Formed in 1998 (initially as ‘Klauskinskis’), the hypnotic Seattle trio of Lucy Atkinson on bass, organ and violin, Chris Martin playing guitar and providing occasional vocals, and David Weeks adding drums and percussion released their first album, ‘SpaceLaunch For Frenchie’, in 1999. They added second guitarist, Matthew Reid Schwartz, the next year; and released their debut as a quartet, ‘Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle’, on Pacifico Records in 2001 (subsequently reissued during June 2002 in a winning Digipak sleeve and featuring an additional, "hidden", track by Sur La Plage records in London). Matthew’s guitar and keyboards have helped to expand the sonic range of Kinski without altering their original trajectory. The sounds of Kinski range from gentle near ambient subtlety to explosive eruptions of thunderous guitar led cacophony, often within the confines of the same song. Drone meets free noise and never loses some kind of warm core of rocking interactivity. As influenced by Krautrock sensibilites as they are Japanese noise rockers, with a healthy respect for some of Sonic Youth’s best work, and a soundtrack-like evocative vividness. Their music feels big, widescreen vastness, emotional weight with a sculptural physicality at the service of this propulsively intense modern variation on some ancient electric guitar archetypes. Their third album is imminent.
PT: What was the name of the band you were in before Kinski and what did they sound like?
LA: Chris and Matthew were both in Seattle power-pop bands before Kinski. This is my first band.
PT: What was the initial inspiration for Kinski?
CM: The initial inspiration of Kinski was to do something different than the power pop stuff I had done in the past. I got into the whole Krautrock revival thing in the mid-90's and was buying tons of records. Listening to them opened up a whole new musical direction for me. I wasn't quite sure where I was going with it or how to get there but I bought a few pedals and started messing around with different tunings and after a lot of dinking around, ideas started to come out. Then the whole band would start to play around with these ideas. We would throw a lot of things out that didn't have the minimal yet rocking element that we were looking for.
PT: Despite the considerable noisy aspects of the Kinski sound there seems to be a strong pop sensibilty mixed in as well, would you agree?
CM:: Yeah, and I think the pop sensibility will always be there because that's what I grew up on. "Sgt. Pepper" was the first record I ever bought.
PT: Unlike many bands you seem very comfortable wearing your influences on your sleeve, quite literally in the case of the tracks ‘Daydream Intonation’ and ‘Montgomery’. What accounts for your forthrightness in this regard?
LA: A lot has been made of the titles of our songs. It is rather odd to us. We just thought our working titles were boring (Daydream Intonation = E jam) so over many beers brainstormed titles for the record...but okay, I am inspired by Sonic Youth.
PT: Was the original name, Klauskinskis, simply an homage to krautrock or were you big fans of the late actor's work?
CM: A pop musician friend of mine, who doesn't like the whole krautrock thing at all, said "Since you're starting a prog rock band, why don't you call your band the Klauskinskis?" We laughed and thought, that's not bad. So we dropped the Klaus and left it at that.
PT: Starting out as a trio, you gained a second guitarist, Matthew Reid Schwartz, before you recorded your second album ‘Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle’. What has Matthew brought to the band and to that recording in particular?
CM: Matthew brought a lot of things to the band. He's a really social, flexible guy and a great guitar and flute player as well. One of the best things he brings to the band is that he's always willing to talk to the motel room clerk while the rest of us stay in the van. We hate having to do things like that. We're not very social and he is.
LA: The songs we were writing, before Matthew joined us, were quickly getting more layered and complex. As a trio we were feeling limited. We felt we needed a good musician to play and expand on the textures that we were coming up with. Matthew joined late in the songwriting process for the ‘Be Gentle...’ record. But for the new songs which we've been playing live, and have recorded for our upcoming record, he's been an integral part.
PT: Is the live setting the best way to experience Kinski?
CM: I would say having us over for dinner is the best way to experience Kinski!
PT: How was your experience of playing and attending Terrastock 4?
CM: Playing Terrastock was one of the best experiences the band has had so far. We had a great weekend just hanging out and watching all the groups and then to get to play towards the end of the festival and receiving a nice response was a thrill. There were so many people there that we admired and we've become friends with some of them since. The whole vibe the entire weekend was great.
LA: Terrastock 4 was so amazing. We felt really lucky to be able to play and see all those awesome bands together in one weekend. We were new to Terrastock and Phil made us feel very welcome! We are looking forward to the next one!
PT: You both agree that Kinski is a "psychedelic" band. Though it seems to me that much contemporary psychedelic music is it's own drug. In other words; the effect is there with our without "controlled substances". Like Dali said "Take me, I am the drug." What do you think?
CM: Some people have mentioned that we must take a lot of drugs because of the music we make but I think that's silly. I think it's just a matter of turning off that conventional part in your brain that keeps you from getting trippy, man.
LA: It is also how you listen to the music that makes it psychedelic. What's going on in your head while you're hearing it...or playing it.
PT: How important is improvisation to the Kinski sound?
CM: We want it to become more and more important. When we were tracking for the next album we ended every night with an hour improv jam that we recorded straight to DAT. Most of it was Lucy, Matthew and me. Some of the jams turned out really well and we'd like to release some of that stuff after the next "official" record comes out. We've also played with the Climax Golden Twins in an improv context a few times and that has been really fun. I hope we can release something with them sometime.
PT: How much does where you live effect the way you sound?
CM: My initial response is to say not at all, but when I think about it, Seattle probably does have a "rock" history that we've been influenced by. Not the whole grunge thing though. I think of it more as the garage rock, Sonics type thing. There's really hardly any psychedelic or trippy music from here, at least that I've been influenced by.
PT: I was wondering more about the Pacific Northwest, than Seattle specifically. There's something in the sound that reminds me of the physical nature of the area…
CM: It's sort of hard for us to be objective about something like that. It certainly isn't something that's done deliberately. Although, I know for Lucy and I, we like rainy, overcast weather and that's one reason we wanted to live here so maybe that aspect of our personality comes out in the music - kind of cloudy!
PT: You mention krautrock as being a primary inspiration, can you name some of your favourite bands from this scene?
CM: Do you want them alphebetically? Agitation Free, Ash Ra Tempel, Brainticket, Broselmaschine, Can, Cluster, Faust, Edgar Froese, Guru Guru, Harmonia, Kraftwerk, La Dusseldorf, Neu, Popol Vuh, Achim Reichel, Roedelius, Michael Rother, Sand, Gunter Schickert, Siloah, Klaus Schulze,Tangerine Dream, Yatha Sidra.
LA: Don't forget Deuter!
PT: It seems to me that this period of this is a sorta of "mini dark age" for music, that a lot of great music is being created, but few people are getting a chance to hear it, or otherwise be exposed to it. Have you had much support from radio, for example?
CM: We've had great support from KEXP here in Seattle. We've been played a bit on college radio around the US from what I've gathered and Capital Radio in London has played us some. It is weird that for the first time in my life, I'm completely oblivious to what's going on in popular music. I look at the charts in Rolling Stone or whatever and I have no idea what any of that stuff is, including the college charts. But I'm buying more records than I ever have. It's a dark age in the popular culture sense but if you're on a few internet mailing lists, or read Ptolemic Terrascope, or The Broken Face, or Dream Magazine and get Ed from Eclipse Records weekly updates, you'll find more than enough great music to listen to.
PT: Have you, or will you ever make, videos of your stuff?
CM: Yeah, we're not opposed to it. Some friends of ours in Seattle have been throwing around ideas for a digital video they want to make for us. I don't know who the hell would show it though.
PT: What inspires a Kinski song?
CM: A new pedal! Songs normally come from feeling frustrated, picking up the guitar, playing around with different tunings and effects and seeing what happens. Songs normally develop really slowly.
PT: Do you feel a kinship with any other contemporary bands?
CM: Yes. We're all big Bardo Pond fans. We love Acid Mothers Temple, High Rise, Mainliner and Fushitsusha. I don't really think of the aforementioned Japanese bands as contemporary though. They seem sort of timeless. But we all feel a sense of camraderie with bands like Yume Bitsu, Landing and Major Stars, who we first saw at T4. It seems like a lot of the bands we would feel a connection with are on the east coast. There are a lot of bands on the east coast I'd love to see live that never make it out this far.
PT: What’s next for Kinski?
CM: We're in the middle of doing the final mixes for the new album. The record will be finished by the time anyone's reading this. We'll have a new drummer next time you see us. Who that is, is still to be determined. We want to release some material that is improv based. 180 degrees from the Kinski albums. Matthew and Lucy and I have played live shows under the name Herzog which is the improv arm of Kinski. I don't know if these improv releases will be know as Herzog or Kinski though. We're also trying to figure out how to tour in Europe since ‘Be Gentle’ came out this summer over there (on Sur la Plage) Hopefully tour Japan again in the next year.
LA: In the future we also hope to get involved in soundtracks. I don't know how to go about this, but we'd like to!
Kinski were interviewed by George Parsons, © Ptolemaic Terrascope, 2002
SpaceLaunch for Frenchie - November 1999 (Self Released)
Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle - March 2001 (Pacifico Records) / June 2002 (Sur La Plage Records – features additional "hidden" track)
Symphony For Heartbreak - (Contact Records) Japanese compilation CD featuring ‘One
Ear In The Sun’ (album version) 2001
Penthouse Suite/Please Remain Seated - May 2001 (Sub Pop singles club
Ptolemic Terrrascope POT-32 compilation CD featuring ‘My New Worry’ - Winter 2002