Interview with Keller Kinder

Interview as recorded on 02/08/2014 with Duncan (vocals & bass), Brad (programming & synths). Missing Anton (guitar). 


HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR MUSIC?

DUNCAN
I don’t know, I suppose it’s electronic, its dark, its sinister, its aggressive, its introspective, its mopey at times. It has…

BRAD
Have you got any more adjectives left? (laughs)

DUNCAN
Well it has very sad moments and very angry moments.

BRAD
When I’m trying to give my three word description I just say its electronic or industrial rock. Obviously there’s a Goth aspect to the music and we’ve worked on that for a long time and worked with that, but there’s this connotation to that word for people, especially if they’re not part of the scene. So they immediately think you’re weird and just all sorts of things that you probably don’t want to be thinking so I just try to avoid it.

DUNCAN
Yea, you say dark and gloomy and sinister.

BRAD
I don’t even say that I just say it’s like guitars with computers.

DUNCAN
You can just boil it down to electronic music with guitars.

BRAD
Occasionally I say that we sound like Marilyn Manson or something just cause that’s what they know.

DUNCAN
Because they’ll understand what that means and it’s not completely inaccurate.

ONE OF THE TERMS WE’VE SEEN TO DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC IS ‘GOTHTRONICA’, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?

DUNCAN
I think I came up with that (laughs). I remember sitting in a car once, on the way to the photoshoot that ended up being used for Kindergarten, I recall thinking “gothtronica… well, close enough”. That was at a time when we weren’t doing as much industrial, it was quite early on, and it was definitely more of a Goth band. We just had that in our minds of what it was going to be. Later on we did a lot more industrial and it got heavier, it got dancier, as we wanted to incorporate other sides of musical tastes into the band that we were doing. That was mostly down to Brad. I just changed my vocal style and rolled with it. I started writing actually borderline sincere lyrics because originally it was all kind of a joke. The first four or five songs were all kind of satirical and a bit of a joke. Then I got into some literary stuff. I’d write songs inspired by books I was reading and those became songs for the first album. Lost Happiness and Lasting Pain is based on Paradise Lost, and Häftling was based on Mary Stuart, which is a German play so I wrote the song in German.

SO YOU SPEAK GERMAN FLUENTLY?

DUNCAN
I’m bilingual, yes. There critics with the first album, I read some reviews, that thought that my use of German was very predictable given the genre in which we were working. Given how strong the scene is in Germany for this kind of music and a lot of darkwave does come out of Germany.

BRAD
One of the bands in particular I was listening to a lot of at the time was Hanzel Und Gretyl. Who are obviously not German but are playing that up a lot. The thing is that the German language has a very cool sound too it. It’s not aggressive but it is, should we say assertive.

HOW DID KELLER KINDER GET STARTED?

DUNCAN
Brad and I were drinking a lot of bourbon and absinthe together when we were about 21, and listening to a lot of Type O Negative and Rammstein and that sort of thing. Brad had written this pretty little piano piece that he called ‘She Likes the Candle Burning’ and he’d written some lyrics to it. You’d (Brad) written that before we started jamming and then we got together and went up to your parents place and got really pissed in that sleep-out and wrote ‘The Black Ravens Dark Flight of Doom’ because I was studying Gothic literature at the time at university and I had all these tropes and concepts of what makes Gothic fiction. The castles in Europe…

 

BRAD
A small German town, I’m actually writing a Gothic fiction at the moment.

DUNCAN
Brad and I were just sort of hanging out and writing these kind gloomy Goth pop songs. They were a kind of Goth pop.(laughs)

BRAD
They still are (laughs). What I love about pop music, and I know that’s a weird thing to say, is that you don’t fucking forget it. It stays in your head. It’s not necessarily written to be great music but its written to be sold and be memorable. That’s not say that I’m writing music purely for the sake of being memorable and not to have any musical value, but if I don’t go to bed at night with the new hook stuck in my head, then the songs get thrown out and its forgotten in the morning and we start a new song. At the end of the day I’ve always found that people are going to remember you more if they remember the song and the catchy hook. I love metal but it’s not all about hooks. You go see a metal band and they’re proficient, fantastic and tight but I don’t remember a second of it when I walk away because all they’re doing is essentially showing off.

AS YOU MENTIONED EARLIER, RAMMSTEIN AS AN INFLUENCE, AND THE ONE SONG EVERYONE KNOWS…

BRAD
Du Hast. Exactly because its catchy and simple.

DUNCAN
And those riffs stay in your head.

BRAD
That’s one of the reasons they’ve been so successful. They’ve played on the Germany, the efficiency, the machines.

DUNCAN
They’re playing on their reputation, the national reputation.

BRAD
And they know that but mostly they’re catchy. The repetition that they use it just catches on. So that’s the sort of thing we try to do.

DUNCAN
Brad might not remember this but original concept for Keller Kinder was a two night Rammstein tribute show, Wellington & Auckland. At the very first show we did a Rammstein cover. We learnt ‘Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?’ and then Brad had ‘She Likes the Candle Burning’ and that sort of spurred the band out of the concept of a Rammstein tribute.

BRAD
I remember the Rammstein tribute night I’m just hazy on the details.

DUNCAN
That’s how we got talking about you (Brad) and I being in a band.

BRAD
And that became Keller Kinder.

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT KELLER KINDER WAS A BAND YOU WANTED TO TAKE FURTHER?

DUNCAN
It was actually a side project of Alabaster Theatre.

BRAD
It was always a side project never meant to go anywhere.

DUNCAN
Brad and I were writing this kind of in indie progressive rock in a band called Alabaster Theatre. It became a lot more progressive once Brad joined. As I said earlier we at the time were friends, drinking quite a lot together, outside of that band. We listened to a lot of Goth and industrial music as well so wanted an outlet for that and Keller Kinder became the outlet for that side of ourselves.

BRAD
I’m just remembering the first time I met you (Duncan). It was clear that you’d just come from Germany, spoke German, and had an interest in all things German. I asked you what sort of music you liked, expecting to hear Rammstein, and the response was “I quite like jazz” (laughs).

DUNCAN

I was listening to a bit of jazz.

BRAD
I’m sure you were and still are it’s just not what I expected.

WHAT’S HELPED YOU TAKE KELLER KINDER THIS FAR?

DUNCAN
I don’t know why it got the recognition that it did. It does enjoy some kind of notoriety in New Zealand and to a limited extent Australia and Germany.

BRAD
To me it’s never really been a thing that we’ll go for and push. So, for me personally, it’s not been something that I’ve been driving and hammering forward and I’d kind of like to think if it had been we’d be a little further on than we are right now.

SO IN SOME WAY IT STILL FEELS LIKE A SIDE PROJECT?

BRAD
Not so much a side project, not musically but….

DUNCAN
It’s still a hobby and not a job.

BRAD
We’ve got full time jobs and I’ve got kids and stuff. My wife’s at home complaining about the bitter nor westerly at the moment and the fact that’s it blown one of our gates over. So that’s my life.

SO DO YOU THINK NOT PUSHING IT HAS ACTUALLY HELPED KEEP IT GOING?

BRAD
No, I don’t think so. Duncan, to his credit, has pushed it a bit further than I necessarily would have at times. Duncan has done a lot of work with networking, getting to know people, he hooks up the gigs and gets help from people who can help us.

DUNCAN
It shouldn’t be hard, if we’re doing this in New Zealand where there is no real chance of playing for profit, it can’t be a burden on us.

BRAD
They say about the music industry it’s all about who you know and that’s very very true and Duncan knows a lot of people. So that’s definitely helped us. I think that we try to keep the music reasonably accessible and we don’t take ourselves too seriously so that’s also helped.

DUNCAN
Another thing that helped Keller Kinder a lot was when you (Brad) and I set up and ran Shadowplay’ There was a bit of a lull in the Goth scene in Wellington at the time so Brad and I started our own monthly Goth night called Shadowplay. It was normally on a Wednesday or Thursday night, $2 entry one band and couple DJ’s. Every few months though we’d do a big show on Saturday night and because we were running it we made ourselves the headliners.

BRAD
Wow, so pretentious.

Keller Kinder (2011) Photo: Jason Mann, Make-up: Anastasia Papadopoulos
Keller Kinder (2011)
Photo: Jason Mann, Make-up: Anastasia Papadopoulos

DUNCAN
It was a pretentious move but it worked and it imprinted a lot on the scene in Wellington and throughout the country. And then we were lucky to get some big international supports acts for the bigger shows.

BRAD
It was exposure. I think one of the other things was, and it was never for the sake of getting publicity but just for the kind of band we were as a Goth industrial band, so we always made sure we had an image and we did photoshoots to reinforce that image and keep it consistent.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW THAT YOU WEREN’T NORMAL?

DUNCAN
I think it happened in Chicago. I’d just turned 15, and I was walking along one of the main streets down from the big baseball stadium where I’d just seen the Cubs be defeated, unsurprisingly. I saw this shop, and I popped my head in and I just saw a big entrance, a ramp upwards, lined with skeletons and I thought “well, this is fucking amazing. I’ve got to check out this shop”. It was a huge two storey shop basically like a department store for goths and I walked in there and everything was gloomy and spooky and black and creepy and I loved it. I felt at home, so I bought some t-shirts and some necklaces. I got back to New Zealand about a month later, dyed my hair black and started wearing the t-shirts I brought in the Chicago Goth shop. That was the turning point, I found Goth in Chicago.

BRAD
I think there are two sides to what you asking I think I was about the same age, maybe 14, but I was in Upper Hutt when I found Goth so to speak. But with me I think I’ve always known I was just a bit different.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE JUST STARTING OUT?

BRAD
All I can say to people wanting to make music is just be true to what you actually want to do, be genuine.

DUNCAN
Just do exactly what you want to do, don’t try to be something you’re not and don’t take it too seriously.

BRAD
But that said, a good hook is fucking killer. (laughs)

DUNCAN
You’ve got to have fun with music because as soon as you take the fun away its ruthless, its empty.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE BABY BATS OUT THERE?

DUNCAN
Watch some make-up tutorials for Christ’s sake (laughs). Check out Black Friday, she has some awesome tutorials and a close friend of ours.

BRAD
I wouldn’t want to see my kids exposed to half the shit I’ve been exposed too so my advice is almost, go back home to your parents, puts some colours on, sit and read a good book.

DUNCAN
Just read, read, read. At the risk of lowering the tone, never give up, never consider suicide, it will always get better.

BRAD
Say that to adults as well. Its relevant at all times.

DUNCAN
And tragically more so in this scene, we’ve lost friends, that fleeting hopelessness that does pass so quickly.

BRAD
Regardless of what you’re wearing, listening to, or what you do at night, surround yourself with good supportive people.

WHAT HAS GOTTEN IN THE WAY OF KELLER KINDER GOING FORWARD?

DUNCAN
Geographical isolation (laughs), we’re on an island in the South Pacific with 4.5 million people or something like that. There are only so few people out of those people who are interested in listening to our kind of music.

BRAD
I think if we could travel easily to another country and back in four hours then maybe my hang-ups wouldn’t be such an issue.

DUNCAN
Or if we could afford to put the family up in a nice hotel.

BRAD
I could imagine living in Denmark and going to Sweden to play gigs and coming back, you can do that overnight. You can’t really go to Australia overnight.

DUNCAN
It’s a lot more expensive.

BRAD
The thing with Europe as well is whether you’re changing country or not, every major city is no more than a two hour drive away. Whereas if you leave Wellington and drive for two hours you get to Palmerston North (laughs).

DUNCAN
Where I was living in Germany, you could drive for 45 minutes in any direction and you’d be in another half a million person city. And every one of those cities has two or three different Goth clubs and a massive scene who are probably going to be interested in this kind of music.

BRAD
They’d at least check it out.

SO IF YOU COULD TAKE KELLER KINDER AND LIVE IN ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, WHERE WOULD IT BE?

DUNCAN
I’d have to say Germany.

BRAD
I would go with Sweden.

DUNCAN
If I could play anywhere in the world though it would be at Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT WITH KELLER KINDER?

BRAD
I think one of the coolest experiences I’ve had, it just so happened it was the gig that we were opening for Hanzel Und Gretyl so that made it even cooler, but we got wherever it was in the set we played Candle Burning. We got to the chorus and I looked out at the Transmission Room, full of people there to see Hanzel Und Gretyl, but they’re all singing along to our chorus. A room full of people I don’t know singing along to my music. That’s huge.

DUNCAN
My favourite concert was probably the Wellington Capital Fetish Ball 2010.

Keller Kinder (The Garden Club 2010) Photo: Nix Clickbang
Keller Kinder (The Garden Club 2010)
Photo: Nix Clickbang
BRAD
Was that the topless grease up?

DUNCAN
Yeah, we had a make-up artist who had black pigment powder which she blew all over us and then rubbed it in with Vaseline. It just had the effect that it made us look like grubby miners so we were kind of ripping off Rammstein from their ‘Sonne’ video. It was a fetish gig, so there was probably 450, 500 people there so the turnout was solid. That was probably my favourite concert. There were other ones that were good for other reasons but just down to our performance that one was my favourite.

WHAT ARE KELLER KINDER’S PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

DUNCAN
A remix album of Dying City, we’re going to get the tracks of Dying City remixed by the industrial artists around the world.

BRAD
A remix collection of indeterminate length.

DUNCAN
We’ve got the artwork all done so it’s just a matter of nailing down details such as who’s remixing what so we don’t get everyone remixing the same tracks etc.

SO THERE WON’T BE ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP BETWEEN ALBUMS?

DUNCAN
Yea, sorry about that, (laughs) sorry for the delay.

BRAD
It was entirely his fault.

DUNCAN
It was entirely my fault. I agreed to have my hair cut off and I had something of an identity crisis once I had short natural coloured hair. I had a broken heart and kind of lost track of who I was and basically had two years of writers block. When I didn’t have long black hair, I didn’t feel like me, so I couldn’t write. Pretty much as soon as I dyed my hair black again I wrote ‘Yours in Antipathy’ and ‘Bats in the Belfry’ and so we got into the studio and finished the album which we hope you enjoy.


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