KELLY DECO Discusses His “Retro Futuristic Space Rock Love Galactic Fantasy Songs”
December 5, 2022, a year ago
Remember the days when the ‘cinematic rock’ of such ‘70s/‘80s greats as Supertramp, Styx, and the Alan Parsons Project ruled the charts and arenas? Those days are long gone, but the new release by the Kelly Deco Band, Constellation (which was produced by 5-time Grammy winner Val Garay), certainly brings to mind the aforementioned period/artists.
And just who is this Kelly Deco gentleman, you ask? We can tell his story here, or, let the man himself explain his backstory and how he came up with such an epic album – as he recounted to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato just a few days before its release.
BraveWords: Let’s discuss the new album, Constellation.
Kelly Deco: “OK, so I'm a singer-songwriter and I write all of the music first, and then I wait to see what comes to me. So specifically in this recording session, I wanted to have what I was referring to in my mind as really ‘open-minded Victorian futurism.’ And that would be a genre of retro futuristic space rock love galactic fantasy songs, with a mix of old 70s rock and futuristic spins on my influences - like David Bowie, Meat Loaf, Anthony Newley. And songs about love. So that was kind of the difference there. So I was visualizing cowboy shirts and hats and Victorian tales…but then I thought, ‘Well, it's more like cowboy boots, too.’ So, it really made an eclectic mix. So Victorian rock futurism, the whole idea of constellation means patterns, and in this case of retro mythological figures, stars, planets and all in their own unique design. We all know that no two are the same, you think about the age of sky tellers - the futuristic sky tellers - but vintage at the same time, based on old Latin celestial spheres. Y’know, covering planets and constellation of new and old shifting figures and constellation of songs. So that's the constellation concept. And that's the deal - it's like it's the earth is moving through space, it's not the stars moving changing our viewpoints, it's us and sometimes we have imaginary modern twists.
"Or I was trying to add imaginary modern twists on the figures we see in the sky and in normal life. And on ‘Automat Girl,’ it's about an Edward Hopper painting. So different points of the record were about intentional influences of like I said, space rock future rock love galactic fantasy and art. So you know that was intentionally what I went after. It's not that easy to do because a lot of us have to be informed, to put things together about a heavier genre or interesting genre and then throw the twist into it to make it interesting and pop. But I had the record, OK? I write in kind of an old Bacharach…I played the guitar in a rhythmic way, a very Bacharach/two-note melody that I plunk out on the guitar in a rhythmic way. Very Bacharach style and you'll notice that most of the songs have that kind of stuff through them. And then I just write the whole song when they use the chords to tell my story and how I feel. Feeling your way through the song. And then I take the song over to a good friend of mine - who's been playing with me for about 40 years, who kind of plays an overplaying classical piano style. So he plays along with me and we chart out the whole song, and then once we got it we got that song down we know we won't forget it. And we did that over and over again. It was initially just a test to see if I could even do it, because I hadn't written for a while - I was raising my son and I work in the film industry as a scenic artist. There were things going on in my life, and it was a very emotional year for me, a lot of death and a lot of just changes and things that are a lot harder than I thought. And then the record was done, and I thought, ‘God, what I really, really want here is that early 70s sound.’ That early Linda Ronstadt sound…y’know, Andrew Gold was a good example of that sound. It was kind of rock but kind of piano. I found it very interesting and kind of not what people are doing now. And I’ve been working with a producer named Nick Timbrook since close to 40 years.
"In my story, early on, if you read my bio and all that, I am from Northern California and I'd recorded and made a couple of records up there, and then I came to LA and made this little demo thing that was connected with Robert Stigwood. Interesting things happened with that. In the end through that, I bumped into a gentleman named Richard Dickie Davis - who was manager for Buffalo Springfield and really good friends of Val Garay. So that was just chance a long time ago. So after 30 years or more of making this record, and I called up Nick and ‘I really want that sound. Because it really would work I think if we could just get that kind of early rock, clear but powerful sound with melodic songs and interesting subject matter. Nothing vulgar. Interesting stuff you can listen to and if you listen to the whole record it kind of runs like a story, and you get taken on an adventure or whatever you might want to call it. And I thought that would be great if I could do that. And nick says, ‘Well, why don't you just work with Val?’ Because I guess he was working with Val Garay, and he said, ‘Because y’know, Val invented that sound.’ So the next thing you know because of COVID, Val was available and he said, ‘Yeah I'll do it.’ That was the hinge right there just because he's a he's a really a brilliant man.”
BraveWords: What did Val bring to the sessions?
Kelly Deco: “He turned this record into exactly what I was hoping to hear. It still kind of floors me that it came out that good because of him. And the whole female soulful backing singers is really what I've been wanting for years. A friend of a friend had the singers of another ‘famous rock guy.’ They were available and we just pulled them all in and just highlighted all the words that I wanted them to sing, and they just did it. It was really remarkable - they did it all in one eight-hour session. But every turn on this record became better and it became stronger, and it became exactly what I wanted. And I was thinking this is really weird that this is happening. And then in the end when we had the record done…and by the way, when you work with Val, and I had known never known this, at least in this case, he brought all his own gear in. He brought his own drums, he brought his own modules for the mixing board, and I'm thinking ‘This is remarkable.’ You never see that. I’ve worked at some good studios and stuff, but I've never had a person that was that personally involved in making the thing work and getting that thing that I said I wanted. And because also that's what he does. And I think I used his guitar and everything was like that, and the microphone that all the famous people sang on. And the way he directs you to do things is he has a way and that's why it gets to where it has to go. And maybe that's simple, maybe everyone does that, maybe it's just my inexperience about it. But I mean I've made a lot of recordings and lots of records, but this is by far an actual real great record. And now on December the second it is coming out, and I'm very excited about it. I’m more emotional than I should be about it, because I'm so happy with how it came out.”
BraveWords: Let’s discuss the song “Automat Girl.”
Kelly Deco: “‘Automat Girl’ basically it comes down to…again I've got the music and I'm thinking, I really loved Edward Hopper paintings and how they inspired me. And I thought, well what if we just take this and bring it into a modern situation where, what is the story behind the girl? What's her story? What's going on? And I brought it into a situation where it would be a young person and what their life is and what is she doing. And that's when I figured it out of I used a lot of Edward Hopper painting titles in that song as it just starts off. And you'd have to know Edward Hopper paintings, but if you knew them, you’d realize, wow he's he mentioned this painting and that painting and ran them together as a story. And then the song has kind of a false start that kind of sets it up and I talk about that it is a long slow 70s weekend and so I'm intentionally telling a story. I work in the movie business and I'm fully aware that the people only see what you point them to, but music is a lot different, because music is something you feel. But if you say something, it turns people into a certain direction. At least if you talk about ‘long slow 70s weekend waiting for the tumbling guys to fall’ - that's very much a Rolling Stones reference. And we've got music and art and rock 'n' roll happening, and I try to do that. I think that maybe because I'm you know I'm not 20 years old anymore, it's easier for me.”
BraveWords: I understand there was a lot going on in your personal life during the making of the record.
Kelly Deco: “Another piece of this whole record which is really a strange thing to say but I just gotta say it, is after my mother died and a lot of things happening, there was a girl I used to go out with in high school - and I’m living with her now again. And really it's weird that she kind of opened up the whole piece of this world of mine, that I could easily write stories and tell descriptive things and bring love into it. Because for me, and for maybe all men it's hard to bring the passion of love into a song. For me, because it's personal and gets it gets tricky, I’ve learned you’ve got to be honest about all these things. You gotta just be brutally honest with yourself and make sure whatever you're saying, it is true to you and it's gotta to hurt a little bit. And if it does, that hurt that you feel is kind of what makes the song go. And I think anyone who hears this record will hear that that person - who is me - has got some hurt going on there. And I have to thank - her name is Tracy - for turning for opening that. She's actually working as my personal manager now, too. Basically keeping everything going. So there's a lot that goes into every song, if you're going to work on that level of where you care and it's real. That's what my intention all along. Years ago, when I was first did bump into Val Garay, Richard Dickie Davis took me to a party and Val Garay was there, and so was Jimmy Webb. And I'd always thought, ‘God, if I could write songs like that…’ So that's what I aimed at. It's a big mixture pot and you got a guy who's got some emotion that's feeling.”
BraveWords: What about the song “Destination Fascination”?
Kelly Deco: “‘Destination Fascination’ was very much a song I'd written thinking about what it must have been like in the 60s, to go down like Pandora's Box or some club in New York or London. And when the people who go there, they’re tuned, and so I use this term ‘in-ness.’ And then I just told a story that felt like it fit the era. I am a person who does work on that kind of level, and I always have even since the very beginning. With Val and the actual making of a good record and hearing it now it's remarkable. And also, most of the band players that I had from a long time ago were originally on the record, and then a lot of them kind of broke down and couldn't do it. So I had to pick a couple new people. But a lot of them are people we worked with for a long time too. And of course, anyone who is anybody really wants to work when you bring a producer like Val Garay along. Sure, I'm the songwriter and I might be the guy telling the story, but it's really everyone else and having everything come together. And it seems so silly to say this, but when it happens it does, and I'm not going to try to oversell this record, but it's I think it's a great record because it's got those things in it that are real, and they're about interesting things. And in the end, art and love and the retro-future story I think is a good story. And it fits me and I fit it, and it sounds good.”
BraveWords: How long did it take to record the record?
Kelly Deco: “We recorded the whole record in a week. So it's not like it's something we had to work to death to get it to work, to be fresh and get the power we needed out of it. But it is one of those things where we did rehearse for a couple of months - which is usually the way we rehearse it live, and then record it live. And then you hope for the best. An honest person will tell you they don’t know if anything is going to happen or not. But I know one thing, when I play this record - and I played it a lot - I'm really happy and proud of how it came out. And it did exactly what I wanted it to do. So I'm glad and that's enough really for me right there.”
BraveWords: Will you be playing shows in support of the album?
Kelly Deco: “Absolutely. We have all the basic plans that everybody who makes a record and who has a real band and who is a rock 'n' roll…again it's kind of a rock opera show and the whole idea behind it, like I was saying through the process, so many of the people who inspired me musically were passing away one after the next. So I thought, ‘Well, these people are all gone now. It’s a wide open range. Take what you want from what inspires you and carry it on.’”