Kory Clarke is many things: singer, songwriter, painter, actor and even hot sauce maker. He has also been the driving force behind WARRIOR SOUL, one of the greatest bands to ever come out of New York City. To sit and talk with him is an experience, and he is definitely one of the most interesting and unique interviews I’ve had the pleasure of conducting over the past year and a half. We chatted via Skype as he is getting ready to release his newest solo album Payback’s a Bitch on September 22 and touched on a whole host of cool stuff that you’ll just have to keep reading to see:
Amps: Hi Kory, thanks for taking some time. You may not remember, but we had a drink or two together at Birch Hill in New Jersey back in ’95, The Space Age Playboys record. I stole the shot glass you drank out of and still have it to this day.
Kory: (Laughing loudly) that’s really funny, man! That was quite a crew back then. Me, X-Factor, Pete McClanahan, Peter Jay, Scott Duboys…it was a pretty solid crew.
Amps: We caught that tour twice and I still talk about those shows almost twenty years later. Just all attitude all the time from start to finish.
Kory: That band was rippin’! And we would have ripped any band comin’ outta New York at that time.
Amps: How is life for Kory Clarke right now? What’s a typical day like?
Kory: I wake up and I go to bed, which is the only typical thing about my day. I’m really trying to work with my label a lot more tightly than I used to do back when I had European labels. I used to work really tight with Geffen, too. But it’s really tough. All those departments had heads, and those department heads had priorities. And when I should have been a priority on some of them I wasn’t. It’s kind of like running a Ferrari and four cylinders were missing. It really consumes most of your day along with making sure the tours get booked correctly. Your profit margin is really tight and you wanna be able to make new records and all the painting I’ve got to do, it’s pretty daunting. But hey man, it’s rock and roll!
Amps: Is art something that you got into later in life? Because I don’t remember anything about it in the old days.
Kory: Well, I didn’t want to confuse anybody. I’ve always painted and made sculpture and I call it decorative, I hate saying the word “art”. It’s more of a decorative thing, I’m not trying to compete with Salvador Dali (laughs) or anything like that, but it’s pretty badass shit. It’s got an attitude like the music, and I kept it to the side for a long time. I had some bad criticism sent my way one time and I just felt like, “Why should I be doing this?” you know? It’s like playing golf; I really enjoy it but I suck so bad (laughs)! I got a suggestion from a few people in my life that said, ‘Why don’t you go out and do this? People would love it.” So I started painting on flags, then making paintings of flags and that turned into me doing abstract and branching out. I’ve sold about 200-250 pieces and I keep the prices down so that any rock person can get one and have a nice big bold piece so that when people come over they go, “Whoa! That’s a painting!” Some galleries have been threatening to put me up. I will do a gallery show very soon. I just did a massive 13-piece installation in an office building which is really pretty cool. So the art is definitely happening.
The reason I’m in Portugal right now is that I ended up, for one reason or another, not being able to come back to the United States last fall, and I decided to stay here. And I hooked up with this producer Andre Indiana and he bought a couple paintings. That turned into listening to some mixes and jamming so we thought, “Why not do a record?” So that’s how this new record came about.
Amps: You’ve lived all over last couple years, right?
Kory: The last seven years I’ve lived in Berlin, Stockholm, London, Malta, Italy, and Portugal. London’s a great city but it’s too expensive. It’s really alive, but it’s not as fun for rock people anymore but people are still open-minded. And I don’t wanna take the piss out of anyone, but it’s just not my turf anymore.
Amps: I really enjoyed the four tracks you sent me. One thing I noticed is that they don’t sound like ANYTHING you’ve ever done before. This album’s gonna take us to some strange places, isn’t it?
Kory: It’s gonna be the most diverse record I’ve ever done. All my records are diverse, always. I try to push the boundaries of what each genre is allowed to do and what is permitted. I think I’ve succeeded in many ways. I think it was really cool to expose a few different sides of my voice that I don’t usually explore on some records. Unless you’ve listened to my Opium Hotel series you wouldn’t know that I could sing certain ways. But if you look at the third album Salutations, if you listen to “The Fallen” and “Golden Shore” you know that I can kind of get there. “Lullaby”, “Children of the Winter”, “The Losers” these are big ballads and there’s a lot of that expressed on the new record. Teaming up with different songwriters has been really, really cool. There’s a couple things that will REALLY surprise you on this record so I’m really looking forward to sending you the whole thing.
Amps: I’m so glad you said “Golden Shore” because that’s arguably my favorite from Salutations.
Amps: Oh yeah. I have an old 2-CD mix I made of all my favorite WARRIOR SOUL tunes and those babies have been through hell and back but they still play perfectly, and that song was a must when I put it together.
Kory: Oh, that’s great. I really appreciate that. I’m coming up with some compilations right now and that’s certainly one that has to go on there. I wonder, did you like “Payback?” Did you get a chance to listen a couple times?
Amps: I listened to all four of them about six or seven times, yes. That’s a pretty vicious tune, I love it.
Kory: (Laughing) it’s pretty fun. I wanted to escape the normal sounds that I use and Andre Indiana helped me get through that and be more acoustic and more stripped-down and it worked with me. It was good co-producing with him.
Amps: Tell me how “Get Down to Bizness” took shape. Man, I can’t stop playing that one with the funk and groove of it.
Kory: Well, I came back to my place and I call up the studio and I said, “What’s goin’ on?” and they go, “Well we’re just here smokin’ weed and chillin’ out.” And I could hear some music in the background and they asked me to come in the next day and think like…rap. And I was like “HUH?!? What the fuck are these guys doing while I’m not there?” So next day I get in and they’re like, “Here it is” and I literally went in and pretty much laid it down in one or two takes. And then Andre’s partner Monica Ferraz who is on the radio and TV here in Portugal, she came down and sang all the background. But the political angle on it is still the same, even though this is not a WARRIOR SOUL record. That’s still there, the WARRIOR SOUL connotation.
Amps: Hey, there was a time I was worried the CIA might take you out!
Kory: Well, I still am (both of us laughing)!!
Kory: Well, it worked for James Brown and PUBLIC ENEMY, right? It’s a huge production, but you’re gonna be utterly shocked and godsmacked when you hear the rest of the album. What else did you get?
Amps: I got “Freak” and “What Good Is Goodbye”. That one is rough because we’ve all lost people to some dark stuff.
Kory: Oh yeah, Gary Hood wrote the lyrics to that. I love that song. Fortunately a lot of my friends pulled themselves out of some dark times, but I’ve lost a lot, too. We’ve lost a lot of good people, but to me it’s more of a swashbuckling song. If you eliminate the opiate concept it really is just a way of saying to your friends, “I’m drinkin’ to you, I dig you. Why would you walk away from me, when we’re old friends?”
Amps: So Payback’s A Bitch drops on September 22 worldwide. Then what’s happening on the touring front?
Kory: Well…if allowed into different countries the plan is to do Scotland first then England. And then I wanna shoot into France, maybe Paris, then we’re looking at Germany for a few dates. Then I wanna go to Hungary and Romania has decided they want me for some reason (laughs). Then we’re gonna go to Italy so I can start recording a new record.
Amps: WHAT?? Jeezus, I can’t keep up with you! (Kory laughs) I did notice something missing, though. Is there an issue with playing the States?
Kory: Nah…I’m just waiting for when the money is right and then I’ll come back. Because, I really prefer to stay outta there. People actually LIKE me here! We’re also talking to some people in Brazil and Central America, which is getting closer to you there in Texas. Hey, make me an offer and I’ll come.
Kory: You know there are a lot of people in Dallas that have shown some interest and we’ve had some offers but I just can’t seem to put together anything after Florida. I can get to New Orleans and then I can kind of get to Texas but it’s a bit of a stretch. I wanna wait till I’m wanted, which might be never but…I’m not sure. Something could happen.
Amps: So what’s next for Kory Clarke?
Kory: Let’s just say I’m gonna be really busy. I created a band in the mid-2000’s called The Stoned and it’s kind of a comedy band. I play drums in it; it actually turned into a TV show!
Amps: Is there anything you DON’T do, like windows?
Kory: There’s not much because I’m a video editor, I like to shoot film, paint things, I sing, play drums, produce records. I play pool, I drink heavily. I don’t do retirement homes that often (laughing). I never do funerals, and I’ve avoided weddings for a long time.
Amps: What would you like to say to all of your fans and supporters all over the world?
I know I say it over and over, but if you had told me that one day I would be interviewing the guys I grew up listening to and were part of the soundtrack of my formative years I would have told you to get off the drugs. I am so thankful that Kory took this time to talk with me, and was willing to listen to my silly fan stories after the recorder stopped running. WARRIOR SOUL has been a big part of my life for over 20 years. And I have to give BIG thanks to January, Kory’s manager for getting me all the materials needed as well as a bottle of Kory’s ROX SAUCE hot sauce. I’ll just say this…one drop is ALL you need. Be sure to pick up a bottle and the new album Payback’s a Bitch when it releases on September 22 via Cargo Records. Salutations From the Ghetto Nation, everyone…