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Kelvin Swaby, Lead Singer Of The Heavy Discusses Some Of The “Heaviest” Music He Knows

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Earlier this year The Heavy released an amazing new album entitled Sons. We thought it absolutely rocked! (Review Here) The first single “Heavy for You” is an absolute banger of a track and it got us thinking. What music do the guys in The Heavy consider Heavy? So we reached out to Kelvin Swaby, lead singer of the band to find out if he could share some of his favorite “Heavy” music with us. Check out his choices and be sure to listen to his exclusively curated Spotify playlist below. 

 

 

 

1. The Sonics-The Witch

I used to DJ a whole lot of Soul and Funk around Bristol and London. There was this one night I remember DJ’ing and I was performing with a guy named Jamie. I remember he played the song “The Witch” by The Sonics and I remember thinking “This is absolutely ridiculous…what is this?! It was sooo bad! It’s just so raw and nasty! The lyrics are incredible…they are super simple but they are incredible. The delivery! I thought…”Fuck this is ridiculous.” The very next day I went out and bought as many of The Sonics albums I could find. I actually found a fair few, which was amazing. Ya know, as many 45’s of theirs I could find around London. I think the way Gerry sings with The Sonics is how I try to push my voice. I love that it’s so unhinged. I think that’s what I love the most about The Sonics…It’s just so unhinged.

 

 

2. Tom Waits- Mule Variations and Rain Dogs

If we are talking about music that I find “Heavy” then both these albums had a huge impact on me lyrically. I remember my brothers used to play Rain Dogs years and years ago and I just loved the way Tom Waits tells a tale. It’s just so beautiful. Yes, some of it is pretty dark but it’s amusing and also comedic. It’s eloquently told…it’s dirty…it’s always just so dirty. The production is always so great and the instrumentation is always sublime and off the chain. So I would definitely put these albums as a #2 for me. 

 

3. Wu Tang Clan- Enter the 36 Chambers

I couldn’t pick one track off of this album…that is how good it is. This album didn’t so much change Hip Hop because Hip Hop was doing great things at that point but what they did to Hip Hop was like what Marley Marl had done to electric music 15 years before. Transformed it from something simple into something larger. Marley found these incredible soul samples and then made these 2 bar loops into crazy songs. The whole thing about the Wu Tang Clan was that it was so rough and raw, it sounded as if it had been done on a 4 track. It didn’t sound Tough like normal Hip Hop was at the time but it was just rough and rougher… almost like “punk rock” Hip Hop. I would say 36 Chambers is definitely another “Heavy”album for me.

4. Ann Peebles- I can’t stand the rain

This song is an incredible song. I just love that “dun dun dun…Da Da” It has that whole Willie Mitchell stamp on it. Willie Mitchell is someone I always looked up to. Just that way he used to make horns sound. That Memphis Soul….the way he would saturate those horns. Not just the song, “I can’t stand the rain” but the entire Ann Peebles album is so good. It’s pretty much what we base every record on. 10 tracks, keep em nice and short but each one is amazing. This album is the type where once that last song finishes you immediately want to restart the album again. I always kind of want our albums to feel like that….where people say “Oh wow, I didn’t get enough…I want to go back to track 1. 

5. AC/DC Whole Lotta Rosie

The singing on this track reminds me of the way Gerry sings with The Sonics. I don’t know where he gets it from. On this particular track when he gets to the chorus “You’re a whole lotta woman” it sounds as if he is about to break. Ya know haha…he is at that point where it feels as if his whole body is just gonna break with some of those notes that he is hitting. I love that…when the body is being pushed for the art and the sense of expression. There are a few crazy humans that can replicate that, I can, so I appreciate that he can do that as well. It blows my mind every time I hear that song. 

6. The Sex Pistols- Pretty Vacant

I heard this song the other night right before we went on. I forgot how good it truly was. It took me back, ya know? It was a weird one because I actually did an interview with Steve Jones in LA on Jonesy’s Jukebox. So hearing this song.. It took me back because I went to a Roman Catholic School. I remember my brother Sam got the record and I just loved the way they would sing it. I remember going back to school and the hymns trying to sing in the way the Sex Pistols did. It was a very early memory of why I loved that sound. I remember the first time I heard The Sex Pistols and feeling really drawn to the rawness and grittiness of the vocals. Hearing this song really took me back to those days of being young and pretending to singing like The Sex Pistols when I should have been singing the Roman Catholic Hymns as they should be sung. Its a wonderful memory.  

7. Malcom McLaren- Buffalo Gals

Another one influenced by my brother. What I love about Malcom and the song Buffalo Gals is, well I was one of 11 kids and remember going into my brothers and sisters rooms and just listening to gems like this. They would find all this great music that I would hear because of them. When this song came out it felt like “This song is mine!The breakdancing.. It was this new thing” there were people in the video spinning on their heads it was like WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? and it was so crazy. In many ways this was the point that I found Hip Hop. I feel like he was one of the guys who brought Hip Hop into my living room. I remember taking boxes apart after shopping and laying them out and attempting to spin on my back like the dancers in the video. From that point on I just loved Hip Hop.

8. Petula Clark – Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

It’s not a very “Heavy” tune in terms of the music but when you get a chance make sure you listen to Petula Clark’s version of “Bang Bang” it’s soooo nasty! Sooo dirty! Those horns!  I really really want to sample those horns! I want us to sample them so badly but we can’t or else we will get sued. I just want to write a song like that, with horns as big as the ones in that song. To imagine they were cutting music like that in the 60’s and we are still aspiring to make stuff sound as big as that in 2019. I just love her delivery…it’s raucous and the music is just so good. It’s almost like Hip Hop before Hip Hop. Check this song out for sure! 

9. Pointer Sisters- Going Down Slowly

The Groove! You listen to this track and it’s almost 8 minutes long. When most people write songs this long, you get to the point where you are thinking “Okay, just wrap it up” but this song is just a wonderful slow burn. By the time you get to it “Going down slowly…slowly going down” your head feels like its about to jump off and then by the end you feel like it just needed those 7 plus minutes to get here. It’s so epic by the time it gets to the end. Just so crazy and so good! 

10. Pinchers- Bandelero

When I was a kid and I was trying to find my voice as a singer I fell in love with the music of Pinchers. He is a reggae singer. It wasn’t so much about the content of what he was singing about, he is kind of a romanticist but his voice is amazing. Probably one of the best voices I have ever heard in my life in terms of Reggae. He was somewhere between an MC and a Singer. During this time there weren’t many people who could sing and MC at the same time but he could. He had a really strong effect on the way I wanted to sing. He was wild when he performed so I tried to base my own style after him. Once I heard the track Bandelero, it was the time when I felt to myself that I could sing. He encouraged me from afar with his music. He was always my favorite because he had the ability to sound sing live just like he did on the record. That baseline from Bandelero was immediately a classic when it came out. It was just so so good! 

11. Howlin’ Wolf- This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new record. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either

That record was made at a point when Muddy Waters had just cut Electric Mud and other blues artists like Hendrix were just tearing up the music world. So Chess Records wanted some of it’s artists to try recording their music with more of a psychedelic/electric edge. Electric Mud is an amazing album but it’s not quite as good as the Howlin’ Wolf psychedelic offering in this one. If you listen to the beats on this you think that he could have made this album 4-5 years ago but it was cut in the late 60’s. I love every single song on this record! Aside from just this album, Howlin’ Wolf as an entertainer definitely inspired me by the way he performs. He was just outrageous. If you ever get a chance to watch some videos on YouTube you will see how he communicates with his audience. He was normally quiet as a man but when he performed he became a man possessed. I would say because of him I am able to understand what I do. 

 

For more on The Heavy be sure to check out:

http://theheavy.co.uk/

 

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