John Morgan Kimock has had a busy year thus far. The drummer recently released an album, Satellite City, with his father and legendary guitarist Steve Kimock, Bobby Vega, and Leslie Mendelson as the collaborative ensemble KIMOCK. Furthermore, John Kimock just wrapped up a nationwide tour with Phish bassist Mike Gordon in support of Gordon’s latest release OGOGO, where he further cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with behind the kit. Live For Live Music’s Sam Berenson got the chance to speak with John Morgan Kimock about what he’s been up to this year and what he’s looking forward to in the future. You can check out the interview for yourself below!
Live for Live Music: Aside from Mike Gordon and KIMOCK, have you been working on anything else this past year?
John Kimock: I’m home less than ever. Re-entry into regular life comes to mind, more so than anything. It takes about a week to collect what’s left of yourself when you get back from tour to move forward. There hasn’t been that much music that has come out of the process yet, but I’ve enjoyed working on just coming back home and being as present as I can with those that matter most to me.
I think I had taken that for granted a bit unknowingly as work piled up and I didn’t know how to handle it. I would come home from touring and just continue as if I had been on the road, just in poorer shape.
L4LM: Tell us a little bit about KIMOCK’s recently released album, Satellite City.
JM: It was a really exciting time, particularly the writing portion. If you listen to records these days, you can tell that there are things that were not naturally put together in a reasonable amount of time. This was not one of those scenarios. Everything was written in three weeks; half with engineer Jason Reed and half with Bobby Vega and Leslie Mendelson. Satellite City was supposed to be released this past June but got pushed back. Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools produced the album, and I can’t say enough about being in the studio with him—it was a spectacular experience. He created a comfortable vibe to space out in, and I subscribe to a lot of Dave’s feelings by way of our mutual musical lives.
Leslie’s contribution is a cross between Emmy Lou Harris and some noir comic book content lyrically. She created a world to swim in. You can latch onto characters if you care about her story. Bobby Vega, who is just about capable of anything, ties the tunes together in ways that no other bass player could have done. He is also my godfather, and I’ve been playing with him since I was four years old, so the history there can be heard—or I can hear it at least.
And Steve—there’s a timeless feeling in Steve’s approach to this record on guitar that is missing from a lot of guitar music heard today. This goes all the way down to the gear that he uses. There was not a guitar on this record that exists in three other places in the physical world. As much as the record’s music does speak for itself, in my opinion, there is a lot of detail and history that goes a full generation back in terms of the instruments and tunings we used to record on the album.
L4LM: Changing gears, Mike Gordon’s lineup is the best ever, and it seems like you guys have the best time playing together night after night. What’s special about this lineup, and how do you guys keep things so fresh and vibrant?
John Kimock: I can’t say enough about the band and crew. Robert (Walter) and Craig (Myers) basically have spaceships for rigs. Any sound under the sun can come out of those two, and they’re both very intuitive players. Scott (Murawski) and Mike’s interplay is classic. They take risks like no other, and the payoffs are big. My role in the thing I think is just to be as solid as possible, but not, but mostly [laughs]. Maybe like a breathing inanimate object. I really enjoy the role. All in all, the chemistry in the band is strong.
Mike is becoming known for adding cool tech elements to the live experience. His vision and approach to the production are 100% his own, and you won’t find any other show on earth like it. That’s special to be apart of.
L4LM: In your eyes, what were some standout moments from this past fall tour with Mike?
JM: The tour was a blur, man. They all kind of are. The two-night Boulder, Colorado, tour closer for sure stands out, as well as Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Toronto. I think as a whole, things were legit. Having telepathic moments with Mike onstage is certainly a highlight. It’s so fun to lock into a groove with him.
Mike Gordon at the Boulder Theater, 10/14/2017
L4LM: Shawn Everett is a brilliant, Grammy-winning engineer. What did you take from your experience working with him while recording OGOGO?
John Kimock: I’m happy he was involved. His mannerisms were that of someone who has kept a full-speed-ahead pace in the studio for the span of time. His production style matches my playing in a way that worked well for this record, and I enjoyed taking direction from him. I was happy to just get to listen to music with someone like that—let alone create it alongside him. Completing something start to finish is no easy task, and if you look at his resume, he’s mixed, produced, and/or engineered over, like, twenty records in the past two years!
Sometimes, if we stayed late after certain sessions, we would go grab a drink after and sort of just chat about music and what we were working on. He had so much going on—all records. It was a little bit insane, but I was kind of drawing comparisons, and it isn’t much different than playing tons of shows a year in three or four different bands.
No matter who the producer was, I knew I wanted to bend towards their aesthetic. Shawn made that really easy. I learned from Shawn that skillsets are earned. Sometimes it’s nice when things are demystified. Otherwise, I end up wondering what it’d be like to work on all the other records he’s produced. The studio is a mysterious place, and Shawn made it easy for us to create and be ourselves. It helped immensely to focus on the music that’s in front of you.
L4LM: With so much new talent on the scene, what musicians would you like to get a chance to play with, specifically ones that you haven’t already collaborated with?
JM: Let’s see. . . I’m desperately looking for a keyboard player whose bible is Lymbyc Systym. Ever since Michael Bell (Lymbyc Systym) passed away, I’ve felt, in a way, that I would like to carry on in that vein, or at least their drums and keys format in their honor. Lymbyc Systym really got me through multiple stages of life, and playing music in the duo format is enough for me to feel nostalgic for the years I discovered those records. I’m 100% in two bands that improvise ferociously, so that’s covered. Maybe like some Vulfpeck or Steve Reich kids.
L4LM: Thank you so much for having a chat with us, John.
JM: Anytime! I’d lastly like to say, treat music like soup you eat throughout the week instead of something intense. Soup equals Soul.
Check out this interview with Steve Kimock, Bobby Vega, and a 5-year-old John Kimock from 1996.
[Video: Ken E]