Berlin Calling: Kathy Freeman’s vast and awesome Empire

Drunken Mermaid met Kathy Freeman via facebook, and after one listen of I’m Alive – You’re Dead we immediately knew we had to do an interview. Enjoy. You have an amazing background, emerging from the punk scene in the UK. Tell us about your early career and how you ended up in Berlin.

I was in a hippie blues band in Liverpool UK in 1977, just as punk exploded.  Almost overnight we reemerged as the harder, faster, meaner Accelerators.  Ditching twelve bar covers for three minute anthems, and riding a series of dodgy vans with our faithful and fearless roadcrew, we gigged constantly over Northern England for the next four years. We shared bills with the Buzzcocks, XTC, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Heady times. But by 1981 punk was losing its edge and our contemporaries were signing deals with big bad labels who’d steered well clear of misfit outsiders like us. The party was ending and I called time. Then I lived in London for 20 years, playing in a range of projects, including grunge-rockers The Birdhouse and my punk metal four piece Joyryde. Eventually I got into psychobilly, as guitarist with party rockers Death Valley Surfers (despite my lack of tattoos). Their chaotic forays into unsuspecting European venues eventually led me to Berlin. I realised I could have a better life there than in the UK. The right doors opened and I was living there within three months. What song do you wish you’d written? How would it sound performed by Kathy Freeman?

I covered I Love Rock’n’Roll (Merrill) and Tainted Love (Cobb) and I do a shedload of rockabilly and country covers on live shows. But  I never sat down and thought “I wish I’d written that!”  It’s more that songs I love have inspired me to write my own, better songs. What’s the worst gig you’ve ever played? (not that we’re trying to dredge up painful memories).

I have an effective painful memory eradication programme. NEXT! What’s the best?

My first show with the Accelerators in 1977. The bass player had quit only hours beforehand, but we did it in true punk fashion without him. We were so wired up we just went off like a machine gun and didn’t miss him for a second. The audience went crazy, we rocked like there was no tomorrow, and that was that! Is there anything you’d change in your career along the way?

There are certain people that I should have steered well clear of. But then again, I wouldn’t have so many songs. Tell us about some of the musicians who’ve influenced you over your career. Who are your favourites?

It started with early Dylan and roots blues music, e.g John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters –  followed by too many punk and rock bands to list. I’ve always liked Motorhead, and carried a torch for Doctor Feelgood and Wilko Johnson – true British grit. Nowadays I listen more to country and rockabilly artists such as Elvis, Cash and Hank Williams.  And I’m specially inspired by female artists who have, for whatever reason, had a rough ride – Courtney Love,  Marianne Faithfull, Wanda Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Amy Winehouse…. Your dominant projects are Kathy Freeman’s Empire and Kathy X. How do the two differ?

Kathy Freeman’s Empire is an umbrella label for anything I am, or was, involved in. Kathy X is my three piece psychobilly band. Tell us about your latest recordings. How do they fit into your history and what do you like best about them?

My latest recording is the solo album Second Skin. All the songs, apart from the Tainted Love cover, have evolved from past experiences, personal and musical. I’ve played half of them with Kathy X for a long time , but it’s a whole different ballgame to record them with a solo dynamic. It was a challenge to keep the “rock edge” without the safety net of a full-on backing. I’m very pleased that the song Farewell – which didn’t suit Kathy X, and which I actually found too emotional to play solo(!) – has finally had an airing; and it’s come out as a powerful track. We want Kathy Freeman videos. Any plans to film some upcoming performances, or make a short film?

Yes – probably tracks from Second Skin. As for short films, I’m open to offers! In the meantime you can see my latest Kathy X video here:

You can get details on Kathy’s upcoming shows on her websites: and and make sure to check her out on facebook.

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