Sonja Kristina is a groundbreaking singer from England who is the lead vocalist for the early 70's progressive rock band Curved Air. After learning how sing and play acoustic guitar, Sonja started building up an impressive repertoire of folk songs. She would take her arsenal of songs to the local folk and poetry reading gatherings to test them out. Once she became comfortable with performing on the stage, she hired a manager. The dividends started paying off immediately as she would open shows for established folk singers such as Sandy Denny, Buffy Saint Marie, and occasionally appear on television. When her manager saw an advertisement to audition for a role in the play "Hair", he thought it would be a good opportunity for her. She auditioned, got the part, and had a very successful 2 year run with the production. After the show took its course, her management arranged for an audition with a very talented band. Once again Sonja passed, and Curved Air was born. A record company took interest right away, and they received nice backing to rehearse to start the band on its course. Through the bands career they would tour Europe many times and tour America twice. They opened for groups such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, B.B. King and many others. They produced over 7 albums and had many members come and go. One member of note was Stewart Copeland, who would go on to The Police. Sonja was married to Stewart for 16 years. As with most bands, Curved air took a hiatus here and there, and when they did, Sonja did not sit idol. She led successful projects like Sonja Kristina's Escape and Acid Folk. I recently talked with Sonja in depth about her career.
R.V.B. - Hello Sonja... this is Rob calling across the pond from Long Island New York. How are you?
S.K. - I'm fine how are you?
R.V.B. - I'm doing pretty good. Congratulations on your career up to this point. You've had a great ride and you've been a trendsetter. What kind of arts were you exposed to as a child?
S.K. - I was first exposed to poetry speaking. They were the first performances that I did. I was quite small... about 7. In the recent years that followed, I did what they called predication lessons. We did poetry speaking and poetry speaking competitions. I really got involved with a poem and bringing it to life. I did really well with that. I used to enjoy the silence in the room. It was communication what the poem brought out in me.
R.V.B. - Did you have any favorite poems at that time?
S.K. - There was one that was called "We are Seven". It was by William Wordsworth and it said "No. We are seven said she." It was about a little girl who had six brothers and sisters... there were seven all together. "Prayer before Birth" by Louie Macneice is a beautiful poem. "I'm not yet born, oh hear me. I'm not the bloodsucking bat, or the rat, or the club footed ghoul."
R.V.B. - That sounds very nice. Did you have any apprehensions about being in front of a live audience?
S.K. - No. There again, it was the stillness... my nerves and the room. The sound of my voice in the room. When I was a little girl I used to jump off of high ledges of things and there was that feeling of adrenaline before you jumped. I got that same feeling before I started speaking and the feeling of relief and exhilaration afterwards... of having got through it without having crashed.
R.V.B. - Did you ever write an early poem yourself?
S.K. - I wrote a play called "The Silver Goblet"... before I was 11. It was like a children's TV drama and it was put on by my classmates. It was about a child finding a silver goblet... as far as I could remember. Writing kind of made me go into a trance. When I was doing creative writing in school, they would give you the first line and say "Carry on". I used to get a little gentle high when I came out of creative writing class.
S.K. - I was surrounded by popular music as I was growing up. Dusty Springfield made an impression on me. When she was with The Springfields, she made an impression on me and I followed her after that. I learned to play the guitar when I was taught by a nun in school. I went to a convent school. She went up to the Spanish guitar center every week. She was just learning herself. She had a little group of us that she was teaching us what she had learned. I had a Spanish guitar. I must have been around 11 or 12 then.
R.V.B. - I know the folk music scene in England was "skiffle".
S.K. - That was way before my time. There may still have been some skiffle groups around but I got involved with was performers like Buffy Saint Marie. She was my first real hero on the folk circuit. I liked what Bob Dylan was doing. All those words were just so dense and amazing. It was the same thing with Buffy Saint Marie. There weren't many people writing their own songs then. She wrote beautiful lyrics and had a very powerful delivery.
R.V.B. - Did you have a record store where you could get this music?
S.K. - You could borrow records from the library. I didn't buy that many albums. I listened to Odetta... she had a very deep voice. One of the songs I remember is "All My Trials will soon be over". It was a beautiful song. Buffy Saint Marie was the one that I preferred. The others were all very smooth like: Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Julie Felix. They were very chanson, except they were singing the folk repertoire. They have a very clean delivery... whereas Buffy was more raw. Moving back to when I learned guitar, I learned just a little bit of guitar and then I started teaching myself songs. I bought myself a "181 American Folk Songs" book. They had chords, words, and an introduction on how to read the chord symbols. I knew enough about reading music to pick out the tunes, so I learned the tunes mostly from the book. That's really how I started. The folk thing was happening. I started going down to the local folk clubs to listen in and eventually perform at. After I learned songs from the book, I started learning songs from records... Buffy Saint Marie songs... Tom Paxton Songs... Incredible String Band songs... Bob Dylan songs... and writing a few of my own.
R.V.B. - Were there any English artists that you also liked?
S.K. - Later on. I got a manager when I was 15. I felt that I wanted to do this. I asked the manager of the folk club that I was playing at who the best manager was, and it was Roy Guest at Folk Directions. He was in London and I was in Essex. He used to manage Al Stewart and he used to put on Buffy Saint Marie shows in England. I went down and sung him some of my own songs, and he took me on. He got me a little bit of TV... on folk shows.
R.V.B. - Do you remember what songs you performed for him?
S.K. - I remember there was one called... I remember the chorus "Now the sun has risen and falls on the place where she motionless lies. Far away you can stand, and if you listen, you can hear her voice cry. Please boy leave me alone, I think that I love you but wait till I've grown". It was basically about a little girl being taken out into the woods and murdered. He was moved enough by it to take me on. My songs from back then haven't survived now. My management would like me to revive them but I think that they are very naive.
R.V.B. - Were you getting support by your parents?
S.K. - Yes. I used to practice for hours, learning the songs. When I started learning the guitar, I was learning a tune a day. My dad used to give me a penny for every tune that I learned. My mother used to like listening to me singing. They just let me get on with it... really. When I went out to the folk clubs, I went by myself. When I was around 18, I used to play in folk clubs in London and being a teenager. I would have died having my parents in there watching me. They would sit around the corner in a car with a thermos flask... waiting until I was done... so that I could relate to the artists and the audience by myself. One of the first shows I did for Roy was a little festival starring Julie Felix. I did several shows supporting Sandy Denny. She was my next favorite artist. At that time she had a really strong delivery and a beautiful voice. She brought the songs to life... like Buffy brings songs to life... in a way to me - that other people didn't. The other people were singing very beautify but one really didn't feel that they were speaking through their songs. Sandy Denny did. The original Sandy Denny album captures the Sandy Denny that I heard when I was watching her. I supported her 2 or 3 times. She was just a little girl with a guitar making a big sound... being quite strident but yet still very beautiful. That was something that I aspired to. Now I don't enjoy playing guitar and singing by myself. I need to be surrounded by people playing other little melodies and things. I feel my guitar work is not what I want to hear. I play very simple. My guitar playing hasn't evolved since my early days of learning clawhammer. I've learned enough to accompany myself.
R.V.B. - It's always good to surround yourself with good musicians.
S.K. - Yeah... I like being on the road with a bunch of mates. You can just relax and arrive at the show... set up... play... take it down again... and you're in company. A lot of times when I did a concert of my own... like on the Isle of Man... I went along and I played my set for the people there, and it went ok but I just felt very exposed as being me. I was aware that where there should have been instrumentals, there wasn't any. When I came off stage, people were coming up and talking to me but I didn't know anyone else there. I was on my own. I got back to the hotel room on my own, and that was before you had the internet and Facebook. It was just a bit of a downer.
R.V.B. - So you had a good basis with music and poetry. Did you realize before you got the gig for "Hair" that you had drama talent?
S.K. - When I was at school I was doing drama. You had a whole series for music and drama Grade1... Grade 2... Grade 3... and then silver medal... gold metal. I did all that. You had to do some sight reading... a modern piece... and then a piece from Shakespeare. It's a bit like doing an audition for a show. The only thing that I was in at school was "Merchant of Venice" when I played Shylock... which I loved. During the trial scene, he's really holding everybody in the court rooms attention. That was a moment that I really enjoyed. I looked very convincing. I made myself a beard and I had a little skull cap with false hair. I got good reviews as far as it goes. I had a melodrama as well with a local theatrical group but I was mostly doing the folk club thing. I used to sing at school and at the boys school. That's where I didn't mind standing up there by myself with my guitar. It was very much of the moment. It was the right sound for then.
R.V.B. - Did you know at that age you were going to go into show business? Did you have any other aspirations?
S.J. - No other aspirations. My dad use to say to me "You better have something to fall back on". I went to drama college and I left after a year because of my professional work and generally being a footloose young hippy in London. It was getting in the way of my studies at the time. It was a course that would have given me a degree in drama... with teachers qualifications. I left there and went into my managers office one day and he said "Oh look... there's a show here where they're looking for people like you." It was saying Hippies wanted... must be good movers... Equity members only. I happened to be an Equity member because my manager had joined me up to a Variety Artist Federation which had merged with Equity. We had about 8 re-calls for "Hair". I sang my songs. I took my friend who played electric keyboard. I was a lot braver then on my own.
R.V.B. - You had to audition multiple times?
S.K. - Yeah... we all did.
R.V.B. - Did you think you had a shot at it from the beginning? Were you confident?
S.K. - I put everything I could into it. Singing with the guitar to people is just what I did. It's what I had to offer. Lots of times when I would be singing at a restaurant to people or a squat party... that was what I did. The thing that makes you continue doing it is the response that people give you. People like it... they get moved and they're very appreciative of it.
R.V.B. - In this production, you had all of your fellow actors and friends. Were you happy with the role that you had? Would you have liked to have another role or it didn't really matter because everyone contributed?
S.K. - Everyone contributed. I had a very special role. It was the only time that anybody was actually alone on the stage... which was when I sang my song. It was very sweet to sing that song and it made an impression on people. It was pretty nerve-wracking as well. I was in the show for 2 1/2 years. Every time I came into work the adrenaline would kick in. I got pregnant before the show even opened. I remember saying to the director "I'm pregnant"... expecting him say that I couldn't be in the show. He said "Oh no... that's great". There already was a pregnant character in the show. He said "There can be two pregnant people". So I was lucky there. When I got bigger, they gave me a dressing room right next to the stage so I didn't have to go all the way up the stairs.
R.V.B. - How often were the performances?
S.K. - 8 shows a week! Every day and two matinees.
R.V.B. - Did you ever have a problem singing to much?
S,K, - No, because apart from my own song which was very much in my own range... the other parts I would be singing with a chorus. I knew enough to sing in certain keys. If I went above B flat, it hurt my voice... unless it was like a falsetto. I learned when singing with a group, to sing the notes an octave down. You're still singing the harmony but you're not straining your voice. When I learned to sing by myself in performance, I learned to transpose things into a key where my voice felt really comfortable and expressive for that particular song.
R.V.B. - Now you said that you were living the life of a hippy. That carried over into the "Hair" days. How did you enjoy living the life as a hippy? It was a very happening time period for music history in England.
S.K. - I was just really lucky. I knew everybody. I knew the kind of anarchic intellectual leaders of the kind of free music hippy movement like Mick Farren and Felix Dennis... the people who wrote for the International Times and OZ magazine. I made friends with the people of Hawkwind and The Pink Fairies. They all lived around Ladbroke Grove way. My friend from drama school, who was a couple of years older than me... she introduced him to me to them. I used to go down to the International Times offices. When I was in "Hair", Mick Farren had a flat above the theater where Hair was performed. I used to hang out there between performances. He was friends with the Hells Angels. A couple of the Hells Angels people followed me through my solo things after Curved Air. They were supporters of what I did. Lemme from Moterhead... all these people were all the kind of heavier end of Hippies... if you like. Being a hippy is not all peace and love... there is an edge to it.
R.V.B. - What American artists did you see come through Europe at that time?
S.K. - Tom Paxton. Roy Guest put on some shows with him. Buffy Saint Marie... of course. I saw Joan Baez... Peter, Paul and Mary. I saw Hedy West. She was a southern Appalachian singer. I saw her in my early days at the folk club. She was a beautiful lady with long black hair. She played banjo and sang.
R.V.B. - Did you get caught up in the Beatlemania craze?
S.K. - I went to see the Beatles when I was 15/16 in a big concert hall. There was just so much screaming that you couldn't really hear them. I was up in a high balcony so I couldn't really see them either but I was at a Beatles concert. I wasn't really into The Beatles until it got to The White Album... "Here Comes the Sun" and all that stuff.
S.K. - Oh yes. Brian Jones made an impression on me. I always used to go down to The Speakeasy Club when I was at college. I met Brian Jones there and Jimi Hendrix. Lots of artists used to go down to The Speakeasy Club. One of Curved Air's first shows was at the Speakeasy. I saw Judy Driscoll play there.
R.V.B. - Was that with Brian Auger's band... The Trinity?
S.K. - Yeah.
R.V.B. - Curved Air had progressive tendencies to it. Was that a change in your direction by putting the guitar down? Did you have a little more freedom to concentrate on singing?
S.K. - I auditioned for Curved Air when my manager had met the person who was managing the other 4. Their manager had decided that they needed a girl singer. I think he had seen me in "Hair"... or maybe Galt MacDermot... who wrote the music for "Hair"... recommended me. The other members were playing in a pit band in another musical that Galt had written. It was a show called "Who the Murderer Was". There was a connection there. On January 1st 1970, they rang me up and asked if I wanted to audition for this band. So I sang Melinda (More or Less). That was my contribution. I don't know if I'd heard their music before I went down there. They played some of their tunes, which didn't have any words at the time. What appealed to me was, the music was really beautiful. It was very somber and gothic, and it wasn't pop. It was a challenge to write words for those melodies and it was exciting. I could contribute in that way. I didn't play any guitar except for Melinda. I didn't get to record Melinda until the 3rd album.
R.V.B. - When you were excepted into the band... how long did you have to work with them before you took the show to the road?
S.K. - We worked very intensely. We did the usual thing that people did then, we went out to the country. The bass players family had a house in the country and we went out there and rehearsed in this barn. We just knew that it was exciting. It was really good. They were trained composers. Darryl and Francis had been to music college so everything was arranged. Yet they had been inspired by people like Hendrix and West Coast music... bands like Spirit. King Crimson was an inspiration into how they could experiment with music and crossover with classical and good rock music.
R.V.B. - It was the beginning of progressive music and they really didn't have a name for it yet.
S.K. - No they didn't. It was just different bands at that time. At that time when I was at college, there was a little record shop on my walk up to college. It was no bigger than a small living room. In that shop was all the best contemporary music of the world. I used to go in there and I used to buy albums to listen to like Tim Buckley, and Traffic, and the Rolling Stones - Satanic Majesties Request. That was around the time I got to know Brian. At that time, anything of any quality you could fit into a small shop. It was wonderful music that they recommended to me. I went back home and played it in my room in this hostel... where I was living. That was a good influence.
R.V.B. - Speaking of influence. The time period from the middle 60's through the 80's... and you could say it's still going on today... had recreational activities that went hand in hand with playing and listening to music. Sometimes it enhanced it and sometimes it hurt it. Did you feel that if you did recreational activities, it enhanced your music at the time?
S.K. - Well I just did it anyway. When I was still living at home I saw a program on television about people who had taken acid. They painted all these wonderful paintings. There was something about the way they talked about the experience. It was like a moth to the flame and I just wanted to fly there. When I was in London at college, one of my other kind of extra-curricular activities was, I was going down to the underground clubs and we used to take acid. We would go to Hampton's East and I got to know cannabis. It's what everybody did. In the hostel where I was living, there were 2 drama students. There were people from the drama club and there were people who were studying geography and things. They were very different. All my new friends went to the interesting universities and they were into music, film, and writing activist pieces. It was all happening... it was all part of the same thing. Obviously there were people who didn't like getting stoned... for whatever reason. For me, I certainly indulged and fortunately it didn't do me any damage. I did see casualties though.
R.V.B. - Rock and Roll had its share. When Curved Air set out on its journey, did you go out on tour with other artists or did you start out by yourself?
S.K. - To start off with, we played colleges and little clubs around England. When I joined Curved Air, their manager had already gotten a publishing deal so there was a little bit of money that paid our rent. We could focus on rehearsing and touring. We bought a big coach bus and we took out the seats in the back to make room for the equipment. We used to travel around in that. We would stay in communes, in Germany and Holland... or sleep in the coach. We played similar places there. Then we came back and recorded the album. It was really played in by then. The shows went down really well wherever we were. We were just on the bill... not top of the bill... at that point. It kind of built up, and built up. John Peel put us on his radio show, quite early in 1970 and that sparked a big interest in the band. Then we were playing the Roundhouse, which was the Mecca where everybody played. When I was a student, I saw Jefferson Airplane and The Doors play at the Roundhouse. We were playing there regularly there. We had some very interesting bills with people. John Peel would play our music and we did studio recordings just for the radio. It all kind of mushroomed by itself. The press liked us and used to report on how well things were going with the band. They wrote about our electric violin... about the synthesizer... about the great electric guitar... and that there was a girl singer. I was the spokesperson for the band because nobody really wanted to talk about anything but music. I did a lot of interviews - representing the band. We were all living together as well. We were shared a house right until the band broke up the first time in 1972.
R.V.B. - Did everybody get along?
S.K. - Yes. There wasn't any friction. It was easy for to have a base to set up shop to come and go back to. The boys had their girlfriends... different girlfriends at different times. We toured in America and supported Jethro Tull and Deep Purple. We toured with Black Sabbath in England.
S.K. - We would support different people on different dates. We supported Johnny and Edgar Winter. I really liked their music. Their music made more of an impression on me than the other rock bands. We supported B.B. King in New Orleans. That evening I really enjoyed... just watching somebody of that caliber, from that era.
R.V.B. - A real American blues legend. How long did that tour last?
S.K. - We did 2 tours of America. One in 1971 and one in 1972. But then the band, apart from me were all burnt out. They were tired and neurotic from touring and they split up. Darryl and Francis been growing apart musically. They were both composers and they stopped collaborating. They presided over their own works and they felt that they'd come to the end of the road as far as them working together. What I've learned over the years is that if you work with anybody who's really, really good... there comes a point when they want to go off and do their own thing. That can happen after 5 years... 3 years... 1 year. The next band had Eddie Jobson... who was just 17. A year later he' been courted by other bands and so he was off. When I was with Daryl and Francis, it was Daryl and Francis's thing. It was mine as well because I was bringing the melodies to life and writing most of the words, but as time went on Francis started writing more of his own lyrics... which I think are really good. Daryl wrote some lyrics for his things. I preferred singing my own lyrics. On some of Francis's songs... his lyrics for "Piece of Mind" and "Over and Above", I think were excellent.
S.K. - I think it was the whole thing about being a girl and the freedom that I had learned... the stage craft... if you would call it that. In "Hair", the stage craft that we learned was the masters which evolved from EST. That's when you go to an intense weekend workshop and learn to lose your inhibitions. You have to talk about everything and people goad you in various ways. With "Hair", we learned to trust the rest of the company... let go of ego and inhibitions and to fill the space with our energy... and to feel totally at home on the stage. When we weren't actually performing, we would just be milling around the stage relating with each other. Most of the rehearsal was spent doing these exercises, to make us more powerful performers... all of us. In the end, you end up with 26 or 27 really charismatic balls of energy. That's what made hair such a brilliant production. We had the same director and the same chirographer as the American show. James Rado and Gerry Ragni were around giving us their input as well... before the show opened. We knew this was a ground breaking moment as well. I've been very lucky in that I've been at the source of a lot of ground breaking moments in my life. The Hippy thing... the Ladbroke Grove sit-in free festival thing ... the folk boom... the punk thing, later on... and also the music of Daryl and Francis... keeping the flag flying. I was carrying on their work in a way by bringing in people who could add to the works of the precedence's that they set.
R.V.B. - When you took a break from Curved Air, what were your plans? Did you re-group and start a new project?
S.K. - After 76, when it finally broke down, the punk scene began. Stewart and I were going out, as punk was just starting off in the Roxy Club... which was walking distance from the squat where we were living. That was exciting. Then he started The Police. I started writing songs and thought I'll get a band together. Roy Thomas Baker, who produced Queen, refinanced my new project and he was going to record me but he was a very busy producer. He was producing The Cars at the time as well as Queen. We didn't actually get a deal at the time. The band was called Sonja Kristina's Escape. We toured around England and it went really, really well. We did a concert at The Music Machine and there was a lot of well known faces in the audience. The band went down really well and they were really strong players. My concert was kind of Curved Air crossed with punk. It had that punkish energy but it was just as musically proficient. Punk was very simple. What I did was, I left out any clever chords... everything was very simple chords... but the musicians could add whatever notes they liked. But in the structure of the songs, there wasn't a blue note in site.
R.V.B. - Did you have any issues with being a parent and a musician?
S,K, - Well my parents looked after my son whilst I went on the road. It all happened where one thing just kind of flowed into another. I gave birth to my son and I took about a month off and then I was back at the show. I was traveling back and forth to the theater for the last year or so of Hair.
R.V.B. - Was it a short trip for you? Did you live close by?
S.K. - It was a 20 mile drive. In England it's a long way but in America it's not that far. When I got into Curved Air, we got a place where we all live together so my son came out to visit me or I went out to see him. We weren't actually living together, my parents were taking care of him. Stewart (Copeland) met him when he was 6. When he was a teenager, he began giving my elderly parents teenage grief. He was a very quiet boy but quiet boys can be moody. Then he moved in with Stewart and me and went to boarding school near us and was very happy. He enjoyed that and went on the road with The Police. He did stage duties and laid out towels for them. The Police was really happening at that point.
R.V.B. - Did you also go out on the road with them?
S.K. - Yes. During the early years, I went to all the gigs when there was nobody there. They'd be playing the same set to a few punks in the club... with their arms folded... thinking "What is this?". Then they went off on a little low budget tour of America. The story that I'm told is that at one of those gigs where there was nobody there either... one of the people there was a DJ who picked up on Roxanne and started playing it on the radio. It then became a big hit! That was it... that's what broke the band.
R.V.B. - I remember the time period very well. They played at a place by me called "My Fathers Place". A friend of mine saw them there. I think it was 1980. Stewart was a very good drummer with a unique style.
S.K. - Yes. Stewart and I were together for 16 years. We would be together in little bed set studios where he'd be sitting with his Revox, tapping the beat of the song that was in his head... putting the beat down on a cushion. Then he would lay the guitar down. This is when he was writing stuff for Klark Kent. He recorded a lot of stuff himself. Then he covered himself in green paint and pink film and had this alter ego. It was great fun. That was before The Police became really successful. He had his hit with "I Don't Care". I was watching all of this and that was another magical place to be.
R.V.B. - You always seemed to be mixing it up somewhere.
S.K. - Yeah... it's just where the energy is. I like to be where the energy is. I just kind of happens around me. I'm not afraid to walk into it. When the energy wasn't happening for a while, I did various little jobs and things in between... when I needed to earn money. Sometimes the money from music wasn't coming in because the managers ran off with it. Then another phase of my music starts up again. I always think of it as... the bus comes along and I jump on it... sometimes you have to wait for the bus to come for a year or so.
R.V.B. - You have a lot to be proud of. What do you have going on these days?
S.K. - I did various things after Escape. I did some solo projects that I'm very proud of... my Acid Folk work. I toured for 7 years around England with this wonderful group of players... we played acoustically. 2 of them are now in Curved Air. I selected my Acid Folk lineup for the strength of their voices. It was the same basis that I selected the players in Escape... after Curved Air broke up. You want people who can improvise. They don't need to know the chord structure. They can listen as you describe what you want... in terms of atmosphere, mood or style and they get it. That's what I found with my Acid Folk band. Paul Sax and Robert Norton are now the keyboard player and violinist in Curved Air. They were playing with me between 1988 and 1996.
R.V.B. - You were also a vocal coach for a while?
S.K. - Yes, and I'm just about to revitalize that. I'm trying to find my way into the on line teaching thing, without becoming one of these people who turn up in your inbox all the time. I'm going to use the internet to teach singing on the strength of what I've done and of what I've learned. I don't want it to come across the same as everybody else.
R.V.B. - There's a lot of work involved to making something successful on the internet.
S.K. - I've looked at on line marketing and I thought "That's obviously the way to go because you can teach people anywhere in the world". I taught at the Middlesex University and that was a complete fluke as well. I went to see a friend of mine play in a club on Denmark Street and there had been a bomb scare so the whole street had been evacuated. I went off to a pub nearby with some people that I had met on the street. My friend walked in there. Later he came back to my place and the next morning I had been talking about teaching... I'd been studying voice one way or another... learning about voice and sound. He said "I teach at Middlesex University. They're looking for a rock and pop teacher because their rock and pop teacher just left". I went and talked to the head of the music department and got taken on. I had my own music room, with a steady stream of musical theater, pop, and jazz singers for 6 years. I think they ran out of funding for individual classes and everything went to groups. That was another lucky break. My life is full serendipity.
R.V.B. - That's fantastic. You're a go-getter and when you are go-getter... things happen. Things happen around you for a reason. Are you writing any songs these days?
S.K. - Curved Air just recorded a new album in 2014. The members of Curved Air have new members. Myself and the drummer are original members. We had Kirby who was in the band in 1973 with Eddie Jobson. We created new music all together. I wrote some melodies and the words. It was a lot of work and everybody collaborated. It wasn't each person directing their own songs. We sat down and worked out the parts together in my house. It which was called "North Star". It was on North Street in Clapham - in London. The album is called "North Star", because I just like the concept of the North Star. It's how people found their way in our hemisphere. It was the one star that didn't move.
S.K. - The Big Dipper points to it. It's symbolic and important... and it just all fit together. I'm very pleased with the North Star album. We did some covers as well because our record company had asked us to do so. It's a formula that had worked for them in the past. The album had a certain amount of new songs... 2 or 3 re-records... and 2 or 3 covers. We had to choose tracks and arrange them the same way we were arranging our own stuff to make a cohesive album and we succeeded. I think the album works very well. It doesn't sound like a disjointed collection of different approaches. We covered a Police song also... "Spirits in the Material World". We did a lovely version of "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol and "Across the Universe" by The Beatles.
R.V.B. - Great songs.
S.K. - At the moment I'm not writing. I'm thinking about teaching again. We just did 2 big festivals in England. In November we start touring again through February and March... into next year. It's getting towards the time where we probably will need a new album. Our management is busy putting together various official bootlegs of concerts from different years... all through our history... along with special archive recordings.
R.V.B. - Staying busy is always good... creativity is always good. You've received a few awards in your career, so people recognize your efforts.
S.K. - I received an award in 1971 for Top Female British Vocalist. Then I got an award in 2014 from Prog magazine called "Guiding Light". It's chosen by the editors and writers of Prog magazine. That was really nice. I got to go up and receive this reward and make a little speech, which is something I've never done before. I talked about my appreciation of my being surrounded by musical talent. A lot of people from the prog world was there. Prog magazine made this lovely banquet for everyone. Peter Gabriel shook my hand as I walked back down again.
R.V.B. - It's funny that you mentioned Peter Gabriel because I saw him and Sting perform together about a month ago...here on Long Island. I thought they were going to play separate but they were together in the same band.
S.K. - That must have been interesting.
R.V.B. - What is interesting is the fact that you've been recognized for your work and you're a pioneer to the point that... in the progressive rock genre, you had the early superstars like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and you had Curved Air which is fronted by a female which is groundbreaking and historic in itself.
S.K. - Yeah. I think I had a lot to offer... given the backround that I had.
R.V.B. - You do have a lot to offer and now it's in the history books. You have to be proud of what you've accomplished. The music community sure is. You've been rewarded by it.
S.K. - Yeah, that was lovely to get one in the beginning of my career and one towards the end. I'm getting into my late 60's.
R.V.B. - Well it's now over. There's a lot more music inside that soul. I sense it.
S.K. - I'm sure. I saw Buffy Saint Marie play recently and she's over 70. She's still bouncing around in tight jeans and leather fringe jackets... and she looks great... with her gray stripes in her black hair.
R.V.B. - You still look great also. You still got it going on.
S.K. - Thank you.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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Top photo credit Melissa North
Thanks to Billy James
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