The hospital in this special case is home to one-man multi-instrumentalist Kevin Micka. For almost five years Micka has operated under this solo guise, spending most of his time touring and developing deeply affecting music - music that is crafted and revisited time and time again to create a perfect message. The craftsmanship apparent on his self-titled debut has shifted to a learned elegance now depicted via the forthcoming release on Barge Records. Barge is one of those great labels that I find myself eagerly awaiting the next release, hoping that this year’s handful of offerings may colour the landscape of future listening. Micka also has a digital release called “Good or Plenty, Streets and Avenues” on Mutable Sound. Animal Hospital is one of those outfits I have felt a great distance from. I have immersed myself in previous releases, often returning to a sacred track from time to time. As Micka is well established within his Boston homeland, London feels a million miles away. After a number of weeks digesting the forthcoming album “Memory”, I have rediscovered a passion for his sprawling, yet introspective world, and have never felt so close. I was fortunate enough to gain access into Micka’s brain for an interview, and as you will find out – there is a lot to look forward to.
Hmm. That is kind of a tough one. My parents had records lying around the house but nothing that really stuck with me other than Cheech and Chong and other comedy records. I went through a period of listening to popular music in elementary school and then a 3-year span of listening to nothing but recordings of old radio shows. Not really sure why but that is all that really interested me at the time. I didn’t really starting involving myself in contemporary music again until a baby sitter told me about the Butthole Surfers and the Dead Kennedys.
It actually came from a great image we found in a book that my girlfriend, at the time, took out from the library she worked at. I really liked it and I was still trying to come up with a name so it stemmed from that as kind of a joke for a minute or two.
It ended up being the cover of the first Animal Hospital release.
I feel the older I get the harder I find it to be inspired. In general I often am more influenced by an individual than their art. Boston is a hard city to fully pursue music and art as a way of life but it is also hard to say that I would have an easier time elsewhere since I have always lived here. I think I do rely on the bad weather to keep me inside and focused on my work. It never seems to affect my mood in a negative way.
My musical goals tend to evolve through time. “Memory” is rather a cathartic experience for me and represents some intense feelings that I may have had a hard time of conveying in another way. My goal for this record is to let the listener project their own meaning into the music.
Guitar is the instrument I feel most comfortable with.
Singing is often where I feel the most vulnerable.
I think I have done too good a job of isolating myself from the music industry so I feel I do not have a very well informed view. I haven’t really relied on it for much of anything except for when I tour. I am interested to see where it goes from here. In a way I think live music has become more important as it often is the only time a listener might be paying attention solely to the music.
Playing shows with Dosh and Thrones last year was a nice feeling. Finally being able to play shows in Europe in 2006 thanks to Neptune. Having Animal Hospital as a vehicle of expression has been the most creatively satisfying project I have worked on.
I technically have two releases this year.
One is sort of a digital re-release called “Good or Plenty, Streets and Avenues” on Mutable Sound on Feb 14th. The other is “Memory” coming out on Barge Recordings on March 3rd.
“Memory” has been the envisioned goal of the last two plus years of my life. I have been playing and revising the 3 main pieces on the record off and on until they felt right to me. I am fine with people listening to this record while they do other things but I also really want the listener to put it on and focus solely on the music, to make it worth their time. There are certain records that have really helped me in some unexplainable way to cope with whatever I was feeling at the moment. I hope that this record can have that effect on some people.
“Good or Plenty…” is a collection of music that I wrote in a different mindset throughout the process of writing and recording the original intended release –“Memory”.
I am booking a month long European tour starting in mid March and then possible a couple week tour with Lineland in the late spring or summer. Whatever I can afford after that I suppose. I would like to travel to more places I have not been before.
It comes in waves. I have a hard time balancing it out. I often spend more time booking tours, and other less fun crap than actually focusing on playing and writing music. But usually it pays off. In the past few years I have worked the bare minimum in regards to regular paid work; which has been tough but helpful in giving me time to work on more music. I have absolutely no savings but I have also never been more productive.
It would be great to ultimately be able to financially survive off what I do and cover all my expenses to travel. But I do believe I have come to a point where I no longer feel like I need to make excuses for not working a regular 9-5 job and living the way you might be expected to. Whether or not I make enough to pay the bills? Being creative is what is most important to me and what is essential to my well-being.
Having recently finished a daunting recording project, I would like to take a less strict and serious take on the writing and recording process. I’ll leave more things to chance, and hopefully start experimenting more again with voice and other instruments. I have been in the mood for doing more rhythmic stuff lately as well.
Over the past year I really enjoyed records by Dosh, Beach house, Dirty Projectors and Singer. I listened to a lot of Louvin Brothers, Harry Belafonte, Otis Redding and Trojan Records compilations in 2008 as well. Historically, Dan Littleton from Ida self released a solo record I happened to pick up a while ago, that was a big early influence on Animal Hospital. Papa M was also a shameless influence and is somewhat still. Other big influences would be “Lifelike” by UI and “EP+2” by Mogwai.
A detailed review of “Memory” will be up later this month. Here’s a brief paragraph to wet your appetites:
“Micka has achieved a record saturated in turbulent weathers that will take you though polar emotions with tidal motions. Incorporating various instruments of acoustic and electronic persuasion, one is never left feeling consumed by over-textualisation. This is simple, meditative storytelling that, at times, had me close to tears.”
-- Peter Taylor (4 March, 2009)