Monday 15 April 2024

An Interview With Martin Kennedy From Instrumental Doom/Stoner Metallers OBSERVERS

Instrumental Doom/Stoner Metal project OBSERVERS released their spellbinding debut album The Age Of The Machine Entities in March 2024. Inspired by the legendary science fiction novel and landmark film 2001 A Space Odyssey. Told from a purely instrumental perspective, this album aims big with it's Cosmic sounding Doom/Stoner Metal passages with the right amount of musical progression and adventure.

The album struck a chord with the Doom/Stoner Metal community where you can read my review here

I was asked to catch up with Martin Kennedy, the creative mastermind behind OBSERVERS to see how the whole project came together and what inspired him as a musician.

Here's what went down....

Hi Martin. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you all today.

Thanks Steve! Things are excellent!

For people not in the know, can you give a brief history of how the band OBSERVERS came together and where it is today.

Observers is more or less my own solo project. A few years ago I felt musically a bit constrained with the music I’d been doing for over 20 years. I wanted to ‘get heavier’ but didn’t know how to pivot without thinking I was going to fail badly and lose fans. In the end I put those fears aside and pushed ahead.

Why did you call the project OBSERVERS.

It's kind of inspired by The Watcher, an all powerful god-like being in the classic Marvel comic series Fantastic Four. Drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby. Not that I'm calling myself all powerful and god-like ha ha! But I’m a huge sci-fi fan and I was searching around for a one word band name and that struck me as a good one. (Other Observers bands be damned!)

How would you describe your overall sound for your brilliant new album The Age Of The Machine Entities.

My thoughts on what I sound like are a work in progress. I rely mostly on what other people tell me. I guess it falls somewhere in the melodic doom realm. But it's also instrumental, so there’s that. For the next album I'll be adding the word ‘ambient’ to the description as that's where I’m heading next: dark ambient space doom!

What can people expect from the album and what is the creative outline or story for the album.

The Age Of The Machine Entities is loosely inspired by 2001 A Space Odyssey, my favourite movie of all time. Of course the album is instrumental so the inspiration doesn’t reveal itself in lyrics. It’s more the mood and visual landscapes of the movie that were in my mind while writing the music.

Where did the name The Age Of The Machine Entities for the album come from.

It’s the title of a chapter in the book 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke. I ‘borrowed’ quotes from the book to name most songs on the album.

Was this an easy or hard album to record for?

Both. Easy in that the tunes and melodies came easily as they (usually) do for me. Hard in that I had to unlearn certain songwriting habits I'd gotten into the last 20, 30 years. You can't get away with lazy and/or shit playing when it comes to metal music. So I spent a lot of time recording and getting it right. I often rush, but I spent nearly two years working on this album. I can write the songs easily enough but I’m a crap guitarist so I got in some fantastic session guitarists to help me out.  

What folks may not realise is that you’re also the founding member and part of the awesome Electronic/Lo-Fi/instrumental/Post-Rock band All India Radio. How did you move from that style of music to Instrumental Doom/Stoner Metal with OBSERVERS.

That was my main band I'd been playing in for a very long time as I alluded to previously. I felt it had run its course. I was sort of moving towards heavier music with All India Radio but it felt wrong and unfair to fans so I put it on ice and started OBSERVERS.

Have you always been a fan of that kind of music or have you just discovered this type of sound recently.

I’d loved metal music for a long time but I wouldn't call myself a metalhead at all and I somehow never dreamed of actually playing it.

All India Radio has experienced a wonderfully long and exciting career where you have released multiple records and even where your music has been used in multiple TV shows and films over the years. How did that project start and did you ever believe that All India Radio would last all this time.

It started in the late 1990s when the indie rock band I was in, Pray TV, finally ran out of steam (we pre-dated the the grunge craze which more or less killed us as we tried to follow it instead of continuing to do our own thing. But that's another story). All India Radio started as an antidote to the madness of the music scene in Australia and what I'd been through in the previous band. It was just me at home with a little minidisc recorder making weird electronic sounds. Of course it spiralled from there into a band of various incarnations then back to me solo again. Luckily I gained a few fans along the way and I had the inspiration and motivation to keep it going. Until I didn't!

What have been your favourite moments performing with both All India Radio and Observers.

Best moment in All India Radio was our first gig as a band in 2001. There was a minor ‘buzz’ about us in the local media and we filled the room and played our odd instrumental music and I felt like a king. Best OBSERVERS moment so far was getting into NPR’s New Music Friday playlist. I was like WTF! Grateful of course. I’d tried for YEARS trying to get All India Radio onto NPR with zero success.

What is the creative process or setup within both bands? Do you focus on a main narrative and then write the music around this creative ideas

At the moment it’s just me writing a bunch of tunes, sometimes almost complete, but usually needing further development. It's important to get them recorded quickly until I have loads of them. Then I go through it all and pull out the best ones and start piecing together better, more complete demo versions. If I'm still happy after that I'll approach the drummer, bass player and get that recorded and locked down. Then it’s guitar overdubs, solos then onto the mixing stage.

Often a narrative will appear early. Like I'll spot an amazing piece of art and I start writing with it in mind and it will act as a link between songs.

The Age Of The Machine Entities has had a great response within the Doom/Stoner Metal scenes. Has this surprised you in many ways.

Yes! I'm very appreciative. I honestly thought I'd get slammed or mostly ignored being a newcomer who hasn't played metal before. I’m not inventing the wheel with my music but the metal community particularly the Doom/Stoner has been very welcoming. I feel excited like I felt back in the early days of my All India Radio band just starting out, little fish in a big sea but get a few good reviews and a little buzz and it's a great feeling. Makes it all worthwhile.

Will you be performing any live gigs with Observers this year to promote the album. What are your favourite venues when you have toured in the past. Any particular venues or locations you always look forward to when touring.

Probably not. I have bad stage fright and I also have a spinal issue that factors into not performing when I can avoid it. But you never know. Back when I did play shows I had the thrill of playing at the legendary Brownies in NYC in the 1990s. Also Irving Plaza when we were supporting Live and tried to steal their beer backstage (mission accomplished). Also Melbourne Australia’s much missed Punters Club.

You’re about to release the new video for Frank Poole’s Dream which is a great video and fantastic visual tribute to the character from the iconic 2001 A Space Odyssey franchise. Who directed the video and how much input did you have into the final product.

The video was created by Helena Papageorgiou and Jon Weber, a Brisbane based 2D animation / artist powerhouse. I gave them a bunch of concept drawings I’d done to get them started but I more or less left it up to them.

What bands or artists influenced you to pick up an instrument and to become a musician.

I grew up in a house of older brothers so from them I was introduced to Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Deep Purple. Classic 70's Rock. Later as their tastes evolved I got Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Brian Eno. But it was mainly Pink Floyd that made me pick up a guitar and try to play the acoustic songs on The Wall.

Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for your fans currently out there.

I have zero wisdom, but I would like to say thanks for being there, and particularly those fans who followed over from my other projects.

Words by Steve Howe and Martin Kennedy

Thanks to Kyle at Good Boy PR for arranging this interview and to Martin Kennedy for taking the time out to do the interview.


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