I recently had a chance to sit down with the artist Kamary Phillips. Here’s what I learned.
Kamary Phillips is a black-American singer, songwriter, producer and actor. He was born in Baltimore Maryland in the late 60s.
Kamary spent the 70s and early 80s growing up in Vermont, then the ‘whitest State’ in the Union. This upbringing likely explains Kamary’s diverse musical knowledge and tastes and the reason his own music tends to be far more eclectic than typical Black artists from the States.
Kamary’s first taste of critical success was in the late 80s with the Boston band B.U.S.T., or Big Ugly Soul Teachers. The band’s sound was reminiscent of early RHCP’s “Uplift Mo-Fo Party Plan”.
“We’re All The Same” performed by B.U.S.T., written by Kamary Phillips
B.U.S.T. was a local favorite with Label interests. The band split due to conflicting career goals. Kamary believed the band needed to leave the safe haven of their Boston success for bigger and broaden horizons found in NYC and LA. The band-mates weren’t ready to make the move so eventually Kamary went alone.
Landing in Los Angeles at the tail end of the 80s, Kamary discovered the dominating music scene and sound was what he and his Vermont friends called HARD ROCK and CLASSIC ROCK, ten years earlier. Only now, the familiar sound had a new name and even newer faces to go along with it. Introducing, GRUNGE ROCK.
Having left his Funk-Punk roots behind in Boston, Kamary found himself auditioning for a variety of LA Grunge bands. During this time he met many then aspiring artists such as Pearl Jam, Sound Garden and Stone Temple Pilots.
Eventually signing with MCA, together with Bruce Hornsby’s drummer John Molo, Kamary joined the band LIQUID JESUS and then found himself sharing a flat with Maynard from Green Jello and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. For the time leading up to their Sony deal, RATM shared a rehearsal space with Liquid Jesus.
“Mirrors For The Blind” performed by Kamary Phillips and Liquid Jesus
Liquid Jesus disbanded following their long, cross-country, US tours as their record label MCA went under and only it’s pop-mainstream acts were salvaged. The band considered going it independently however the bandleader at the time allegedly mismanaged the effort. One by one, the musicians found better opportunities elsewhere. In a Rolling Stone interview, Kamary stated that he was only the singer and he missed playing guitar and writing and would have been inclined to move on anyway.
Not long after the end of Liquid Jesus, Kamary headed back to his San Francisco home spending the next many months back and forth between LA and SF, searching for a new sound. At the start of the 90s Kamary met Austrian guitarist and producer Bern Locker at a Los Angeles bar where Kamary’s cover-band often performed. Impressed by the front-man (Kamary), Bern offered him some recording time at his nearby studio. Kamary accepted. Here is an early recording;
“Clear” – written and performed by Kamary Phillips
After many sessions and recording many Kamary Phillips songs, Bern exposed Kamary to much of his own personal music at the time. Being European, Bern had influences that Kamary had not yet discovered. One of those being INDUSTRIAL and TRANCE music.
Kamary was so intrigued by these styles that he immediately wanted to create new, original music incorporating Bern’s style. At which point, the sessions changed from Kamary’s songs to mutually written material. The original, industial-pop act URBAN VOODOO was born. (Since, the name & logo has been illegally used by a DJ from Netherlands on several occasions)
Urban Voodoo, featuring Kamary Phillips and Bernhard Locker enjoyed a variety of commercial successes ranging from Int’l press tours, major motion picture soundtracks and video games. More than 20 years later, UV still has a cult following sharing fans with Marilyn Manson, Stabbing Westward and Filter to name a few.
“Miss Brutality” or “Brutality”
written and performed by Urban Voodoo (Phillips/Locker)
Although Urban Voodoo never officially disbanded, when the two Producers meet on occasion to hang out or jam, they haven’t made any known attempts to recreate the UV sound. They are friends to this day.
Urban Voodoo brought Kamary to Europe for the first time in 1991. It was not long after that Kamary decided he wanted to live permanently abroad. Some time during the mid 90s, Kamary moved to Munich Germany and signed a deal with then major label, BMG-Bertelsmann Music Group, as a German National artist.
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France became Kamary’s new playground and for the next 7-plus years, Kamary enjoyed considerable success on the road and recurring Top 40 radio hits such as with a true tale called 5 MINUTES, eventually breaking the Top 10 with the hit EVERY LITTLE THING. On numerous occasions over the years, he has shared the stage with major Talent such as Joe Cocker, Lenny Kravitz, Aimee Mann, Metallica, Carlos Santana and Al Jerreau, performing Solo and with his band.
“5 Minutes” written and performed by Kamary Phillips
“Every Little Thing” written and performed by Kamary Phillips
At the high point of his personal career development, without warning BMG announced a major merger with Sony Music. At which point all productions and development was put on hold. With matters out of his control, Kamary watched his growing empire dwindle before his eyes. Contractually bound and unable to further his career, Kamary lost the love for music altogether and simply stopped.
The next 7 years found Kamary focusing his daily life on the many other interests he has. He pioneered podcasting and was founder and original owner of PODCASTERS.TV, one of the oldest and most popular podcast portals.
Years before Youtube existed, Kamary’s company created and launched DVtv in Europe. A digital video network comprised of user generated content. Sound familiar? DVtv eventually became UTV, the Underground Television Network which independently produces more than 10 original TV formats today.
Also during his time away from music, Kamary has written and sold a few screenplays, he’s appeared as a formidable actor on the big screen and he’s a regular host on the German music show, MUSICWATCH, rock music TV broadcast, BEDROCK TV and the positive information broadcast, GOOD NEWS CENTRAL. He has written and published over three hundred songs. He has written or co-written for successful artists such as Kenny Chesney, Xavier Naidoo, Jodee Messina, Elin Lanto and others as well as producing a variety of Rock, Pop, R&B and Hip-Hop tracks for various artists and publishers.
As Kamary’s interest in professional music slowly returned, he found himself more inspired by contributing to new artists careers, more than his own. By 2006 Kamary launched a small business called MODERN MEDIA MANIACS dedicated to creating online content and marketing tools for small bands; Pioneering what we today refer to as, Social Media Marketing or Social Media Commerce.
Over the last few years, Kamary Phillips has seriously participated in a number of interesting projects. His favorite being a Duo project with his wife, called Phillips & Phillips.
“September” performed by Kamary and Susy Phillips
Whether as a band-mate in recent acts like Elegant Friction or Echophonics, or as one of his solo alias’ like German-language singer JEDERMANN or the folky Craig Cohen, none have resulted in any official return to the music business as a whole.
“Warum” written and performed by JEDERMANN/Zeko
It wasn’t until 2012 when Kamary Phillips officially announced the return of the artist Kamary Phillips. Call it a new beginning. Call it a comeback. Whatever you call it, the artist Rolling Stone once dubbed “Rock’s biggest secret…” is about to be discovered, again.
“The Mission” the KPB sound ca. January 2012
Writer: Elden Parsons, Indie-Music Critic