February 16, 1998 in Nation/World

His Kite Soars High Multitalented Michael Koep Moves Smoothly From One Medium To The Next

By The Spokesman-Review
 

FOR THE RECORD (February 17, 1998): Location wrong: Michael Koep’s watercolor interpretations of his music on the album “Gravity” are on display now at Lindaman’s South in Spokane. The wrong Lindaman’s was listed in a story on Monday.

Laughable

I’m just keeping the situation light, Breaking the ice with a smile. Turning chaos to comedy, Turning mountains to mole hills. With a smile.

Typical Michael Koep. His band, Kite, needed relief from hard recording work, so he penned a 24-word smile to punctuate a serious repertoire.

He added music, a watercolor rendering of the song and a journal entry explaining that “Laughable” is “a reminder that all is well even when all is too serious.”

Typical Michael Koep - moving smoothly from one creative medium to another.

“This kid is so multitalented,” says Mike Clabby, who taught his 29-year-old friend 15 years ago in a Coeur d’Alene multimedia class. “He sees beyond the boundaries and limits our society puts on us.”

Koep, with his John Lennon glasses and shoulder-length hair, eschews success American-style. He wants more. He wants artistic satisfaction.

For that, his lyrics must enchant the tongue and tease the brain. His paintings must suggest more than still life. Koep must practice his drum rhythms until they swell from somewhere inside, and write about his ideas until clarity emerges.

He must constantly push his talents to higher levels.

Koep was after artistic fulfillment in 1994 when he launched the Kite project that climaxed last year with a full-length CD, 11 watercolor paintings, a 69-page journal, a Web site and a quarterly newsletter.

“It’s so pleasing to us to finish something like this,” he said. “I can’t imagine living my life any other way.”

The CD - “Gravity” - was Koep’s dream project.

“You can just do so many four-track recordings in the basement with excuses about limited facilities,” says Monte Thompson, Kite’s lead singer and composer. “We wondered what would happen if we did the best we could under the right circumstances.”

Koep cherished creativity even as a kid. At 12, he wrote a complex, Tolkienesque fantasy with its own number system, language and runic alphabet.

His mother, DeeDee, worried.

“Beautiful summer days and here’s this little stinker sitting in his room writing,” she says. “It scared me. I’ve often thought he’s close to genius, but there’s a fine line between genius and crazy.”

At 15, Koep formed a band with his older brother, then another band, Common Ground, that earned him a hint of fame at Coeur d’Alene High.

He adored the Beatles, but complicated rhythms and movements captivated him. His music often was more fun to play than to hear.

High school teachers encouraged his creative writing; drums were a stronger calling. Koep’s excitement and obvious dedication to his drums attracted offers from older bands.

His parents worried. They wanted him to consider college.

“We knew he had so much to offer and could be anything he wanted. But the music world frightened us,” says DeeDee Koep.

He tried a writing class at North Idaho College, but just wasn’t interested. He waited tables, played music and struggled to write profoundly until he realized he needed life experience.

In 1990, Koep packed up his drums and headed to Los Angeles. But he hated the sales-driven music industry and retreated first to a beach apartment to write furiously, then to Seattle. In the grunge scene, he rediscovered original music.

After three years, Koep returned to Coeur d’Alene. A chance meeting with Thompson in 1994 sparked Kite. Bassist Doug Smith and guitarist Scott Clarkson rounded the band.

Koep and Thompson had played together once before. Koep knew Thompson was a kindred spirit.

He shared his poems with Thompson, who read one - a seize-the-moment message called “Tremor” - then picked up his guitar and put it to music.

“It was something I’d been waiting to do for so long,” Koep says. “I wept.”

Thompson’s desire to compose progressive rock equalled Koep’s need to interpret life in lyrics and rhythms. They agreed to embark on a $10,000 adventure to record their artistry.

Koep enrolled in poetry and composition classes at NIC to learn more about his craft. School was so important to his project that Koep aced all his classes.

“He has an insatiable quest for knowledge,” Thompson says. “It’s not that he has to be the best. He admires the people who shaped writing, music. He wants to learn from them.”

School sharpened Koep’s writing. He explored his ideas in poems, his journal, essays. That’s how he arrived at the project name, “Gravity.”

“The nature of each lyric reflects the many meanings of the word gravity,” he wrote in his journal on Aug. 16, 1995. “The weight of our lives, the depth of our pains and the highs of our laughter all coincide with the need of gravity to actually fly.”

A Kite Web site added a visual angle to the project, but Koep wanted more - visual interpretations of each song. Thompson suggested Koep paint for the album.

Koep had sketched, but nothing more. Still, one song triggered in his mind an image of two people pushing at a wall between them.

He painted the scene in earthy watercolors. The androgynous people were naked, faceless, bald.

“I was trying to picture a human soul,” he says.

When “Gravity” was finished, Koep had painted his interpretation of each of the 11 songs. He’d written all the lyrics and some of the music, played drums and guitar, sang, kept a journal of the entire project, graduated from NIC and moved on to Gonzaga University.

Koep and friends packaged the CD into a black box suitable for a long-playing record. They added Koep’s journal and a book of lyrics and paintings. They pounded grommets into each book in Koep’s basement and convinced local stores to carry the project they’ve priced at $20.

In Spokane, “Gravity” is sold at 4000 Holes, Recorded Memories and Rock City. In Coeur d’Alene, it’s at The Long Ear, The Bookseller and Hastings. Sandpoint’s Ground Zero also sells Kite’s package.

Two of Koep’s paintings have sold, one for $500 and another for $800. His girlfriend, Lisa Perkins, promotes “Gravity” at regional coffee houses and bookstores.

She exhibits his paintings where she can set up a CD player, headphones and a lyric book. His watercolors are at Lindaman’s Cafe North in Spokane now and will head to McGowen’s Cafe downtown in March and to The Met in May.

“He has a spirit about him and a great sense of integrity,” Perkins says. “He said to me one day, ‘If I don’t get up and create, I don’t feel I have completed my day.”’ Koep celebrated the finish of “Gravity” with Thompson.

“We sat down and I said, ‘We did it. Whew.”’ Koep says. “Then I looked at him and said, ‘I’ve got this lyric,’ and we were on to the next project.”

Typical Michael Koep - a work in progress.

“I don’t think Mike will have a midlife crisis and buy a sports car,” says Clabby, his former teacher. “He’s not going to look back and say, ‘Why didn’t I…’ It’s a treat to see the way he’s embraced life.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (2 Color)

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. CHECK IT OUT You can hear Kite’s music on Cityline in Idaho, (208) 765-8811, or in Washington, (509) 458-8800, ext. 9870. Or check out the Web site at www.kitegravity.com

2. WE’RE STILL LOOKING Do you know someone who should be part of our Creative ‘98 project? Someone who is passionate, inspiring and energetic? It’s easy to tell us about those people. Send us the names, how we can reach them, their ages and why you think they are creative. please include your name, too. You can write: Creative ‘98, The Spokesman-Review Newsroom, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Fax: (509) 459-5482 in Spokane; or (208) 765-7149 in Idaho. Call CityLine: (509) 458-8800 or (208) 765-8811. The category is 9882. Or you can e-mail: shellyd@spokesman.com

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. CHECK IT OUT You can hear Kite’s music on Cityline in Idaho, (208) 765-8811, or in Washington, (509) 458-8800, ext. 9870. Or check out the Web site at www.kitegravity.com

2. WE’RE STILL LOOKING Do you know someone who should be part of our Creative ‘98 project? Someone who is passionate, inspiring and energetic? It’s easy to tell us about those people. Send us the names, how we can reach them, their ages and why you think they are creative. please include your name, too. You can write: Creative ‘98, The Spokesman-Review Newsroom, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Fax: (509) 459-5482 in Spokane; or (208) 765-7149 in Idaho. Call CityLine: (509) 458-8800 or (208) 765-8811. The category is 9882. Or you can e-mail: shellyd@spokesman.com


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