Interview by Denise J. Mallabo / Photos by Mike Vorrasi
Not long now I bet we’ll be hearing more about Jeff Kite, a 32-year-old Chicago native and LA-based musician. His drive for music got him on board as the keyboard player (and occasional guitar player) for Strokes front man Julian Casablancas, whose tour promotes his solo endeavor. The tour has already ended, and now it’s time to work on his own music path. He is busy finishing an EP called Kite and playing alongside musicians such as drummer Alex Carapetis, Muse’s Dominic Howard, and The Killers’ Mark
Stoermer in gigs. To categorize his music is a bit tricky, but this writer would like to say that it’s light, packed with synth and beats, it’s addicting and has hooks that will leave you humming along with it for days—don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s get to know this talented being and his process for making music.
At what point in your life did you decide to become a musician?
In high school, I was either 15 or 16. A friend of mine had a drum set in his basement that I loved playing, and I eventually got one of my own. Soon after that, I started a band with some friends. We were two guitarists and two drummers, which sounds like a pretty cool idea now, but it was only because we didn’t know any other musicians. About
a year after that, I took an electronic music class at school. It was around then that I got into synthesizers and composition. So I switched from the drums to piano.
Has it always been your dream to become a musician? If no, when you were a kid what did your parents want you to be when you grew up?
It was one of my dreams. There were others—there still are. Every so often my dreams change because my curiosity pushes me in new directions. But I always loved music. My parents just wanted me to make a living and be happy.
You play a lot of musical instruments, which one would think you’re most good at and which one would be the hardest to learn?
I’m probably a better piano player than I am drummer or guitarist or anything else. The hardest to learn? Depends on the person. Sometimes a person is just hardwired to learn a certain instrument, and their technique develops very naturally. Doesn’t mean they don’t have to practice. People assume that playing triangle or shaker or tambourine is easier than playing piano or guitar or harp or whatever. But the truth is that there is as much expression and musical subtlety in a tambourine as there is in a piano.
Growing up, who influenced you to listen to good music? Who are your influences and why were they a huge part of your being a musician?
As a little kid I just kind of listened to whatever was on the radio or MTV. My older sister wasn’t like Zooey Deschanel in Almost Famous, giving me Led Zeppelin records or The Who records or anything. Eventually I got into all those bands anyway. But looking way back, I remember listening to my dad’s Beatles records a lot. And I was definitely listening to pop music like Michael Jackson and New Edition. My first cassette tapes were Run DMC’s Tougher Than Leather and The Fat Boys single “The Twist.” I think all those 80s pop and hip-hop beats stuck with me, which is why I was initially attracted to the drums.
How did you become part of The Sick Six?
I got a phone call from Julian Casablancas’ manager. Julian needed a replacement for the keyboard-guitar player quickly, because he had a show in Tokyo a week later. I was visiting my family in Chicago at the time, so I had to race back to LA and learn all my parts pretty quickly. We just kept going from there.
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