Despite a recent history of mental and financial breakdowns, The Kills’ personal and creative chemistry has remained untainted. Indeed, from tonight’s encounter it’s immediately evident that tabloid hounded Englander Jamie Hince has lost none of the brooding intensity he shares with his enigmatic Floridian musical co-conspirator Alison Mosshart. Sitting side by side on a battered leather sofa, pale-faced and clad in regulation Velvet Underground black, they are the picture perfect rock n’ roll hipsters. On a conversational level though, they are far from strung out clichés. Full of humour (Jamie comes across like Leslie Nielson’s edgy younger brother in his deadpan delivery), they constantly finish off each other’s sentences like psychically conjoined twins. There is little doubt that The Kills are currently and collectively in a very good place indeed.
Following an extended period of missing in action/getting lost somewhere in a recording studio in Mexico, the twosome have returned to the pop culture fray via mascara-splattered long player ‘Midnight Boom’. Regardless of a lengthy and painful gestation which saw them descend on numerous cities throughout the world in a series of misguided attempts to invoke the desired musical impetus, the end product is their most powerful and focused testament to date. With numbers as stirring as ‘Black Balloon’ and ‘Tape Song’, the post-recording session love bites courtesy of a certain Kate Moss should swiftly become a mere afterthought, even to the most celebrity obsessed ears. Rather than maturing gently with age, The Kills have gained confidence to distil their sound into a series of childlike brush strokes. A couple of tracks, namely ‘Cheap & Cheerful’ and ‘Alphabet Pony’, were formed around Jamie’s newly acquired MPC-60 hip hop drum sequencer and take their cue from playground chants inspired by ‘Pizza Pizza Daddio’ – a sixties documentary focusing on inner-city American school children.
Über-hip Anglo-American sleaze rock duo The Kills joins Electronic Beats in a suitably darkened room to consider the merits of God, squats, ghosts, and oddly monikered fake meat….
If you were to play someone just one key track off Midnight Boom to succinctly sum the record up, which would you choose?
JAMIE: ‘Sour Cherry’ I think. It’s not the best on the record but it’s the one I like playing. It depends. Different songs suit different people. I’d sort of weigh up the individual and then play them something accordingly.
ALISON: …depending on what they are wearing.
As a band you seem very much out there on your own. How do you avoid unwanted outside influences?
JAMIE: We live in a bubble. We just do our own thing and aren’t really phased by that much. Every so often industry people will say to me, “your new album has sold so many copies” or whatever, and it generally surprises me because I don’t give it much thought. Also, I think with a lot of bands, people’s reactions to them are quite important to their evolution. I really appreciate our fans but I don’t actually care what they think. If you’re on some kind of personal journey like we are, you can’t consider what other people think of you or what they want you to do.
Do you ever wake up to find yourselves on a Lynch-esque road trip?
JAMIE: Our life is a road trip. We’re so drawn to touring. That’s the norm for us. To me, being in the studio is weird; being on the road is where we want to be.
ALISON: Completely. But it’s not like a typical road trip. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me this was just a big practical joke and we were being driven around a movie set. We just get out of the bus, play a show, climb back into the bus and do it all again. It’s easy to forget where you are.
Which European destinations are particularly close to The Kills’ hearts?
JAMIE: Paris and Berlin. I lived in Berlin for three months, on Oranienburger Strasse at the Tacheles squat a long, long time ago. I worked on it, building bathrooms and so on. It’s weird visiting there now. I keep going to see it with all this excitement before leaving slightly underwhelmed. It’s all bloody Novo Hotels these days.
Do you view London’s rapid development into an all-encompassing shopping centre an act of cultural terrorism?
ALISON: We leave London to record these days. We leave England. To be creative you have to leave. Unless you’re loaded.
JAMIE: Well we live in Dalston, the last little bastion of East End poverty. Artists and musicians always gravitate to the poor areas. We don’t have a Starbucks in Dalston, just little Polish and Turkish shops.
ALISON: We’ve got a Tesco now. I discovered it the other day.
JAMIE: Yeah, a Tesco Metro. I’ve been battling with London for years now, but I think the most exciting place to be isn’t necessarily the best place to live and I still want to live in London, even if I have more fun in New York or Paris.
Is 2008 what you imagined it would be?
JAMIE: No. When I was a kid I thought everyone would be wearing silver and riding around on jet packs. I’m attracted to nihilist things, so I love the way we’re destroying cultural standards and destroying most things with any value. We really are. Things are a lot more throwaway now, but you never get what you expect I suppose.
Are you keen believers in the paranormal?
JAMIE: I have a curiosity for it. Ouija boards definitely work, but I think once you give way into believing in such things there are a lot of things you have to give way into believing in, like destiny and religion. I’m an atheist through and through. I think when you’re buried, that’s it. It’s over. The afterlife seems like a clever thing to make people believe in, because then people don’t feel like life is urgent. Religion causes people to feel they have to suppress a lot of things in order to achieve something after death. If you don’t believe in God and the consequences of your actions you’re probably going to act like a crazy chaotic nightmare, which is not what they want you to do. Everyone always says “I don’t believe in God, like an old guy with grey beard, but I do believe in a force.” It drives me fucking mental. Yeah, everyone believes it’s a fucking force. But it’s fucking not.
ALISON: I believe in ghosts, but I’ve never seen any. Friends of mine have. My friend saw a cat person outside the window one time. I’m not sure about Satan, but I love that fake meat ‘Seitan’.
How has the chemistry between the two of you developed over the past years?
(awkward laughter) JAMIE: We’ve become more psychically linked with each other. You wake up in the morning and just know by the way someone blinks whether to stay away from them, or whether they want some support, or whether there’s going to be inspiration to write a song. We can read each other much, much better these days. We’ve never imposed rules on each other. From day one we’ve always been allowed to scream blue murder at each other so there’s not any censorship involved. I think that’s helped our friendship a lot. There’s no kind of politeness involved either. We just behave however we like to each other. If we feel angry then the other person gets the other end of that person’s wrath. There is a hell of a lot of catharsis in our friendship.
Do you see a long-term future for The Kills?
ALISON: We don’t see it ending.
JAMIE: Feel that this is our life, so I’m not sure we’ll always be making records and touring, but we’ll certainly be doing something.
TEXT BY MARK FERNYHOUGH | PHOTO BY HEIKE SCHNEIDER-MATZIGKEI