Kirin J Callinan
For a man who has been so prevalent – not quite omnipresent, but prevalent nonetheless – on the Australian musical landscape for something like half a decade, Kirin J Callinan has strangely forged a reputation as one of our best kept secrets. Over the years, you’ve probably seen him onstage with the now-defunct Mercy Arms, under the shadow of Jack Ladder, or most recently, adding his textural flourishes with Melbourne’s Lost Animal. In solo mode, he’s breathtaking. Generating a cacophony of genre-devoid noise – presenting a stunning mix of violence, sex, industrial-folk (for lack of a better term) and heartbreak. Melbourne audiences can be forgiven for being unbeknownst to Kirin J Callinan in solo guise, as live performances are somewhat of a rarity in our neck of the woods. But with a debut full-length LP due out this year, we can expect to see more of Kirin J Callinan as a consolidated musical project.
“I don’t think the album is going to be cohesive at all,” Kirin states, assessing his yet-to-be-titled record. “It’s a bigger picture. I was asked just before if the record sounds like [first single] W II W, and I said ‘not at all’. It’s a small part of a bigger idea. Just what that bigger idea is currently is a mystery, even to me. But it makes sense. It’s a culmination of playing for years – in different bands, being into different things, having different ideas I wanted to express. I think it has a flow, and everything sounds like me, and I don’t think it really sounds like anything else – which is what I wanted. I just wanted it to sound like me, which is fucking painful sometimes. It’s traumatic to listen to and to keep working on it. It’s confronting. I hate making music sometimes, it’s awful stuff,” he smiles. “Like I said, the reward will be finishing it, letting go of it and moving on. But it’s good, I’m happy with it. I’ve recorded a number of records and tracks in the past that I felt that the honesty, integrity, or purity has been compromised, so I shelved it. I did a live record a while ago that was way too intense for me to listen to and mix. I just don’t want to fill the world with shit. I’ve been trying really hard with this one to have each individual song as true to the idea as possible. And not feel like it has to give more, or go to some payoff, or be more than it is. Just be comfortable as a mood. That was the idea with W II W, I wasn’t concerned if it was particularly listenable.”
While writing and recording proved to be a confronting task for Kirin, audiences revel in feeling just as confronted by his work – whether it be the live performance, or by an artefact such as the immaculate film clip for W II W. Sometimes the purest instinct when confronted in such a way is to laugh, or it just may be audiences relinquish a chuckle because Kirin is, in fact, a funny guy. “It’s a thing people do when they’re confused or uncomfortable, they laugh. I know I do it. As far as being a funny guy, it depends on the company I’m with. When Tim [Jack Ladder] and I are together, we’re just laughing the whole time – crying, even. But with other people, I’m the moodiest cunt you’ve ever seen. There’s also this thing that I’ve discovered onstage, you have to have a power. I guess live you’re a bit louder than everyone, you’re a bit higher than everyone, and you realise you can say anything. It becomes quite fun. It’s cliché rockstar 101. I’ve had shows where I’ve just spoken for 15 minutes about nothing, these big moments of stillness. That can be as engaging as anything,” he muses. “I like to have fun onstage.”
That projection of power onstage often translates to an eerie sexual undercurrent, manifested into an often shirtless display of hypnotically idiosyncratic dance moves. “It’s kind of cheap I guess, it’s easy to get a bit nude. If I could be nude all the time I would, it’s very natural for me. I discovered not that long ago – I think my dad kept it a deep dark secret – that his family were nudists. I didn’t find out until it was his brother’s 50th birthday or something in a speech, and my mum and my sister and I were just shocked, we had no idea of the family history. But it made a lot of sense to me,” he recounts. “The whole sexual thing? Prince is actually one of my all-time favourites. I didn’t get to see him while he was here, because I’m broke. What I’ve always loved about him is this really strong message about sexual liberation. Whilst my sexuality is probably not as liberated, it’s definitely part of me, and that’s something else I can express. I’m a lot whiter than Prince, and subsequentially a bit more sexually oppressed maybe. It’s definitely part of us all.”
As for his reputation as an undiscovered gem, Kirin isn’t exactly aspiring for stadium-sized exposure. “I don’t really care about that stuff so much. Like I said, I just kind of played shows because I had the opportunity. I’d love to play to bigger audiences, but I’m a bit more realistic now. When I was younger I had visions of grandeur popstardom, now I’m just happy to release these songs. Maybe I’ll release a few more records then move into a different career field. Maybe I’ll quit Kirin J Callinan and get someone else to take over and keep making records under my name. ‘Kirin J Callinan – no original members’. I’d be happy with that.”
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
KIRIN J CALLINAN bring his W II W tour to The Tote on Thursday June 28 with support from DCM, Machine, Kangaroo Skull, Forces DJs, DJ Shags and more. Tickets and the W II W 7" are available at siberiarecords.com.