Jason Kelly of Kealer -
INSATIABLE DESIRE FOR EXPERIENCE
By Dominic Bonner
- ENTERING the Holiday inn express hotel room in Liverpool of Kealer frontman Jason Kelly describes many things such chaos, velocity and a wealth of experience. Indeed the departure of a seedy looking adulating female fan as I enter bringing many questions that seemingly imply the nature of his past or anytime of the singer’s life.
Manchester born Kelly could be described for many things in which the light and dark sides of his life have seen travel as an integral part of his make up. But the speed his life travels regardless of the rock star status is overwhelming – in six weeks, he travelled 9,000 miles in a car across the U.K where his frequent travels took him to all the major cities of England and Scotland. He begins by freely admitting his awful delivery for jokes and after hearing one of them, I am compelled to agree. Yet his desire to keep moving is so relentless the thought of where he finds time for my interview or his band teasingly remains unanswered.
The formative years brings a tale of a young teenager in Manchester starting with a desire to win a gold medal in swimming, an ambition that began in a small public baths in Broadway. A potential Olympic finalist, Kelly represented his city, county and eventually country in the youth division – tasting public school life in Devon, specifically training in swimming.
But the gruelling schedule of training became too much of a commitment and the lure of gold saw only disappointment,
“I knew I wasn’t gonna get a gold medal at the Olympics, simple as
that”, he reflects, “But there was no space for cigarettes and girls or anything else. So I jacked it in and found rock n’ roll.”
An unusual stint of stripping in the gay bars of Manchester as his first job at the age of sixteen saw Kelly wanting to explore the darker sides of life. Extremes that most of us would gladly run from and remarkably find the romanticism of gangster proportion equally compelling, as he found the darker activities of life in London as his need for travel began to take its grip,
“I was moving around London every six months basically because I was up to no good and had to move around. I ran a brothel and an escort agency and ran into trouble with the Maltese firms of Soho and the Eastend drug culture firms of London who saw me as a threat. I couldn’t relate to these people.
I wasn’t a pimp. But the paranoia level for my fear of going to prison wasn’t worth even thinking about. I suffer from claustrophobia that led me among many reasons to stop. London was just getting too much, people wanted to kill me and I had to leave.”
Profiting from darker subculture was never an intention of Kelly – who sees himself as the Robin Hood of the prostitution scene at the time, which is perhaps yet another example of his paradox. But regrets of this part of his life are many. Raised in a catholic family, his conscience was always at odds with his association to the people he refers to as ‘animals’ and having to share company with the seedy faction of ‘grafters’ in order to achieve his goal of recording his first album - Although it could be said he did rather handsomely out of his former life.
Indeed the hectic times led from one scene to another in almost movie-like proportion as a chance meeting led to a liason with a former wife of a prominent Oasis member before they married. She turned his life completely around and took an interest in his musical ideas as their own romantic relationship grew but again dissatisfaction was to lead an abrupt impasse,
“I had just dragged myself out of the drug world and she told me that I was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was like ok, that’s all good. I think I will check this out.
And what a fucking firm I met with her. I mean the fashionista man. I mean a firm of people who were the biggest arseholes on planet earth. I would much rather drink with the set of scum people than these people – they are obsessed with fashion. I found it difficult to adjust to these people. They are so plastic and that’s what I like about places about Liverpool. There’s something incredibly appealing about downright working class honesty and their bluntness. But these people are so fake. They earn nothing and are doing nothing mate.”
The trappings of
London led to a meeting with producer Steve Hitchcock led to the
recording of an unreleased album with his former band
‘Stroke’, enabled a vehicle in which the paranoia of the
underworld from his past managed to creep into his somewhat
But allure of rock music did not have an easy beginning with
Jason. Hitchcock knew of his past and ran the risk of gauging an
angry musician wanting to exorcise his demons “Steve is a
complete prick. At the time, I thought he was a genius –
obsessed with himself. I was a fairly angry person and he got away
with getting a hiding a fair few times. He said to me, ‘You have
a fear of completion, you never finish anything’ and I thought,
that’s fucking bullshit.
It was actually him, I couldn’t get the stuff off him. He couldn’t finish it so it turned out he was talking about himself. But it made me think about the whole process and realise that if you are gonna do something you should fulfil it with conviction and passion.”
It is fair comment that Kelly does not take great affinity with monotony. Indeed that would be somewhat of an insult to caricature his life and his personality in such a way. His insatiable desire for experience leads to a personality make up of paradox that craves normality and extremes in the same breath or ‘tastes for different aspects of life’ as he refers to it. But in there leads to an addiction for seeing and tasting everything that life has to bring and riding a serious
rollercoaster, which sees his mind wander into realms of constant exploration and craving.
Indeed a journey to New York in recent years attending a new music seminar to promote his former band ‘Stroke’ and their album to gain a record deal. This had a less than favourable event on his underwear as the excitement of experiencing the city took its
toll: ”I think it was the first time I went there, and I walked out into Time Square and I was so excited, I actually shit myself. I had to shuffle back into the lobby of this hotel like John Wayne and looking down my legs I thought – terrible. In many ways New York is like London and that is what some experiences can be like for me as I taste them. I just couldn’t stay there either, which gave me another reason to seek out peace.”
Moving to Cornwall in 2000, reflecting on the past, ridden with guilt from his former criminal lifestyle and coming to terms with a deep depression which he describes experiences where he felt as though he was dying – a place he never wishes to return. Kelly embarked on the therapy for writing, and set about producing Kealer’s album ‘My own worst enemy’.
The escapism of Cornwall led him to settle down with his girlfriend two years ago and have a son. Sadly the relationship did not last, leaving Kelly to return to his rock n’ roll ambition after completing the album leading to yet another journey to Henley to record.
A chance meeting with former Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch saw Kelly’s career take yet another twist, which brought the singer to Liverpool. They both knew of each other as they once shared the same manager and recently worked on each other’s albums. Ever since, the Kealer frontman has had a love affair with the city and simply cannot get enough of it - Regularly travelling to join up with former Cast members Pete and Keith who form the integral part of
Kelly draws attention to the fact that the interview must be near to a close so I draw attention to him to look back and reflect if there were anything, he would like to have changed about his past,
“You can’t yearn to have changed anything or regret anything because it has all led to this moment, capturing this moment. There’s certainly elements that were a bit unsavoury in my life but live and learn that’s all I can say man.” Perhaps it is that unmistakable journey we cannot and should not avoid.