Kinksi is one of those bands that on paper seem easier to just reject out of hand instead of giving them a fair shake. Fer chrissakes, they list German films as an inspiration on their label-run website. When I sat down to listen to their records, I was expecting some Krautrock nonsense where everyone has a hard-on for Sonic Youth and gratuitous effects pedals. What I found in their older work was a garbled mess that seemed to be done more for the whims of the musicians involved than any desire to create something enthralling and captivating for the listener.
However, with Alpine Static (their new disc, natch), Kinski have begun to develop a more accessible approach to their largely instrumental rock music. The album is entirely instrumental, which is a nice change of pace, as I’m sick to death of whiny assholes with their hair in their faces who couldn’t carry a tune if it came in a wheelbarrow.
I recently called Kinski’s frontman Chris Martin to talk to him about the band, the new record, and 13-year old girls.
Racket: What would you say your influences are?
Martin: My earliest influences were the Beatles. When I was five or six, I listened to that stuff constantly. We have sort of a pop background that comes through the melodies. Lately we’ve been listening to a lot of 70’s Japanese psych rock and Latin and Argentinean psych.
Racket:Anything other than music? I know you guys seem to be very interested in German Expressionist film.
Martin:Hmmm, well, I wouldn’t say that has an effect on our music. There really aren’t any non-musical influences on our sound.
Racket:Why be a largely instrumental group?
Martin:Our first record had vocals. Every record has had vocals on it except the new one. It’s not like it was a plan. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next one has vocals on it. It seems normally that all the melody is taken up by the guitars.
Racket:I’ve heard a few songs from the new record, and they don’t seem to be as quiet or as meditative as the ones on Don’t Climb On and Take the Holy Water. Would you consider the new record to be a “return to form?”
Martin:Don’t Climb On was sort of thought of as an improv record. It wasn’t really meant to appeal to a lot of people, which is why we didn’t put it out on SubPop and why there was a warning sticker on it and all that. We see this new record as more of a rock record. We weren’t quite sure to go about getting that “rock” sound until now.
Racket:The new record seems to be more accessible than your previous work. Was this a conscious decision?
Martin:It’s what the group evolved into. I think the first half’s more accessible, but the second half is more experimental. The first three or four songs are short and more rockin’. The second half is quieter. It goes off in a lot more different directions when the record gets going.
Racket:“Passed Out on Your Lawn” seems almost willfully noisy and does not seem as immediately accessible as the rest of the album. It’s about half-pop and half-noise, and seems to act as the transition into the second half of the record. Was it conceived this way?
Martin:When we were doing the sequencing, it became kind of the transition song. All the songs were recorded without a thought to sequencing. One song being noise, one song being pop, we just sequenced the record however it seemed to fit together the best.
Racket:From where do you draw your song titles?
Martin:Sorta just phrases that sound good but also fit the particular song.
Racket:What’s the story behind the Artie Shaw reference in “The Wives of Artie Shaw?” Are you all just fans of big band music, or is there a deeper story behind it?
Martin:I am a fan of early 20’s jazz, even though he was a little later, I think. It just kind of sounded nice. Plus he had eight wives, which was pretty amazing.
Racket:Do you guys write ahead of time, or are songs birthed of jam sessions?
Martin:More of a compositional style. I normally write most of the songs. We only play the songs for about a year before we record because they keep evolving. We’re always kind of a year ahead in that way.
Racket:I heard you were shooting a video later today. Will there be a concept?
Martin:The last video we did was just a friend of ours who threw it together. This one has a theme. It seems like we’re going to rob a bank, you know, getting dressed up in like masks and stuff, but we end up just breaking into a record store and rehearsing. I think that’s the theme behind what’s going on.
Racket:Who would you say is a better guitarist, Chuck Berry or Thurston Moore?
Martin:Phew, tough one! Ummm…Thurston Moore. I mean, Chuck Berry obviously originated something. I mean, they’re both innovators. Moore just speaks to me with what’s going on more. He influenced me more than Chuck Berry.
Racket:Do you consider talent or hairstyle more important for being in a band?
Martin:Talent, but I do like shaggy hair.
Racket:What kind of creepy items do fans send you in the mail?
Racket:If you could make everyone in America listen to one band, whom would you pick?
Martin:Los Dugs Dug’s.
Racket:Do you ever feel the need to sing songs about fluffy clouds and clothes shopping?
Martin:The reissue of our first record that’s coming out soon has a demo song about clothes shopping tacked on, incidentally.
Racket:Will you ever change your sound to appeal to 13-year old girls?
Martin:Most of our stuff does appeal to 13-year old girls. In fact, we write with that specific demographic in mind.
Racket:What are the Kinski groupies like?
Martin:Mostly guys with glasses.
Racket:Any wild backstage stories, a la Motley Crue?
Martin:No, everybody we tour with is unfortunately pretty sedate. We can out drink anyone, though. A lot of beer drinking and whiskey and sort of hanging out way too much.
Racket:I kind of imagined rounds of Scrabble and Herzog film marathons.
Martin:No, we don’t really go for Scrabble. Mostly for free beer.
Racket:Do people ever call your house thinking you’re the guy from Coldplay?
Martin:No, but everybody keeps asking that.
By Racket’s very own Matt Corbett!