Heavy-Hearted : Cory Kilduff and His Ode To Heartbreak

Musician and composer Cory Kilduff came into my world by way of Ridley Scott and Burning Witches Records. I first heard his music last year when his track “LV426” showed up on the BWR Record Store Day comp Communion. That track is part of a bigger project, one in which Kilduff re-scored Ridley Scott’s sci fi masterpiece Alien. Cory did an incredible job of re-imagining the sonic vibe of deep space dread that Jerry Goldsmith originally handled back in 1979. “LV426” was the perfect introduction to Cory Kilduff’s skills as a composer and his subtle mastery of electronic music as a whole.

Cory is now readying his debut record with Burning Witches Records. It’s called When it All Gets to be Too Much and it is released onto the world tomorrow, 2/8. The record takes a decidedly different turn from deep space dread to teen heartbreak. It’s an incredible album, and one that if you grew up in the 80s(or 90s, 70s, 60s, 00s) watching films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, or pretty much anything that involved first loves, first crushes, and first big heartbreak, then this album will find that crack in your armor and make its way to your very core.

I spoke with Cory recently about the album and his inspiration for mood of the songs and how the record came together.

J. Hubner: One of the first things I noticed before even dropping the needle on the wax was the album cover. Can you tell me a little about the album art? The face does resemble a certain 80s teen star, so that adds to the 80s vibe for me. What was your concept behind it?

Cory Kilduff: When I start a new record I need something to write about or else I get too unfocused. The songs don’t sound like an album as much a collection of songs if that makes sense. There’s nothing scarier than a blank canvas so I tend to pick colors and subject matter before I start. When I first sat down I was playing with much sadder sounding arrangements and they were really resonating with me. There was this emotional tension I kept coming back to that reminded me of a recurring movie moment. I kept thinking about how in my favorite Molly Ringwald movies there’s always this moment where everything gets to be too much and it spills over, she starts crying. It’s a headspace I can relate to and so I wrote to that feeling and sort of scored those moments.

J. Hubner: Who created that iconic image on the album sleeve?

Cory Kilduff: There’s a great artist in Dallas who did the cover art named Jeremy Biggers. I explained the concept to him and he immediately got it and set off with the illustration. I think when you see that face and the tear you know that moment. It has an immediate recognition that hopefully sets the stage for the album.

J. Hubner: Well your debut album for Burning Witches Records ‘When It All Gets To Be Too Much’ is just stunning, man. I loved your contribution to the ‘Communion’ comp “LV426”, but this record feels like it’s on another level. To my ears it’s more of a pop record than anything else. It could be a score to some lost 80s John Hughes film.

Tell me about the process of writing it. How long has it been in the making?

Cory Kilduff: I worked on this record for the better part of a year after I finished a re-score of the original Alien movie. I mention that to say I had just written a ton of ominous sounding tracks and felt like I was rinsed of those ideas for the moment. Once I had my concept in mind I started working on a ton of ideas. My day job is a little hectic so I tried something new this time around. Since I had limited time I gave myself a month to dedicate to idea starters. I came home tried to write at least one idea a day. Then at the end of the month I took all the rough starts and picked the best ones that both had some emotional weight to them and fit together like an album. I tend to write 3 songs for every one that makes an album. That doesn’t mean I have a ton of songs as leftover cause most of them are bad. I always thought about that process like a skate video. For every trick you see pulled off you may not see the many times they fell. Music is no different. Ive never been the guy who sits down to a keyboard and just bangs out a tune. I’m much more a sculptor, I start very rough and refine over days, weeks and sometimes months until I’m happy.

J. Hubner: One thing you notice right away is there’s no percussion. It’s all swaths of synth. Was that a conscious decision on your part?

Cory Kilduff: I knew I didn’t want to have drums on this record. There’s no beat to that emotion when it takes you over, nothing to nod your head to. For me it starts with a precursor or maybe the floor drops out from underneath you but by the end you get lost in your own anxiety. The songs needed to reflect that which is why I let the melodies play out for a while. When they wash over me I get introspective and in my head and then I’m feeling which is really always my goal with a track. Can I express to someone else the emotion I’m feeling?

J. Hubner: Who were some inspirations musically for this album?

Cory Kilduff: Musically my influences for this record were a mix of old and new. I always make a homework playlist on Spotify before I start a new record to focus myself or the ADHD will ruin the whole thing. That lets me immerse myself in sounds and ideas that help make a sort of musical vocabulary. There’s definitely a presence of 70s’ movie scores from people like Franco Micalizzi. I think that comes through on some of the chord progressions but for current people I was definitely listening to things like Paul Haslinger’s Halt and Catch Fire score, Cliff Martinez’s Solaris score and people like Alessandro Cortini, Wojciech Golczewski, The Advisory Circle, and Colleen. To be honest the hardest part for me is not being inspired by everything I get. I’m the kind of person that thinks everyone else’s idea is generally better than mine just because I didn’t think of it and last year was such a great year for synth records that every time I got a new one I would just think, “shit, I want to do that”. Like getting a new Deadly Avenger or All of Them Witches record. In the end I hope that I was successful in carving out a little space that didn’t step on too many others toes and brought something a little unique to the table.

J. Hubner: For this record, what were some of your go-to instruments? Do they help influence a direction you take a track, or is that already figured out before you begin?

Cory Kilduff: My two favorite synths currently that are all over this record are a Moog Slim Phatty and a Dave Smith OB-6. They are amazing together. Like chocolate and peanut butter. The Moog of course has these great bass tones and percussive arpeggiations when you knock the decay down and then OB-6 has such a lush sound with its chords. They don’t step on each others frequencies and play so nice together. I also used a Korg MS20 and Mellotron samples a fair bit. Because I come back to tracks over such a long period of time I will write using plugins just to get arrangements and rough ideas down. This way I can write on the couch or while I’m traveling for work and then once I feel like those are strong I’ll go in and track the real thing while also sending the midi of a part out and play with running it through other hardware synths to see if theres something inspiring I hadn’t expected.

J. Hubner: With the new album nearly out, what’s next musically? Have you started writing new material?

Cory Kilduff: I’m currently in the focusing stage for the next one. I’ve been putting together new playlists, narrowing a conceptual mood and playing with gear. This one will definitely have drums and be much dirtier and heavier. One of the things that’s really exciting to me is that I started modifying gear like distortion pedals to be much more destructive and nasty. It feels like this record may be much more inspired by the sounds of hardware than previous ones. It all has to be wrangled into something somewhat emotional still though. Thats my through line, if a song doesn’t make me feel something then it doesn’t survive.

When it All Gets to be Too Much will be released tomorrow, 2/8, via Burning Witches Records. Check out the video for album track “Chestnut Hills” below, and head to Burning Witches Records website tomorrow AM to grab Cory’s new record.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/315320775″>Cory Kilduff – Chestnut Hills</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3571596″>cory kilduff</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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