Keith Monacchio is a musician you will immediately be hooked on. Your toes will start tapping. He is one of the most original musicians you will hear. In this interview we talk about his life as a musician, new music, and so much more.
Rob: Who inspired you to play music?
Keith: I guess I could name a bunch of artists who I admire and love their music, but I’d rather take people who were and are in my life today. So, ever since I was a kid, I always loved to sing and perform. My mother says the reason I love music so much is because she put my crib next to the radio and she would have it playing all day. I’m not sure about that one, but it makes her happy to tell the story, so I go along. My next door neighbor, Ed O’Connor, growing up played guitar and I used to watch him practice all the time and I would watch his weird prog-rock band rehearse in the garage. He had all these weird records of Genesis (Peter Gabrielera), Yes, Gentle Giant. I was the only kid walking around school with a Gentle Giant t-shirt. When I got older and into my late teens and early 20’s my friend Joe Baker played guitar and wrote songs. He had been making homemade albums in his bedroom since he was seven. Great songwriter, still releasing albums today. Look him up! He pulled out his guitar one day and was playing and I started humming along with him. Then we sat down to write some lyrics and I was hooked. He was much more advanced than I was and he taught me a lot about songwriting. We started our first band in 1989 called The Political Manifestos (which was basically him and I recording into a box radio in his bedroom) but then we got more serious about it in 1991 and formed The Semibeings. So back to the original question of who inspired me to play music? Ed O’Connor, Joe Baker and possibly my mother.
Rob: How long have you been playing music?
Keith: Since I was 20 years old. I was just a singer in the beginning. I couldn’t play a note. It was out of necessity that I had to learn how to play guitar. I had ideas and just got tired of waiting around for the guys in the band to give me some music to write lyrics to. It also was probably a big relief for them, as well. I was quite the pest about wanting to write songs. I’m now in my 25th year of writing songs.
Rob: What inspired life events inspired your new record?
Keith: I was a bachelor for a long time. I didn’t get married until I was 40. I never really thought about it in my twenties because I was so consumed with making it, becoming a rock star – all that bull shit. Into my thirties it started to change a bit. I still had aspirations of success, but the idea of being broke, using all vacation time from my day gig to go tour wasn’t really appealing to me anymore. Also, dating in your thirties, particularly your late thirties was no picnic. You have to deal with more baggage than an airline. And I’m not saying just other peoples’ baggage either, I had a ton of it myself. A lot of the songs on the record about relationships were written during that period. The other half of the songs were written from the perspective of, “Am I happy with my place in the world?” I’ve done some good things and I’ve done some shitty things. In some of the lyrics I’m basically asking myself “How can I become a better version of me?”
Rob: Where does the title come from?
Keith: I used to love the HBO show “Deadwood”! Whenever someone would have some kind of beef with another person “they would settle it with a dust-up”. Just a little scrap/fist fight, but after that it would be all over. No bitching, no lawsuits, no guns just a dust-up scrap and that’s it. Now, I am in no way a fighter myself (the last fist-fight I got into was in the 6th grade), but I do struggle internally and mentally. The 10 songs on the record collectively make for a nice little “dust-up” against myself. Struggling to hold onto that youthful exuberance, when you know things like becoming a parent, getting married etc. will pull you straight into full-fledged adulthood.
Rob: What is your favorite song of this release?
Keith: Most of the songs on this record are about my life. But, I also like to write story songs. “Saber-Tooth Tiger” is one of those songs. I like it because it generally brings two reactions because of the subject matter (domestic violence). People are either drawn into the story of a woman plotting her revenge on her abusive husband and can’t wait to hear what happens next or it makes them squeamish and uncomfortable. Either way, as a writer, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, make people think and feel something.
Rob: What is something about you would like fans to know about you?
Keith: I hate the sound of someone pouring water into a cup or glass on TV. I don’t know what it is about it? It’s like nails on a blackboard for me!
Rob: If you could go back into any time period and hear a live music performance, who would you want to go hear and why?
Keith: Late 1960’s to see Nick Drake live. He only played a handful of shows. Most were at loud bars where no one was listening and he was barely audible. However, he did play one show at a hall opening for the Fairport Convention that was supposedly really good. Perfectly quiet and people were very patient as he tuned his guitar into all these elaborate tunings. Of course, he didn’t think so and after he was finished he ran out the back of the concert hall immediately after he finished. He thought he was horrible, but the crowd loved him tried to cheer him back for an encore, but he was already down the street.
Rob: In three words, share what the word “music” means to you.
Keith: Truth, Release, Faith
You can purchase ‘The Dust-Up’ on Bandcamp.