[INTERVIEW] MARTIN KIRBY: TRANSLATING TRANSITIONS WITH GODSPEED

An aphorism is a topic which does not often arise in everyday life. Cambridge dictionary defines it as: “a short, clever saying that is intended to express a general truth”. Further on that subject, an inspired example of an aphorism and one which informs this article rather brilliantly is by writer Mason Cooley who once wrote – “a blocked path also offers guidance”.

At this point, the readers of this leading publication are probably rather perplexed to how this is at all related, but this writer implores you to read on. This guideline of sorts has become a dictum for Martin Kirby, the former vocalist to Melbourne hardcore favourites Carpathian. As Marty explains from his current trip to Tokyo, in 2011 after the band’s sudden demise there was more than just a full-time touring musician job which perished, he also suffered a financial burden which plagued numerous future possibilities.

“As exotic as my life sounds it’s been hard financially. When Carpathian started, hardcore wasn’t a big business, and we were just kids. If I could do it all again and have someone take care of business and the finance side of the band, it would have changed my life. Nobody was prepared to do it back then, and it just became another thing I had to manage; unfortunately, the whole business of money, especially between friends, is something I don’t deal with very well.”

Admirably Mr Kirby found composure in this state of confusion and loss; instead of wallowing in a pit of despair he aspired for a change in both scenery and profession. Feasibly a gamble of sorts on an already unstable situation, this risk provided an advancement to undertake a new opportunity from the aforementioned blocked path.

“Yeah, it’s a bit of a long story… I get embarrassed when people ask: ‘What do you do?’ as I realise my life sounds a bit ridiculous. When Carpathian went on hiatus, it affected myself and a lot of my friends pretty adversely, either related or not related at all I had a falling out with my closest friend who I had lived with for ten years (even together at Sun Heights in Tokyo). I donated/packed up everything I had and moved to Queenstown, NZ on the off-chance I would get accepted into a Snowboard Instructor scholarship. I had only done five days snowboarding in my life but grew up skateboarding and figured I could do it. Turns out my trainer and mentor to grow up in Wales (UK) skateboarding and listening to hardcore/punk. We became good friends over music, skateboarding and snowboarding and I owe those incredible years of my life to him.”

Martin continues, “We would alternate snow seasons between Japan and New Zealand and I would spend the rest of the year in the city I love most, Tokyo. I’ve had an affinity for Japan for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I would obsess over the bonsai at nurseries and be handed down some martial arts weapons from my now brother in law: Two samurai swords, nunchaku and a pair of sai. I just think the country, culture and people are really beautiful. In the months leading up to the recording of Isolation I spent a few weeks in Tokyo and wrote most of the lyrics for the record there; I decided if the band ever went on break then I would endeavour to live in Japan.”

The Japanese culture which fascinated Kirby brought him rather organically to their world of fashion, which to a degree is overlooked criminally. As a self-confessed “geek” about Japanese craftsmanship, understandably considering the traditional methods of creation and soul the people put into their craft, Marty returned to Melbourne and started what would become his lifestyle and clothing store Godspeed on Brunswick Street.

“ Japanese people obsess over things until they perfect them, or get as close as they can to perfecting them. This is accurate across everything they d, and fashion is something they do well. The history of Japanese denim, for example, is really interesting; there is a book that was released recently called Ametora – How Japan Saved American Style and anyone who is interested should read that. Long story short, though, after World War II the Japanese wanted to copy American style, and after buying second hand Levi’s from American’s living in occupied Japan; ultimately they wanted to create their denim. Fast forward to around 1993 and Mikiharu Tsujita from Full Count denim somehow managed to become pen-pals with cotton farms in Zimbabwe and imported Zimbabwean cotton to Japan; he essentially changed the world of denim. They slowly loom the denim fabric on old ‘selvedge’ looms and create the best denim in the world down in Okayama.”

Godspeed was created to expose this hidden treasure of fashion. It has become a gateway for Australians to get affiliated with Japanese tradition and incredible craftsmanship with the clothing they create. Fundamentally this is a vital step in overcoming the language barrier which essentially is the main obstacle to a global knowledge of these brilliant brands.

“ Actually, most of the labels I work with are from Tokyo; I just happened to fall in with a great crew of people out here who are super cool and very talented. It mostly started with one brand Radiall, I would hang out at their flagship store Doobies most days and became close with the whole team, I did some photography for them and modelled in a few look-books. It frustrated me that people in the western world had no idea about the most important brands in Japan right now, mostly because information isn’t available in English. So I started Godspeed as a way to introduce my friend’s brands to the rest of the world. In a sense, it feels the same as when I was doing Dead Souls Records… Just doing what I can to help my friends get exposure.”

Clothing is not the only product which Godspeed adheres to promote and sell; inherently it is a lifestyle store. With just a quick visit to the shop or even their online store, products ranging from pomade to coffee to incense are readily available and are of traditional man-made quality. As Marty elaborates, “Yeah I think all the products in the store go hand in hand, it’s mostly just things that I appreciate in my day to day life and again, I am trying to support my friends and owner/makers. The Maaps incense, for example, are organic and handmade in Los Angeles by a husband and wife couple. I met Johan, the husband, in Okayama years ago when I did a photoshoot for his USA based label 3Sixteen. They use mostly Japanese fabrics on their entire range. Since then we’ve remained good friends and mostly talk about basketball. We share common interests and passion. I guess Godspeed is loosely curated around what I have in common with friends.”

This is certainly an exciting and educational project that Kirby has brought to Australia, but one which still has hindrances to overcome. With plans to expand the store in every way possible, Marty has high hopes but in essence, can only take it one step at a time.

“I ended up in pretty bad debt because of the band and to this day can’t get finance or credit which has obviously made Godspeed difficult financially. I’ve also been overseas a majority of the time so my credit history is terrible. Like I said, I would go back and change it all if I could so things could be easier now but I don’t regret anything. I’ve been speaking with Deathwish and Resist Records respectively and want to start including music into the store through selling vinyl and spinning records as obviously; it’s a huge part of my life. There are plans for product nights and events; it’s just early days and survival right now!”
He details further – “I want to boost the coffee profile of the store also. I want to start a Tokyo style coffee stand which would help my friends out looking for working opportunities in Australia as half of Japan are skateboarding baristas.”

Finally, with Mr Kirby being a part of one of Australia most adored hardcore outfits, it seemed necessary to ask if there was a chance for a reunion or anything new on the horizon for himself music-wise?

“I would love to do a Carpathian Reunion. At this stage, it’s unlikely as we don’t keep in touch and everyone is doing their own thing I guess? I wish that weren’t the case and I’m sorry to keep letting people down about it, it’s just the reality. I have tried.
“I wrote and recorded a few songs with a friend in Tokyo that we will hopefully release when we get the time, it’s a very Rancid inspired punk band with English and Japanese verses, and it’s just fun. I recorded it at my friend Daihei’s studio in Harajuku, and he is responsible for producing Cleave, For a Reason, Crystal Lake and everything coming out of Japan right now. He is the best dude ever, and I’m lucky to spend time in his studio whenever I am here.”

To sum up, this scribe thought it best to leave it in the very capable words of Mr Einstein, whose genius finds relevancy in practically all fields of life: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”. If this is Martin Kirby’s ambition, then Godspeed is his doorway.

Written by Will Oakeshott

32 year old dude from Adelaide. Pretty immature, energetic, fit dude I guess. Love my music, meeting new people and sports, mostly bodyboarding, also love having a few beers with my mates, can't live without that. Music rules my life, I review gigs/cds for many magazines as well as interview bands for a lot of different publications.
I'm a vocalist/climber also.

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