Pathways to success are rarely linear—especially in the music industry. And it is never too late to start over.
Palm Springs resident Cari Cartmill knows this all very well. The rocker from ’80s band The Hunger has returned from a long hiatus with a new project, Cari Cartmill and Kill Hollywood. She and her band have released one full album, and recently put out an EP titled Calamities and Comebacks.
“During my hiatus, I wrote a couple of screenplays and series treatments, and I wrote a screenplay called Kill Hollywood,” Cartmill said during a recent phone interview. “When I knew I was ready for a band name, I thought back to Kill Hollywood.”
Cartmill said her hiatus was “self-imposed.”
“The slow burnout and low-level state of my music career, along with the attending destructive life choices I made in response, made for an unsustainable life,” Cartmill said. “I walked away from all things music into a solitary, quiet life—mainly a business and domestic partnership with chef Scooter Kanfer, who I divorced in 2020. In late 2017, I realized it was a mistake to retire, and it was impossible for me to remain creatively dormant any longer.”
Once Cartmill decided to end her hiatus, things quickly started falling into place.
“I started writing again, and taking things out of cases to put a band back together, as clichéd as that is,” said Cartmill. “I put together the band, and then in about 2019, I started to record what would be my first full studio album produced properly. I’ve been a studio rat for years, but I’ve never really produced an industry-standard-quality full album. I recorded the basics at my home studio, and then everything else, I did at Clear Lake Recording Studios in North Hollywood, which is where I did my first original proper recording with my band The Hunger in 1988.
“I went back to Clear Lake because it’s a great room, and I was glad it was still there. It also has an awesome piano—an old Yamaha concert grand, which you don’t see too often. I did 10 tracks, and then I found David Williams, who owns and operates Melrose Music Studios here in Palm Springs, but also is a Hollywood guy. We got it all produced. We’re happy with the mixes and the mastering, and I produced it.”
It’s safe to say that Cartmill and Williams truly hit it off—because Williams is the guitarist for Cari Cartmill and Kill Hollywood. The band also features Armando Flores (5th Town, Blasting Echo) on bass, and Dave Fernandez (Ormus) on drums.
“They like the stuff, and as a songwriter, that’s really precious and hard to find, especially in Hollywood and San Francisco, which is where I was based out of my entire career,” Cartmill said. “Those two towns are very competitive and cutthroat, and people basically audition you. They decide if they want to be in your band, and you can go through a revolving door. … It’s nice to have people who are solid players and like my songs.”
Cartmill expressed regret for her actions during the earlier stages of her career.
“I was lazy, irresponsible, drunk and spent a lot of years in San Francisco,” said Cartmill. “… I never had any ambition, probably because I’m a bit of a spoiled brat. I always had a little tiny bit of support from my family that allowed me to not need to have a straight job, except for when I was a scenic painter for feature films in the late ’80s. It allowed me to basically be a twit.
“I threw up on an entertainment lawyer’s shoe backstage at The Anti Club on Melrose Avenue in 1989. I was drinking on an empty stomach after a gig, and pissed the whole band off. … That’s the kind of thing Cari Cartmill used to do for fun, but I am not doing that anymore.”
Cartmill said she’s been saddened to see some local musicians making similar mistakes.
“I should hold a seminar for local songwriters and musicians, just because I’m like the encyclopedia of literally things not to do,” Cartmill said. “… Here in the Coachella Valley, I noticed that really I only know of three or four really talented, promising people. There are only a few with really good chops, solid songwriting skills and good voices. It’s hard to find a really good singer now, because everybody thinks they can sing with our new technology.
“In this town, I’ve noticed there are people who get caught up into, like I did, the lifestyle of being a quote-unquote ‘rock star,’ and they attach themselves to people calling themselves managers. You don’t need managers unless they are actually licensed, from either a management house, or a proper name who has managed established artists, and who aren’t asking for any money from you. … If they can’t get you heard by people who can help you, you don’t need that manager.”
Cartmill is set on making the most of the new phase in her career.
“I’d like to be heard by my peers and go beyond that,” Cartmill said. “The general country—actually, the whole entire nation. Why not everyone? I’m inclusive. … I’m going to put myself out there as much as I can. I’m also having a lot of fun—and I haven’t had fun in, like, 15 years, so that’s the most important part. I’m getting my health back. I’m still at the point where I’m my own roadie. God, I hate that, but I’m getting in shape, so that’s great. Also, my diet has gotten better. I’m just much better in all facets of my life.”
The title of Cari Cartmill and Kill Hollywood’s EP represents more than just a song, Cartmill said.
“I named this EP that I just released Calamities and Comebacks, because I am just an old rocker-boxer,” Cartmill said. “It was killing me; I was miserable not performing or recording. I’m not miserable anymore, and I’m really excited about this band. I like this little town, too. I’ve really gotten to like Palm Springs. I think it has a really nice local music community.”
For more information, visit caricartmill.com.