She's Into Everything, And She's Famous!
By Lisa Weeks
SEPTEMBER 2, 1997: I AM THE shit!" asserts Kelley Deal, without hesitation. No shit. The Kelley Deal 6000 (TKD6K) is touring the U.S. and Europe to support Boom!Boom!Boom!, their--or rather her--follow-up to acclaimed debut Go to the Sugar Altar. In addition to her band, Deal runs her own label, Nice Records, out of a home office that consists of a computer, fax machine and separate phone line. (Check out her "award-winning" website at http://www/kelleydeal.com.) Musical projects other than Deal's own include a soon-to-be-released Frogs tribute on the Nice label; and she recently collaborated with the almighty Supersuckers on Must've Been High. Not surprising, then, that she confessed she was simply too busy to head to New York to conduct interviews at the CMJ Music Festival, what with The Kelley Deal 6000 out on the road and all....
There's no denying Deal has been through her share of trying times, that her mettle has been sorely tested. If the adage "that which does not kill you will make you stronger" holds any truth, it should surprise no one that Deal has come through with flying colors.
Her notorious love of drugs finally ran her aground with the widely publicized November '94 arrest for possession of heroin, which landed her in a rehab facility for the first half of 1995. It seemed to be all that anyone could talk about: In interview after interview, the interest in her drug career overshadowed discussion of her post-Breeder's music career. Deal's then-new project, originally dubbed Solid State and quickly renamed TKD6K, emerged from her experiences in rehab--new and clean, the band was and is the manifestation of a sober and serious musician.
Twin sister to famous ex-Pixie Kim Deal, and part of Kim's enormously successful, post-Pixie follow-up band, The Breeders, Kelley Deal learned the ropes at dizzying heights. After the fall, the twins parted ways to follow their respective muses, Kim heading up the Amps and Kelley leading her trio of strapping young lads. The current TKD6K line-up includes bassist Marty Nedich, drummer Todd Johnson, and guitarist Todd Mund.
Since its inception just over two years ago, TKD6K has seen its share of axmen--all properly and humorously eulogized within Deal's web pages--and Deal attests that even the current situation is not without its "rumblings" about "whose band it is." But you only have to look at the band photo to see who's calling the shots: Any questions? (Deal does mention that "it was the boys' idea to go shirtless.")
"They let me get away with a lot shit because I'm female," laughs Deal. "Also, because I was in the biggest band, I immediately have the clout that comes with that."
She readily agrees with the characterization of her relationship with her bandmates as big-sisterly: "I've got a cute band, that's for sure. And they're so nice."
Now that she's running her own show--band and record label--you might think her experiences on both sides of the fence would have softened her to the plight of her fellow musicians, struggling to prosper against the major-label grain.
"Naaah, not at all," she laughs. She's been there and back, and proven to herself and everyone else that you really can, with the support of family and friends, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Deal is not merely a survivor: She's a success. But what exactly determines success for the former Breeder who stared down from the main stage of Lollapalooza; basked in the limelight amidst thousands of adoring fans the world over; and enjoyed big-time record sales and alternative radio airplay? Deal rejects the period of her life before the fateful winter of '94 as the measuring stick for her current accomplishments. She sees her present independence and self-realization as the key to her achievement.
"With the Breeders I was one of the band members--it wasn't my band. It was (Kim's) vision. If The Breeders was a film, I was an actor: She was the director. Certainly I was happy to be there, but I really had very little to do with it. And we had success...but when I look at this band I get so much more out of it because I am the one doing it. That, to me, is success in itself."
That's not to say that the Breeders are a part of the past. "The Breeders haven't broken up," she vehemently avers. In fact, The Breeders took the stage not three weeks ago in Deal's hometown of Dayton, Ohio, as part of a benefit for Brainiac's Tim Taylor, recently killed in an auto accident. In addition to raising funds for a headstone, proceeds from the event will be channeled into a trust designed to sponsor practice spaces--apparently at a premium in Dayton--for area bands.
Of her experience playing with the Breeders again (which, in addition to the Sisters Deal currently includes members of the Amps), Deal states: "It was a really good feeling. The club was filled with friends--we knew everyone there. My Mom and Dad were there, Guided By Voices was there..." But the fact is, the show was more of a one-night stand than a true reunion.
At present, Deal's focus is sharply on TKD6K, and touring Boom!Boom!Boom!, which was recorded and mixed in a brief 19 days back in February. ("Why bother with 20 layers of guitar tracks? I can't even hear 20 layers of guitars!") Boom!'s 15 tracks command attention: from the pure-pop pleasure of "Shag" and the fabulous "Brillo Hunt," to morosely measured "Baby I'm King," and bawdy, light-hearted "Stripper"; on to the weighty and exceptional "Confidence Girl" and "My Boyfriend Is Dead." Pure, unadulterated Deal, from song credits to cover design. With Boom!Boom!Boom! and Sugar Altar before it, Kelley Deal, who's always quick to point to Kim as the gifted songwriter and musical genius of the family, has defined herself as the talented director of her own film, a musician whose inspirations and complexities far exceed the limits of her sideline Breeder status. In fact, she is The Shit.
The Kelley Deal 6000 plays on Tuesday, September 2, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Opening band to be announced. Tickets are $5 in advance or at the door. Call 622-8848 for information.
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