Still Getting Down-Dan Condon @music.com.au Interview

KC & The Sunshine Band’s Harry Casey tells Dan Condon he’s thrilled his band’s music lives on, in spite of others trying to bring the music down.

Harry Wayne Casey – the KC of KC & The Sunshine Band – has been in the game for a long time, his first dalliances with music coming in his mid-teens before he started the group that shot him to stardom in 1973. Two years later that band were on top of the charts with Get Down Tonight and That’s The Way (I Like It). But what’s most astonishing about the band’s success is the omnipresence of these songs in modern culture, nearly 40 years after their release. Casey’s music from the 1970s is heard at sporting events and parties, and in TV shows and movies all around the world; but Casey says that disco retaining popularity was not something he ever counted on. “I never could have imagined that in 2013 disco music would be as big as it’s ever been,” he says from his home in Miami. “You create one [record] and that comes out, then you’re onto the other one. You’re really not thinking about the longevity of it or which way it’s gonna go. Things change so much musically in the world that it’s hard to comprehend where it could go.”

Disco was a genre as maligned as it was adored in the mid-1970s and there’s definitely a sense of satisfaction in Casey’s voice when he talks about his songs. “To think that my records and my music have stood the test of time when everybody tried to put them down, tear them down and give no credit to what we’d done, really says something.

“I wrote songs because I didn’t want people to not know the name of them when they went into the record store, but I never thought I would write the kind that they would just never forget for as long as 40 years.”

There is a big gap in the KC & The Sunshine Band timeline; Casey was fed up with the music industry by 1985 and, for the first time in his adult life, he stepped away from it. “Well, I partied my arse off,” Casey laughs, when asked what he did between 1985 and 1993.

“I did a lot of crazy things. I partied. I did some good things and some not so good things. I got really heavy into drugs and stuff… I kinda did things in the ‘80s – which was my 30s – that most people do in their teens. I guess I relived my adolescence? Or, not relived my adolescence, I lived my adolescence in my 30s. I guess I do things a little backwards to most people.

“I just didn’t want to have anything to do with the music industry anymore, I was tired of being told what to do and how to do it and when to do it and when to smile and when to be happy… I was just so fed up with that part of it, the stress part of it, the political part of it. I just wanted to stop and smell the roses and maybe find out who I am.

“For me it was a very lonely period of my life, I felt very lonely and alienated in a crazy kind of way and I just wanted to, I don’t know, touch reality? Even though it was my reality, it’s not a normal life. I have no idea what growing up and being in your 20s is like. That part of my life is kinda missing, because my life just took off into a whole different world and direction.”

But Casey has no regrets about his wild days. “It was definitely a good thing for me, I believe, even though the things I was doing were bad things, I think it ended up being a good thing for me. I was able to sit back and look at everything, my life and just everything.”

New KC & The Sunshine Band material – the first since 2007 – is imminent, with a wealth of material coming out of Casey’s studio at present. “It started out just doing one song and next thing I know I’ve recorded 34 songs,” Casey tells us of his current creative output. “I’m always jotting down ideas and recording stuff on my phone, little melodies and stuff that come into my head, but I haven’t actively been writing that much. I’m loving it, I really am.”

These days Casey says he’s enjoying leading this monstrous group of musicians and dancers moreso than ever before (there’ll be 15 coming down for Bluesfest alone). “I feel more relaxed, more seasoned and I have a great group of musicians and talented dancers and things around me. They add so much energy to everything and they keep me young, let’s put it that way.”

Dan Condon