Kid Congo recent completed a much acclaimed tour of Australia including three well received shows in Melbourne. The man Kid is a legend of underground music aving worked in the Cramps, the Bad Seeds and the Gun Club, but know fronts his own band and is worth checking out for anyone who is a fan if the bands mentioned above.
Munster: How has Australia treated you so far?
Kid: Australia has been a blast. Such warm, fun and enthusiastic audience. We were not sure what to expect, having never played in Australia before. The welcome has been overwhelming and appreciated.
Munster: What process went into making the latest album Haunted Head?
Kid: We make records very much out of bare bones ideas from each member and on site. We all live spread out in different States , so our time together is limited and intensive. It seems to work well as we are not in each other’s day to day life, thus , happy to see each other and play music together. Haunted Head was recorded in summertime, so it was hot, humid, and swampy for real!
Munster: How did the Pink Monkey Birds start?
Kid: We started in New York, where me and Kiki were living in 2006. I had an entirely different band that fell apart, and a friend told me “kid , you need a Texas rhythm section” because he was from Texas and they think everything from there is the best. So he gave Kiki my number and also found drummer, Ron Miller, whom had lived in Austin. After 2 minutes of playing together I knew this was amazing and magic chemistry. Luckily, they have been with me ever since then! We started as a three piece, but when we recorded Dracula Boots i did some extra guitar parts and needed another member to tour, so we added Jesse Roberts and just kept the band as a 4 piece. Now Mark Cisneros has been with us almost 2 years . We just recorded a new album with him. It’s a new flavor for sure.
Munster: What music inspired you growing up and how big was the punk scene on your life?
Kid:I was interested in music always from a small kid. When I was nine years old my cousins played Jimi Hendrix “Axis Bold As Love” over and over. I knew every word of every song and loved how the guitar sounded like a spaceship taking off. As a teenager I was into David Bowie, Lou Reed, T. Rex, The Sweet. I dressed up like an androgynous rock star and snuck out to Hollywood nightclubs to dance with other kids. There were so many teens in the early 70’s hitchhiking around Hollywood. Glamour and danger was an allure, for better and worse sometimes! A lot of these youngsters, myself included, made up the punk scene in the later 70’s. We were the true alternative music seekers. Teenage stuff.
Munster: Tell us about the fanzine you ran for the Screamers and any advice for us on doing a zine?
Kid: Advice? Just to do it for the love of the music and whatever focus you choose. Have a sense of humor. That’s really all that went into The Screamers zine, same for The Ramones fan club I did in 1976. It was the desire and need to communicate with others that were as excited about those bands. We wanted them to be the biggest thing in the world. The Ramones “made it” in my book! Really, so did The Screamers, in their time and space. It’s just relative.
Munster: I heard from Fridays show you did a song from the Cramps and the Gun Club in the set which is great you throw in tracks from your previous bands, but focusing mostly on the Pink Monkey Birds stuff. How do you comprise the setlist? I take it your happy to do the odd track from your past work but not to overkill it?
Kid: We do those songs from The Cramps and Gun Club really to say “hello” to Jeffrey and Lux & Ivy, to let them, ourselves and others know that we are continuing the work that has been laid out before. To make music in the same spirit. There is no one else directly connected with those bands playing live right now, so i guess it makes sense for us to do them. Plus I am very proud to have taken part in these bands. PLUS it makes the audience happy.
Munster: How did you join the Cramps? What do you think you brought to the band?
Kid: Right place right time! I had just picked up a guitar and started playing with Jeffrey lee Pierce and The Gun Club when the Cramps showed up and plucked me up to their lair. It was surprising and unexpected. I was a super fan of The Cramps, had seen them in NYC and LA numerous times. Strange and lucky turn of events.
Munster: WHAT was the craziest moment you went through with the Cramps?
Kid: When my hair caught on fire onstage! I had used so much hairspray in my Ronnie Spector buffont (see pics of me 1981-2) that when i bent over my amplifier to make feedback during “Sunglasses After Dark”( we had lit candles on our amps) the flame jumped up into my hair and it went up “WOOSH” and the entire audience screamed! Nick Knox jumped over his drum kit and poured a beer on my head, and hit me with his sticks for good measure! Then Lux, never missing a beat, exclaimed “The days of miracles have not passed, I give you Kid Congo, The Burning Bush!”
Munster: How did you join the Bad Seeds?
Kid: I was friendly with The Birthday party and Bad Seeds and hanging out in London after the Gun Club broke up. Mick Harvey asked me to fill in for the “Your Funeral, My Trial” tour and then I ended up in the band for 3 more years, moved to Berlin and learned a lot and made good friends and good records.
Munster: What was the creative process like in that band? With so many talented musos I can imagine everyone want in their voice/opinion heard and with so many members that might be difficult
Kid: It was not difficult at all. We sat around and watched Mick play everything! Only kidding! Mick , Nick, and often Thomas Wydler would lay something down and the rest of the band were free to contribute their parts. It worked differently all the time. No one was left out. We did what was necessary to make the best song, even if that meant playing one note, or sitting out. But i think The musicians were picked for their individuality and were respected and expected to do their own thing.
Munster: Do you think youd be making music if you had not meet Jeffery Lee Pierce?
Kid: Absolutly not! He forced me to play guitar. And he made me believe i could do it. I thank him every day.
Munster: What were your thoughts on the The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project?
Kid: I think that it is the most inventive and touching way to pay tribute to an artist. Jeffrey was never about rehashing his old work. I am glad to be a part of it. Cypress Grove is a real friend and understands Jeffrey and his work.
Munster: How did you go from the transition from being a guitarist to being a front man as well?
Kid: Slowly! It came i fits and starts through the years. I was just left with a gig to fill at a club I was booking and had to do it, to fill a blank day. It did not come instantly and naturally. It was a lot of work and learning in public till I figured out how to make it work and be comfortable.
Munster: I read in an interview you mentioned your writing your autobiography, where is that project at?
Kid: Almost finished, if I can stop typing out interviews! just kidding! It’s a coming of age memoirs, from childhood thru 1984, when the Gun Club left Los Angeles for London. It’s my Los Angeles life. The teenage stuff is really rich I find. … The Bad Seeds and being a junkie in Europe is a whole other book!
Munster: Who do you think has been your best collaborator?
Kid: The Pink Monkey Birds, because they make me happen now. Jeffrey was my first guitar teacher, The Cramps showed me how to be in a band and The Bad Seeds changed my mind about music and opened me up to experimental process. They are equally important. There is no best.
Munster: After 30 years making music what do you consider your favourite/proudest moment?
Kid: Too many to pinpoint. The NOW is always best for me.
Munster: What/s next?
Kid:New LP by Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds is recorded and mixed and will be out on In The Red Records later this year. The Title is : “La Araña es La Vida” which means “The Spider is the Life” .. Also i have a sider project with Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs and Bob Bert, Of Pussy Galore, Sonic Youth and Chrome Cranks. It’s called The Wolfmanhattan Project. We just recorded an album. also on In The Red later this year. Now to finish my book!
Munster: And the standard final question, favourite album by the Fall please?
Kid: There are so many? Live at the Witch Trials may still be the one!