Epic Soundtracks is a name that many don’t know, but once you hear it, it’s hard to forget. The stage name of British musician Kevin Paul Godfrey, Epic Soundtracks is perhaps best known for founding the influential post-punk band Swell Maps with brother and fellow musical genius Nikki Sudden. As the drummer and piano player for Swell Maps, Epic contributed to two full-length albums and various singles before the band broke up in 1981.
Nikki Sudden continued on a solo career and Epic Soundtracks remained a fixture behind the drum kit and the ivory keys for bands such as brother Nikki’s post Swell Maps projects Jacobites, Crime & The City Solution, and These Immortal Souls.
As a passionate record collector and multi-instrumentalist, Epic accumulated solo material for a decade while devoting himself to these other projects. Why the lengthy songwriting gestation period? Epic was insecure about his singing voice, which is evident in his early 80’s output where other musicians provided vocals.
However, in 1992 he finally released an album of solo material entitled Rise Above where he not only sang but also played bass, guitar, piano, organ, and drums. The piano centric numbers were also accompanied by a number of post-punk and indie rock legends such as former bandmate Rowland S. Howard, J. Mascis, Lee Ranaldo, Kim Gordon, and Martyn P. Casey among others.
Drawing on more traditional songwriting structures, these piano ballads show the prowess of Epic’s true powers and an appreciation for the lush arrangements and pop song craft of yesteryear. The album cover features a font that closely resembles the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and with a nod to Brian Wilson and co. in the lyrics to “Sad Song”, we can begin to piece together the sum of Soundtrack’s influences. At times, the haunting tones of Alex Chilton and Big Star’s Third are channeled here, continuing the conversation that Chilton started decades earlier. A true work of beauty that is still able to insert a casual crescendo or chord change that provokes the listener to feel the pulse of his foundation as a musician who approached the rock and roll landscape with a loaded gun.
Epic Soundtracks’ next solo effort was 1994’s Sleeping Star. He continued on his path of piano ballads but with many of the arrangements feeling sparser, the violin and cello accompaniment creating a haunting soundscape that furthers Soundtrack’s ability to mix pop balladry with the melancholy madness of his former post-punk cohorts.
Although these albums were met with praise from critics, the acclaim wasn’t enough to help spread the Epic gospel. Regardless, he continued to release music and follow his fully realized vision.
In 1997, Epic Soundtracks died mysteriously in his sleep at the age of 38. Posthumous releases followed to continue sharing his music with those in the know, but projects such as a vinyl version of Sleeping Star were derailed… until now.
Epic’s music will once again be available thanks to Mapache Records. Rise Above will be reissued for the first time on vinyl since its initial release, and Sleeping Star will be released on vinyl for the very first time. Better late than never to appreciate a few slabs of wax from a skilled songwriter submerged in shadow.