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August 14, 2014

"Forever Ambitious Somewhat Naive And Still Searching" An Interview With RUINED MACHINES (aka KENYON IV) (Interview 2 of 2)

Click here to visit the official website of Ruined Machines & Celestial Bodies.
Click here to visit the official website of Kenyon IV.
Click here to visit the official website of World Of Rock Records.


August 2014 (e-mail)

Guitarist Joseph Kenyon is Ruined Machines, an instrumental progressive rock guitarist who self-released a handful of online albums before connecting up with Polish born visual graphic artist Michal Brodka in 2012. Together they created Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration that was a planetary/astrological themed musical & artist project spread over 12 months featuring 12 EPs & 12 pictures. Since its conclusion Ruined Machines has ventured into new territory under the name Kenyon IV with the announcement of a new very different album Peace Talks set for September 2014 release, though that has been push out with this interview. Joseph is also the founder of World Of Rock Records.

In 2012 I interviewed Joseph & Michal about their musical/visual project, having looked up Ruined Machines' 2011 release Pressure & Obsession & stumbling upon their new work which I found incredibly interesting & unique. That interview is also on this blog. This new interview with Joseph comes as the second new interview in the reboot of this blog after months away. Cleaning up the blog & getting it ready to be added to once again I was wondering what became of Celestial Bodies. I was expecting it not to be finished, as so many projects end up. I was surprised to find over 50 songs attributed to the project. The fact that Joseph had moved to a new musical project under a new name with very different musical goals made me want to find out more about where he was & where he's going. Read both interviews for a fascinating ongoing story of musical & personal growth. Perhaps I'll even touch base with him in another year as after reading this interview I find his ambitious plans enjoyable to discover & share.

* * * *

AJ: When we last connected it was August 2012 & you were 4 months into Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration with graphic artist Michal Brodka fusing his artwork with your largely instrumental guitar playing under an astrological/space theme spanning 12 months. That project came to an intergalactic conclusion a year ago. Can you update me on how the rest of the year went & where the project went musically & the end result? Or, to put it another way, was there any black holes or new planets? Did the vision of what you thought you might musically discover end up being what the outcome was?

RUINED MACHINES: It was a hell of a year. We both went mad trying to meet those constant deadlines, but somehow, we made it through. There was a delay somewhere around Neptune I think, where we spent an extra week working, but other than that, we always made the first of the month deadline. You can definitely hear what I was listening to at the time throughout the series, with mostly electronic arrangements happening toward the middle of the series. I was listening to a lot of Yoshimi Battles The Pin Roberts by the Flaming Lips during that time, but that all stopped with Saturn. Saturn was completely sans electronics, with the songwriting style bearing the most resemblance to the stuff I’m working on now - if I had to compare the new stuff to anything. Black holes, hell yeah ... It all culminated in a disastrous trip through the event horizon. It’s all been cataloged in sound. It’s an abstract, sad, epic ending to the journey. We went through the entire solar system, including the Sun & Moon, & hit up a Black Hole as a surprise at the end. Black Hole was the last EP of the series. I had to end it on a logical note, & the ultimate end is nothing other than a black hole ... dark & wondrous the climax of Celestial Bodies ended up to be.

AJ: Since our last interview you I've read that you made 2 attempts at forming a live band, with some members eventually contributing towards Celestial Bodies. Can you tell me about these live band efforts & were they intended as a performance version of Celestial Bodies?

RUINED MACHINES: The first time I attempted to make RUINED MACHINES an actual band was way back in 2007 when I had no idea about absolutely anything. I was just out of high school & my other guitarist was still in. Our drummer was older. We practiced in his mom’s house like an hour & a half north of where we were at. Didn’t last long at all & before I knew it, it was a solo project once more. During Celestial Bodies, I gave it another go, getting a little further but still never making it out of the practice/pre-show stage. We had a killer set list that went through the series hitting some key spots in a realistic amount of set time. I still have some of the practices recorded. Maybe I’ll post them somewhere. It’s a shame we didn’t get that far. There’s an awesome shot of our drummer’s bass drum with the Moon artwork on it. I’m still bummed no one got to hear us live. I should post those recordings.

AJ: Other than just adding some new sounds how did bringing others in musically & personally affect you in the composing of Celestial Bodies?

RUINED MACHINES: Overall, I’d say not that much, as the contributions others made toward Celestial Bodies really only made up maybe 5% of the series in total. Coordinating everything just between the two of us, that is Michal & I, was difficult enough. To schedule work with outsiders was challenging in a whole different way. I avoided it by & large, unless someone in the band or a friend sent me a interesting idea or sample to use. All that being said, I certainly learned to write with others more ... that’s for sure. I learned how to write around other’s ideas & compliment them, as opposed to taking care of the whole thing. There are ideas you come across when playing & writing with others that you never would have come up with on your own, & sometimes, they are worlds better than the stuff you’re writing alone.

AJ: What do you feel this project accomplished or how did it push you artistically & personally?

RUINED MACHINES: It taught me how to create & then observe, rather than meticulously craft, little by little, & carefully reviewing each improvement & being a perfectionist. It taught me to connect the dots afterward, instead of during or before. You can craft music or art either way, because there are no rules, no disqualifications, despite what they lead you to believe. But, the percent of potential & direction you’re getting it from are completely different, depending on your mindset going into creating. I’m fascinated with the philosophy & psychology behind art, but music in general ... how the simplest things can bring about such a reaction & why. Celestial Bodies’s relentless writing & recording schedule almost forced it into me, & because of it I now have a deeper appreciation for the art of music, & even with my guitar. I feel more connected to instrumentation & composition than ever before. It’ll do nothing but aide my future work. Celestial Bodies taught me to listen to myself more, & like I said before, that it’s okay to connect the dots looking back ... Control isn’t what’s called for all the time. It taught me that balance exists in everything.

AJ: You told me when we last spoke you had quit your job to focus on music. How did that effect your music? Or, what might be easier to answer, how did having that time to only work on music affect you - like you thought or not?

RUINED MACHINES: Mike & I both had large fires under our asses by that point ... & still do. Unfortunately, it’s easy to say 'Let’s quit our jobs & do what we want full time' when you’re still living at home & aren’t able to justify your footprint on the planet on your own yet. We were both looking for work again before long. But, at the same time, we were determined as all hell to make it work the way we wanted ... and still are, but approaching it much differently now. Getting older by the day. The thing about doing what you love to do all the time is that it can stop being what you love & easily turn into something you hate. That’s if you don’t give yourself breaks from time to time, trusting that you’ll renew your interest eventually & that you’re just currently burned out. But, that’s a hard pill to swallow, even now. Sometimes you really want to stop, but you won’t ... & sometimes you can’t, because now a financial well-being relies on it. Then you’re screwed.

AJ: Switching gears, or to something more down to earth, your website lists Paths To A Digital Dawn a CD release from 2008 now sold out. Can you tell me a little about this past release & do you have any plans to get it out there again through one channel or other?

RUINED MACHINES: That was my second album. More so than making actual sales, I wanted people to recognize something from RUINED MACHINES when they visited that page so they knew it was me. RUINED MACHINES was my entire music world until I decided to start clean with what I learned over the years. Abandoning one style of writing & recording & trying to remove all the possible filters between my mind & others’ ears. RUINED MACHINES was a filter.

AJ: Though, a past release that is still available to download via bandcamp is Pleasure & Obsession from 2011 that's quite a progressive guitar focused musical journey "of a failed rebirth" according to the website. Can you share more about this past effort?

RUINED MACHINES: Pressure & Obsession, my third album, & one I’m most proud of ... it’s the only one I can still listen to without cringing throughout the whole thing. You make due with what you have & I didn’t have much to work with during that whole time. I’m still proud of how it was put together & all the heart & soul that went into that one ... & it shows. The booklet that comes with the download of the album will further enforce that. That album was my life for a year & a half, & I can relate to it on a level I’ll never fully be able to explain. But, I know a good portion of it shows. I’m thankful for that because it helped me out a whole lot. Looking back, maybe that was when I really started to realize what music could do for me, & how I could pay for that by always trying to progress in my art & skill.

AJ: How do these past 2 releases compare to Celestial Bodies?

RUINED MACHINES: My first 2 albums are very thin. Like I said, I work with what I have &/or what I can get my hands on. But Pressure & Obsession was a step forward for me in a lot of aspects. Celestial Bodies was another. It brought the scope of RUINED MACHINES to a whole new level creatively & artistically. It opened the gates for me & proved me wrong that something so grandly ambitious would be considered 'over the top' in the end, by us & outsiders both. It wasn’t. It’s just right. At least to me.

AJ: Currently you are working on Peace Talks set for September release, featuring 2 extended compositions "Red Hair, Brown Hair" & "What A Night (At Home Alone Can Do For The Soul)". Your website reads: "Joe Kenyon come back down to Earth after 8 years of space rock as RUINED MACHINES to reverse creative direction & begin the journey inward". What can listeners come to expect from this new endeavor?

RUINED MACHINES: A different writing perspective, a refreshed approach to composition & layering. Everything’s written & arranged already, it just has to be recorded. I’ve been desperately wanting to shed myself of the habit of writing from the 'rock band' point of view, & write from an orchestral one instead. That is, more instruments doing less, instead of less doing more. One with no limits on equipment or ego. It’s asking myself, 'What would you write if deadlines & resources weren’t an issue?' It would be this. & the instruments aren’t even the resources being an issue. It’s the time, energy, motivation & labor involved. The 2 part composition is less complex & searches to find the most basic meaning in each note & redefine how they can make you feel. It’s about context & finding specialties in the ordinary. It’s comforting & warm, but can be taken very seriously. Each part of the piece has something specific to say, with a vivid story to tell with the instruments involved in each recording. They’re huge, varying pieces of music. Big compositions. Very difficult & time-consuming to record, not to mention nerve-wracking ... & I’ve hardly started. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt it’ll be recorded & released by September, that was just me being really hard on myself again, I guess. I start dreading myself over a deadline I create for no reason. As if I can’t change it or remove it. Why am I telling myself I have to have an album out by a certain time? Here it’s choosing between shipping dates & quality. Quality. So let’s nix September & replace it with 'whenever the time is right'.

AJ: Your website promotes Peace Talks with: "I’ve wrapped up my last year or so, in all its turbulence, into this record. It’s a healing record & speaks from experience. The only step you can possibly take after writing the entire solar system is a big one. It’s time to be free of the boundaries that existed within RUINED MACHINES. RUINED MACHINES was an outward-reaching project, & this couldn’t be more opposite. I’m going deep." I'm interested in what you say in terms of that this is a healing record. Healing from what, if I can ask? Also, what boundaries are you shedding & how do you define outward versus inward reaching project?

RUINED MACHINES: Seems like every year’s a turbulent year. Over the course of Celestial Bodies, & the time I’ve spent making music after it, I’ve grown a lot in musical maturity. I went from simply working a guitar to get the sounds I want, to understanding the actual relationship between guitar & player. Playing went from being a chore to something that really keeps me company. I’m understanding music & art a whole lot more now, & I really feel like I’m coming into my own. That can only mean my best is yet to come. Peace Talks is the proof of that, & it’s a shame I haven’t been able to record it yet, because genius without proof is only madness. I have proof but it’s just still in my brain. & it reminds me that it’s there every single fucking day.

AJ: Your website reads Kenyon IV, so is this the retirement of RUINED MACHINES? &, if the rocket is staying grounded, let me ask while I still have the chance, where does the name come from or what does it mean?

RUINED MACHINES: The name comes from a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, that had a graphic drawn on the back of it that was labeled “faulty schematics of a ruined machine”. I always loved it and I was surprised 'Ruined Machines' wasn’t already taken. I haven’t listened to them in a long, long time. RUINED MACHINES is over, for the time being. I doubt it’ll return for quite some time, if ever, but never say never.

AJ: Finally, tell me about World of Rock Records, which is something new since we last spoke.

RUINED MACHINES: While Celestial Bodies was going on I started working at World of Rock, a music school near me in Summit, New Jersey. About a year into that I founded a record label within the school called World of Rock Records. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work with quite a few people without with the label wouldn’t even exist. For example, CKY was the reason I started playing guitar, so to be able to press Foreign Objects (a pre-CKY project) on vinyl, it’s something I’m very grateful for. I never really have a free moment now that WORR exists, but if I’m doing the right thing, that’s all I’m concerned with by the end of the day. Forever ambitious, somewhat naive, & still searching for whatever it is will help bring a little bit of clarity. Music brings clarity, & makes loneliness disappear for me. I feel like I have to do my part in passing that on, however I can.


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