While Kurt Swinghammer may not have as prominent a profile in the Canadian arts scene as, say, Barenaked Ladies, he has nonetheless made an impact as a musician, technician, and visual artist.
Getting his start in Niagara Falls, Ontario, initial Swinghammer performances in 1978 were definitely more art-school than pop-schooled, incorporating multimedia apparatus such as projectors and televisions, combined with both live and pre-recorded musical numbers. After performing in the Niagara area for several years, with occasional trips into Toronto, Swinghammer finally made the move into Toronto proper in 1984. In addition to recording off-center solo works, Swinghammer performed with a number of bands over the subsequent years, including General Electric, the Lawn, and Vital Sines. He also recorded other artists at his home studio during this time -- including an unknown bike courier by the name of Ron Sexsmith. Frustratingly, even with all of this music under his belt, in musical circles he may have been best known as the person who hand-painted the suits that the Shuffle Demons wore during performances.
Though he'd previously self-released a number of cassettes, it was the 1991 release of the PoMo a GoGo CD that finally brought Swinghammer to a cross-Canada audience, thanks to a distribution deal with Fringe Product. Though he continued to indulge his more artistic side during this time, he also hooked up again with superstar-in-the-making Ron Sexsmith, performing in Sexsmith's band the Uncool, and performing together under the unlikely moniker Sexhammer. The beginning of the '90s also found Swinghammer beginning to compose more often for movies and television programs.
When Swinghammer finally got back into solo performing mode, his choice of subject material was perfectly in line with his artistic sensibilities; Vostok 6 was a concept album dedicated to cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in outer space. Though the album didn't exactly sell by the truckload, it made a fan of Ani DiFranco, who not only gave the album wider release on her own label, but also invited Swinghammer to perform in her live band and on her To the Teeth album. His solo release Black Eyed Sue followed in 2001.
Between solo projects, Swinghammer remains busy with his composition work for the screen and his guest appearances on albums by other Canadian artists (Dan Bryk, Great Big Sea, and Sarah Slean, to name just a few). ~ Sean Carruthers
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