Martin Kennedy’s All India Radio has seen many incarnations.
Martin Kennedy’s All India Radio has seen many incarnations. Manifesting as a solo project in 1998 as an antithesis to Kennedy’s previous rock music work, his ambient ethereal creations were first created by a live band in 2001.
Kennedy says he didn’t have a specific concept for the project when setting out. "I played in an indie rock band in the 1990s and I did that for ten years. I wanted to do something completely different and that’s what I came up with – a more downbeat, ambient project." The original sound is very similar to that of the band today.
Current album, The Silent Surf, conjures up images of intergalactic travel, with, as Kennedy puts it, "for want of a better word, ‘spacey’ sounds." Rather than set out to create an album with that theme, Kennedy says, "It really starts with my acoustic guitar and I’ll come up with some really basic tune and then I’ll go to the computer and start some basic recording.
"When I’m about two thirds finished an album, I’ll start to feel what the whole vibe of the album should feel like," he says. Kennedy can be quite prolific. "That’s when songs will start to be culled. If a song doesn’t fit into the album then I’ll leave it out or I’ll use it somewhere else. I definitely have a quality control thing which I have to get the songs through. Whilst many artists find the culling process difficult, Kennedy isn’t fazed. "It’s pretty easy, really. On our website I give those songs away as extra tracks. I usually know pretty much straight away the ones that aren’t going to make the cut and I give them a reject stamp," he jokes.
Kennedy describes The Silent Surf as having a surf vibe. "That kind of came a bit later [in the process] and I used some samples of an American astronomer which is kind of quirky. I guess I’m more interested in that sort of thing. I love sci-fi and I love space. I’ve never gone as strong on that as that on an album before, so this was the album to do that." While some samples were sourced particularly for this album, there are some old favourites Kennedy returns to. "A lot of [the samples] I’ve created myself and a lot of them are the same ones I used back in the late 90s. I try to disguise them a little bit though. Some come from other people. People give me sounds and say ‘oh this could be interesting, see what you can do with this,’ so I come home and mangle it and see what comes out of it."
The band’s reputation as a ‘surf band’ came around the time of their self-titled album. "We used to be described as a surf band on codeine or something like that – like a really slow weird surf band. I actually wanted to play on that. I think it’s the guitar sound, that twangy sound." Apart from pervading media, Kennedy says popular descriptions of the band can influence the music. "On the self-titled album, the person who said we sounded like a surf band wrote that really strongly. They wrote why they thought that and they rattled off all these surf music albums. A lot of them I hadn’t even heard of. It was like this big long essay of why they thought that, and they said they really loved the album. After that we kind of jokingly referred to ourselves like that and it kind of got picked up and we put it in press releases and other people would say it too, so sometimes you do start to hear in the music what the people have said, whereas before you wouldn’t even have thought of it."
All India Radio is doing a rare live performance for their The Silent Surf album launch at the Northcote Social Club on Sunday, March 20 with special guest Cam Butler (Silver Ray, The Coralinas). Doors open at 2pm. See allindiaradio.com.au for more information.