MUSIC INTERVIEW: Infrared Radiation Orchestra 

One big song

Kim Draheim's battered guitar is your library card — or perhaps more accurately, your passport — to rock 'n' roll. After plundering the region for more than 25 years in the guitar-centric hard-rocking bar band, Static Cling, Draheim has re-emerged with The Infrared Radiation Orchestra, a classic bar band in the tried and true trio set-up. This Seneca Falls-based threesome — Draheim, along with Barry Wayne Miller (drums) and Jerry Congdon (bass) — cruises the traditional side street of virtually every road to rock. Leaning heavily on doses of psychedelic and garage rock, the band covers and creates seamlessly. Exhibit A: the band's new Jargon Records release "Preparing the Feast of Skeldon." But where do the preexisting influences end and the band begin? We asked Draheim, who got on the phone to answer a few questions and explain how it's all just one big song. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

CITY: How did Infrared Radiation Orchestra come to be?

Kim Draheim: I was becoming increasingly frustrated with Static Cling. Cathi [band member Cathi Lee Otis] was having some health issues and was getting out of the band, and also I was getting a lot of flack about direction. I was still very emotionally attached to it, but my wife said, "Why don't you start a side project?" What my wife didn't tell me was that Static Cling was going to be over soon. She could see it coming and I couldn't. So I started a side project and, indeed, within a couple of months Static Cling was done. Having another band softened the blow.


How was the transition?

For 25 years with Static Cling I was essentially writing for a three-piece. My writing has evolved with that three-piece sound in mind, so it was a really easy transition. I ended up with some guys who are excellent singers, so we have three different vocalists. We're doing a lot more with harmonies than with Static Cling. What Cathi and I were doing was more counter-melodies, criss-crossing, counter-melodies. With Infrared I'm doing a lot of straight harmonies.


You guys seem to draw from everywhere and everyone.

You know, there's an old quote from Robbie Robertson from The Band that really sums up how I've always felt. He said that if you want to create something original, you better listen to nothing else or everything else. And I've been the everything else side of that coin. There's a little bit of everything in there.


But you make it your own, right?

There's one song on the album — I'm kind of curious how many people will pick up on this... One thing I haven't done too often in my life is consciously try to write a song that sounds like another band. I was sitting up all night watching back-to-back "24 Hour Party People" and "Control," the two movies about Joy Division. So like 4 o'clock in the morning I'm like, "I'm going to write a Joy Division song." It's the song "God Help Us All" on the album.


What bends your ear the most?

The influence is mostly 60's guitar rock, that's where my heart has always been. I love psychedelic rock and this band has really allowed me to cut loose on that stuff more than Static Cling did. Stuff like Pink Floyd. I also think there's some Grateful Dead-Quicksilver-Jefferson Airplane-Country Joe influences in there. When we played Grassroots, the sound tech said I played more like a sax player. And I thought that was really cool, because if there's anybody I've tried to play like, it's Pharaoh Sanders.

Where does IRO belong, the studio or the stage?

Definitely on stage

What are you most proud of with this band?

I know this may come off a bit arrogant, but there're only a handful of bands that are the real thing, and I think people sense that. That's why I enjoy doing double bills with bands like Anonymous Willpower, because I think they're one of those bands, too.


You're also an amazing guitar player.

Well, I keep hearing that. I think I'm limited technically, but I do have touch. I know I have a good feel.


What makes Infrared Radiation Orchestra the Infrared Radiation Orchestra?

This is going to repel some people... We're a cover band basically, but we're not a cover band. I mean, I enjoy arranging songs almost as much as I like writing originals. I enjoy being in a band that gets the fact that it's all the same. It's like the hippie bands used to say: it's all one big song. Whether I wrote it, or Jagger/Richards wrote it, or Irving Berlin wrote it — it's what you do with it that matters.

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