There’s a new cafe in Blaby called Cosmo, and I’ve arranged to meet Kevin Hewick there for a chat. I’m excited, Not just because I love coffee and I’m looking forward to checking out this new place, but meeting up with Kevin is always an exciting prospect. We’ve chatted before and he’s just a normal guy, he’s one of us – just an ordinary, working class lad from Eyres Monsell – it just so happens that he’s also done some extraordinary things.
“I have channelled most everything into music, everything that is perfect and flawed is in there. It has kept me alive and has allowed me to die many, many times”
Born February 4th, 1957 in Leicester, this year sees Kevin reach 60 years of age. To mark the occasion he’s hosting a night of music at the Musician. “I’m trying not to make it about me, me, me” he insists. Three charities will benefit from the event which will also feature a host of artists, all of whom have had some involvement with him musically over the years.
Countesthorpe College in the 1970’s was an infamous place, noted for left wing views and a radical, ‘experimental’ style of teaching. A perfect place for a young Kevin to develop his writing skills and expand his musical horizons. It was here that a teacher helped turn his bad poetry into song lyrics by introducing him to Bob Dylan – and the rest is history.
Whilst making demos and sending them off to record labels, Kevin was taken aback when a letter arrived from Tony Wilson of Factory Records. In June 1980, he took a train to Manchester where he was met and driven to Graveyard Studios to record a session that was intended to appear on his debut release for Factory. The backing band on that session was the legendary Joy Division, recovering from the recent loss of singer Ian Curtis, with Martin Hannet on the mixing desk. The session produced two tracks, one of which, Haystack, featured on a later release and perhaps cemented Kevin’s place in the Factory story, albeit with mixed blessings for him.
Ultimately, it was decided not to use the session for the debut release, Factory instead opting to use a 7 track live recording taken from 2 gigs, the first supporting Roy Harper, the second supporting Joy Division. A Factory Quartet (FAC 24) was released December 1980. His second record for the label, Ophelia’s Drinking Song (FAC 48) finally emerged in May 1982. Originally recorded in July 1981, it took so long to get released that the tour to support it eventually took place long beforehand.
Kevin’s intention was that his next single would be a song called Plenty, which he recorded with post-punk band The Sound, but Tony Wilson wasn’t prepared to allow a band from London to appear on the Factory label. The single never happened and the master tapes never returned.
“I never got a John Peel session! I never got a John Peel session! You just had to pick up a guitar back then and you got a John Peel session!”
August 1982 saw Kevin support New Order in Blackpool along with fellow Factory band Section 25. He tells me he sat up talking music with Ruth Polsky afterwards. Ruth was a legendary booker who took many UK bands to the States. She had organised the Joy Division tour to the US that never happened. They discussed an American tour for Kevin and Section 25, which ultimately never came off.
Another ‘what could have been’ moment emerges when I mention John Peel. “I never got a John Peel session! I never got a John Peel session!” Whether that was a personal slur from Peel towards Kevin or an oversight, we’ll never know. But as Kevin says, “you just had to pick up a guitar back then and you got a John Peel session!”
It would take many books to retell Kevin’s story, but in 2012 he released All Was Numbered, – a record which chronicles his thoughts about his time with Factory in musical form.
By 1983 Kevin had moved on to Cherry Red records, where he carried on his association with The Sound, but after being dropped from the label in 1984 Kevin shut himself away in a darkened room, becoming a recluse at his parents house.
In 1989 he began playing in Leicester again, and hasn’t really stopped since. As well as playing, he hosts many regular events, promotes shows, acts as compere and puts out a number of releases – All this while doing a full time job. His latest album, Touching Stones Tasting Rain was released in August 2016 and there’s no sign of him calling it a day yet. There’s another album in the pipeline and another after that.
“Too indie for the folkies and too folky for the indies, I don’t fit in any brackets. I mix in a lot of circles that don’t mix with each other, but I feel I don’t fit in any”
Kevin’s music is noted for its ability to cross genres and boundaries. One memorable performance saw him support indie act Girls Names. He was a late replacement but he fitted in ideally, and Girls Names loved him. “Too indie for the folkies and too folky for the indies, I don’t fit in any brackets. I mix in a lot of circles that don’t mix with each other, but I feel I don’t fit in any” he tells me.
Politics features highly in Kevin’s mid song banter, and he tells me of the time he went to 10 Downing Street. It all started when he added Sarah Brown (the then PM’s wife) on Twitter and she began following him back. “She asked about the Leicester music scene and I did this really crazy history of it in five tweets” he recalls. Then an invite arrived to her ‘Christmas Twitter Party’ to be held at Number 10. “I gave her a Pink Box Records sampler CD, but they already had my albums”. Secret fans of his by the sound of it.
It is clearly evident when you talk to Kevin that he has a great love of music coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject that spans genres and generations. The story goes that he told New Order (as they were just deciding to use the name), that there had been a band (The New Order) formed by ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton. ‘Only you would know that’ the retort came back.
Kevin summed up his life as a musician as follows: “I have channelled most everything into music, everything that is perfect and flawed is in there. It has kept me alive and has allowed me to die many, many times”. A moving statement from a self-declared elder statesman of the Leicester music scene.
Though this is an all too brief summary of the 60 years Kevin Hewick has spent on Earth, hopefully it is a little insight into the person he is. That’s Kevin for you: An ordinary man who has done some extraordinary things.
Kevin Hewick Celebrates his 60th Birthday at The Musician on 4th February. His album Touching Stones, Tasting Rain is out now.
Black and White Photo by Scott Choucino. All other photographs by Keith Jobey.