Steve Kimock’s family didn’t want him to become a musician, fearing they'd lose him to dope. They pushed him towards Bethlehem Steel, the biggest paycheck in his Pennsylvania town. His flush friends at the plant drove new Buick Rivieras, unaware of airborne asbestos in the toxic foundry. At 19, he headed to the Golden State with the Goodman Brothers band. He landed in Marin County, next to the Ali Akbar Kahn College of Music in San Rafael. He was allowed to watch class, leaning against a back wall, at moments brought to tears by Kahn’s skill.
The next move was north, to a sheep ranch in Bodega Bay. The beginning of his fuzzy decade, a broke guitar playing shepherd, happily off the grid. Content in the solitude of the coastal town, he describes the landscape as “wild, savage beach, unbearably beautiful, with no one around”. He learned most of the quiet West County backroads from keeping a low profile, since he wasn’t necessarily compliant with the DMV. After years of recording and touring, Steve joined the group The Other Ones, stepping in for the deceased Jerry Garcia. The resulting income leap forced the financial recluse into a status where he lacked previous experience, that of taxpayer. “Surfacing is expensive” he says, of the adjustment period. The team vibe in The Other Ones, especially among the loyal production crew, left an impact. “It has to be everybody, when it all comes together.” This includes the audience. It’s a myth, he feels, the player being solely responsible for the outcome. “People deny their own capacity. They think the musician is providing the experience, but I didn’t do that. You are that. Acknowledge your role.” Now forty years into his career, he’s still off the grid at his core. Watching him play, slouched in a worn chair on the porch of his Sebastopol home, it’s clear he doesn’t measure life by his purchasing power. It’s all about family, the music and the ongoing lessons around the message. “The big human archetype stuff we associate with home, away from home, sun, moon, night, day, good and evil, happy and sadness," citing the complex emotions music stirs within us.
His one word for West County: bubble
His favorite West County spot is where he married his wife, Jenn. A Native American Pomo fertility site in the Austin Creek Watershed, it’s “a friendly piece of property with giant blueschist boulders and a waterfall.” Their youngest son, Ryland Cazadero Kimock, was named after the location.
Their original wedding date was ditched at the last minute, for an impromptu trip to Bora Bora.
His last day off was sometime in the mid 1970’s. “I remember walking down the street with nothing to do. It was a powerful feeling.”
His earliest memory is the midnight sounds of molten slag from the foundry, being dumped into the earth.
His quick answer to the worst habit question: smoking
You won’t get a response about his best habit. “I don’t keep a list of all the things I like about me.”
A night owl, he’s usually headed for bed around 4:00am. Then up at noon, taking a quick look at all the stuff he’ll never get to, over coffee.
He’ll be happy to know Ramin Gaijin, one of his favorite Sebastopol restaurants, is planning a killer expansion that may include a sushi bar.
He doesn’t drink beer, due to it’s highly addictive properties.
The Guitars “One dozen really good ones, half dozen in regular rotation, electric guitars I earn a living with and acoustic I prefer to play.”
His Beach is Moon Rocks, in Salt Point State Park.
His new album, Last Danger of Frost, proves he’s reached the sweet spot as an artist. “I’ve got my own reasons for doing stuff. I’m not trying for a flawless execution of a piece. I want the place where time stops, the first kiss, the car hits the tree. It has nothing to do with the material. You have to get through your own bullshit to get in the zone.”
Images and Interviews by Michelle Pattee