Major Tom might be unsigned but the major labels are surely missing a trick with these retro cool glam rock heroes laying waste to America’s Midwest on the back of debut album A Night On the Lash.
Fronted by County Durham’s very own Stephen Kilkenny and fusing the best of Bowie with the Sweet, Def Leppard and Poison they play an intoxicating blend of made-for-festival anthems.
We caught up with rock’s best kept secret – before they get too big for the rushonrock pages!
rushonrock: You’ve been a gigging musician for years but why is Major Tom your band of choice?
Stephen Kilkenny: Major Tom came together by necessity. Me and the bass player were in another band but I got sick of trying to find the right fit. In the end I wanted to write an album on my terms and A Night On The Lash is the record I always dreamed of. In the other bands I’ve been in people have always influenced the songwriting from a commercial point of view but there was no pressure in that respect this time.
rushonrock: There’s a retro glam-themed feel to the music – is that your bag?
SK: This is the music which I have huge empathy for and hopefully that’s reflected in the songs. There are retro roots but it’s essentially material from the heart. It was so natural and so easy writing this album and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved as a band.
rushonrock: You’re a North East lad playing to Midwest crowds but how did the move from County Durham to Milwaukee come about?
SK: When I moved from County Durham I was playing in the Oxford and London areas and then I met this really hot American bird! That led to me going to the States and I’ve been in Milwaukee for about 10 years now. Newcastle and Milwaukee are very similar places. Both are blue collar places and both had, until recently, big breweries at the heart of the city. I still can’t believe Newcastle Breweries has been knocked down! It’s a convenient place for me to live right now and although it’s not really a music mecca it does boast the biggest music festival in the world. The Milwaukee Summerfest is just huge – I’ve been to Glastonbury, Reading, T In The Park and Download and this tops them all in terms of sheer scale. There are 11 stages and it’s just crazy.
rushonrock: How did you become influenced by Bowie-era rock?
SK: I’m from a little village in County Durham called Croxdale and I went to the colliery school there. There were a couple of older kids who lived in the village who influenced me when it came to music but it’s always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I became a big fan of late 70s Sweet and Bowie.
rushonrock: Why has Major Tom been so many years in the making?
SK: As I got older I was always in bands but I became a bit of a hired gun and never really felt like any band was my own. I eventually went down to London and the band I was in then opened my eyes to the possibilities of the music business. I’d always been nothing more than the guitarist but I wanted to write songs and play a bigger role. It was a voyage of discovery for me and it made me realise that I had to get my arse into gear. As a kid all I wanted to do was play Van Halen but I grew up as a musician and Major Tom was the first evidence of that when we started things off in 2006. I had always had a lot of people telling me to put my own band together and write the music I wanted to write and there came a point where I realised it’s what I had to do.
rushonrock: What’s been the reaction to A Night On The Lash?
SK: We’re doing really good with the internet marketing and starting to shift a lot of our songs internationally. Whether we’re on the radar of the major labels yet, who knows? I have sent a couple of my songs to major labels for other artists and, although it’s not something I’d particularly proud of, it pays the bills. We’ve played a huge amount of gigs in the States. We did a good couple of years playing 50 or 60 shows a year right across the Midwest. We picked our way through all of our material, looked and listened to what the crowds were responding to, and put together the tracklisting for A Night On The Lash. Now we have an international distribution deal with iTunes and 40 other outlets worldwide. The internet has been great for new bands like ourselves without a record deal. The first day that the album came out I had a look to see what was going on and our first sale was to some chap who lived about a mile from Lake Geneva! How crazy’s that?
rushonrock: Any chance we’ll see Major Tom in the UK sometime soon?
SK: Right now I’m looking at putting together a tour of the UK. I was in the North East earlier this year and I had a sniff around a few venues so it’s something I really want to happen.