Kevin Heard - Musical Biography 1977 to Date
OK, If someone had told me over 3 decades ago that one day I'd be sitting here trying to recall stuff from my musical career over the last 30 years, I would have seriously laughed in their face...but here I am, it's 3am and I'm trying hard to access the jelly inside my brain that stores useful information, aided by my third glass of Pinot and trying hard NOT to type this in Comic Sans...
OK Kev, be serious...Ariel Bold (not the washing powder) should be sober enough, now FOCUS...
Hi there, my name is Kevin Heard, and I am a Geordie Boy, as the song goes....Over the years I've been many things: a singer /songwriter, photographer, musician and artist/cartoonist. In the years since I began recording seriously in 1977, I've played drums, guitar, keyboards, flute and sax on various projects with different bands and line-ups.
My musical career took off in the rise of the punk era in early 1977, when, together with two friends from school, I co-founded a new wave trio called The Carpettes. At that time I had played guitar or drums in various bands in school and college and I was approaching my 21st birthday when New Wave exploded onto the music scene. We enjoyed some success with The Carpettes, and signed to Small Wonder Records in Walthamstow, London. With that label we recorded a 4 song EP "The Carpettes" and later a single entitled "Small Wonder?" the B-side of which featured my song "2NE1", and with the success of those records in the New Wave Charts (Small Wonder got to Number 2 in the NME Chart behind Eddie & The Hot Rods with "Quit This Town") we were invited to record 4 of our new songs in a session for The John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1 in July 1978. They were:
Reach The Bottom,
I Don't Mean It,
Away From It All,
The Peel Session was produced by 70s legend singer/songwriter Bob Sargeant, who later went on to produce The Carpettes first album, "Frustration Paradise".
Anyway, encouraged by the success of the John Peel session we decided to expand our horizons from our small pond in the North East of England, and head off to the Big Smoke in London....and that's where it went wrong for me, Im afraid. At the time I was planning to get married and the timing wasn't quite right for me, so I left the band and returned to Durham, where I still live.
Some years later in early 1982, I met Tim Jones through a mutual friend, Neville Maddison. Tim too had enjoyed parallel success as the distinctive and talented singer/songwriter/guitarist with his band Neon in 1977-79, and they also had moved down to London to work whilst Tim, who was married, had stayed behind in Durham.
Anyway, in 1982 I had a couple of songs I wanted to record and Tim seemed a nice bloke and enthusiastic about helping me record them, so along with Tim and Neville we became Zut! Zut! and recorded the "Foggy Road" session at Spectro Arts Centre, Newcastle in 1982. The engineer at that time was Paul Gilby, who it turned out was a friend of mine from Sunderland Art College back in 1975, so things went smoothly, and through preparing for that session Tim and I realised we both shared a love of a LOT of various kinds of music and alcoholic beverages....heheheh
It was in late 1982, when we used to sit up nights listening to music that Tim came up with the idea for a live band. He had recently made a demo with his old band Neon and talented keyboardist Paul Ellis in London under the name of 11 Eleven, and was wanting to form a band to play the songs live. Thus in early 1983 the 4 piece band Blow For Blow was born, and with Tim Jones on Vocals/Guitar, Kevin Heard (me) on Keyboards/Vocals, Vic Warrington on Fretless Bass and Norman Emerson (ex-Punching Holes) on Drums, we did some gigs around the Durham/Newcastle area. In that year we managed to record 3 songs on 4-track at Desert Sound Studios in Felling, Gateshead:
"Scorpion", a song I wrote around a poem by Trish Baldersera, and 2 of Tim's songs: "Beautiful Rose" and "Catch A Rainbow".
Tim has recorded Beautiful Rose several times since, and the second version of that song, which we recorded in London in 1984, exists on his new release "Rarities", which after 30 years we have now produced in parallel with my new release "Timeline", with Tim in charge of remastering the old recordings and myself doing the artwork and cover design for both albums.
Anyway, I digress...back to early 1984: Blow For Blow had served it's purpose, I had bought a Yamaha MT44 4-track Portastudio, and we decided we wanted to write and record some songs together at my house in Willington, Co. Durham. I had a crappy homemade synthesizer and an even crappier Casio keyboard, together with a couple of absolutely shitty stereo mikes, and Tim had his guitar and my acoustic, so we were both set. The result was the duo Soft Explosions, and our demo album was called "Icon Delight", a mixture of progressive psychedelia mixed in with what we laughingly termed "Monastic Rock"...from that album came the song "My Heart's Breaking", which now features on Tim's new album, "Rarities".
In 1984 we produced a solo album for Tim at my house called "Gimme That Guitar" which featured acoustic versions of Tim's songs as follows:
The Tears In My Eyes
The First Time
My Heart's Breaking
Get Out While You Can
At the same time we also produced a 5 song demo album called "The Shout" and Tim and I were loosely going under the name of Eyes To The Sky. I say loosely because back then we were just happily recording songs in our own little world. I don't even think we bothered sending the Gimme and Shout tapes out to demo, because we were sick of record companies not even bothering to listen to them.
"The Shout" album by Eyes To The Sky featured 5 songs:
In December 1984 Tim and I travelled to London to record a demo of 3 songs with the ex-members of his old band Neon. Line-up was:
Tim Jones (ex-Neon) - Vocals/Guitar
Kevin Heard (ex-Carpettes) - Backing Vocals/Keyboards
Martin Holder (ex-Dexter, Neon) - Lead Guitar
Mark Dunn (ex-Neon) - Bass, Drum Programming
Loosely called "The London Sessions 1984" (by me anyway), the demo featured 3 of Tim's songs recorded on 4-track and engineered by Mark Dunn. They were:
No Heart (Originally called "The First Time")
OK, cup of coffee time, re-energize batteries, save file before laptop decides to do another bleedin update... Re-engage soft white fuzzy matter I mockingly call a brain..."What Did Katy Do Next?" I can hear you say...oh yeah I can tell you're all paying attention. Wake up please!! Now where was I? Oh yes...
Scene & Heard Studios 1985
I think it was around March 1985 we got an offer from Nick Ketteringham, producer at Scene & Heard Studios in Newcastle to go and record a couple of songs there for free...Tim's old friends do come in handy sometimes. How could we refuse? Free studio time is not to be sniffed at and poverty stricken musicians like us would have killed for less. So I packed up my drum kit and guitar and headed off to Newcastle 20 miles away. Dont ask me how we got there, neither Tim nor I had transport, and I'll be buggered if i can remember how the heck we got there with a drum kit and 2 guitars...anyhow FOCUS...
At Scene & Heard Studios we recorded my new song "Sing Songs Of Love" and Tim's new song "Ramehead" the lyrics of which had been written by Dicon Peake.
Tentatively called "The Scene & Heard Tapes 1985" and still using the name Eyes To The Sky, the line-up was:
Tim Jones - Vocals/Guitars
Kevin Heard - Backing Vocals/Guitar/Drums
Nick Ketteringham - Fretless Bass
A few months later the same year (1985), we were back in Scene & Heard Studios in Newcastle to record another project with the 3 ex-Neon members who came up from London to help out. Together with Tim, myself, Nick Ketteringham, Roger Lee, Bree Long and a keyboard player I don't remember, we recorded the "Prisoners Of The Real World" mini-album under the new name of Somebody Famous. Line-up was:
Tim Jones - Vocals/Guitars/Violin
Kevin Heard - Backing Vocals/Drums
Nick Ketteringham - Fretless Bass
Norman Emerson - Backing Vocals
Martin Holder - Lead Guitar
Mark Dunn - Bass
Paddi - Drums
Roger Lee - Tenor Sax
Bree Long - Backing Vocals
? - Keyboards
After recording, a lot of of time was spent on post-production by Tim Jones & Nick Ketteringham to produce the amazing finished result.
After 1985, a lot of things happened: Tim went on the road with Somebody Famous as a live trio originally with Kingsley Burn on bass, and by 1988 with Steve Sekrit (ex-Punishment Of Luxury, Punching Holes) on drums, and Chris Oddy on bass. (Chris later left the band and was replaced on bass by superb Irish musician Friz, who is now an Airline Pilot in the USA !!!)
Tim signed to Prism Sound in Newcastle, went on to record a 12" EP with them called "I Like To Travel"/ "Dancing Feet", and later an album: "The Gift". In 1987 he featured in the Channel 4 TV programme "Famous For 15 Minutes" singing 3 songs from that album:
On the strength of the TV performance (Tim singing solo with gorgeous models posing as a backing band in a Robert Palmer video rip-off), the rights to "The Gift" album were bought by Raindance Records in Scotland and distributed by them via The Cartel.
By 1988 I had an album of my own songs I needed to record, and Tim offered to engineer and help produce them on his home studio in Langley Park, Co. Durham.
The album was called "Prophecy" and as a true solo album, Tim suggested I play all the instruments and sing all the vocals, so that's what we did.
"Prophecy" (1988) was a concept album of 6 of my songs, all linked with various blended sound samples to give an overall feel and atmosphere:
Sing Songs Of Love
Be Your Light
Tongues Of Fire
Because I played all the instruments, we took a few weeks to record everything, and a lot of time getting the production values right.
Kevin Heard - Vocals/Backing Vocals/Electric Guitars/Acoustic Guitars/Keyboards/Fretless Bass/ Drum Programming
Tim Jones - Engineer
Produced By Tim & Kevin
What happened next? ...Oh yeah, I co-formed a band called Finn & The Cat Company around 1989-90 with Deborah Mills, guitarist and songwriter, Vic Warrington (ex-Blow For Blow) on Fretless Bass and myself on Drums. Dont ask me who the shit-hot lead guitarist was, I can't for the life of me remember, sorry. Deborah wrote all the songs and also happened to be living with Steve Sekrit, Tim's drummer, in an old farmhouse near Brancepeth Castle, Co. Durham, which was great for band practices because there were no neighbours for miles around...yeah man, turn it up a bit and deafen the damn cat hahaha....
We did quite a few gigs with Finn & The Cat Company around Durham/Newcastle area, and one I do remember was supporting Northumbrian Piper Kathryn Tickell in a gig in Durham, 1990. It was in 1990 that Vic left the band and was replaced by Steve Cunningham on bass. Steve was then working in a studio in Newcastle and through that connection later left Finn & The Cat Company to join Lindisfarne and become famous. It was around that time, late 1990 that I left that band also.
With 2 marriages behind me I met my present partner Christina in 1991, and music took a back seat for a while.
I had been going through a messy divorce at the time and fighting to have access to my son. I eventually was allowed to see him weekends, and that, together with a full time job, took up all of my spare time. All of my spare time? Hmmm...no, not really. My son loved playing games on the Amiga (PCs were crap back then), and I had acquired a program called Protracker v.3.10b, which basically was a music sequencer. Floppy discs were the thing back in 1992 (yeah, I know) and I had collected thousands of sound samples of instruments etc. on a large selection of floppy discs. Typically these sound files were held in no particular order on the discs, so each time I wanted to choose a sound or instrument I had to laboriously search through all the files playing each in turn to see what they sounded like. Bit of a pain? Yeah, it sure was, but that was just the start of building songs with Protracker...
Basically a musical bar of 4 beats was further sub-divided into 64 parts, and you had to place your sound samples in the correct place on the sequence to play a note. THEN you had further controls on how that note was played. You had to type in numerical values for volume, tone, etc....so performing a simple fade out involved a LOT of typing. Did I mention you had to enter the actual notes from the computer keyboard? Yep, there wasn't even a musical keyboard involved. Cross your heart and mutter 3 Hail Marys...sheesh.
Anyway, this was the slow process that produced my next album, which after several months of tweaking was finished in 1993. The album was called "Future History II" and I was using the old name of Eyes To The Sky. Tunes were as follows:
Future History II
Try This For Sighs
Protracker 3.10b was a simple 4-track sequencer, so there are only 4 instruments playing at any time in the tunes. The trick was making it sound like there was actually a lot more instruments playing, which I think I managed to get away with by squeezing different sounds on the same track and dropping bass lines out under high-end brass stabs, and sneaky stuff like that. Hopefully your ears won't notice, so why am I telling you this? Oh the geek in me...
Around 1999 I met Dave Snailham. Dave was a keyboard player from Craghead, Co. Durham and produced a lot of his own songs in a Dance/ R&B style. He used various vocalists to sing his work which he produced totally through keyboards with recording capabilities. He wanted something different on his tracks, so he roped me in to provide Acoustic Guitar and Backing Vocals on 3 tracks of his album, "Pastures New". They were:
Where In The World
Going My Way
We recorded that album at a studio in Consett, Co. Durham in 1999 I think. Later that year I bought his keyboard and my instrumental track "Heresy" 1999, which appears on "Timeline" was the result.
It was years later in 2002 I got a call out of the blue from Dave Dorn, who I had played with at school in my first-ever rock band, aged 15. His band Strange Brew needed a drummer/vocalist, so off I went on the gig circuit around Sunderland/Newcastle with his covers band for a couple of years. I left them in 2004.
Whilst I had been playing nights with that band I got a job as Teaching Assistant at a school in Sunderland teaching Art and Music. When I joined that school in 2003, there was a crappy drum kit and one electric guitar with only 5 strings on it. Over the years I'm pleased to say I built up a Rock Band Club from scratch and with various grants managed to buy a dozen or so new guitars, 2 drum kits and loads of new amps and PA equipment. With kids aged 14-16 I formed various rock bands and with myself on rhythm guitar and in later years vocals, (none of em wanted to sing!) we played many gigs on a regular basis. Kids from those bands went on to play all over the country with rock bands at University, so it kinda feels good to have spread the message so to speak...
During the 8 years I spent teaching rock bands in Sunderland I bought a digital 8/64 track Portastudio to record them on, and in 2007 wrote and produced the song "Dear Horatio" based on the letters between Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton in the period leading to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and which features at least 12 vocal tracks and many instrumental tracks to achieve a big sound:
Kevin Heard - Vocals/ Guitars/Synthesizer/ Flute/Bass/ Drum Programming
OK, we are nearly at the end you'll be pleased to hear...in December 2014 I contacted Tim Jones through Facebook and sent him a complete archive of all the songs we had recorded together since 1982, which I had digitised from the original tapes and recorded to CD in 2006. He had the idea to remaster a selection of the stuff I sent him and produce 2 solo albums of our songs since 1982. I designed the CD sleeves for both in parallel with each other so I guess they are sister albums.
The result is "Rarities" by Tim Jones and "Timeline" by Kevin Heard.
We hope you like them.
...Deep breath, and relax...
Thank you for your patience and Goodnight. Oh it's morning already? I really do need to sleeeeeeep....
Kevin Heard, January 2015
Update November 2021
Rarities & Timeline (2015) were the first of MANY sleeves I designed for Stone Premonitions artists along with the first release of my own album "Cydonia" (2016). During lockdown between June 2020- April 2021 I recorded 70 cover songs and released them as 4 cd albums on my own label Heardspace Records with the help of Tim Jones who mastered them. These 4 albums I issued FREE to anyone who wanted them across the world. During that time and since then I have been designing album sleeves for certain friends on Falling A Records. Since January 2021 I have also been recording my own radio show "Songs Of Distant Earth" for Clear Blue Sky Radio in London.