Kenneth Higney

OKF 001

Kenneth Higney "Attic Demonstration"
LP AVAILABLE NOW (2nd pressing)

Often considered the Holy Grail of "real people" records, Kenneth Higney's "Attic Demonstration" was never actually intended to be an official release. It was recorded in New York City by Higney and his accompanist Gordon Gaines (R.I.P.) as a vehicle with which to sell Higney's songs to other artists and was only pressed to vinyl in 1976 when he grew tired of duplicating cassette tapes. Apparently the Jandekian dissonance of the "A. Demo." sound was an unintended by-product of the one take demo sessions. Be that as it may, "Attic Demonstration" is a strange sonic world all of it's own. It is neither too weird to be unappealing to "regular" music listeners nor is it one of those "discoveries" that leaves you wondering what all the hype was about. Acoustic guitar ballads of nearly atonal desolation mix readily with rock 'n' roll numbers featuring hiccuping drums and alien sounding electric guitar. Higney's vocals are by turns sneering and mournful as he sings about lost love and the desire for fame all filtered through his uniquely bent worldview. Although a few ads were placed for the record in The Village Voice and The Aquarian, the fame that Higney sought eluded him (a semi-positive review in Trouser Press notwithstanding). That is, until the album was discovered and distributed by record dealer Paul Major. "Attic Demonstration" has been featured in the Acid Archives and copies of the original LP have soared in price over the years, but you no longer have to pay $100, $200 or even $300 to obtain a copy of this monumental album on vinyl. One Kind Favor and Kenneth Higney have teamed up to bring you an official reissue of "Attic Demonstration" remastered, with all the original artwork and with liner notes by the artist.  The reissue was Volcanic Tongue's January 2012 Tip of the Tongue.


Kenneth Higney's LP was a watershed moment for me... before that I was more focused on hard rock bands, psychedelic music, garage punk and the likes, whether major label or private press. The force of honest expression mixed with the sound of that LP blew my mind as well as made me keenly aware of the concept of someone putting their own record out. I felt like I was inside the artist's head when I played it.
-- Paul Major (Endless Boogie)

"No Heavy Trucking" mp3
"Children Of Sound" mp3


OKF 004
Kenneth Higney Funky Kinky b/w I Wanna Be The King 7"
Limited Pressing of 500 copies AVAILABLE NOW

Official reissue of Kenneth Higney's 1980 private press 45rpm single. Compared to "Attic Demonstration," the recordings are much more polished.  Synthesizers and "pop sensibility" have found their way into Higney's music, and the more I listen to it, I'm convinced this could have somehow taken the world by storm in some sort of post-No Wave context.  Don't get me wrong, this is still incredibly strange stuff, with Higney triple tracking his vocals in different registers. "Funky Kinky" is an especially unique come-on to a lady and "I Wanna Be The King" is an "ode or tribute, whatever you'd like to call it, to the NYC punk scene of Max's Kansas City and CBGB's in general and Johnny Thunders (the "King") in particular," according to the artist.  "I wanna be the king, I wanna play guitar.  I hate the sissy music of John Den-var."  Higney goes on to say:

In June of 1980 Kebrutney released a seven inch single of "I Wanna Be The King" b/w/ "Funky Kinky."  This was my shot at being a performing writer and these were my first recordings done with the intent of being released to the general public. They were not demos. My thinking was to release a "double A side," which was reflected by the catalog numbers on the label: "KBH-516RAS" for "I Wanna Be The King" was the rock ("R") side and "KBH-516FAS" was the funk ("F") side.  A monster record which drowned in the swamp after being chased by the villagers.  Read more.

Limited edition one time pressing of 500 copies in paper sleeves with polybag. Listen

One Story About Two Songs
This is the story – maybe truth, maybe fiction – about two songs I wrote and recorded, “I Wanna Be The King” and “Funky Kinky”.    Both were released as a “double A side” seven inch vinyl single in 1980.  In my mind it was a double A side because I knew both songs were going to be hits.   In that dream state I gave the release catalog numbers which matched my fevered mind – “I Wanna Be The King” was KBH-516ras (the “r” meaning “rock” with the “as” standing for “a side”) and “Funky Kinky” was KBH-516fas with the “f” for Funky.   Yep, it was the funky a side of the record.    I told ya, “fevered mind”.

While writing this, I am assuming if you are reading it that you know something about the album “Attic Demonstration”, which I released before the two sided “hit” single.    Yes, “A.Demo” was just that – a compilation of nine demo versions of songs I had written.  Never intended to be an actual release but, as history knows, I decided to put it out after pressing five hundred copies so that I would have a handier way – instead of cassette tapes – to pitch the songs to artists I hoped would record them.  

“I Wanna Be The King” and “Funky Kinky”, on the other hand, were written and recorded with the full intention of being released.

Not to get too deep into the “meaning” of each song, but I would like to say that “King” was a sort of ode to the NYC punk scene at the time and the “king” mentioned is Johnny Thunders.  I loved that guy.  I first saw him when he and the rest of The New York Dolls opened for Mott The Hoople at Radio City Music  Hall.  Todd Rundgren, who had produced the first Dolls album, came out and introduced the band and from the moment they hit the stage, I was hooked.   They were great – GREAT.   When the Dolls fell apart, Johnny formed The Heartbreakers (whose LAMF, in my mind, without a doubt, is the best album to come out of that time).  Of course we all know that Johnny got heavy into heroine but I used to go see him in the heyday of The Heartbreakers and loved every show I saw.  I have great memories of him and the band playing the NYC downtown clubs.   I also have to point out – as I always do when the opportunity arises – the line “I don’t wanna be a nigger knocking at your door” refers to a band of the time, The New York Niggers.   The entire song references bands at the time – “The Dead Boys”, “The Heartbreakers”, “The Rolling Stones” as in “I wanna roll away some stones”, and on and on.   Never believe that “nigger” was used for any reason other than that it referenced the band and worked well in the lyric line.  Lately, I’ve been playing the song and have changed “nigger” to “sinner” and “Polish” to “foolish” simply to avoid any late night hassles.  

As to “Funky Kinky”: in a very vague way it is another “ode”.  This one to my younger brother’s girlfriend at the time.   She was a great and funky dancer and she had great long curly hair.  I just happened to think she was funky and kinky and used the title as a jumping off point.   The song, in fact, was written with Grace Jones in mind.  It is a very s&m song lyrically and I thought it would be perfect for the Empress Jones to cover it.  Fit perfectly with her image.  Alas, never happened, but I still love it.

After the songs were written, I decided it was time to record them with a band in a “real” studio.     Gordon Gaines, being the genius he was, decided he wanted to play drums and so we enlisted Mark Volpe on lead guitar and John Lynch for bass – both friends from Jersey City and both, like Gordon, amazing guitarists.   John was to be the bass man while Mark was the lead guitarist and I was to play rhythm on “I Wanna Be The King”.    I figured it would be a good idea to rehearse the songs but, if memory serves me correctly, we only did so with “King”.    I rented space in Jersey City and the band and I took to it.    I taught “King” to the guys and, as soon as I counted it down, we were locked in.  It was the first time I felt the power of a full band behind me and I was flying.  It was amazing to have these three great musicians playing my song, all together, with me being in front.   Talk about “high” – very few days in my life ever matched that moment for the amount of sky I was able to grab.  It was truly an earth moving experience.  It was pure ecstasy.

After the first and only rehearsal, I knew we were ready – it was the so called “magic” that bands sometimes
find and we had, for that song, found it.    I think I had already booked studio time at Fox Recording in Rutherford, New Jersey and, so, when the scheduled time came, we were wired to create a masterpiece.

After we did the first studio take of “King”, setting levels and etc., I asked the engineer, Mark Adams (who, I learned later on, when we were recoding Jerry Rooth’s single of “But You Loved Me Anyway” and “But You’ll Try… Again”, was an absolutely brilliant jazz influenced guitarist) what he thought and his response was, simply, “It sounds a million times better than anything on “Attic Demonstration”.   Yep, the power of the band.

So I counted it down, rode the bottom E string, screamed, Gordon hit the snare and we were off.   Again, if I remember correctly, it was a one take recording and, on another day, I later tripled my vocal.   Brilliant playing by the other guys, with me just being me.   When you hear the recording, or if you already have, you will notice, before the bridge, I scream and then ask “Did it sound like it came in right?”   This happened because, during the playback, with just Mark Adams and I in the studio, I felt the break down (which I had arranged to be a drum solo) before the bridge, just slowed the entire song down.   Since I was the only one from the recording at this particular session, I could not redo the drum solo and so, as is my way, I screamed over the drums and the “happy accident” of my question to Mark brought it all home on time.  To this day, “I Wanna Be The King” is still one of my favorite recordings.

Two quick and short quotes regarding the song/recording: 

Someone asked Gordon why I counted off the song, as it wasn’t necessary since I then screamed and the snare was hit - which actually started the song – and the very dry humored Mr. Gains simply replied “You don’t get the joke, do ya?”.   Gordon got it and always did.
          
About two days after I had given the pressed recording out to some people, I was walking along West Side Avenue in Jersey City and John Lynch was driving by with some friends and spotted me.   All he did was lean out the window and scream “Hey king” but it made me feel so cool that I laughed.   By simply calling out to me with that phrase, he let me know he was proud and happy to have been a part of the recording.  

As to “Funky Kinky” – I taught the song to the band while we were in the studio.  It is a one chord thing and we decided to just let Mark play the “funky” rhythm and I would do only the vocals on the initial take.    It worked out well when we tried it out and so we went with it.   We did the take – again, one time – and listened.    I had arranged the song to have two lead solos and Gordon suggested that Mark Volpe do the first solo and John Lynch do the second.  Brilliant!  It was done.   

Upon listening to a playback, I didn’t like the way the recording of “Funky” had started.  It was simply the band – guitar, bass and drums – starting with the rhythm guitar leading the others and I just thought it sounded too pedestrian.  I asked Mark Volpe (I keep writing “Volpe” so as not to confuse the man with Mark Adams, the engineer) if he would simply do a great “heavy” riff and we would tack it onto the beginning of the the recording.   “Genius at work” was his reply and he did it.    A perfect opening for the rest of the song.   After we listened again, I decided to add, what has been referred to in more than one publication, the “tacky” synthesizer.   “Tacky” it may be but it makes me smile.   We all then gathered around the mics and played the percussion – each one of us deciding what percussive toy to play and how to play it.  Yep, there is some strange percussion going on under all the other things.    One final thing you may or may not have noticed, all of the vocals on both recordings are mine, including the falsetto on “Funky Kinky”.   The only voice other than mine on either of the recordings is Gordon Gaines’ when he echoes my “funky” and “kinky” as the vocal is going out.  As mentioned above, he was playing drums and during my singing of “Funky Kinky” at the end of the song he decided to bend down and sing into one of the drum mics the words “funky” and “kinky”.  We all thought it was so cool and kept it in.   Not too hard to hear him, so enjoy it when you do.

I could go on and on about the single. It has not reached the cult status of “Attic Demonstration” but there are so many stories in my head about things which happened after the release of the 45 rpm monster.   Offers from cool indie labels which fell through, world tours which were offered but never materialized and much more.   Maybe truth, maybe fiction.


"ATTIC DEMONSTRATION" LINER NOTES

Over the years, the collection of music on this disc has gathered a bit of a cult following and it is always fun to hear from someone who tracked me down because of the album.  Always amazes me that the songs are still in people's minds and everyone is very kind when speaking about them. Now, with the reissue of this material it seems like a good time to set the record straight - no apologies - simple explanations.

"Attic Demonstration" (KBH-516 A&B) was not released.  As the old joke goes, "it escaped" in September of 1976. The songs were not recorded with a release in mind and are one take demo versions of things I had hoped to get covered.   At that time I did not think of myself as a performer but rather as a song writer for other artists.  

"Attic D.", "A.D.", "Attic Demo" and/or "A. Demo", as the collection has come to be known, was pressed simply because I got tired of duplicating cassette tapes whenever I sent a song or two out for consideration.  I figured if I had the nine demos on one piece of vinyl (this is long before compact discs) I would just send a copy out to whomever I thought would be interested and point out what tracks they should hear.

After the records were sitting in my house I had the brilliant idea of trying to sell some copies and did a bit of very low budget advertising. Iremember placing ads in The Village Voice and The Aquarian and sending review copies out to a few magazines.   Didn't get a lot of reviews (in fact, didn't sell a lot of records) but one of them, in the now defunct magazine "Trouser Press", stated that I "stagger into chaos and dissonance"and sound like a "cross between Lou Reed and Neil Young without the aid of melody".  Even "without the aid of melody" it was fun reading my name in the same sentence as Lou Reed and Neil Young.

Lost in the fog of time are the names of the original studios where "A.D." itself was recorded. I do know the first batch of recordings - which songs they were is not remembered - were recorded in the basement studio of a house in Brooklyn and the second set of recordings were done in an attic studio somewhere in mid-town Manhattan.  "An attic studio" where demo recordings were made. Seemed like "Attic Demonstration" fit as well as anything.   

All of the recordings were basically one take with the obvious over dubs, if memory serves me, also done in one take.

If you read the musician credits, you will see that the heart and soul of this collection was a great friend of mine named Gordon Gaines. I wrote and arranged the songs, chipped away at the lyrics and tried my best to sing, but Gordon's amazing talent, friendship and love helped bring them whatever life they may have.  He was one of the most brilliant musicians I ever met and remains, in my mind, as the epitome of what a musician and friend should be. He could play anything but his main instrument was the guitar and, during his lifetime, no one could surpass him.  These recordings do not even hint at his talent. Unfortunately, this good man and great friend died in 1997 at the age of forty one. He is sorely missed not only me by me but by thousands of friends and fans. If you'd like to know a bit more about him, please go to http://www.bobbyshred.com/gordongaines.html.

Like a lot of song writers, I prefer not to be too specific about the meanings of my songs, although a lot of what is on this collection is pretty obvious and, with this essay, I think some of the record is now straight.   Seems like a good time to end this little bit of fun and maybe leave some mystery hanging over "Attic Demonstration".

Thanks for enjoying whatever you enjoyed out of this.

© 2012 – Kenneth B. Higney – All Rights Reserved

Review in Ugly Things magazine for both Kenneth Higney reissues


Kenneth Higney – Attic Demonstration (One Kind Favor) LP
“Funky Kinky” b/w “I Wanna Be the King” (One Kind Favor) 7”
Long-regarded as an “outsider” grail, ‘A. Demo’ finally sees its way to an easily found slab of wax. Named for one of the locations of the two studios it was recorded inthe album was originallyreleased in September of ’76 on Kenneth’s own Kebrutney label as a means to put Higney’s demos in the hands of publishers and artists for use (seeing himself as more songwriter than performer). The thought in mind being a pre-made vinyl product bearing his bearded face would be an easier option than tapes made for every pursued instance. After a time, New York via Jersey native Higney also began selling the album in a few trade papers and received a decent review in Trouser Press—one of few reviews penned contemporaneously—before the release vanished into the collections of avid diggers yearning for the wild and whacked.
Attic Demonstration, musically speakingisn’t an album so strange and “out” to offend the tastes of listeners not acquainted with a view from the outside, but Higney’s shaky, amelodic  vox may not warm right up for some (though, all sounds a-ok to these ears and wears a ‘60s punk gone part mellow vibe). This is an album filled with singer/songwriter isolationist dementia and the sound of “smoke” addled, red-eyed road workers on a weekend bender creating positively damaged rock’n’roll numbers slathered in fuzz—courtesy guitarist Gordon Gaines, who Higney has expressed truly gave the music its “legs”—with a nothing left on the floor feel. Less skeletal, but still rambling on to a ramshackle groove of Indian love chant drums and strummy guitar, “Night Rider” lays Kenny’s rock’n’roll heart on the line establishing the duality on display, quickly followed by the mellow “Children of Sound” carrying heavily masked guitar tones coming off like burbling noise or a jew’s harp behind Higney’s Lou-esque delivery (Reed, natch) weaving a tale of the world where within all here are kin, the place where God exists as a perfect musical note. Referential to the man’s way of pay at the time “No Heavy Trucking”—appropriately where the set ends— is where mellow and mania all coalesce in a miasmic fireball building steam toward its intended drop, skidding off the rails with near No Wave chugging fuzz and barely contained meter before the whole ride evaporates into the ether. Pure magic… Over nine tracks you receive ear-grabbing ferocious fuzz and a darker, desolate take on the singer/songwriter idiom ranging from tossed off minimalism to maximum proto-punkian meandering towards an intended place in the shine.
Also making its way to the marketplace is KH’s only flamin’ 45 from 1980, with a more “produced” feel than the demo sessions and trying to tap into the hit machine. Living in another world the A-side, “Funky Kinky,” (writ with Grace Jones in mind) could’ve lit up the No Wave/New York post-punk underground, but as it stands is a slice of fragmented, funky disco that could win over even the most anti’s in earshot if they’re open. While B-side, “I Wanna Be the King,” (a tribute to Johnny Thunders) continues the same amelodic vocal style we’ve come to love over a slowed, glammy groove and the phrase “I wanna be the king, I wanna play guitar.  I hate the sissy music of John Den-var.” Just wait for this duo to light up the under areas dancefloors…
It’s curious to consider who the ‘A. Demo’ songs were to be intended for, but with the nods to Thunders (and the Dead Boys) on “King”, one has to wonder if this hirsute fella aimed to pitch in the punk league. The forward, fractal quality of the album stands apart from your standard bedroom demo takes via a cast-off ‘60s disjointed punk jangle and naivety that is hard not to be consumed by. You simply gotta grab these releases with no haste if any of this interested you. Step into a world…
Jeremy Cargill


Links 
Official Website of Kenneth Higney
Razorcake Magazine interview 
It's Pschedelic Baby interview with Kenneth Higney
Volcanic Tongue Tip of the Tongue: Kenneth Higney "Attic Demonstration"
Dusted review of Kenneth Higney "Attic Demonstration" (CD version)
Mark Prindle video review of Kenneth Higney "Attic Demonstration" (CD version)
Village Voice Best Reissues of 2012 list