anywhere in South America. There's so much great music out there in the world that I need to be around. My exposure to it is so second hand. There's so much Brazilian music that I just adore and there's a language barrier. I need to get a little closer to that stuff. I'm a huge fan of Indian classical music and various African music.
HGMN: You have Japan coming up this summer right?
SK: Yeah, for Fuji Rock. That's a big deal. I'm just looking forward to going. It's such a scene. It's such a huge festival, so many great bands. Everybody flies in from all over the world and goes to this one place on the top of this one mountain and plays and then everybody goes home. It's pretty special.
HGMN: Can you tell me about the wildest time with The Dead or Zero that you've had?
SK: The wildest time? No. (Laughs) I can't. I probably can't even tell you about the hundredth wildest time, nothing but great memories. I don't remember all of it because I would have had to be clear headed the entire time...and nobody was. The problem for me with that kind of reminiscing is that there are so many people that were really principle in my good times in California that I was so close to. And they've passed on and I miss them so much, Martin Fierro, who I played with in Zero for all those years. We were so close. I met him when I was like 21 or something. I played every gig with him since we met in California. We got to the point where Id just have to...I mean we'd have a budget for gigs off to the side and then Martin would show up to play uninvited and at the end of the night he'd hold his hand out and we'd have to pay him (laughs). We'd never know when he was going to show up...but he was always there. I miss him so much.
HGMN: What was it like moving from Pennsylvania in the 70's to California?
SK: I grew up in Lehigh Valley, which is a very nice, kind of sleepy little town, very little going on. But I wound up on the other side of the golden gate bridge from San Francisco. It was insanely rocking. It was unbelievable. There were all the bands that were big in the 60's that were right there shopping, getting burgers, driving around, so wherever you were you would recognize someone. This one time I was hitch hiking home from the music store where I got this one set of strings that I could afford. I was standing there in the rain and ended up getting picked up by Phil Lesh of all people. That was the scene.
HGMN: Jerry Garcia called you one of his favorite unknown guitarists. What do you think about that?
SK: God bless him. That's cool. On the one end that's a tremendous acknowledgement from back in the day in the 80's. There are also people that it created expectations for them. Some of that's cool and some of that is difficult. Maybe a few more people will come to the show. Oh okay...there's that type of thing, when you're playing your own stuff and there are people who are pissed because you aren't playing Grateful Dead tunes. It's like "Excuse me, this is my gig! This is my 30 people and we're doing this thing right now." So that aspect of it is hard, to not play down to it and to get respect without getting hit in the face with a shovel. Nobody told me anything. I got a call from a guy in Nashville telling me something Mickey Hart had said about me. I was like, really?!
HGMN: You're going on tour with Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess. Do you have a strong relationship with these people from the past? How did you choose these guys?
SK: I've seen all of them play before many, many times and listened to their music and love their playing. All of them are great. I didn't know about Andy until like 10 years ago or something like that. We were doing some festival with the Steve Kimock band and we had some great spot before John Scofield and Andy was playing bass with John on that gig. As soon as I heard him play I was just so...I was like man that is so cool. He's so old school and so straight ahead, such a finger player. There are some guys with the giant 8, 10, 16, 5 string basses with the graphite necks and the crazy large gams and the electronics and all the snapping and popping. And Andy is like the quintessential straight ahead bass player. He's so good. I started out as a bass player. Andy's here in New York too so that makes it pretty easy, same thing with Bernie. I didn't get a chance to see him as much as I just listened to his stuff. I mean with Talking Heads, Funkadelic, Pretenders, so many bands on so many projects that I've listened to. Just in terms of musicianship what he brings to the table is just...and Wally, you know, he's a huge David Lindley fan. Wally works with my buddy Jerry Joseph too. We've gotten together and played and said "hey, we should do something". So we finally have gotten together and are doing something.
HGMN: What do you like to do when you aren't playing guitar?
SK: (laughs) what is this, like candles in the tub or something? No, I like to play. It's funny, I've played for so long and am such a geek about it and everyone said, "You need a hobby, man." And so I picked up the Hawaiian guitar. But that's how it goes. Every time I feel like I need a diversion I just find some other instrument to pick up. It's pretty boring. There's a piano in my studio so I'll play the piano or the veena or something. Yeah, but if I get a minute I like to go somewhere. If I had a couple days off I'd go to Puerto Rico. You don't even need a passport to go there.
HGMN: I played soccer all my life and I was always told to have the soccer ball at my feet a lot of the time. But sometimes it felt forced. And I've read that you have the guitar in your hands a lot of the time. How does it feel to have a natural drive to pick that up all the time?
SK: I can see 5 instruments from where I'm sitting. I don't know...oh there's another, there are 6. I have nothing to compare it to. If I'm prevented from playing for a long time I start to go kind of stir crazy. But the actual feeling or attraction is unexplainable. I just continue to do it. If you were to ask me this question when I was 16 I'd be able to give you this super clear answer. And whatever that super clear answer is that got the ball rolling...has turned into a natural intuition. It probably has something to do with Black Sabbath, though. I loved Black Sabbath when I was a kid.
HGMN: What else did you like?
SK: All the regular rock and roll that we listened to, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Allman Brothers, Cream, Blind Faith, Eric Clapton stuff, MC5. Everyday I turn on the TV and Ted Nugent is on and I LOVE Ted Nugent. He blew my mind when I was young. And now he's this crazy person.
HGMN: What are you most excited about with your new material?
SK: Living and playing. It takes a while to get inside the tune and watch it grow and seeing how people deal with it, watching this whole self correcting process that goes along with a piece of music and then trying to take it on the stage. There's plenty of stuff that I've written myself that I think is strong and then you get up on stage and you feel like you are standing there with your pants down at your ankles. For example, there's a song that I'm working on with Johnny out in the barn right now. It's a bit that we've kind of done before and we decided to re-record it, just the two of us. And the way it is on the tape right now just sounds like a million bucks. But I know if I were to take it on stage there's a whole bunch more that I would have to do to it in order to push it around to make it play for the dance crowd for example. Because right now all you can do is listen to it. But if you're standing there listening to it live you better get some other stuff going on to make it work better. It's kind of along the lines of the idea that the music is so much about bands. Some musicians aren't creating music, they're creating bands. And that the music is sort of a byproduct of creating this band, which is backwards.
Wed - May 09 - ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks - Bethlehem, PA - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Reed Mathis
Thu. May 10 - Fairfield Theatre Company - Fairfield, CT - W/ Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Reed Mathis
Fri. May 11 - Brooklyn Bowl - Brooklyn, NY - with Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Reed Mathis
Sat. May 12 - Port City Music Hall - PORTLAND, ME - w/ Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Reed Mathis
Mon. May 14 - Middle East - Cambridge, MA - w/ Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Tue. May 15 - Higher Ground - Burlington, VT - w/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.
Wed. May 16 - Tralf Music Hall - Buffalo, NY - W/ Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.
Fri. May 18 - Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, OH - W/ Bernie Worrell,Wally Ingram & Andy Hess
Sat. May 19 - Bottom Lounge - Chicago, IL - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram, Andy Hess
Sun. May 20 - St. Louis, MO - w/ Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Mon. May 21 - Bluebird - Bloomington, IN - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Tue. May 22 - Exit/In - Nashville, TN - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Thu. May 24 - Plaza Theatre - Orlando, FL -W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess!
Fri. May 25 - Ritz Ybor - Tampa, FL W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Sat. May 26 - Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Sun. May 27 - Culture Room - Fort Lauderdale, FL -W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.
Tue. May 29 - Pour House - Charleston, SC -W/Bernie Worrell, Andy Hess and Wally Ingram,
Wed. May 30 - Grey Eagle Music Hall - Asheville, NC - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.
Thu. May 31 - Lincoln Theatre - Raleigh, NC - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and And Hess
Fri. Jun 01 - Jefferson Theater - Charlottesville, VA - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Sat. Jun 02 - Soundstage - Baltimore, MD - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess
Sun. Jun 03 - Appalachian Brewing Company - Harrisburg, PA - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.
Mon. Jun 04 - Howard Theatre - Washington , DC - W/Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.
Fri. Jun 15 - Everyone Orchestra - Quixotes True Blue - Denver, CO - Feat. Matt Butler,Jen Hartswick (TAB) Al Schnier (.moe), Steve Kimock, Marco Benevento and more!
Sat. Jun 16 - Everyone Orchestra - Quixotes True Blue - Denver, CO - feat. Matt Butler, Jen Hartswick (TAB) Al Schnier (.moe), Steve Kimock, Marco Benevento and more!
Thu. Jun 21 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - State Theatre of Ithaca - Ithaca, NY
Fri. Jun 22 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - Count Basie Theatre - Red Bank, NJ
Sat. Jun 23 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - Wellmont Theatre - Montclair, NJ
Mon. Jun 25 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - The National - Richmond, VA
Tue. Jun 26 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - Grand Opera House - Wilmington, DE
Thu. Jun 28 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - Sherman Theater - Stroudsburg, PA
Fri. Jun 29 - Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman Duo - Theatre at Westbury - Westbury, NY
Fri. Jul 27 - Fuji Rock Festival - Japan
Fri. Aug 24 - Lazy Summer Daze Festival - Pinecrest, CA
Sat. Aug 25 - ZERO - Lazy Summer Daze Festival - Leland Meadows - Pinecrest, CA
1997 Zero - Zero
2002 Zero - Double Zero
2002 Steve Kimock Band - Live in Colorado
2006 Zero - Zero Blues