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An Interview With… KC Blackwater

“The body’s dead but it won’t stop talking”… and thankfully neither will KC Blackwater.


All photos by TatianaWPhotos (@tatianawphotos on instagram)


Back in January, Silence & Sound caught up with the rising punk musician, KC Blackwater, to discuss his upcoming third EP, the importance of supporting your local scene, music marketing in the age of social media and touring with Alfie Templeman.

It’s a bright Tuesday morning in January when upcoming Milton-Keynes based punk artist, KC Blackwater, joins the Google Meet call for his first interview of the day. As the camera connects, a young man wearing a Knocked Loose hoodie and drinking tea from a silver flask is revealed, enthusiastic and eager to get started with our chat.


Within minutes of the interview beginning, KC Blackwater simply states, “you’ll struggle to get me to shut up, I can’t lie.” It’s a theme that runs throughout his upcoming third EP, How To Kill A Man.


He joins from his bedroom, a room with a bright and airy aura decorated with seven colourful bass guitars displayed on the wall behind him, which hang above a grey sofa completed with mustard yellow cushions. Plants and games controllers are scattered on the surfaces in the background. “The original inception of the idea, all the way to the merch, is being created in this room”, he explains, when asked where he is.


“I’ve felt [an] overwhelming sense of foreboding slowly rising recently now that everything’s actually getting serious with this release. But it’s actually quite nice to be talking to someone and not just being stuck in my own little echo chamber, as I have been for quite some time.”


Set for release on 31st March, How To Kill A Man is the follow up to previous projects, Happy Smiling Faces in 2021, and Anxiety Machine, which came out last year, and channels an awful lot of anger. “A big thing [on this EP] is the abuse of innocence; taking something that is so creative and pure and just finding ways to utilise, twist or extinguish it.”


This idea is one that is presented in both a literal sense and much more obscurely throughout the EP; on opening track, Kids!, KC finds himself trying to figure out “how the fuck does stuff like this happen?” (in reference to paedophiles, one of the many issues providing a source of anger for his song writing) in a more literal sense, whereas the project on the whole takes further inspiration from the more obscure things, “where it’s actually looking at the people that are abusing their positions of power [and] what to do about them.”



It’s a theme that’s explored at its best on lead single, The Body, which was independently released on 28th February. KC explains that the best way to deal with those abusing their power quite often is to “just let [them] speak themselves into a corner and that’s how to kill him out and he does it to himself. Often times, people will reveal themselves and the hard part is really knowing what to do when they do that.”


It's a punchy and powerful lead single which really encapsulates how KC is unafraid to speak out about the issues within the modern music industry, and shows how he’s not willing to stop talking about it. The press release explains how this is a track exposing posthumous releases and “how artists often become the product of a company or label rather than the individual.” Upon my first listen to the track (and the rest of the EP), I was reminded of how many artists recently have begun calling out their labels for making them post TikToks with the intention of only releasing the teased tracks once the video had gone viral; an issue that has been affecting both established and upcoming artists alike.


“The body’s dead but it won’t stop talking”, he answers when I ask what his stance on this issue is. “It's no longer enough to be a generational talent; it's no longer enough to create music that people connect with and love, and have a fan base that is willing to listen. You have to bombard that fan base and make someone else as much money as possible. You have to milk that fan base for all it's worth. And that's wrong.


“And […] I think modern musicians are suffering from sort of the dominance of the music industry at the moment that's also spreading out to fans. I think it's negative for both parties involved. And it's horrible hearing, like being around certain musicians, [and] hearing the amount of pressure that they're being put under, to not just do what they're great at, but also have to put on their little suit and perform and start clashing together their cymbals.”



The conversational floor takes a turn to explore the other extreme that is the harm that parasocial relationships can equally have, especially in modern music culture where many bands and artists are marketed to appeal to their fanbase as their “friends”, the latter making audiences believe they know musicians on a personal, more intimate level.

"Your idols they don’t know you and you really shouldn’t think That they owe you more than the product that you willfully drink The stream of social conciousness that you’re conditioned to believe Is but smoke and mirrors and shattered glass from bear trap companies" - The Body

“If you want to actually talk to and understand bands, support your local scene! Go and see some local bands, support your friends.” is the vital advice KC offers. It’s an important statement, with grassroots venues facing grave danger of being shut down without support and urgent action, in particular, from live-music goers.


“Do you know what’s cooler than trying to be friends with someone that’s on the other side of a barrier? Actually being friends with someone on the other side of the barrier, cause you’ve supported their journey from early on!” He pauses for a moment to collect his thoughts before reflecting, “Yeah, it’s a scary world out there, especially in the online space at the moment because there’s an awful lot of happiness and unachievable outcomes that are being sold to people that are just very hopeful and trusting, and again, the abuse of innocence makes me very sad.”


The EP closes on the eponymous track, How To Kill A Man, a track which KC describes as being “the final puzzle piece” on the project. “After that, everything kind of clicked into place. It was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is done!’ So [the song] already held a level of importance to me, but I really feel that it completes the listening experience as the climax. It's the final question that is asked to hopefully make people think [about] the things that I talked about on the record. That's the one I believe that inspires action more than the other ones. The other ones are more ranty and informative, whereas this one's more trying to get people to ask some critical questions and have some difficult conversations.”


Whilst the lyrical content and issues explored within the collection of four tracks speak volumes, sonically, a stand out moment on the EP comes in the interlude of the closing number, where KC is saying, “alright then kids, how are we feeling out there? Let me hear you make some noise!” in a spoken word segment mimicking that of a carnival or fairground. This seems to juxtapose all of the anger channelled on the EP as a whole, but also is a nod back to the opening track, Kids! It’s something incredibly innocent. But sounds sinister.


“This is gonna sound very old school. [The EP] was originally going to be portrayed as a kid’s TV show. Basically, an instruction on how to worship eldritch beings, like things that are completely incapable of caring for the audience, but teaching them like ‘No, these are the people you worship. These are the people you trust.’ And so, I originally had that idea in the early days writing it but then it seemed to be fitting of the rest of the narrative […] asking the kids how they're doing and getting them to like, cheer along and make some noise and then it to just be a low, like gothic choir rumble, like mouth to wide open kind of thing. Just this really unsettling imagery.”


Sonically, this interlude has been made to sound like it's being shouted over a loud speaker, and the way that KC has achieved this effect is creative. “It's a mix of microphone technique and then sort of EQ and applying a slight distortion.” He begins before disappearing out of frame momentarily to retrieve what essentially just looks like a tin can in a sack. “It's basically a suit cam with a sack on it and a diaphragm in it and a guitar jack. When you plug it in, it sounds terrible. But it sounds like it's coming through small speaker. It's like being able to directly record in the sound of a really crappy radio just by plugging this in and speaking into it.”


The creativity and passion that goes into KC’s music is really inspiring and it’s evident that he has been around music his entire life. Growing up, he spent a lot of time going to a friend’s house who lived on the same street as him. “I was going around his house and he has a drum kit and a guitar and we used to play along to Paramore songs.” he explains. But it was his brother bringing home Suicide Season by Bring Me The Horizon when he was eight years old that he cites as a main inspiration. “That kind of shaped my love for like hardcore and metal music.” The main writing inspiration for KC’s music, however, comes from Reuben, an underground UK band, who he describes as “fantastic” and hopes that “more people find them and listen to them soon.”


But what drove KC to go into music was his job as a sound engineer working mostly with local metal bands. “That just really inspired me to push myself to be better.” He begins. “I’d see things that they would do and figure out why are they able to do that better than me and like, there’s the kind of competitive side for it to me where it’s like not only do I want to try and become equal with people that I look up to and my heroes, I also want to destroy them. Make sure they’re not remembered. It’s a really weird dichotomy kind of within myself.”


This inspiration has fed into KC’s new EP through how “hard-hitting” the lyrics are. “[It’s] 'saying what you believe in and hoping the void doesn’t laugh at you' kind of music. You know, it’s just honest. Both in the musicality as well as the lyrics. Like I think everything that anyone hears from KC is quintessentially me. There’s not too much out there that sounds exactly like it because in all honesty, I’ve got no clue what the fuck I’m doing. I’m just taking these inspirations from radical bands like Reuben […] and [figuring] it out as I go, and hopefully it will sound good and people will like it.”


How To Kill A Man EP cover art by Laura Tucker


You may have gathered, KC Blackwater is a stage name – but where did the inspiration for it come from? “With my own name, it didn’t have that zing to it. When it comes to why I chose KC, I want people to either figure it out for themselves or have their own kind of thoughts on it. I think people will come to the music and listen for their own reasons. And based off of that, KC will be a character to suit their needs.”


Despite us probably never knowing the meaning behind the name, you might already know the man behind KC Blackwater, especially if you’re a fan of the current indie pop scene. Most likely you have seen KC, real name Cam Owden, onstage, at Alfie Templeman’s side, playing the bass guitar. “It’s hard not to look at a guy like Alfie and just feel quite inspired.” He reflects. “I’ve had the joy of working with him for a few years now, but also recording with him and I’m quite happy that I’ve done that because it has allowed me to understand that the way that everyone in music works is different.”


But the main influence from working with Alfie has come in the form of live music. “When it comes to touring, to be honest, it has just made me more hungry. I don’t wanna just settle for the amount that I’ve toured now, I wanna do more! I wanna do bigger, I wanna do better, I wanna do more often.”


He digresses to reflect on the differences between the music he makes with Alfie and the sonics of KC Blackwater, “I try to keep the KC stuff kind of separate from Alfie when it comes to music because Alfie’s stuff is Alfie’s stuff and just like I tried to stay away from the vultures back then (referenced on The Body), I’m not going to pack it in now, and so I kind of allow my musical self-expression to come out a bit more for this and then respect Alfie’s art and just provide a good show when it comes to the live stuff.”


Many fans of Alfie are likely to give KC’s music a listen, despite it being quite a different musical direction, and he’s quick to explain that whilst “people might hate this music that I’m making because it’s not for them”, that’s fine, but if they want a reason to “let out a bit of catharsis, sort of jump about with their friends for a little bit, get angry at something and just feel a level of understanding”, then a KC Blackwater show is where they are most welcome.


So does this mean that KC has plans to take the new EP (as well as the previous two) out on the road? “I want to. I really want to. It’s the case of I need to find the right people for it and the right musicians. I don’t want to settle for who’s convenient, who’s around me.” He begins to ponder the possibility of touring his solo material before giving an in-depth description of how he’d go about such a performance. “Right now, there’s ten songs that if you play them back-to-back, [they’re] twenty-eight minutes, and I wanna get on a stage on a support slot for someone, blow them out of the water by playing every song back-to-back, not even saying a fucking word to the crowd, just letting the music speak for itself, then walking off and enjoying the headline act.” He continues, “I wanna do it and I wanna have a really good set of friends around me, the right band. Not only that, I want a band that don’t look like me, I wanna give people the opportunity to be able to help out on the writing process and I wanna give them the opportunity to apply their own individual experience with the music. If I just had people that look and sound like me, they’re gonna be angry about very similar things, whereas I want other people to be able to have this outlet for anger that they otherwise have not been able to vent.”


Across all three EPs, it’s evident that these songs have been produced to be played live. “That’s the only way I understand music, from being a sound engineer and from being an enjoyer of music, playing live is the final outcome.” He goes on to talk about how all music you listen to is played live, but how he doesn’t want his music to sound too refined. “I want it to be messy. I want it to be sweaty, dirty, horrible. I want it to be everything that a live gig is, and everything that a live gig is remembered for, bottled up and put into a project, and then ready for it to be unleashed again and again whenever it’s taken out live.”


The topic sparks a discussion surrounding the kind of places KC hopes to unleash his music. “Obviously, I would have to start with my roots with Crawford Arms in Milton Keynes, The Castle Tavern in Luton, like not huge venues, I want it to be intimate, you know? King Tuts Wah Wah Hut up in Glasgow. Playing anywhere in Liverpool is always great, playing anywhere in Newcastle, always great. Brunel Club in Leeds, always great. Like, I just wanna go to these…” he pauses before exclaiming, “Oh, Thekla in Bristol, actually now that I’m thinking about it. I wanna play the fuck out of that boat!”


Funnily enough, nearly a year prior to this conversation, KC and I briefly met at Thekla whilst I was interviewing Alfie Templeman for Silence & Sound. When I remind him of this, he continues his tangent on the venue (which is one of my own personal favourites). “I wanna play the fuck out of that boat!” he repeats, “Like, I wanna bring it borderline sinking! I want it to just be absolutely raucous!” He speaks at length and with immense enthusiasm, but the answer to the initial question is relatively straightforward. “The dream place is wherever will have me and wherever will allow people to just go nuts.”


We continue on the topic of dreaming as I pose my favourite question: If you could see any artist, living or dead, in any place, who would you see and where would you see them? “Nirvana at the Olympia” is the answer without so much of a contemplation of hesitation. “It’s a live gig, it’s recorded, I can watch it anytime, but I just wish I could see that live.”


Like every time previously that I have asked this question to an artist, alternative answers follow. “Them Crooked Vultures, actually, is another one!” KC explains to me how the band, a supergroup, made up of Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), only released one album, did one tour and then finished. “It’s one of the greatest albums of all time!” he muses, “I’d love the ability to see [three] absolute masters playing on stage.”


Keeping dreams and the future in sight, there’s only one thing left to discuss. What does Cam hope is next for KC Blackwater? “Well, I don’t see myself not being angry about anything, so definitely more music. I want to take it live. I wanna get this release under my belt and done to the best of my ability. So, I guess the thing that’s next is for hopefully people to enjoy it, or for people to hate it and then for that to inspire them to find stuff that they do like, and that's also a good outcome for me. But next I hope is touring. If not then it’s going to be more music.” So it’s a win win situation then!


KC Blackwater’s new EP, How To Kill A Man, is set for release on Friday 31st March.


The lead single, The Body, is available to stream on all platforms now.


Watch the music video for The Body here.


You can pre-order the digital format and cassette tapes of the EP, as well as sustainably sourced and independently designed and made merchandise, over on KC’s Bandcamp here.


Where to find KC Blackwater:


Instagram: @kc_blackwater / @ic.ar.us

Twitter: @kc_blackwater


KATIE HILLIER









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