Kevin Junior

SUGARBUZZ INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN JUNIOR of Mystery Girls, Rose Hips, And Chamber Strings…
(-by aging drag queen, Geordie Pleathur…) 


Kevin Junior from Chicago’s CHAMBER STRINGS is one of America’s finest songwriters. A remarkably able and gifted pop-smith, guit-sling, lyricist, and gentleman dandy, he has collaborated with Nikki Sudden, Epic Soundtracks, and Evan Dando, toured the world, released several essential cd’s, written some of the finest underground cult hits of the past twenty years, and deserves a reliable label, willing to assertively promote his inspired songs to a broader audience.

 Revered not just for his style, and talent, but also, for his civility and sincerity, Kevin Junior is doubtlessly one of the last of the last bandits, left alive. Sadly, this rock’n'roll diamond is afflicted with an illness that is drowning his genius, and ability to effectively produce more works of true and lasting beauty, in ridiculous and unforgivably sinister medical bills. If any of you within the sound of my voice have any surplus funds, you oughta please donate, as generously as you can, to the Friends Of Kevin Junior medical fund link below, because this cat is a real artist, and totally worthy of the support of all the real rock’n'rollers. Kevin Junior has a lot of soul. 

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Who’s a bigger influence-Bowie or Thunders?

KEVIN JUNIOR: I really can’t say Geordie. They both influenced me in many ways. Bowie taught me about songwriting & Thunders showed me that I didn’t have to be Jimmy Page to play a mean guitar. I opened for Thunders once.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Didn’t you write “EVERYDAY IS CHRISTMAS”? That has to be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard by anyone. What is THAT like? Composing an irrefutable CLASSIC? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Thanks. That’s nice to hear. I just love writing songs. I won’t even record one if I don’t think it has a timeless appeal. I wrote ‘Xmas’ in the mid-90′s.
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Describe your childhood, school, family, introductions to rocknroll, what Akron punk bands did you feel connected to? First time you remember hearing the Pretenders? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Mmm, I was a loner. Akron just lives & breathes this melancholy kind of rock n’ roll to me. I was into so many different kind of music generes. Just good songs and the real thing. Stones, Kinks, Beatles were big. My parents loved 60′s & 70′s soul and that rubbed off on me big time. I still listen to that the most really. Al Green is my favorite vocalist. My favorite listen right now is Bobby Womak’s C&W album originally titled “Step aside Charley Pride, give another nigger a try”! Great, right?? After obsessing over british rock I got into punk & new wave. Ramones blew me away. 11 years old and I come home with ‘End Of The Century’ and my Mother & sister are calling them ugly while checking out the sleeve. I took it personally! Pissed me off. After I heard & saw The Pretenders, I knew what I was gonna do. Be the male Chrissie Hynde or something. I’ve got some personal connections with her being from the same place & knowing the same people. She was around when I was a little kid-her best pal was my nanny so she stayed at my house on occasion. We’ve hung out many times-she’s something else. Fucking brilliant rock n’ roll c*nt. Long live.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: How did T.Rex, Hanoi Rocks, the NY Dolls and glitter affect you as an adolescent. Some under-rated albums and artists of that era?

KEVIN JUNIOR: I found that stuff when I turned 15. Yea, changed me. Took my Stones look a little bit more flash! Still love that music. I can play it back to back with Carole King & Brian Wilson! Rundgren, Cheap Trick were some of the first shows I saw and that glam rock sits right beside it. 

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Please discuss the Mystery Girls, where are the other members now? Didn’t that band cut some records? Where can they be found? 

KEVIN JUNIOR:That was my education. 8 years. We changed our name to The Rosehips and made a decent album. The Mystery Girls made an album that came out in Europe. Not too good. Way out of print. Made a good single. It’s around there. They’ve all moved on. Scott Giampino is in Seattle with family. He had a band Cash Money-I played harp on 2 albums. Aaron Bright is on the West Coast. Not playing, I think. Shame. Brilliant player. Kids,etc..Tom Faulkner is still in Chicago-we see each other once in a while.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Ever see or hear a Chicago band called the Jezzebelles that sounded like the Stones? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Next question.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: What can you recall about an Indianapolis band called Chatterbox? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: I’ve not heard of them.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Ever meet Jim Ellison or Urge Overkill? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Jim & I were close friends. His death affected me quite a lot. He booked my first gigs in Chicago. He wanted me to join Material Issue weeks before he died. His last words to me were “I need you”! Terrible. I couldn’t because I was working closely with Epic Soundtracks & recording for The Chamber Strings first LP.

Blackie from Urge was a close friend since we were teenagers. We lost touch a few years ago. Nash is such a fucking authentic rock n’ roll character. Love that man. He’s been introducing me at my recent solo gigs. Of course he is like me and only has music, so we do suffer trying to get by in life when there is nothing else. Mike Hodgekiss is a very old, great friend. 

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: What do you think of ex Candy singer, Kyle Vincent’s work? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Never heard it.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Are you familiar with Teenage Frames? Ever see Trash Brats from Detroit? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Both are very old friends and great musicians. I miss ‘em both.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Don’t you have some history with Snatches Of Pink?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Yea! Rank is amazing. He’s an example of the real thing. Love his work and he’s a friend. I admire him so. A good family man and true to his music. He’s always on the bill when we’ve played in Chapel Hill.
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: When did you first discover the Jacobites, Rowland S. Howard, etc.?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Just saw those records when I was a teenager & bought a Jacobites record based on the cover. The clerk at the counter thought I was Kusworth buying my own album! Who knew I would end up doing so much work with them in the future. Making records and touring with them are very fond memories. Taught me about life in so many ways. Europe became my second home. The girls, the drugs, the fighting, all that..yes. But the music. That was just the best.
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Rosehips made an album that excited people in all the cool countries overseas, why didn’t Americans get it? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Poor distribution, marketing. Finland got it. Went to #1. All the smart writers praised it. But ultimately, we were very disappointed.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Did you like Thee Hypnotics? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Yes. Did a gig with them in England.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: How did you first come into contact with Epic Soundtracks and Nikki Sudden? What albums of each of theirs do you suggest for beginners?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Nikki & I had a mutual friend and we started communicating in 91′ or so. His brother started a solo carreer and we met due to Nikki. He always got people together. Epic needed a band & asked me. How could I say no. We were so much into the same things. I really stretched out as a musician then. I had to learn about 50 songs that were mostly piano based and I changed the way I played & wrote. His first LP ‘Rise Above’ is a good start. There is an album that is just the 2 of us. Demos for what would be his last album. Came out as ‘Good Things’. There is a 2 disc anthology coming out any day now called ‘Wild Smile’ everyone should buy that. Nikki & I made several things too. ‘Red Brocade’ is the most complete colaboration. An underrated album. Jeff Tweedy is on it. It’s like an answer to ‘Texas’. We brought in lots of brass, strings, etc..much to Nikki’s displeasure. But in the end he was happy. We just wanted to make something more orchestral to his rock n roll tendencies. The whole record was written on my couch.

Beginners should get Jacobites ‘Robspierrie’s Velvet Basement’. One of the best records ever.
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: How did you convene, finance, and organize Chamber Strings? Are you a very effective diplomat? Highlights? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: I started it alone without a band. Ellis Clark had a studio and a friend was starting a label. We spent 6 months slaving over the album. Anthony Illarde played a lot of drums. I couldn’t have gotten it off the ground without Ellis Clark. He was so dedicated to it. We were both experiencing a new beginning in music and we were excited to work hard. Making something from nothing. I was very much in control because I knew exactly what I wanted this to sound like. But I had a good mind beside me with Ellis. What I wanted. he made sure it happened no matter how much of a pain it could be. 

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Talk about making “Gospel Morning”…. 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Challenging. We had to do things like drill holes in the floor to send wires to the basement and the control board was upstairs. Piecemeal all the way. Doing things on the cheap side and doing things in crazy ways to achieve sounds. Ellis would just give me looks sometimes, then “uh, ok.” And it worked. I did the instrumentals at home on 4-track. Used my washing machine on one. Any instrument that was lying around was considered. We called in friends. Todd Fletcher on piano. Brass & string players some I knew-some I did not. Did my first brass & string arrangments. Ellis was good encouragment. Did one track in England with members of The Bounty Hunters & Peter Perrett’s band. The record is analog and that was important to me because that is me and times were changing then. The record came out and just immeaditly exploded-critics loved it, fans loved it, venues were calling everyday, tours were getting set up, and I was just stunned because I thought it would sell a couple thousand copies at the most. It got picked up by a bigger label and re-issued on vinyl & expanded CD and we toured endlessly. I had assembled a band with Ellis, Anthony, & Tim Fowler. Things changed with the next record. I brought in Carolyn Engellman on Piano and about a zillion other instruments. Jason Walker on bass because Ellis couldn’t tour anymore. We made ‘Month Of Sundays’ and I guess that is my masterpiece. Glad I have one!
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Ever like anything by Morrissey? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: I still do not know the first thing about him. Met him once though and he seemed irritated.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: How did you discover Burt Bacharach? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: His music has been a constant since childhood. He is the master. He can bring tears to my eyes. I’ve learned a lot from him.
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Are you at all familiar with Brian Smith and the Beat Angels from Arizona? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Not aware of them.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Were Redd Kross, Celebrity Skin, and Tsar too bubblegum for your taste? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: I always loved Redd Kross. Saw them in 87 and then re-united in 2007 and they were better than ever. Don’t know the other bands but I did a gig with CS in the 80′s.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Thoughts on Evan Dando? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: He’s really a friend. Give me the the shirt off of his back. Seriously. So kind, so generous, and misunderstood. I always look forward to playing with him and just spending time together.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Didn’t you do some collaborating with WILCO? Ever heard of Paul K and The Weathermen? I think Wilco’s drummer was a former member… 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Yes, I wrote a song with John Stirratt called “Make It Through The Summer”. We both recorded it. Mine came out on The Chamber Strings ‘Month Of Sundays’ & his on The Autumn Defense ‘The Green Hour”. We’ve opened for Wilco. Joined them onstage at Lounge Ax. Tweedy plays on Nikki & I’s record ‘Red Brocade’. Played several gigs with Autumn Defense. Not head any Paul K.
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE:  Please discuss the documentary someone made about you, does it cover your many valid contributions and accomplishments as well as your lean years?

KEVIN JUNIOR: It’s a good film. It does cover the whole Chamber Strings career up to our re-union in 2007 and covers all that dark stuff I went through. However it’s just one part of my life. It’s on youtube, I believe..don’t try it at home, please.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Ever meet Kusworth? Only Ones fan? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Known Dave for years. We’ve played together on stage several times. Sang together. Hung at pubs, funerals. I feel sad sometimes when I think of Dave because most of our close mutual friends are dead now. Nikki especially. The Only Ones are one of my biggest influences. I speak to Peter and his wife Xena sometimes. They’ve actually been helping me recently through some hard times I’m going through lately. They both have lots of wisdom and love. 

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Name some pop bands you cherish that certain glam bozos don’t get because no one has a Nikki Sixx haircut… 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Oh, I can’t think of many off the top of my head. I liked a band from Milwaukee called The Blow Pops.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Didn’t you endure a spell of bohomelessness and fucking up? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Like a decade. It still continues now & then. It’s been a hard road. I’ve been homeless and strung out in Los Angeles (lived on skid row), Berlin, London, New Orleans, Akron, Chicago..really not happy or proud of this. I don’t know what is wrong with me. Too sensitive. Take things hard. Like drugs too much. I’ve lost everything more than once. My loves. Women who were so important to me. All my possesions. Sometimes I only had the clothes on my back. Lost my music, instruments, notebooks of songs. Friends, you name it. I have a guitar, songs, a 4-track, clothes, some of my records (we counted all the records I play on recently-over 70! of course I don’t own many), so things are better but could be much better. I don’t suggest putting all your eggs in one basket-especially music.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: What did Alex Chilton mean to you? Eric Carmen? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Alex was one of my VERY biggest heros.We became friends as well and he actually watched me play a couple of times and told me I had something special. John from Wilco confirmed he never said that to anyone. Meant the world. He used my guitar for a few gigs. We played a sold-out 2 night stand together once. His death just tore through me. Eric Carmen is a genius. He also gave me some compliments once.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Raspberries or Cheap Trick?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Raspberries AND Cheap Trick. Bun E. Carlos watched us from the side of the stage once. Met ‘em all. America’s band?
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Beatles or Beegees? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: BOTH. I wouldn’t be here without them. They can and will give me shivers anytime I hear them. Almost a miracle that they even existed.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: What do you do for fun? What artists do you care about who could be considered current? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Nothing. Films, I guess. A trip to the bar is nice. However I can get out of my head. Music mostly. A good film. Check out the band A Girl Called Eddy. One album. It’s Erin Moran. The next Laura Nyro?

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: If you could immigrate anywhere in the world, where would you flee to? 

KEVIN JUNIOR: Switzerland was impressive. Spain was too. Austria. I’ve had great tours in those places. But I would go to Berlin and shack up with someone I love.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: How has this Endocarditis affected you creatively, as well as humanly?

KEVIN JUNIOR: It’s been horrible. I feel dead sometimes. I can’t function sometimes. Getting up to the toilet can be hard sometimes. I’ll come back all sweaty and exausted. I have written a fantastic record though. 2 of the songs were recorded and released on a vinyl single. ‘I Come Apart (A Tragic Comedy). It’s about the past 10 years. I need open heart surgery. Money has been the problem. I don’t know what the future holds. If I die, then I didn’t finish what I have. I hope to get my operation, get a new apartment in Chicago, and start to play & record regularly again. There has been too much waiting because I’m completely alone and often helpless. Things will change somehow and I’ll return.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: What are you doing now?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Speaking to you & smoking foul cigarettes.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Future goals, plans?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Make all the records I have written. Find a good record label. 
SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: What else do you wanna talk about?

KEVIN JUNIOR: Can’t think of anything at the moment. Am I being too honest?? Ha! I’m not miserable.

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Where can fans purchase official Chamber Strings merchandise and donate to your medical fund?

KEVIN JUNIOR: All I have is the ‘Ruins’ outtake CD from Spain for sale. Maybe write me on Facebook? There is a donation site -gofundme-I don’t have the address, but it’s on facebook. All donations will help greatly. My medical bills are astonishing! Sorry for all the mis-spellings! Thanks Geordie Thanks to the fans. God bless. Kj

SUGAR BUZZ MAGAZINE: Thanks for the interview, but more importantly for all the wonderful songwriting that has enhanced our lives.!/kevinjunior11