Interview with Kill Switch... Klick at Mount Taber Pub in Portland, OR on 10/27/95 by Kevin Congdon and assisted by Jester. Thanks to members of KsK -- dA Sebastian (vocals, slambar, programming) Paul Wynia (bass keyboards) Mike Ditmore (drums, percussion)
Kevin: Could you tell us why you decided to create the slambar?
d.A.: The slambar was and instrument that I built that would make different noise; I built it to break my habits of playing the guitar the way I played. With the slambar, I tried combine percussive and stringed instruments. I did it from a tradesmen's perspective.
Kevin: Could you give a little background on why you formed Kill Switch... Klick?
d.A.: I've been doing this type of music since 84/85. The reason I started up KsK was that I was getting tired of working with other musicians and I was getting fed up with the direction I saw things going, especially on the West Coast. I had a lot of people bail on me and it was always a setback, so I said fuck this -- I'm going to get a computer and do it myself. Then I got a computer and some different sound modules. Then you run into these people who are technophobic, who are afraid to use technology in music, and that kind of strengthens what you are doing at home on your computer. I felt I had something to prove by bringing this music into a live situation and doing it well; and I believe that the three of us in KsK do that very well.
Kevin: Mike has been with you the whole time, correct?
d.A.: Mike has been with KsK right after I released the original demo. I put an ad in a Seattle paper called the Rocket, and Mike called (this was after I had already gone through a number of drummers who didn't do shit), and then we hooked up. Mike: I had just built an electronic drumkit for something to do; I wasn't even serious about it. I was just looking to mess around.
Kevin: Do you find that your drumming fits in well with KsK?
Mike: Yes. Devin programs drums kind of the way I play them, so it is easy for me lock in with the sequences and I don't have any problem. Sometimes I think I lock in too much with it.
d.A.: Mike is a really good drummer, he locks in so tight sometimes. You can tell when we're running the sequences and he's playing over top; there's a big difference even those he's playing a lot of similar things that are on the backing sequences. It definitely adds to the whole power of what we're doing live. Paul's been in now for about 3 years, ever since the breakup of Shallowhead.
Kevin: Paul, you have a reputation for having a really erratic stage presence. Where did you get that reputation?
Mike: The more room Paul has, the more danger all of us are in.
Paul: When we're playing big theaters or large venues, I'm just all over the place. It really depends on the energy of the crowd. If the crowd is really getting into it, then I just feed off that energy and I just go ballistic at that point. And if the crowds not into it...
d.A.: And that's always one of those things you never know. You play a small show and you get people just going crazy, and you play a big show and everyone's enthusiastic, but not responsive.
Paul: I always get myself pumped at the beginning of the show and if the audience doesn't return that...
d.A.: We don't put out for free. We like to see a return on what we put out, because when you play to an audience that's apathetic, it's not fun.
Paul: But when you get an audience that's into it...
d.A.: It just makes the night go by like that and it's like wow, you wish you could bottle that up and sell it.
Kevin: Do you find that the response at most of your shows are pretty energetic?
d.A.: Yes, but it's been a building thing. When we first started doing KsK, it was in art galleries and smaller venues and a lot of people were really interested in what we were doing. We had kind of a more gothic feel. We had a couple of different back-up singers that had a different flavor. We were trying to work the back-up singers into singing lead roles sometimes, and the songs were more catered towards that. With this line-up, it's definitely a more aggressive line-up and that has the tendency to get the audience more pumped up. Word-of-mouth plays a role as well, because when someone says, "it was a great show, you've got to see these guys," people are psyched when they come and they want to have a good time. It's all kind of a hit-or-miss thing though.
Kevin: What was the thinking behind releasing "Oddities & Versions"?
d.A. We released it to get everybody caught up on what we're doing and what we have done so far with KsK. A lot of the early stuff on that release is early demo stuff. We know some DJs who've said, "we like the album [Beat it to Fit...], but why didn't you put those early demos on there, I loved some of those songs," and I was like why not? Cleopatra was asking for another album and they wanted it pretty quick.
Kevin: Did you release the new one to show where you've progressed?
Mike: The albums actually come out in the opposite order almost. If you wanted to catch up on what we've been doing, you would buy Oddities and Versions.
d.A.: Oddities does have some of the newer versions of songs off Beat it To Fit though and some of the very first things I ever recorded.
Mike: The demos on there are the ones that got us get signed to Cleopatra, like Decanonized.
Paul: I think it shows a lot of the range that's there in KsK. We don't just do this one type of thing, we can do a lot of other stuff too. d.A.doesn't have to shout or sing through distortion all the time, he can actually sing. There are actually people in this band that can play.
Kevin: Now while you use some distortion on your vocals, it sounds very different from most other distortion effects I've heard, more of an almost accessible sound. What kind of effects do you use?
d.A.: I have a SE-50 effects processor and I've gotten really comfortable with using a gain overdrive on my vocals and it gives it that crunchy, half-distorted sound, but still intelligible. I like it and have a habit of using that effect a lot. I'm actually trying to break away from that, but it's kind of hard when you have your own home recording studio with some limited resources. I've got a beat-up synth and an Atari computer and effects processor and that's about it. A lot of the limitations in the music is because of those limited resources; a lot of the vocal ideas that I have I can't really get because of those limitations.
Kevin: d.A., could you give me a detail on your solo project? How is it different from KsK material?
d.A.: My wife is the percussionist. It's a lot of ambient and spoken-word stuff, things I can't really do with KsK. It's a lot of keyboard washes and things like that and piano stuff.
Kevin: Paul, are you still involved in the Coma Twins?
Paul: Yes. And I've got a couple of other side projects that I'm involved in. One includes the keyboardist from Noxious Emotion, the guitar player from Night Circle, and the singer from Torture Pool. And Mike Wimer from Noxious Emotion and I are messing around with some other things. Mike and I did the remix of Celebrate the Misery on Oddities and we're messing with the idea of doing remixes for other bands.
Kevin: Mike, are you involved in any side projects currently?
Mike: Not right now. I've thrown out the offer to play on other bands CDs if they want a live drummer. I'm pretty busy and I've got a lot of other hobbies. I'd like to; I really haven't found one that I'm real interested in and also, I just don't have a lot of time.
Kevin: What was the process behind the formation of the Northwest Elektro-Industrial Coalition (NEC)?
d.A.: The way it started was that Chris Massey (And Christ Wept) and I had a conversation, and later Dre from NoiseBox came up with some ideas. At that point is was a very democratic situation, almost too democratic; it's changed hands, a lot of people have done different things -- Paul has been responsible for getting a lot the message out on the Internet; he's actually the contact person for a lot of the people through the Internet, and that's been really important as far as getting the word out that way.
Paul: It all depends on who has the energy at the time.
d.A.: Paul takes care of the stuff coming to the catalogue address. The main address for information is mine. We really don't like to say there is a leader of the NEC. In fact we're really going through a big shakedown as to whether or not the NEC will survive into the next year in the way it has been.
Paul: Everyone's burnout out on the whole thing.
Mike: Not only that, but the bands like us, And Christ Wept, and SMP have signed with record labels and Journal of Trauma might be joining that rank soon. When the bands get signed, they have more responsibilities of their own -- they ve got their label to make happy, they have to write new material, they have to practice, they have to play shows. You have to do your own promotion. You don't have time to do a lot of stuff. I'm surprised Devin has kept up with the NEC stuff as long as he has. I've burnout on the mail thing awhile ago; it's gotten to the point now where its manageable, because we're not doing the mass mailing we where awhile ago.
d.A.: What we want to know is what do the people want from us? People write saying, oh it's great that there's a group like the NEC, but we really don't get a lot of feedback. For us when we originally formed the NEC, it was a matter of -- here are all these bands with all this talent that we had actually gotten in one place talking about this situation. It was really cool; it felt like something. Then we got the word out, got a full page in Keyboard magazine and none of these bands that were involved in the NEC were signed yet. We got pages in other magazines and Industrial natioN was talking about us. All the sudden we had something, and then it started growing? We had accomplished our original goal; we've made the NEC and the bands involved in it an entity within Seattle -- now where do we go?
Kevin: What was the main goal of the NEC?
Mike: Just to get noticed basically
d.A.: The frustration of being in a place where everybody says, "Okay there's Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana -- you're from Seattle, which one do you sound like?" And you say, "No where from Seattle, we sound like KsK." And then they reply, "Okay, so is that like Pearl Jam?" And then you go "No, it's like a little bit of NIN, a little bit like Front 242." Then they go, "What are those, are those them European bands?" And that's why we felt the need to form the NEC. And in a rock'n'roll book that just came out called Loser, the NEC is mentioned in a paragraph in that book, and to me that is satisfaction. It means we've crossed all boundaries, we've reached all kinds of people to let them know were here. Now we're trying to figure out what are we going to do with the NEC now.
Paul: Basically what's going to have to happen at this point is that a lot of the new bands that are around are going to have to step into the role that bands like KsK and SMP and all the other bands filled before, because we have our demands from our record label that we have to take care of now; and if these new bands there can't step into that role -- we're not always there to take watch over them and now there's this void, and someone's going to have to fill that void if it's going to continue.
Mike: And I think that's a lot of the problem lately; there's been no one there lately to step in and really aggressively pursue the articles or the fanzines to get into it; because it's like they expect somebody else to do it for them, because Devin was doing it in the past; well he's got other stuff to do now.
d.A.: It was really easy for me to get the NEC mentioned in Keyboard and other magazines. When I called the magazines I said, "Where's the deal, there's this organization in Seattle, with bands that are anti-grunge." This is when Nirvana was on the chart and Kurt was still alive and the magazines were like, "The anti-grunge soon, cool," so they would write about it. But now that everyone sees grunge as last years thing, that ploy is not effective anymore. So we really have to think what it is we want to do with the NEC, what do people expect of the NEC, what do other people say about the NEC?
Kevin: So you're very interested right now in getting feedback on the NEC?
d.A. Yes, just from the people out there. When we first started there were a lot of people who said "Oh you're just a bunch of pretentious industrial musicians who don't have a clue as to what's going on," and then later on people were saying "Oh that's cool, but you're still pretentious." We ran into a lot of anti-sentiment, but at the same time we were building momentum. Now we have to figure out what we are going to do with the NEC, what it's going to mean.
Paul: The bands that were first with the NEC have gotten something out of the NEC. We are happy to work with the NEC now, we want to work with the bands in the NEC; but we don't really need the NEC anymore, we have Cleopatra to deal with.
d.A.: I don't have the time anymore to do it. There was a certain point where it was a struggle and you had the choice. At this point the struggle is over, it's already been established.
Paul: Those bands that need the NEC, the newer bands, it is still a real good vehicle to use; now it's got a name and people will look at the cassettes and take a little more time with them. The new bands who need it now need to step into the role that we were in. There have been people talking to us who are eager to see it go to a more national organization, but the logistics of that...
d.A.: People don't realize how much work it takes. We've got one guy helping with the web page, and Paul answering all this mail. Try getting 50 or 60 pieces of mail in a week and answer all these people back; it's not an easy thing to keep up with.
Mike: It's hard enough to coordinate three guys schedules for a band, try to do that with about 10 bands and 50 people, it's almost impossible; I don't think we've every had a meeting when everybody was there.
Jester: How come on the Gothic-Industrial video compilation by Cleopatra, your video is the only one that is of any quality?
Mike: It was shot on 16 mm in black and white and edited by someone who knew what they were doing.
d.A.: Mike called in a favor to an ex-flame who had started a video production company and she wanted to have something for her resume., So for around $1,200, she did around $5,000 or $6,000 worth of work or more. She shot the whole thing on film; we actually got to use a club in Seattle called the Colourbox. They let us use the space upstairs to shoot, we used a bit of on-location stuff and we actually got to put it all together in a really cool way. Looking back, it looks really dated for what we are now.
Mike: Probably because our video was shot on film; that's really the only difference between all the videos on the compilation. All the other groups shot theirs on video, we shot ours on film.
d.A.: And concept-wise, I had a lot of ideas. I had had a dream of a girl hanging upside down years before and I had actually written a short story about it. We were talking about scenes for the room of nightmares which is a lyric that I had written in the song -- we thought "let's create this room." So our backup singer let us use her basement, and she was a dominatrix by trade so she had all these toys and we put the whole thing together and it actually came out pretty cool.
Mike: We actually did sit down and walk it out.
d.A.: The only problem with it was probably the scenes of bondage and stuff that kind of ruined some its air play. A Canadian TV show called Soundproof wouldn't play it because of the bondage; I thought it was pretty tame myself. We did spend a good amount of money and lot of time on it, and it was actually a very good vehicle for getting us out there; we had only been a band for six or eight months and we had this video that was being played in LA and NY and Florida. I would recommend to any band who is getting started, one of the first thing you can do with any money you have, before you put out a CD, is to do a video; it's really worth it.
Mike: We did everything backwards. We played like one show and then it was "Let's do a video."
Jester: Do you have plans to do another videos?
Paul: Well we were talking about that earlier, but it's got to be better than Follow Me, which is going to take money.
Jester: How's your relationship with Cleopatra?
d.A.: Cleopatra has been really good to us. When we first got started, we had dealt with another label before them. We were signed to a label called Urge records. It took some adjusting to Cleopatra, but both labels have been good to us overall.
Paul: It can be tough sometimes when you're in Seattle and they're in LA and you try to keep in contact over the phone once a month or you get the occasional fax, sometimes it's a little hard to coordinate.
d.A.: I was really surprised though with the quickness with which they got the second album out. As soon as we sent them the DATs and stuff, it was almost in production right away.
Mike: We weren't expecting anything until January and we got a call saying, "hey your records going to be out in November."
d.A.: Cleopatra has done what they said they were going to do. On our original album, the cover was screwed up and it wasn't mastered, but that was a miscommunication on my part; I assumed they were going to master the album, but they didn't do it. But on the second album we fixed all that stuff. I now feel we have a working relationship with them and we're signed to do a few more albums - we signed a four album contract with them. Our stuff is in the stores too, and I think that's what counts. You can walk into a Tower and in its rack is Kill Switch... Klick, and that's important. We've been selling a lot of records.
Kevin: Any plans on a national tour?
d.A.: All of us have day jobs so it's really hard for us. It takes a lot to get a tour together and without a tour manager... We've had some offers from touring managers, but nothing that was really decent.
Mike: Everybody keeps telling us we would clean up in Europe though.
d.A.: I talked with Vincent from B-Side and he's saying we have to come NY, everybody's talking about us, everyone he knows is buying your CD, but it's like how? The Southern California tour we did though actually went really well. We actually had people who drove from Sacramento, which was one of our first dates, to our last date in San Diego, to see us play twice. That to me is a sign that people really like what we're doing.
Here is a listing of bands that are currently involved in the NEC:
Kill Switch... Klick
And Christ Wept
Journal of Trauma