Morrissey is in love with her; Bowie writes songs with her; Lady Gaga stole her fashions; and Dave Grohl plays drums (and guitar) on her new album; Kristeen Young is the most awesome rock star you’ve never heard of.
Despite that, Ms. Young has been making groundbreaking, envelope-pushing albums for over a decade, and during that time has toured the world with her platonic lover Steven Patrick Morrissey, thrilling the universe with her aggressive and propulsive piano based rock show.
On the eve of her new release, The Knife Shift, an electrifying collection of discordant rockers, and a few Kate Bush type mid-tempo numbers that help keep the train on the tracks, KY took time to have a chat with BB.
It’s been a while since your last album; was there a plan behind that break, or were you working on other things?
My last album was V the Volcanic in 2011. It sold 65 million copies and won 7 Grammys, Where have you been, Adam?
How do you see this album in relation to your prior work, is there an overriding message or inspiration you wanted to convey?
Lyrically, I wanted to be bold since there isn’t much of that lately. People talk very freely about issues or ideas but they don’t seem to put it into their songs anymore. I wanted to make sure I was doing that.
Did you approach the writing and recording on this album any differently than on the others?
Many of the songs are about my experiences growing up in St. Louis. And musically I went back to my first loves in many ways. One of my biggest influences has always been the film, Urgh! A Music War, not just one band in the film, but all of them. It’s such a diverse grouping and everyone seems so free artistically. It was a film we used to pass around as kids, and it was from the past, which made it even more magical. That movie formed me like nothing else.
You’ve worked with Tony Visconti before; was his input here any different than in the past?
I was more in charge on this one. We officially co-produced this album together; in the past he was the sole producer. I was very controlling with minutiae on this.
How did the Dave Grohl collaboration come together?
Dave guest hosted on the TV show Chelsea Lately and sort of musically hit it off with one of the writers, April Richardson. She made him a mix tape and one of my songs was on it. He looked me up on YouTube and then we started emailing each other. It just so happened that at that time I needed a drummer for my album so I was insanely thrilled when he agreed to do so! When we started playing together it just clicked. He’s extremely smart and intuitive and I think he can do anything. He’s probably good at heart surgery, too.
To me “Pearl Of A Girl” definitely has a Morrissey influence; how is the Mozzer these days?
How could I not be influenced? I’ve spent so much time around him and heard and seen so many of his shows that it’s only natural. He’s in a state of thrillment, that’s how he is. He’s excited about his new recordings; he’s excited about his tour.
“The Pictures of Sasha Grey” is, to me, a dark dark song, I can’t quite figure it out.
One day I happened upon [former porn star] Sasha Grey’s Facebook page. It was update after update of the most everyday pix and posts. “Here I am making dinner. Here I am gardening.” She was not presenting herself in a sexy way at all. This was Sasha trying to move on or really just be a fully formed or full spectrum human. But, every comment [from males] in the threads underneath was the vilest spewing. I thought the contrast was remarkable, so I remarked with this song.
Can we look forward to seeing you on tour in support of this release?
I am playing a residency at Bowery Electric in NYC in April (last 4 Wednesdays at 8pm). Then I am opening for Morrissey for two months in the U.S. Rehearsals are sounding so good, I’m really excited!
WHERE: Bowery Electric / 327 Bowery, New York, NY 4/09 , 4/16, 4/23, 4/30