Friday, 4 October 2013

Interview: Kitchens of Distinction

Forgive the mild breakdown, but as I steam headlong towards my forties, I'm caught between terrible pangs of nostalgia and the sense that I want to recreate some kind of mythical time and place that existed (Grimsby, 1990-92 - I have very low standards), and looking at what I have now and what I didn't have then and being really fucking thankful that it's now, not then.

A lot of my best friends have moved on from being into music and have accepted family life and all the pleasures that go with that - and, often, I quite admire them. I often get very frustrated with myself for not letting go of pop music - even for a few months - and seeing what life is really like outside of a sparsely populated gig, or fretting about how many people are going to turn up at your next show, or trying to grab an hour from somewhere to actually, y'know, listen to music properly again. Like you did Back Then...

There aren't many bands I return to again and again from Back Then, but Kitchens of Distinction are one of them. This band's first album, 'Love is Hell', is one that I'll always cherish because it said something to me about my life at the time I bought it (a few months after it came out). Its tales of frustration and fighting against your own personal limitations struck a chord with someone who was mired in shyness, and, who, if I'm honest, took himself a little too seriously...

And now I'm talking about myself in the third person. Nothing changes, it seems.

The band's second and third albums 'Strange Free World' and 'Death of Cool' were equally as engrossing, but they never quite caught the time and place of 'Love is Hell'. Still, you can't be too greedy, can you?

Onwards, and the recent rash of reformations from bands has often left me cold; for every thrilling rebirth (The Flatmates), there's been others that appear to be doing the cabaret circuit (oh, I'm far too polite). When news came earlier this year that my beloved Kitchens of Distinction were reforming, I wasn't exactly in raptures. However, from what I've heard of their new album 'Folly' and the reviews that have appeared, I can relax.

This is a long-winded and deeply self-indulgent way of telling you that I sent Patrick from the band some questions, which he was kind enough to answer. Thanks, Patrick.


How did you resurrect KoD? Who made the first move? And why?

It wasn't intentional. I met up with Julian to write some music, with no particular agenda in mind. Let's see where the music takes us. That music began to transform itself into songs, and as they developed it became clear that it resembled our old selves in some ways. At that point I asked Dan if he'd like to add some percussion/drums - and he did.

When you set out to make the album, did you intentionally try and not replicate what KoD had done before? Or not?

The original idea was to do something largely orchestral with layers of harmony vocals. Imagine Fleet Foxes singing over a Bruckner symphony. As we went along it became clear that this wasn't going to be the case. One song looks back at Kitchens of yore. It was written in an intentionally similar way (I Wish It Would Snow); I wrote a bass chordal riff for Julian to play abstract delayed sounds over. But then that too morphed into something newer. Which we were glad about. I think it shows that we aren't content to repeat old tricks.

What are the big themes on the album, if any?

Love and death. Just like the Woody Allen film. I wanted to write about issues relevant to the ageing man in me - about love after many years of being together; of impending health deterioration; and then of course of final days. Nothing too heavy then. I wish I could write more about the lighter side of life - but I do hope there is at least some comedy within the maudlin mush.

How has putting a record out changed since that last KoD album? Is it easier?

It should be easier but it isn't! In a way I wish it was either digital or CD or Vinyl. The mix of all three makes it more complicated. I'd be happy with just CD - I like the portability and high fidelity of the medium, though having listened to the vinyl test pressing I can see why people like that sound more, where the mid range is pushed a bit harder. mp3s really are a dog's dinner - don't understand them at all.

You've said you won't be playing live - why is this?

Two reasons. Primarily because Julian wont play live. As to why, I think he feels that there is neither the time/space or the reliance of equipment to make the experience an enjoyable one. He also would be too nervous to get on stage I think. I'd be happy to play in the UK, but my work/health situation means travel abroad is out.

The record has received some excellent reviews. Did you expect this?

I've made records throughout the time as Stephenhero, and received all sorts of reviews. You get used to the variety of opinions. To see the praise for this record so far is totally unexpected. It's a lovely thing, but I'm also wary not to let it please me too much. I think it's a good record - but I can tell you what parts I think haven't worked so well and what parts are wonderful. But I do that about all records, so why not ones I'm involved in too?

Will there be another KoD album? Or is it too early to say?

Too early to say. This one has been a major project over two years. Could I do that again? Not sure right now.

What's the thing you missed the most - and least - from being in KoD?

The thing I miss most is playing live, being in a band full-time, and having the energy to jump about on stage having a great time. The thing I miss least is being drunk, being harassed, being broke, and being in a band with, at that time, two mardy fuckers.

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