INTERVIEW: Honeychild Coleman on Kentucky, Brooklyn, and Shredding!

Kentucky native Honeychild Coleman makes a big noise, whether that’s with a guitar or a turntable, Coleman has a knack for driving melodies and giant beats. Performing here tomorrow as part of the Girls Rock Louisville Campers Showcase, Coleman is committed to following her muse wherever it go and in whatever shape it may take, be that as a DJ, in a shoegaze band, or making experimental bleep blops. Listen below and check her out at Headliners tomorrow night with Bungalow Betty and the Shannon Wright at the GRL Campers Showcase & After-Party. We caught up with her to ask about her Kentucky past, her Brooklyn present, and her top jams!

Never Nervous: Starting at the top, what got you into music? Is it something you grew up with?

HC: My dad used to manage bands and I helped him make posters (I was in grade school).

NN: What were your parents into and how did that shape you musically?

HC: My parents had a handful of albums that influenced me:

  1. Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key of Life
  2. Soul Train’s Greatest Hits
  3. Let’s Get It On (K-tel compilation)
  4. The Pointer Sisters – s/t
  5. Earth Wind and FireSpirit
  6. Johnny Cash – Live at Folsom Prison

We listened to everything in our house from Tina Turner to Led Zeppelin. I also inherited Beatles and surf records from my next door neighbors. My mother loved Motown.

NN: Where did you come up in Kentucky?

HC: I was born in Russellville, but my parents moved to Louisville when it came time to enroll me into 1st grade. We lived first in Newburg, then the West End, and eventually they bought a home in Okolona.

NN: What took you to NYC and when did that happen?

HC: After High School, I came to New York to attend Parsons School of Design with plans to become a fashion designer in 1985.

NN: How has living in NYC shaped your experience as a musician?

HC: Even as a visual artist in New York, music consumed me. No Wave had been a big influence, and helped me define my art punk sensibilities when I arrived. One minute I would be dancing with vogue fashion kids and B-Boys at Madam Rosa’s in Tribeca while Jean-Michel Basquiat was DJing, and the next- watching an experimental film with performance artists in body paint in the courtyard of The Gas Station on Avenue B (an old gas station turned live/work venue).

“One minute I would be dancing with vogue fashion kids and B-Boys at Madam Rosa’s in Tribeca while Jean-Michel Basquiat was DJing, and the next- watching an experimental film with performance artists in body paint in the courtyard of The Gas Station on Avenue B.”

NN: What’s the scene like there and how do you feel that it compares to Louisville or other cities?

HC: When I moved back in 1993 you had to go into The City (Manhattan), but now The New York City scene has pretty much left downtown, and can be found all over Brooklyn – most notably Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Ridgewood (technically Queens, but feels like Brooklyn). There is also a vibrant scene happening at The Shrine (Harlem) and Jesse Malin’s (D-Generation) The Bowery Electric in the East Village One key musical community that has been solid since the start is the Black Rock Coalition– whose supporters come from all cultures and walks of life. I read about them the entire time I lived in California (via my home away from home Village VOICE subscription) and became an official member in 2005. So many things are happening in Brooklyn that festivals have spawned like The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, the Northside Festival (Williamsburg), and Bushwick Open Studios Arts & Music Festival (BOS).

In comparison to Louisville? The scene I am getting re-aquainted with there feels more community and activist oriented. I discover something new every time I visit, which is exciting.

NN: For example, is it hard to find a place to practice, to play, or people to play with?

HC: There is no shortage of great musicians here – but matching schedules is a big challenge. Most drummers tend to be in a few bands, for example. And in New York you can only play loud music at home until 10pm (unless you live in one of the few remaining art lofts). One bonus we do have access to is a program created by the city called Spaceworks. They provide affordable hourly rehearsal space to musicians, actors and dancers. I’ve been a member there since they opened in 2014.

NN: How would you describe what you do to someone outside the know?

HC: PROJECTS:

  • Honeychild Coleman – Solo Indie Rock (vocals / guitar / some drum machine)
  • DEM – Solo Electronic / Shoegaze influenced Rock (vocals / loops / drum machine / guitar / laptop)
  • Bachslider – Heavy rock trio (bass and vocals)
  • GKA – Electronic punk / noise influenced duo (vocals / guitar / bass / synth)

You can find more info at www.honeychildcoleman.com

NN: What all instruments do you play? What do you feel the most comfortable with and why?

HC: Electric and steel string acoustic guitar, electric mountain dulcimer, electric bass, mandolin, loop sampler. I feel most comfortable with guitar but bass is a close second.

NN: Break down how you write. Do you come up with a beat or a riff and then work from there? Or is there a lyrical idea first?

HC: I write a few different ways. I get song hook ideas at random and record them in my phone. Sometimes I sit down and write lyrics. Sometimes an entire song comes to me and I record it roughly right away, then go back and fine-tune.

NN: How do you engage as a collaborator? Do you come up with ideas and people work to you, or do you go with the flow? What works best and why?

HC: The bull of my collaboration experience has been in electronic and experimental dub music, with DJs who were not necessarily song writers. In my early years I was more spontaneous and into free style vocals. As I became more seasoned as an artist I moved away from having my vocals be sampled and more in the direction of co-writing and composing with collaborators. This works best for me as I hear and develop compositions even in the simplest loops and snippets artists may send me to consider. In a guest situation, it’s really up to the writer and what they envision my role to be in the project.

NN: What is your work like as a DJ? How does it differ from your more rock oriented stuff?

HC: I am mainly a rock DJ – I spin indie local and international bands/artists as well as underground, garage, punk and classic rock. On occasion I mix in freestyle (Latin infused late ’80s dance), electro-funk (Breakdance) and some new dub / reggae and ska. So in a sense, the music I DJ is not so different from the projects I play and write in. I feel like DJing glues it all together. And after playing live in other bands like we(tm) with DJ Olive and Lloop, Badawi (Raz Mesinai), and Apollo Heights (now The Veldt), I felt inspired to learn to remix rock as well.

NN: How did you get involved with the Girls Rock Louisville camp?

HC: I reached out to Louisville Girls Rock last year after seeing a post about the camp on Facebook. I was too late to get involved with the camp, but since I was coming to Louisville to visit my family, connected with some of the women from the camp like Marissa Booker (former student, now mentor – who also had come to see me perform the year before at Dreamland) and artist Carrie Neumayer (Louisville Girls Rock).

NN: Relative to that, have you ever been involved with a Girls Rock Camp elsewhere? Is this the kind of thing that might’ve benefited you?

HC: I have been involved with fundraising as well as The Lunchtime Concert Series for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls here in New York. It’s wonderful witnessing the fierce spirit and talent of the young musicians.

NN: What’s the best and worst show you’ve ever played and why? How do you get a bad show back on track?

HC: The worst show I can recall was a solo show at Baby Jupiter (East Village) – soundcheck had gone great but when it came time to play, I had major technical difficulties. Some guy came onstage to try and talk to me and ask if I needed help but I was so irritated I got annoyed that he was there – it turned out to be my future friend Mike Ladd. Once everything was working again, it sounded great and people liked it but I had to cut my set short so I was bummed.

“There was a long guitar solo and I just closed my eyes and fell to my knees, eventually lying down on the stage, without speaking to anyone else in the band. When I opened my eyes, Monk (guitarist) and Micah (bassist) were also lying down on the floor. It was magical.”

The best show? My 4 piece rock band was playing an annual festival called Mayapalooza, at Webster Hall (East Village) – on the bill with other Sistagrrl bands Maya, Simi, and Tamar-kali. We were super amped, as it was the last gig of the year before I was to go to Europe for 3 months on tour with the Italian electronic rock band I sang in, HERE. At one point there was a long guitar solo and I just closed my eyes and fell to my knees, eventually lying down on the stage, without speaking to anyone else in the band. When I opened my eyes, Monk (guitarist) and Micah (bassist) were also lying down on the floor. It was magical – we were in sync musically and spiritually.

NN: What would be your last meal and why?

HC: I have never thought about that. Ever.

NN: If you could change just one thing about the world permanently, what would it be and why?

HC: For people to be more accepting of differences in others – this covers discrimination, sexism, classism, pretty much all of the isms…..

NN: What non-musical things get you fired up?

HC: RECYCLING (and people who LITTER)

NN: Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth mentioning lately?
HC: …

NN: What are your top three desert island albums and why?

HC: I could not possibly narrow it down to only 3.