I was born Richard Kelly Clipperton on September 16th, 1969 in Mississauga, Ontario weighing in at 9lbs 1oz. I was the first of three children for Cathy Clipperton (Hampton), a grade school teacher and Gary Clipperton, a retired pro football player (Calgary Stampeders) turned high school teacher. Incredible musicians as well as educators, my parents always kept music alive in our house (to this day they live in the same house I grew up in). My little sister Kate came along a year and half later, then my brother Kasey a year and half after her. Though my siblings were constantly juggled, dragged and bounced around as my play things, many a photo of them bawling their eyes out and me laughing, years have brought us closer and I'm lucky to have them as 2 of my best friends.
One of the first presents I remember opening, around age four, was a guitar, which I still have never really learned to play. I looked good wearing it but even then I knew that Courtney Love was the only one who would ever be able to pull that off. I took up piano lessons around age 8, and though not a thoroughly enjoyable process, the instrument has acted as my main songwriting tool. I picked up the clarinet in grade 7 for the school band (minor coolness) and joined the choir (definitely not cool). The clarinet later became the baritone sax in high school as no one wanted to carry the big ass thing home to practice.
High school was a whirlwind of excitement. Though Streetsville is far from an urban mecca, my cool new friends I met at SSS would fill me in on what bands were worth listening to and dragged me downtown to Kensington Market to go shopping for vintage clothes. I coloured my hair for the first time in grade 10. Haven't looked back...haven't looked worse. It was a lovely plum/auburn by Flirt which was supposed to wash out in 10 washes. Liars. Some of the other girls in the clan took me under their wing and got me into 'Brampton house parties'. Horrifying. I remember seeing Images In Vogue at Spanky's and dancing to "My Heart Goes Bang" at another damp hole passing itself off as a club somewhere in the bowels of Shopper's World. They told me to buy The Cult's Love album, and my musical journey hit full tilt boogie. Everything changed after that. My first Eurythmics purchase was the "Sexcrime" 7inch. My Annie Lennox infatuation, thankfully, is not a clinical condition to date but there's no saying .
I got the swift idea at 16 to take a modelling class. Alexis Modelling Agency. I'll never forget it or Tammy Taylor, my agent. I thought this would be a good way to get into acting, which was what I thought I wanted to do. I actually worked quite a bit, being pulled out of class a few times a month to go to the city for shoots. I loved doing fashion shows, and did 'all the mall shows in the area', but looking back I'm sure I walked way too much like a girl. Surprising I didn't get some IGA produce chucked at me during the sports wear scenes. Modelling didn't lead into acting but it did boost my self-esteem and was my first window into what I'd be doing with the rest of my life. Before leaving S.S.S., I acted in several plays (Hayfever, Guys and Dolls), started my first band (people in glass houses) who gigged all of 4 times doing primarily Heart covers, started to get into photography a wee bit, as a result of watching my brother get quite good at it, and penned a few original songs. "Leave Me A Garden" was the first. Pretentious and hilarious!
Off I trotted to York University's Theatre Programme after not getting into my school of choice and I learned sooooo much about myself at York. I was still hell-bent on being an actor but didn't make the cut into the 2nd year acting class . This might be shocking to some but I was very headstrong and 'unmoldable', if you will. Out of all this frustration I penned my first play trash (the age of consent) along with my friend Deanna Wilkins, who I met in grade 9, but who was going to school at Western at the time. It was our attempt at dealing with each other, our childhoods and primarily, me coming out. Most people asked in hindsight why I couldn't have come out like everyone else: over coffee. The play was a hit and put the bug in my brain.
In third year university I moved around downtown Toronto several times due to poor choices in real estate, ragging alcoholic room mates and low ceilings. As I worked on my second play, brotherhood, I met a guy named Derek Mohammed and we started a duo called the existing. I'd always wanted a partner in crime creatively, and have come pretty close a few times, but nothing has stuck. brotherhood stunk---the piece was haunted from the get go, perhaps due to the nature of the material. Plagued left and right, it all came to a pinnacle when one the actors seriously injured himself on opening night. Jen England, the director, who was dating a nice man named Jacob at the time, before he became Big Rude Jake stepped in to play the role. brotherhood had its moments but the craft of writing a script is hard to teach and even tougher to learn. Some have noted that I have an emotional depth and intelligence in my writing and Sky Gilbert once told me that my writing is "too clever for its own good".
existing folded after a few shows of more covers tunes, lose
rhythm sections and no clear vision and I entered 4th year with
little hope for what was to come 'when I was done' school. I
focused that year on set/costume design, which I was ok at,
started to do some acting again in indie films and began work
on Cruelty, my next play, which changed the way I looked
So it was late '91/early '92 and I'm full on into Madonna. She's proclaimed herself the world's #1 fag hag and I was believing it bigtime. I mounted Cruelty (heavily influenced by Madge) twice in '92: once, quite successfully, at York in the late spring, directed by my longtime spiritual guide Onyx Uriarte and again that summer at the Tarragon Extra Space downtown, directed by theatre legend John Palmer. The set, designed by Kathryn Immonen was a beautiful mix of sheet metal, vinyl, bright red faux leather and chrome...i think she once described it as 'electric prison over-cooked sausage'...or something like that. It was a summer of firsts: marching in the Pride Parade as a cast (all 13 of us!); Dee and I getting a cool article on us, previewing the show, in eye weekly; and me becoming sick with lust over someone who could've cared less for me. A trend which lasted for quite some time fret not, I've had intervention. My first 'real photo' as I recall it, was a shot I took of my brother dressed in drag, which acted as the poster image for Cruelty. I scrape my way out of York, start apprenticing as a hairstylist in a very high end salon in Yorkville, head to Europe for a few months that fall and arrive home having it all figured out.
'93-'96 is a haze of a time, full of so much emotional rollercoastering I like to refer to it as the sidetracked era. I wrote and produced one more play called The Triple Threat in '93 (based on my 'revelations' from traveling abroad) which got the best (and worst) reviews of my career to that point but i was getting very frustrated with theatre. Just as I was abandoning ship I got a call from my old pal Derek who was dating a fashion designer at the time. She urgently needed a choreographer for her fashion show as someone had just dropped out. Derek said he wasn't sure why he thought of me but figured I might dig it....I spent 3 years creating what was eventually dubbed 'theatrical fashion presentations', not fashion shows, and working with some very cool models and actors (most of whom I sadly don't see much of anymore); some tyrannical, money-hungry, coked-up liars (who I'm thankful not to see anymore); and some truly colourful artists who are amazing compadrés now (Damzels In This Dress designers Kelly Freeman & Rory Lindo being at the top of that list). I'd incorporate my sense of theatrical timing, love for music and recent fascination with unwearable art pieces into a truly exciting show. Michael Cameron became an integral part of this process, developing the 'pre-timed/pre-mixed music' solution that had marred the early productions and acting as stage manager supreme. Tracy Ulicny was my supermodel muse through most of this period, to the extent that i built the final show (Fanfare!) around her. Exceptional shows (in my humble opinion) include CFNY's Clothes To The Edge at The Phoenix, Uomo at The Opera House, the dressing at The Phoenix and Le Flick at The Velvet Underground.
My production company that i had started with Dee, Anxious Entertainment, was morphing into Renaissance Projects and my first achievement was The Renaissance Collections where I produced 5 consecutive shows at 5 different clubs (Left Bank, Twiggy, Boots, Phoenix, Limelight) as a direct 'underground' competitor with the Canadian Collections. Breakfast Television was done, Ooh La La came out, CFTO was there. It was grand and i loved it. I started my next band My Dear Heretic in the midst of all this chaos , hoping that the powers that be, at CFNY primarily seeming as i was working for them, would take notice. No such luck. And in all honesty, as it took me a while to hone script writing, it took me a while to learn how to write effective pop songs. Renaissance Projects still acts as my own umbrella for everything I do creatively---music, photography, script writing, styling....
I yearned to be a singer all of a sudden, and with guitarist Nik Deliganis (one of the models I scouted back in my Limelight/Lizard Lounge days) I wrote "September Street", one of the very first MDH songs which went through many interpretations before appearing on MDH's only full length album in 1997. Again I got sidetracked: still doing fashion presentations here and there and whoring myself out as guest editor/photographer/stylist for 12 issues of ICON magazine somewhere around late '95/early '96. Exciting pace but not my forté. One lucky moment came when we were shooting Suzy Richter for a fashion spread. She had just started Claudia's Cage after years of being in The Nancy Sinatras (one of my first club concerts was at the Cameron House in '90 seeing the Nancys). We became fast friends and My Dear Heretic was invited to open for them on numerous occasions. Suzy has since moved on to be my rock n' roll hero.
1997 seemed a clearer time. I had just moved into my own little studio in a building that I loved in the King West district. Having pretty much shed my fashion industry skin I was 100% into my music. MDH played its first Pride Day gig, which I saw as 'making it' at that stage, released the album haute anxiety and was starting to do some cool shows around the country. But the band had gone through about 14 (seriously) different members since it's birth and the machine, as it were, was rusting from having had too many drivers at the wheel. The lesson I learned about democracy within a band, and I've learned/haven't learned it a few times, is that everyone's personal and professional agenda will vary from given moment to given moment and if there's no 'outside blood' feeding you as a group: you implode. I wasn't sad when I walked away from MDH. This little idea I had started 4 years earlier had run its course.
I did miss Eric Lachance quite a bit though (he was the guitarist for the past 2 ½ years). We worked well together, wrote most of haute anxiety together and really should've kept going but he wanted to start a family and we quickly lost touch after MDH's demise. Shortly thereafter I pulled together my first 'all-star' dream band to do a few shows in the summer of '99. I called the project Caustic Chevy. Kris Abbott from Pursuit of Happiness on electric guitar, the now internationally acclaimed Simon Wlicox on acoustic guitar, Rois on bass and my future mate/drummer in Merkury Burn Cathy Marchese on the skins. The project was too rushed, songs under developed, and there was me again: at the helm, directing like a madman. Some MDH fans expressed their disappointment with the sound and vibe and I, discouraged, folded the band and let music sit for a bit.
I started taking more photos to entertain myself, and was asked by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to shoot some promo material for them. I met, and continue to meet, amazing people through that organization. While working at Buddies I started chatting with a girl named Richelle about my need to get back into music, my quest for 'my Dave Stewart', and she suggested that I meet her boyfriend: Jones. Most of Merkury Burn's career is etched in history as we did quite well for a while: releasing 2 albums (suburban porn, Rumours Of Our Death) one EP (Versatile At Parties), 7 videos, embarking on 2 tours, and developing a healthy following of appreciators that bridged late 1999 to early 2003. The Bovine Sex Club became one of our regular haunts and i managed to land myself on the cover of 2 Toronto weeklies (NOW and Xtra!) in 2002. One of my solid memories of that whole period though was meeting Joe, my man, at Buddies. Chance meeting that changed me in ways I can only sing about usually. 9 years! Nuts!!! Husbdandiiito.
After a year or so of doing readings at my studio with friends, I emerged with my first stage script in a decade: Love Among The Ruins. The script was accepted into the Buddies Rhubarb! Festival and I briefly got back into the theatre mode. It was a fun time, but I finally figured out what eats me about the stage: Too many variables. Too many things can go wrong. Too many production values to keep in mind and too many people involved (when I can barely stand myself some days you could see why this would be challenging for me). Joe jokes about me getting upset at carnivals or festivals or anyplace where the masses collect stating: "how many people did you think were gonna be here??? 12?"
So shortly after Love Among The Ruins came down (in which Joe stole the show!), Merkury Burn ended...believe whichever story you like , and I rethought the plot, one last time. Kelly & The Kellygirls erupted in 2003 with several Pride Day performances around Quebec and Ontario.
September 2003 saw the mounting of my first ever solo exhibit of photographs. I called it greatest hits (my lifelong muse Roberta Best suggested I pull my two worlds of music and photography together ) The Gallery X show was a huge success for me. I showed all my favourite shots from the past 15 years mounted as though they were album covers. Some slipped inside jewel case, some mounted on coloured vinyl total success. To my delight I sold quite a few. Then in May 2004 Kelly & the Kellygirls debut recording 'swing swing' was launched and broke the top 30 on half a dozen college stations, best yet for me. The festival tour that summer was a fun ride, taking us from L.A. to Montreal and everywhere betwix...
Summer 2005 was crazy busy yet again with summer festivals happening everywhere and me working feverishly on my new exhibit Hogtown Hedonism. The first run was so successful at The Gladstone Hotel that the Now Lounge asked me to do a run at their space. The fall saw me rehearsing and writing what would eventually become We love You, but not as Much as we love Ourselves. The spring mini tour around Ontario and Quebec to promote the 'Napoleon' single was absolute fun. Never laughed so hard, and never had such brilliant shows. I felt like I was building honest momentum which felt good. We love You, but ... released May 2006.
The fall of 2006 saw me doing something i thought i'd never do: tour all of Canada ~ Victoria to Halifax (couldn't get to the Rock...). It was eye-opening, heart-breaking, inspiring, encouraging and a massive accomplishment as I pulled all together single-handedly. I really didn't think I was reaching anybody with the new album but then we'd arrive in Halifax or Saskatoon and play packed shows to out-of-control appreciative crowds. Once it was done it though, I thought 'no more', I'm never doing that again and started work on my next series of photos and a coffee table book to go along with it. I'm a series of contradictions, and as much as I love performing I also really love being still, working on things in solitude. Both projects, sadly, as of '09 are on hold-slash-in-the-works because too many things started to pull me away.
Somewhere in '07 I got a note from these crazy girls in Brighton UK, Michaela and Sarah of Basement Films, who, along with a lot of other people, were thoroughly enjoying the Alon Isocianu directed clip for "Catherine Deneuve..." on youTube. They kept asking when we'd be coming to the UK? Before I could shake a stick, with their guidance and help, it seemed a 10 date Canadian tour and 14 date UK tour were in the works for the summer. Too many great leaps to recall them all but playing Trafalgar Square and being introduced by Graham Norton was probably a key shift in life for me. The whole crazy experience repeated again in October of '07 with us heading to Paris as well. Dream come true.
While in the UK the girls amassed a bulk of footage while we were touring about and through the winter months we collectively, with the help of the internet ~ sending cuts back n forth ~ edited a 30 minute piece together called Kelly doesn't play well with Others... I've decided I love editing and will seek to do much more. I'm currently working on a doco I shot of my parents. So Kelly doesn't... made its auspicious debut during TIFF '08 at the Drake all whilst I was in the midst of writing the new album. Toronto Arts Council and Canadian Council for the Arts gave me my first financial boost ever and creating the songs for the new album, Modernism, was relaxing and fruitful. Its certainly the album I've been wanting to make for years...its been lurking inside me for a long time. Glad it finally came out. Modernism releases May 2009.
R.K.C. (March '09)
People continually ask about my influences....so here's a few:
- Fiona Apple Extrodinary Machine
- Lily Allen Alright, Still
- Bananarama Wow!
- Beast Beast
- Blondie Eat To the Beat
- Black Kids Partie Tramatic
- David Bowie Heathen
- Kate Bush Hounds Of Love
- Catherine Wheel Chrome
- Catherine Wheel Happy Days
- Culture Club Colour By Numbers
- The Creatures Boomerang
- The Cult Love
- Crash Vegas Red Earth
- Concrete Blonde Free
- Concrete Blonde Mexican Moon
- Dead Or Alive Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
- Deee-Lite World Clique
- Depeche Mode Violator
- Echobelly Lustra
- Elastica Elastica
- Eurythmics Be Yourself Tonight
- Eurythimcs Savage
- Everything But The Girl Amplified Heart
- Erasure The Innocents
- Fairground Attraction First Of a Million Kisses
- Garbage v 2.0
- Gipsy Kings Gipsy Kings
- Hole Celebrity Skin
- Heart Heart
- Human League Crash
- Inspiral Carpets Revenge of the Goldfish
- INXS Kick
- Keane Hopes and Fears
- Lush Spooky
- Annie Lennox Diva
- Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins Rabbit Fur Coat
- Mew Frengers
- George Michael Listen Without Prejudice
- Madonna Erotica
- Madonna Like A Prayer
- Mary's Danish There Goes The Wondertruck
- Peter Murphy Deep
- No Doubt Tragic Kingdom
- New Order Substance
- The Ocean Blue The Ocean Blue
- Placebo Without You I'm Nothing
- Portishead Dummy
- The Primitives Lovely
- Pet Shop Boys Actually
- The Style Council Café Bleu
- The Stills Logic Will Break Your Heart
- Shakespears Sister Hormonally Yours
- The Sundays Blind
- Siouxsie and the Banshees Peepshow
- Sade Diamond Life
- Santogold Santogold
- Spice Girls Spice World
- The Sugarcubes Stick Around For Joy
- Tracey Thorn Out of the Woods
- Tears For Fears Seeds of Love
- Amy Winehouse Back To Black
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs Show Your Bones
- Kill Bill vol. 1&2
- Murder by Death
- Nightmare before Christmas
- Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Seems Like Old Times
- Sleepy Hollow
- Some Kind of Wonderful
- Torch Song Trilogy
- Truth or Dare
- The Audition
- The Lost Boys
- The Orphange
- The Silence of the Lambs
- The Hunger
- The Hours
- Thelma and Louise
- Paris is Burning
- Without You I'm Nothing
- Tim Burton
- Quinten Tarantino
- Ridley & Tony Scott
- John Hughes
- Francis Ford Copolla
- Justin Bua
- Ray Ceasar
- Tamara de Lempika
- Otto Dix
- Lori Earley
- David La Chapelle
- Annie Lebowitz
- Pierreet Gilles
- Jean-Baptiste Mondino
- Herb Ritz
- Bruce Weber
- Absolutely Fabulous
- Charlie's Angels
- Sex and the City
- Six Feet Under
- Wonder Woman
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Cole Porter
- Noel Coward