As I continue my journey of clarifying who my music friends are and what they do, here I present to you my friend Keith Klingensmith-musician, label guy, promoter and more! –
MFP: Hey Keith! So can you go through all the music projects that you are currently involved in and with?
KK: My main band is and always will be The Legal Matters. Our first self-titled record came out in 2014, and we followed that up late last year with “Conrad”. I love those dudes and hope to work with them until I cease to exist.
I’ve also been a part of a Facebook group called Theme Music for a handful of years, filled with loads of like-minded people. We record songs based on a bi-weekly theme. The 2 week deadline cuts a lot of the garbage most of us subject our poor brains to and forces you to just get the song done.
I’ve actually got a few active side-band projects going as a result of that group, including Sunshine on Mars (who did a song for Andrew Curry’s Lite Rock compilation) and Smile Factory, who has a song on the upcoming 12 String High compilation coming out on You Are The Cosmos records.
MFP: What is your role in the music scene right now? How did you get into our particular pop music scene? In fact, so I don’t have to insert a whole other blog here at this time….can you maybe define what music scene you are actually in?
KK: Eh. That’s a tough question. We’ve become so compartmentalized. I’m a guitar pop guy and always will be, and unfortunately that means we’re almost automatically limited in our reach. Between The Legal Matters and my Futureman Records label, I sure hope my role is to help spread the Good Word that classic pop still lives and breathes and remains a viable medium!
As far as music scene, we’ve got a pretty tight group of guitar pop brothers here in Michigan, with the Hangabouts, Nick Piunti, Ryan Allen, Stereo Tiger, and Donny Brown, along with Chris Richards & The Subtractions and Andy Reed’s various projects. But it’s more of a recording scene, with us guesting on each other’s records etc.
There isn’t any real local scene in Detroit that might include old-timers like us, and most of us have settled into the pleasures of making records as opposed to playing live all the time anyway, so we’re happy with our lot right now.
MFP: What is your past musical history (record collecting, bands you’ve been in-music you’ve been involved in-go back as far as you’d like) and how did it lead you to where you are now?
KK: I’ve been a music nerd my whole life. Found the Beatles early and never let go. First band was Hippodrome with Chris Richards, late 80’s. Which means he and I have been working together now for 30 years, which is nuts. I got burned out on playing live, but Chris and I got back together as the Phenomenal Cats in the mid-90’s. That’s the configuration that had the good fortune to cross paths and eventually add Andy Reed to become the Legal Matters.
MFP: Mychols wants to know….what musical instrument/s do you play?
KK: I play guitar but not well. I’m a strummer. Luckily Chris and Andy are both amazing, so there’s not a lot of need for me to do anything other than sing in TLM’s, which is the one thing I can do fairly well!
MFP: Do you write music, as well? If so, what is your favorite subject you tend to write about most?
KK: I write, but am the opposite of prolific. I get a song ready when it’s time for TLM’s to record. Subject invariably is my sad-sack life.
MFP: Do you record at home or somewhere else?
KK: Real band records at Reed Recording Studios in Bay City, Michigan. State of the art, and run and engineered by a genius. Everything else I do at home.
MFP: What have you personally and most recently released and where can music lovers find it?
KK: We were lucky enough to have the Legal Matters 2nd record “Conrad” released by the best label in the world, Omnivore Recordings.
I still love “Conrad”! People can find our sweet boy at Omnivorerecordings.com, or hopefully at their local record store! Our website though is thelegalmattersband.com. Lots of goodies to be found there, including a free ep we put out last x-mas with Teenage Fanclub, Big Star and Beatles covers, along with a track from “Conrad”.
MFP: Are you working on anything NEW musically? (Your own music or with your band/s)
KK: The Legal Matters probably won’t start our next record until late this year, if not the start of 2018, but I’m always keeping busy with the Theme Music group. I’ve actually got 5 volumes of fun pop covers I’ve done over the years up for free on Futureman , should anyone want to take a gander.
MFP: What do you LOVE about the music industry and social media, as it is right now?
KK: I love that labels like Omnivore are still out there digging up amazing releases and getting them out there in real record stores, in physical form. As far as social media, it’s love/hate, as I’m sure it is with a lot of people. I love being a click away from people like you, and all the other classic pop musicians and fans out there around the world. But it’s super tough to use social media, which is really all we have available to us, to get anyone outside of our bubble to take any notice of anything. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE OUR BUBBLE, but sometimes I want to be able to get a particular record to scream “I AM HERE!” outside that bubble.
MFP: Besides for the music, who else are you and what else do you do?
KK: Haha, I don’t know how to answer this! All I really do is the band, the label and do things with theme music in the gaps. I’m married with 2 kids and 2 cats and a job and a car and umbrellas and stuff.
MFP: Your Futureman Records label….how did that all come about?
KK: I had a good pal, Rick McBrien, who I met on the old AOL power pop message boards in the late 90’s. Rick played guitar in a great band called Paranoid Lovesick. Rick and PL were from Cleveland, but Rick actually grew up, and his family still live, a couple of miles from me in Grosse Pointe, MI. Anyway, Rick and I started tossing around the idea of doing a split-ep with both PL and the Phenomenal Cats doing songs from a record we both loved, The Who Sell Out. Rick and I both knew a ton of great bands, so that idea eventually grew into the full tribute The New Sell Out, which wound up having us along with The Jigsaw Seen, Splitsville, Brendan Benson, Zumpano, The Pearlfishers, The Vandalias, and loads more.
KK: He and I created Futureman specifically to put that record out, but tragically, Rick passed away in 2003. Record never wound up seeing the light of day, for mostly financial reasons. Once digital became a viable thing I started the bandcamp site and put TNSO up, finally, in 2012, dedicated to Rick. I hadn’t really thought of expanding it until I realized how perfect bandcamp was to allow tiny labels to exist, so away we went.
MFP: Do you carry a specific genre of artists and bands? If so, why is that? Can you share current and/or upcoming releases from Futureman Records?
KK: I only bring bands on that I personally love, and I love guitars and harmonies and great songs. We did a Sloan tribute record last year, which was amazing due to the huge list of talented friends in our virtual rolodex. Won a couple best-of year things along with a surprisingly high ranking on The Big Takeover’s Best Records of the Year list. Had a blast doing that one, so most of the usual suspects are involved again on our tribute to Matthew Sweet, which is our current project.
KK: Added a load of new names to this one, bands and artists I love and have been wanting to work with forever, including the amazing Lisa Mychols (who we’ve worked with plenty before but have missed!) We’ve also got releases coming up from Mark McCrite, a re-release of his lost classic 2000 release “Getting To The Point”, which sure sounds like classic Michael Penn to me, and a great new band from Atlanta called The Lord High Admirals, which features Paul Schwartz from The Big Fish Ensemble and Rob Gal from The Coolies.
MFP: How does an artist/band benefit from being on Futureman Records/Bandcamp?
KK: In my mind, Futureman works as a co-op. Everything goes to the bands, we don’t charge or keep anything, with the idea being that the more eyes that wind up on ALL of our releases, the better for all of us, so it’s really win/win. I help promote and do anything else I can do to help bring the eyes over.
MFP: What is your role at Futureman Records? What is your your mission? Do you plan on taking it further? Questions questions questions!
KK: Futureman is all me, so whatever there is to be done, I’m doing it. (Both Chip Saam from the Hangabouts and Lindsay Murray from Gretchen’s Wheel have been a big help lately though, more of that!) I just love to unearth the gems that people haven’t had a chance to find, be it never released before, or things that never made it to digital.
I like to work with the artists to add a few interesting bonuses to something that was only previously available on cd to give our release a good reason for existing. Sometimes that leads us to a classic one-of-a-kind release, like Erik Voeks’ seminal “Sandbox”, which has been near impossible to find for the last 15 years or so. I worked with Erik to add six of his original demos from that record, which may never have been heard otherwise. (and I personally am a demo nerd..)
MFP: Do you think it’s an exciting time for music again? Why or why not?
KK: I have the same answer most of us would. It’s a super exciting time in that we can all make music so easily now. We can all release music so easily now. The problem is getting anyone to care. Sooo much out there taking up people’s mental bandwidth, you’re totally lucky if you get someone’s attention for 10 seconds, but even then getting them to actually take action, like clicking “buy” or remembering to look for you on next record store trip is a total crap-shoot.
MFP: Okay…THIS was a really fun interview and I cannot thank you enough for it, Keith! I finally understand who you are and what you do! You…and ALL of it, MATTERS!