Wyrd Question Daze: Kemper Norton

Welcome to a new occasional feature on the Wyrd Daze blog: the WYRD QUESTION DAZE!
First up, and setting the tone brilliantly, is Kemper Norton.

Hello, I’m Kemper Norton and I’ve been making what I once fatuously referred to as “slurtronic“ folk music for a few years now. The general themes tend to the folkloric, the gnostic, hidden or neglected with a particular focus on my childhood home of Cornwall.  I use a mixture of cheap digital synths, harmonium, occasional singing, field recordings and anything else lying around.

Our latest album (Troillia) was inspired by traditional Cornish dancing and Scottish playground chants and is dedicated to my parents (who are Cornish and Scottish respectively). The reception has been positive, but Radio 3 did point out how I had successfully removed all elements of danceability from the source material. Which was the goal.


Where did you come from and where are you going?

Physically: from Scotland, Ghana, Oman, Cornwall and Sussex. Where am I going? Towards old age (hopefully) and watching my daughter eclipse and dominate me in all ways possible. I’d hopefully see out my days basking somewhere hot, but my partner fancies Northumberland. So that needs to be resolved.

Spiritually? I came from nothing/everything and I guess I’ll go back there. Feeding a tree.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Family parenthood, intimacy, the joys and horrors of “community”, the toxicity of national identity, and the importance of being kind. Also if Celtic will ever get a new manager.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell.

In that order: Korean chilli sauce, holding my daughter’s hand, my daughter laughing, sunlight on the sea, fresh rosemary on your fingers after you rub a live plant.

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

A lot of my dreams feature playing football with Rod Stewart, which is occasionally frustrating but not usually terrifying. I guess the one where I was chased around Cornwall by undead Nazis on motorbikes for what felt like a couple of weeks was a memorable one. Oh yes, and I was the Virgin Mary in that one.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

Several, but one that has always stuck with me was at the Neolithic fogou (burial chamber) Carn Euny in West Cornwall on the eve of the eclipse in 1999. Myself and a friend stayed on the site overnight and while playing some quiet music inside the chamber felt a hugely powerful presence. It wasn’t necessarily malevolent but very disquieting, and one of the key messgaes we received was that we shouldn’t really tell people about it. So I’ll leave it there.

Our album Carn obliquely references this memorable evening (as well as a similar experience at Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex, which other have reported and even made subsequent albums about) but doesn’t give too much away. I hope.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

Exploring and communicating with places and locations was the original motivation for any kind of creative expression, The details of my life are quite inconsequential but they obviously bleed into the work but I think there’s already more than enough confessional singer-songwriters around the place talking about themselves. I live a boring life and only want to share a few of its elements in encoded or subliminal form. That way my family or close friends  may spot any personal content but I’m not boring anyone else with it. It feels far more interesting to discuss or explore history, folklore, hidden or neglected places and people, and stories that may not be familiar.

An early motivation was also to describe in sound what certain locations (mainly in Cornwall) sounded like. I was often frustrated with ambient or synthy stuff that purported to do so, and I always felt digital, grainy or mangled windblown textures rather than smooth analogue synths was more like the sound of the Cornwall I know. Mind you, now the county’s becoming a millionaires’ playground and second home paradise, easy listening may be a truer modern soundtrack….

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

The direct community action in Glasgow to prevent an enforced immigration…it’s that kind of thing that needs to happen more across Britain if the most vulnerable are to be protected.

In terms of films and music, I’ve been enjoying the works of Alice Lowe (Prevenge, Sightseers) and feel she should be our next film superstar. Fantastic recent music by Armand Hammer and MXLX and less recent but no less wonderful stuff from Terry Riley (particularly the mighty Shri Camel) has been soothing the soul. 

Tell us a good joke, story or anecdote.

I’ll never forget the final words my beloved grandfather spoke to me.

“Stop shaking that ladder you little c**t“

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