The Kills: “We hate technology but we’re embracing it anyway”
IT’S A hot one out there in Austin, Texas, and it’s getting the weathermen very excited. “Hottest March in years,” they honk at their viewers. An ideal day then for The Kills to do an open-air show at 3pm at this year’s South by Southwest. No doubt Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart are muttering “what fresh hell is this?” from behind their shades as they survey the crowd yelping and yelling and posing and getting their beer on in front of them.
But The Kills have a new album, Midnight Boom, to flog, and this is what you do when you are in the middle of an intensive bout of worldwide meeting and greeting. You get up in the morning, you do phone interviews, you do photo sessions, you play gigs, you crawl back to bed. You travel from London to Tokyo to New York to San Francisco, then back to London and on to Austin in the space of three weeks. You keep those shades on. You even buy a second pair of shades in case you lose the first set.
The amiable Hince says they know what they signed up for. “On the first record, we didn’t do any press and on the second record, we also avoided doing press. This time around, we just decided to go for it, but it’s pretty tough.”
Midnight Boom is a cracker, all louche energy and sweet abandon. It may remind you of various rock’n’roll cliches – late nights, sleazy dives, cigarette smoke – but this garage rock racket is anything but cliched.
Hince chalks this down to wanting to make a record that “had its head in tomorrow a little bit” compared with their previous releases.
“Our first album, Keep on Your Mean Side, sounded as if it was recorded in the ’60s. Our second, No Wow, was our ’70s record. So I wanted to make a record which was an accurate snapshot of The Kills in 2008. I wanted it to sound new, so that’s why we embraced technology, even though I fucking hate it.
“It was a honest next step. I mean, if Captain Beefheart was making records now, he wouldn’t be working on 40-year-old tape machines. He would be embracing all the new technology we have at our disposal and trying to push rock’n’roll into the future.”
When Hince and Mosshart finished recording, they had about 50 songs in the can. Hince felt they needed some outside direction.
“I needed someone supertalented to come in from the outside and tell me if we’d made a great record or a shit record.”
Enter Alex Epton, aka Armani Xchange, from Spank Rock. “Alex came in for two weeks at the very end and gave us some ideas about finishing the album. Alex is from a bedroom hip-hop r’n’b background and he would not normally work on something like this, so it was fresh.”
Hince has noted a recent significant rise in careerist bands. “For the first time ever, it has become a legitimate thing to be in a rock’n’roll band. Your parents would be proud of you now. It’s actually quite a shrewd business decision in a lot of ways because there’s a lot of money to be made out of it if you play by the rules and do the right things.”
Naturally, The Kills have done something else entirely. “Of course, we haven’t played by the rules and are so fucking broke as a result,” he laughs. “My bank account is an embarrassment. I like to make myself feel better by thinking I’m doing things right.”
His working relationship with Mosshart continues to flourish. Hince feels it’s as good now as it has ever been since the pair met by chance while lodging at a London hotel, but finds it hard to define just what it is.
“I think it’s instinctive. It was there the first time we sat in a room together and started playing, even though we didn’t know what we were doing. There was something really magical happening, some sort of force I had never experienced before. You become physic in a way, you’re always in each other’s brain. I’ll write three-quarters of a song and Alison will write the other quarter. It never ceases to amaze me when that happens.” Midnight Boom is out now on Domino Records. Listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/thekills