Robert Kraft Interview
Robert Kraft started playing piano at the age of four. He's put his musical talents to good use since then. Back in 1979, when he was part of a quintet "The Ivory Coast," the group played everywhere from jazz clubs to opening concerts for the Manhattan Transfer at Radio City Music Hall.
Out on his own now, Robert has just released a solo album on RCA. titled "Retro Active." Robert's dubbed his music "metro-pop "To find out what makes Robert tick, we sat down and had a chat with him recently. There is one other thing about Robert Kraft you should know; he's a graduate of Harvard.
Q. Do you find it difficult to talk to a lot of musicians, especially when they're using a lot of musical jargon?
A. It's no problem at all. I relate to musicians better than just about anybody. You know why? I enjoy relating to them musically. I've just had a really wonderful experience in California, spending four months with Larry Carlton, who produced the record. He's a really fabulous studio player. He plays on all the Steeley Dan records, Christopher Cross, and Joni Mitchell. You name it, he's been on like nine hundred records. He's like the cat. I think musicians care less about where I went to college. That doesn't even figure in, if the music speaks to them. I never felt that the Harvard thing got in the way at all. It's always been sort of curious and fun. and sort of embarrassing because sometimes you say you went to Harvard, and like there's a wow, you weren't a lawyer or a doctor! I played in a rock band the whole time I was there, and wrote my songs.
Q. What is your degree in?
A. I've got a degree in art. They wouldn't let me in the Music Department because it was all classical. I don't read music very well. I found lots of friends in the Art Dept. where they were making videos, and film and photography, and I've been just as interested in that. That album cover of mine, even though it's kind of nuts, I like to design things like that.
Q. Manfred Mann has said, "The more people buy a record, the more successful it is, not only commercially, but artistically." Is that true?
A. I hate to generalize, how's that for evading the question! You and I could both find records that are huge commercial successes which we would agree, just aren't that interesting. You and I both would be able to find records that you and I bought and a hundred of our friends and we're crazed for them, we think they're the most brilliant sensitive records, but we know we've got certain kinds of tastes. I think it's a very rare intersection where a record is truly brilliant and commercially successful. You and I can both name the artists that do that, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles. I mean, last night I was listening to The Beatles White Album. It's brilliant. The songwriting is brilliant, the production is brilliant. So. It happens.
Q. Do you think your music can make it in terms of real mass appeal?
A. I think the possibility is there. All I need is one very simple thing - a miracle.
Q. Why do you say that?
A. Because it's an uphill battle. My music is left of center. I'm unheard of. It's very personal sounding music. It sounds like Robert Kraft. It's your guess as well as mine, whether those people out there who've never heard it, say my goodness I like that, when they hear it.
Q. Which do you write first, the lyrics or the music?
A. Oh, it depends. There's never a set way. You just got to hammer away at it until the song is finished. Sometimes, I'll write a verse on a bus, and go home and try 10 set it to music. Sometimes I'll write a whole song and say. I've kind of an idea for a title, but wow. now I've got to sit down and write verses. It's just work, like being in your workshop with hammer and nails, and just trying to build songs and kind of kick 'em out the door and make room for the next one.
Q. .Joe Walsh made the statement, "For the first time in history, the artist is realizing financial success in his lifetime." Why has it taken so long for this situation to occur?
A. It's not true. God. I think Joe Walsh is great, but he should get his facts straight Franz Liszt traveled around Europe with an entourage and a piano installed in the back of his horse drawn carriage. Mozart was literally taken from court to court. Caruso was very wealthy in his lifetime. Lots and lots of artists have been compensated during their lifetime. Joe Walsh might have meant that the scale now seems disproportionate, that rock 'n rollers are paid millions of dollars to be compensated. I don't think in any way it's taken a long time. People get so attached to myths as opposed to reality. Because nobody's buying my record they don't understand me. Maybe people don't buy your record 'cause you stink, or I'm gonna die poor and get discovered afterwards. Well, that can happen too. You can also make money during your life. It's all a matter of scale.
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