Interviews : Killwhitneydead
Killwhitneydead is one of a handful original bands to recently arise out of a stale hardcore scene. The band borrows the best elements from the worlds of hardcore and metal and fuses them together with overly abundant movie soundbytes to create a fresh, funny, creepy, and unforgettable listening experience. Lead singer Mike was kind enough to answer my questions in what proved to be the most sincere and candid look at a band that enjoys pushing people's buttons. Read on and enojy!
Hey Mike, how is it going? You have a brand new album, Never Good Enough for You, scheduled for a release on Tribunal Records on the 11th of May. What can you tell us about it?
Things are going well for us. We have the record coming out, and the buzz is growing everyday. We couldn't be happier with the course set for this band. What can I tell you about the new record? First off, I would have to say it's a little different. It's not as spastic as the first record. Don't get me wrong, the material is still all over the place, but somehow it's more cohesive this time around.
You were going to call the new album Never Good Enough for You: Songs for the Brokenhearted. What happened to the latter part of the name?
I don't really know what happened to the second part of the title. I think when it came time to fit it into the layout, the concept no longer worked. The artwork itself says so much and when in relation to the record's actual title, I decided the latter part needed to go. Hell, it could wind up as the title for the third record.
You are the only original member left since the band's inception. What were your original goals for starting Killwhitneydead?
I wanted to create something that was fairly intense and represented what I was feeling inside at the time. I wanted to take the best elements of all the music I was listening to and have been listening to over the years and smash it all together into one sound. Luckily I was able to find someone else who shared my vision, and we were able to collaborate and create the first KWD record and built a band around that.
I always loved the way Mortician used samples, but I thought they never used them effectively. So I took the use of movie sound clips to another level, where the sound clips are actually part of the song themselves and not just an intro and outro part. Just like music that accompanies scenes in a movie, that music gives the scenes a certain visual power. I, in turn, use samples to enhance our music and/or lyrical subject matter.
Lyrically speaking I came at this with my heart on paper, and it is the same for the new record. I don't mask anything; you know how I am feeling when you listen to the songs.
How have these goals and aspirations changed over time?
Nothing has really changed. We want to push the boundaries of what people expect from us. We want to keep our fans on their toes. We don't want them to ever feel like they know what to expect from a new KWD record.
Staying with the band theme, you recently underwent a complete line-up change. Why do you feel it was necessary to change 80% of Killwhitneydead?
Well, it was time to move on. We were sharing members with another band, and the remaining members of the other band didn't want them to continue on as a part of KWD. They felt it was infringing upon them making any progress on their own. A few of the other members we asked to leave. Bands need chemistry, and we didn't have it anymore. So I searched for some new members and I luckily met up with some crazy guys who wanted to make some music.
What do the new guys bring to the band?
They bring everything they have to the table. They are extremely talented musicians, and great people. We are very excited to be performing together. KWD is now 100% full throttle, we don't have any drama or bullshit holding us back anymore. It is refreshing to be in a band where there is never a lack of creative energy. All we do is write music now all the time. The music for the third record is written already. I just need to put the lyrics to it, and pick out all the samples and we will be done. We are pushing for a late 2004 release date, but we don't know if that will be feasible since the fans are demanding a huge tour to promote the new album.
Is Whitney a specific person or is the name in the middle a changeable entity where a listener can substitute Whitney for a name of a person he or she hates and direct all the songs to them?
Yes, Whitney is a real person. Funny enough, we have found that numerous fans have substituted other people's names into the phrase as to direct all their frustrations and hatred towards them. I think people use it as a type of therapy. I know I treat my involvement with this band as therapy. Each record is a catharsis of sorts for me. Whatever problems I am having at the time I put into my lyrics. Once they have been expulsed I feel much better.
I say whatever works for each person is good enough for me.
The second album is about to hit and I can tell you, man, it is downright the most fucking fun disk I've had a pleasure to hear this year. This brings me to this question: how serious do you take the topics you write about?
The topics are very serious to me, since I write all the lyrics. Like I said before I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have been hurt and that is what I choose to express in my songs. I basically write about seeking revenge, and getting even with people who have done me wrong. From the fan response we have had, it seems like a lot of people feel the same way I do about life. It is always great to hear what the kids think of our music. I know you mentioned how fun you think the record is, and that is great too. We didn't set out in this band to "reinvent the wheel" and we sure as hell aren't doing anything revolutionary musically, but we are having fun doing what we do.
Knowing the band's persistent battles with the law, would you ever consider committing any of the crimes you talk about in your music?
Sure would. Those actions/situations you hear about in my songs did pass through my head at some point, which is why I write them down. Whether I chose to act upon my impulses is a different matter altogether. These impulses are where our problems with the law have arisen in the past. We have grown as people, and chose when to sort things out through violence and when not to.
Being the only one out there who heard the new album before any other magazine or a fanzine, I've noticed quite a difference in your songwriting. While there is still an abundance of shattering breakdowns, the new material sounds a bit rock oriented, particularly in some guitar solos. Was that an intentional approach or something that inadvertently happened during the recording?
It wasn't so much of an intentional thing, but that is what happens when bands change members. With the addition of new members we have new ideas that get tossed out onto the table. In KWD, we run with everything and see what works. We won't toss anything aside until we have decided it truly won't work.
As far as the guitar solos go, our new guitarist Steven is amazing and we thought we would let him shine. Especially during the solo in "It Ain't Gonna Suck Itself" over the breakdown, I thought why not add a kick ass solo. So he did and it sounds great. It's in such an odd spot as well, as you never think of having a guitar while kids are supposed to be dancing. Might not be too weird for some kids reading this, but it was too us at the time.
With this sort of transformation in music, would it be safe to say that the overall concept behind Killwhitneydead has also changed, from a "lawless society" theme on Inhaling the Breath of a Bullet to more of a personal "eye for an eye" theme against feline, betraying creatures known as women (you're not the only bitter one) on Never Good Enough for You?
I wouldn't say that my lyrical themes have altered too much. The concept for the last record was very "eye for an eye" as well. It wasn't stated so bluntly like it is on the new record, but its there. Reference the "I want to rip the skin from your face" lyric. Yes, I have problems with women, as it can be observed once again within the lyrics of the new record. Some people have a problem with my expressing those feelings, but the way I look at it, women are just as capable as expressing these same thoughts about men. I am an equal opportunity hater. If a woman wants to write a record about how terrible men are and that we are all dogs, than I applaud her for doing so. If I were homosexual I would be writing these songs about men, it doesn't matter what type of person you are. But since I am heterosexual then naturally all my problems, that I choose to express through my lyrical voice, stem from women and if people don't like what I am saying then that is too bad I guess. The best part is that we probably have an equal amount of women that are KWD fans. Not sure why really, but we welcome them all.
Where do you feel the band like yours belongs to musically: is Killwhitneydead a part of a hardcore/metalcore scene or is there enough blastbeats and grotesque imagery for metalheads to latch on to your music?
I think we are best categorized in the metalcore genre. We aren't a true metal band, because we enjoy the breakdown. Until we decide to discard breakdowns (which will be NEVER) we will be metalcore.
There are plenty of rumors flying around about the band, mostly due to the fact that you never played live and refuse to reveal your "true" identities to the public. As one person I talked to told me that just like the Mexican death metal band, Brujeria, Killwhitneydead is a super group of sorts where none of the members listed in the bio are real but that the band is comprised of members from various bands. Care to expound on that?
You are correct about the rumors flying around. I am not sure why kids are in such a frenzy about this, but we don't really care about it much. Have we never played live? I don't know if that is true actually, as kids have claimed to see us play their hometown. The main rumor going around now is the usual - are we who we claim to be? Does it matter? The bottom line for us, and what I tell all the kids that inquire - "Do you enjoy what KWD creates?" Then most all reply with "Yes, we love it!" So that for us is all that matters. We want kids to enjoy what KWD does and nothing more. Have fun, because we are having a blast.
I must say that in a (hardcore) scene oversaturated with too many shitty bands that sound alike, Killwhitneydead's image is rather mysterious; it attracts much enigma to the project. Would you agree?
Yes, it does. I would be lying if I didn't say that I started the whole band with that in mind. We wanted a "fair shake" so to speak. We thought by us coming out as KWD and people knowing exactly who we were, then we would be pigeonholed as a band and our potential would be halted. I have seen it happen time and time again. Members of other bands start side-projects or even new bands and they aren't given a fair shot. They are lumped in with everything else. We refused to allow that to happen, hence the KWD that everyone knows today.
Would you ever consider revealing your identities or do you feel like by doing that you may become just another band?
We have been discussing this topic a lot recently since kids are clamoring about the information all the time. We really want to keep progressing as a band, and we might wait until record # 3 is completed. But honestly, I think it's too late for us to become "just another band." Kids might be surprised by who we are, but it is still 100% of "us" creating the records. From a lyrical standpoint, everything you hear me say on the records is straight from my heart (or gun or knife or rope, etc.) I live and breathe KWD, and I think it shows in what KWD has produced thus far. Kids believe in what we are doing, and that is another major push for us. We feed off the kids.
Killwhitneydead is the only band to successfully incorporate movie samples into the music. Some are completely hilarious while some are downright mean. What role do movies play in your life? Do you find them to be your second voice and a narrator to Killwhitneydead's songs?
They are most definitely a second voice for me. They help to accentuate a mood in the song, or just to provide some relief of some form. On the new record I set out to use samples that correlated to the material better, whereas on the first record I used samples that were as evil as I could find, and that one with the porn star - that was for comic relief. I treat my use of samples as an instrument. I spent months and months gathering them and then spent almost 2 weeks placing them on the record, strategically.
Movies play a large role in my life, as I am always watching them and listening to them for ideas.
Speaking of movies, some magazines gave the band some slack for having too many movie samples and not enough music. What do you say in defense of that? What do movies bring to Killwhitneydead's music that makes them so necessary?
Who cares really what they think. You either like what we are doing or you don't. The people who get what we are doing enjoy the records whether there is 5 minutes of music or 30. We don't write our songs with a time frame in mind. We write each song as it comes, if it winds up being 30 seconds or 5 minutes it doesn't matter in the long run. A song is a song, period.
The samples bring an extra voice into the band. I think I covered this one in the previous question.
Do you think you can ever write a straight-up musical record or by doing that will the concept of Killwhitneydead be lost?
We could do it, but what would be the point? That isn't KWD. We are actually working on a side project with that exact idea; KWD playing real songs without samples. Should be fun stuff.
One of the pleasant surprises on the new album is a "cover" of Judas Priest's Breaking the Law on "Who Said Alcohol And Handguns Didn't Go Great Together." What are some of your musical influences as a band?
I wouldn't call it so much of a cover song, but more of a homage. We love it all, really and I think it shows on the record. You can pick out our influences, because we blatantly play music just like them. We are having fun, and we can't have as much fun trying to be too original. It's too hard sometimes to think outside the circle, so we just reside inside and have a fucking blast doing it.
Dude, the girl on your cover, Katie from Suicide Girls (www.suicidegirls.com), is pretty cute. How did you hook up with her and how did the concept of the artwork come about?
She is hot, period. We all wish she were our girlfriend. I was visiting the SG website one day and I saw the pictures from the photoset and saw the image that would eventually become the cover image. I immediately said, "That's it. That is our next CD cover." So I contacted her and she agreed to let us use it. She rocks and is totally down with the KWD.
I'd like to do a mini blitz of sorts, where I will ask you questions and you tell me what option you like better and why? OK, let's get to it: Whitney Houston's head on a stick or Bobby Brown finally going to jail?
Head on a stick. Why - because violence is always fun especially when it comes to celebrities. Plus she has been asking for it for years.
In Flames calling it quits or At the Gates getting back together?
In Flames calling it quits. Why - ATG won't ruin what they left behind, whereas In Flames have absolutely no problem doing it now. They haven't released a good record in years. Someone please shoot them. Money does EVIL things to bands, and In Flames are proof.
Martha Stewart hosting a cooking show from jail or the members of Killwhitneydead alone in the same room with Michael Jackson?
This is tough, the cooking show would be fun as would beating MJ to a pulp. I am going to have to go for the cooking show. It would be too funny. Plus MJ is a sissy, wouldn't be fair.
Katie from Suicide Girls with her heart torn out or Anna Nicole Smith after her weight loss?
No brainer. Katie. Like I said before she is HOT. Oh yeah, did I mention she wants me? She does, you wait and see. (Not)
How remote is the possibility of Killwhitneydead playing a few live shows?
It should be happening at the end of the summer. We have had some new band member additions so we need to get them up to speed, and then our drummer is getting hitched this summer. So we have a full agenda, and our personal lives come first. So once we are settled...ITS ON!
Mike, this it for me. I hope I did not bore you with my questions. The final comments are yours...
Just want to say thanks to all the fans that have supported KWD thus far. We wish to welcome anyone else who wants to join the fray. Also, thanks to you, Mike, for supporting us since the beginning, even if you didn't like our band name! It goes to show you, what's really in a band name? We let the music do our talking.