Darius Koski is not an easy guy to pin down musically. Whether it’s the classic punk rock he plays in Swingin’ Utters and The Re-Volts; the Celtic folk rock of his side project, Filthy Thieving Bastards; or the Americana vibe of his first solo effort, 2015’s Sisu, Koski is anything but predictable.
So, it shouldn’t surprise fans that on his new solo album, he’s drawing from a variety of influences to create a sound unlike his earlier work. “Actually, one of the only conscious decisions I make going into any recording or writing process, when I’m writing or preparing for a record, is that it’s different in some way from the last one—whether that’s with my solo stuff or any of the band stuff,” Koski says. “The Utters definitely pride ourselves on that, and that was what we were about from day one. I listen to and am influenced by a pretty vast array of music and have been my whole life.”
Those influences can be heard all over What Was Once Is By and Gone, out via Fat Wreck Chords on Nov. 3.
Koski’s various touchstones even go back to classical music, a genre he played exclusively until he was 18. “I think you can be eclectic and still release cohesive albums, still have ‘a sound,’” he says. “That being said, I don’t think that you can really pin any genre or sound on me—or at least it’s a little challenging. It keeps it more interesting for me and the listener. I think Filthy Thieving Bastards are kind of like that as well. I’ve been pigeonholed for so long as a ‘punk’ musician, it’s really a breath of fresh air.”
Despite being a member of several full bands for several decades, Koski didn’t feel much anxiety when moving into solo territory with his first album and What Was Once Is By and Gone. “It was more of a relief than anything,” he says, “and really exciting, because it’s been such a long time coming. I think I basically just procrastinated for a few decades. Nobody was pounding on my door begging me for solo material to release on their label, and I didn’t particularly want to release the stuff myself.”
As a result, several of the songs on these first two records are older. Additionally, most of the material Koski writes isn’t punk rock, so he has an enormous catalog of riffs, melodies, and fully written songs that have been languishing—some for the last 25 years or so. “Some of the older ones are just crap, and obviously, not every new idea is a gem either, but I write a lot, so there’s a lot to choose from,” he says. “I have to edit myself pretty harshly and just work on what I deem worthy to work on. Like I said, there’s a lot of crap in there.”
Along with a slew of lyrically beautiful songs, there are some great instrumentals on the new record, like “A Little Buzz” and “Soap Opera.” “They’re just other bits that are among those riffs and songs that’ve been languishing forever. Those particular ones are relatively new. I’ve got a bunch of instrumental stuff, and that’s even more likely to languish in obscurity than all the other songs,” Koski explains. “I just liked these particular ones the way they were and didn’t feel like they needed to go anywhere else or say anything else. I think the idea is that they’re just a little moment in time, and they’re sort of dispersed in the middle of all of these completed, fully realized songs.”
Though What Was Once Is By and Gone has nearly come and gone, Koski is not thinking about the next record yet. For now, he’ll be on the road with the Utters until November, opening the shows with a solo set. “I’ll be playing with a small band, so I’m looking forward to that,” he says. “Ultimately, this solo thing needs to be a band at some point. Whenever I can afford it or can find willing participants, I’m taking a band on the road. I just think there are too many songs of mine that have full instrumentation and are much better realized that way live. I think they stand up on their own with just a voice and guitar as well, but a band would be ideal.”
Photo by Alan Snodgrass