Interviews That Inspire!
Rock, Spotlight Series

Spotlight On David Kilminster

We had the pleasure to interview guitar virtuoso David Kilminster for our spotlight series. David is perhaps best known for his touring work with Roger Waters (Dark Side Of The Moon & The Wall) and Keith Emerson, however his latest solo effort ‘…and THE TRUTH will set you free…’ reveals a brilliant and soulful artist who is not shy to throw down with with some of rock’s most iconic guitarists. The album is remarkably accomplished and beautifully recorded.   Critically acclaimed as one of the most extraordinary talents to emerge from the UK, we proudly present this special spotlight series interview with David Kilminster.  For more information and music don’t miss the opportunity to visit some of the links at the end of the article.
may you be inspired!
LBFH: Your newest release “The truth will set you free” was released in September 2014.  What was your primary inspiration for those tracks?

DK: After ‘The Wall’ tour finished,  I started looking around for some cool new rock music to listen too… but I couldn’t find any!! So I went back and listened to all the stuff that I loved when I was growing up, especially Queen and Led Zeppelin… and I felt SO inspired!!! It’s such incredible stuff… those first five Queen albums are just amazing!!! 

LBFH: You are internationally known as a great technical player and you have been involved in some pretty impressive line ups.  Did you feel that there were some expectations to be met with your own solo release?

DK: Not really, because I’ve had such a diverse career…. My first album (‘Playing With Fire’) featured solely classical guitar, I recorded an album of acoustic covers in 2013 with my friend Murray Hockridge (‘Closer to Earth’), and teaching wise I’ve played everything from Country to Death Metal… so I don’t think people actually know what to expect!
In fact some interviewers have told me that my new album (…and THE TRUTH will set you free…) wasn’t what they expected’… which I just took to mean that it’s better than they thought it would be!

I really can’t think about anyone’s expectations though… All I can do is try and make the best album I can….  

LBFH: You have a preferred rig that creates a highly personalized sound.  What are some of the challenges you face when trying to translate that sound to recording, does a hybrid sound emerge?

DK: It’s incredibly tough to capture the sound of my rig in a studio… I’m still learning how to do that actually, which is why I usually end up adding acoustic guitars underneath the electric guitars when I’m recording… I don’t actually mind creating something that I can’t replicate live though because when it’s recorded, it’s forever… and a live show is much more about the energy and experience…

LBFH: Covering Dave Gilmour parts must be  exciting but also a little scary because every note is very well known.  How long did it take you to prepare for the first and second Roger Waters tours and what were some of the biggest challenges?

DK: Yes, every note is very well known to Pink Floyd fans… but as I wasn’t really a fan of Pink Floyd, a lot of it was totally new to me!! In fact the first time I ever heard ‘The Wall’ album was in 2010!!!! So for me a lot of the preparation involved just listening to the albums first… usually while I was driving around, or in the gym… just getting the songs and arrangements in my head…

Then I sat down and wrote out every single guitar part heard on ‘The Wall’, and I also made notes about guitar tone, effects, delay times, etc, etc… I really had no idea what parts Roger would want me to play, so I learned everything!

I have no idea how long this process took though… we had a few months notice before the tour, and so it was just something I chipped away at when I felt like…. I do remember that memorizing the ‘Comfortably Numb’ solo took a little while… partly because there’s a particular lick in there that happens three times, but with a slightly different ending each time… so when I would get to that lick in the solo, I’d always been thinking ‘Which ending is this one’? ‘Have I played that one already’? ‘Umm… where am I’? (laughs).

I think the biggest challenge on stage though, was making the transitions between the instrument changes as smooth as possible… for example, going from electric guitar (during ‘The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes’) to playing Roger’s bass on ‘Mother’ (low slung, big strings, high action), and then straight to ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’, which I played on classical guitar… so, all totally different instruments/string spacings/strap lengths/techniques/approaches…. that kind of thing happened several times during the two sets, and it was always a challenge to make those transitions as smooth as possible.

LBFH: Is it tough to work with iconic artists?

DK: I think it depends on how the artist is as a person, and also what that artist means to you personally… for example, as I wasn’t a huge Pink Floyd fan, it wasn’t like ‘OH MY GOD, IT’S ROGER WATERS FROM PINK FLOYD’!!! I met Roger and, as we started working together I developed a HUGE respect for him as an artist and a professional. So for me that was obviously a lot easier than when I first met Keith Emerson, who was one of my childhood heroes!!! It took a little while for me to get my head around the fact that I was playing with KEITH EMERSON!

I remember one of the first times we played together actually, just the two of us… and he got on the piano, and started playing something from ‘Tarkus’, and I just melted!!! All of a sudden, I was transported in time, back to the embarrassingly shy and awkward teenager, who totally adored Keith’s piano playing….

LBFH: Are there some artists that you would have liked to work with?

DK: I would have loved to work with Jeff Buckley…. I would happily have been his rhythm guitarist, just to listen to that incredible voice every night…. such a sad loss.

LBFH: What do you find the most satisfying about teaching music?

DK: Well, seeing a students progress in general is very gratifying… especially if you’re teaching someone that’s just beginning, as there’s generally a lot of development in a short space of time…

There’s also something that we refer to as the ‘light bulb’ moment… it happens when a student has been struggling to understand something (for example, ‘the modes’), and you very carefully explain it to them, and all of a sudden their face lights up as it all clicks into place, and they totally understand what you’re saying… that’s a really nice moment…

I guess probably the most satisfying thing though, is seeing people that you’ve taught go on to make beautiful music of their own… Ex students like my friend Jon Gomm, who has developed into a wonderful acoustic guitarist…. also Newton Falkner has also done some great things on acoustic too. And my friend Nat Martin is a totally amazing blues/fusion player!! Plus I get emails every week from people thanking me for a particular magazine article or instructional video…. so it’s all good!!

LBFH: I read about how you were initially a right handed guitarist but the switched to lefty after an accident.  This to me sounds like an amazing testament to a determined artist.  Can you talk a little about how you made that adjustment and what gave you the inspiration to succeed?

DK: Yeah, it was really tough time… very frustrating…. after the accident I had no trouble turning the chord shapes around in my head (like a mirror image), but I’d be looking at my left hand fingers and they were just so slow at getting to the notes and shapes that I was telling them too. All of a sudden I had to start from the very beginning… again!!! It’s bad enough learning how to play guitar, without having to learn it twice!!!

I almost gave up a few times actually, and I remember once smashing up a guitar and then setting fire to it!!! But I’m very stubborn, and also I desperately wanted to make music….

LBFH: What does it take to be a great studio player?

DK: Discipline. Imagination. Great timing. Great ears. No ego, and a lot of empathy… oh, and considering the ‘artistic temperaments’ you sometimes encounter in the studio, it also helps to be a psychologist and a diplomat too!

LBFH: What career advise would you give to musicians who are looking to make it in the music business today?

DK: Honestly, I have no idea…. the music business today is changing so rapidly, and I haven’t a clue where it’s all heading. I guess if you do want to make a living as a musician though, then it makes sense to be pretty flexible and multi-skilled… I know in the past when I was starting out, I really struggled to survive… but between teaching, transcribing for a guitar magazine, duo gigs, covers gigs, etc I could just about get by…

LBFH: Outside of music, what are some of your favorite pastimes?

DK: I love diving, although I haven’t had chance to do that for a little while… I love photography, travelling and visiting new places… I enjoy nature and art, so when I’m on tour with time to kill I’m generally found walking around the local parks, botanical gardens, aquariums, museums, art galleries, etc…

LBFH: How do you hope to be remembered, when it comes time to leave your long and successful music career behind you?

DK: Well, I’m actually hoping that the best is yet to come, and that I’ll create my defining album… you know, my ‘Grace’ or ‘Led Zeppelin IV’… my ‘A Night at the Opera’, or ummm… ‘Dark Side of the Moon’!

But if not, then I guess it would be ok to be remembered as the long-haired guitarist who stood heroically (haha!!) on top of a forty foot wall, and poured his heart out to millions of people during an incredible three year world tour….

LBFH: What do you consider to be your greatest contributions to music?

DK: Wow, that’s a huge question…. I like to think that I’ve added to the wonderful ball of energy that we call music, with my own compositions… that I’ve made some people happy… and maybe even helped and inspired some to go on and create their own music…

It’s early days though…. I think there’s a lot more good stuff ahead!

LBFH: What is next for you?

DK: Well I’m really excited because I’ve been asked to play guitar for Steven Wilson on his US tour, starting in May!!! I really love Steven’s music, so that’ll be a lot of fun…. and I really can’t wait to get back out on tour again!

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About Thomas Mangano

Musician, Composer, Columnist


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