Although Kill ii This first appeared in 1996 with ‘another cross to bear’, it was 1998’s astonishing ‘deviate’ that brought them to the attention of many, the band suddenly propelled toward magazine covers by a record that has steadfastly refused to date. Unlike some records that take advantage of modern technology only to sound archaic a mere decade later, ‘Deviate’ carefully synthesised studio technology to augment the band’s punishingly organic material with the result that, like Fear Factory, the music remains a fresh and furious assault whether you are a returning fan or a newcomer to the band. Both ‘Deviate’ and it’s massively underrated follow-up, ‘Trinity’, had an air of playful experimentation, with samples used judiciously to underscore the dark nature of the lyrics and, like Senser, another reformed and genre-breaking band from the same period, Kill iii This have returned to find that their music is still relevant nearly twenty years on.
The band dissolved, as so many do, as a result of the pressures of life and the commitments required of a touring band. It was an ignominious end and the band’s final release, 2003’s ‘Mass. (down)-sin. (drone)’ sadly did little to enhance a once promising reputation. A return, therefore, not only offered a whole new audience the opportunity to see the band live but also it offered the band to set the record straight, something they immediately set about doing with the release of a single, ‘sleeper cell’, a self-produced effort that caught the band on a furiously inventive form. What is next for the band seems unclear. They talk fondly of the notion of an album, but, as with so many bands, there is a worry that it simply won’t reach an audience. Hopefully, with more live shows booked, they’ll realise just how hungry their fans are for a new full-length, but, in the meantime, it’s enough just to know that the band are back in action.
Inevitably I’d ask a little about the twelve-year break, and in that time, I think you went off to teach at University?
Mark: Yeah, still there! [I teach] Music technology and production at Huddersfield university
Which is interesting because the band was always very technology influenced – so I was wondering how far your experiences in higher education have helped with the development of the band post-reformation?
Mark: Um, not… if I’m absolutely honest, not that much. The only change is that the new song that we’ve done, which you might have heard, called ‘sleeper cell’, I produced, engineered and mixed it myself. But it didn’t really influence it, but what did influence it was that we got a new singer, Simon, whom I did a side project called City of God with, and that influenced the song writing of the new material and obviously we played Bloodstock with Simon. I think it probably impacted me in that I was fortunate enough to continue with my love of music.
[At this point the rest of the band join the discussion]
Mark: So, I think that impacted me, but it’s very fortunate just to continue with having music in my life.
I guess one of the big changes, in terms of the break, is that back in the 90s it was very difficult to produce and record music yourself to a professional standard, so it’s an advantage that you can do that sort of thing at home now.
Mark: Very much so, but fortunately we’ve got sort of million pound studios at Huddersfield which I get to use, so we’re quite fortunate.
One of the other things that may have changed a little bit is that at the end of the 90s / 00s there were a lot of bands cross-pollinating genres and there was that kind of millennial feel that anything was possible, whereas one of the things that seems to have happened is that things have become more compartmentalised, and I was wondering if there was a challenge for an artist as diverse as Kill ii This in terms of reaching an audience now?
Pete: I’ve always struggled with pigeon holing because it just so… we have a sound, but it’s not speed metal, it’s not thrash metal, it’s not emo… I don’t know! We’ve been called all sorts, nu-metal… goth (once). I don’t think we write with a particular audience in the mind.
Jeff: At the end of the day, if you’re going to take the songs out and release them to people, you’ve got to believe in them and if you write stuff you don’t like there’s no point to it.
Pete: We’ve written more… selfishly than ever before…
Jeff: It’s more for us, really.
Pete: We’ve done all that, trying to please everyone.
Jeff: But it’s interesting you say that, because we were talking in the car on the way up about compartmentalisation of bands and how, when we were growing up, you could like Thin Lizzy, Motley Crue, Slayer and it didn’t Marker. You could go and see all those bands, whereas now, if you don’t like double death, single black metal (!) then you just may as well die! You can’t listen to Def Leppard and Outkast… It’s changed, but then the industry’s changed, hasn’t it? What drove us as a hard-working British band, we were very lucky and we were able to be on the road and we were in the back of a van for weeks on end from 1995 onwards…
Sleeping on equipment, I remember reading!
Jeff: That’s right, yeah, but we did that and the thing was that we were a sum of the parts. Not just being in the right place at the right time, but we wall liked similar music, but all the influences came and developed from there.
It seemed that, back then, the band rose quite quickly with ‘Deviate’ which was really well received, and ‘trinity’ which is a really good album, but not so well received it felt at the time. Having had the time and distance away from the band, have you had a chance to re-evaluate ‘Trinity’?
Mark: Yeah, I think I always referred to ‘Trinity’ as being not as good as ‘deviate’ but I’d actually say it’s just average, it’s not as good as ‘deviate’…. There are some good tracks on there, ‘Trinity’ itself is alright…
Pete: I was on hiatus from the band at that point, from what I remember, you came back from touring the ass off ‘deviate’ and then the record company were like “the album’s due…”
Mark: That is true, that is very true. The record label at the time we really pressurised us to get the album finished so they could release it in April so we could play the festivals and we weren’t ready. I think it shows on the album.
Jeff: That said, ‘Trinity’, ‘the way of all flesh’ from that album… ‘god on drugs’… those songs, when we’ve got them out now, people love it and yet still pan ‘Trinity’…
Mark: and then ‘Mass. (down)-sin. (drone)’, that really wasn’t very good.
Pete: We were floundering a little bit…
Jeff: You’ve got to remember that ‘another cross to bear’, that was a hybrid of the end of the old band and the start of the new band and those songs, the songs on ‘deviate’ were actually being played live on major tours for a year before that album was released, so we would be on with Megadeth, the back end of 1997 and we were able to play these songs for months on end live and then go into the studio… I was talking to someone before about Mark and me before ‘deviate’, in a rehearsal room for a week, just working on tempos and just guitars and drums to make it… it shows. People say now… they ask advice and I just say “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse” because when you get in the studio and the light’s on, you might forget it and you might not feel right but rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – that’s what we did!
That was one of the big differences throughout the 90s and the bands before that – you had the ability to go out on the road and play new material fairly safe in the knowledge that, if it was bootlegged, it would be one kid with a tape recorded and it would sound shit! Whereas now, everything’s out there – is there an element where you want to keep control of your songs before they go into the public domain?
Pete: There’s a website for the band and it felt slightly odd putting our new song on there for a free download – there was a little voice there going ‘hello!’ At the end of the day, we just want to get it out there. If it’s on iTunes, it’s on Torrent sites within the hour probably.
Jeff: That’s the main difference with the music industry now compared to when we first started. It was three times rehearsal a week when we were fourteen years old, going out and doing gigs, shit gigs in the middle of nowhere – we just loved it. Now the industry, whether you’re a fan or in the band, it’s so instantaneous. From the moment it’s out, you don’t own it anymore, it’s gone.
Mark: What’s interesting about the industry… it’s often referred to a friend of mine, a guy called Keith Kahn Harris, the guy who wrote ‘extreme metal on the edge’, and he refers to it as “a crisis of abundance”. There’s just so much music and who are the gate keepers to that music? Previously it was record labels and you only got to hear music if it had been, usually, funded by a record label. Now, you just go online and there’s just an endless supply of music and how do you filter it?
Jeff: mark and I were talking about this before and we put Apple music on the way over and I just put on the playlist for mettle, the A list, I think they call it, and it’s like all these bands that we’d never heard of and there were like twenty bands that were new and four or five we knew.
Where are you in the process of recording an album now? Are you planning another record?
Mark: That’s the plan… what form that takes is something we’re discussing at the moment.
Jeff: Is there a place for albums anymore? Unless it’s a vinyl re-release of something special… I’m not sure kids buy albums anymore….
Mark: There is a market there, don’t get it wrong…
It’s geeks like us, we sit in our house surrounded by a mountain of vinyl… so you know we’ll buy it at least!
Mark: we’re thinking about it…
Jeff: The industry’s changed a lot and it’s always been focussed around album. I think if you’re a growing band, fine. We’re back and we’re loving the live thing really and it’s taking us a long time to get each song right, to what we want to do. There are other songs in the pipeline but time constraints and all that, but I think what we need to do is find out where we are in terms of how people perceive Kill ii This now, and the way, I think forward, is to maybe play live. Would we just go in and do ten songs in the next year? People might say it’s a load of shit because there are fifty other bands they can pick up for free on the net… I’m not so sure.
Pete: You spend more time doing track by track, we haven’t got a label hassling us for an album, so we might just do a track at a time and release it in our own time, it keeps things growing, but yeah, I think one song at a time and do a video for each song, that’s effective or even more effective than releasing an album these days… I have no idea.
I suppose it takes the pressure off that you have the technological know-how to do the record yourselves and not decamp to a studio somewhere…
Mark: Yeah, definitely.
As I understand it, one of the big pressures that led to the band breaking up originally was that it was difficult to get out on the road thanks to the typical pressures of life vs the band…
Jeff: We were all married with kids and all that…
So, is it still a challenge?
Mark: Very much so, yeah, but you’ve got to make it happen. We had some amazing tours and experiences, but when you get into your early thirties compared to your mid-twenties, your priorities in life change and what was very easy in your mid to late twenties suddenly becomes a lot more challenging in your thirties.
Pete: I’ve got nowhere to live and no money!
Mark: When you’ve nowhere to live and no money, but you’re on tour with Megadeth, who cares? But then… you come back off tour and literally you’ve had your apartment locked because you’ve not paid your rent and you owe bills for an apartment you’ve not even used, it does get difficult. Life changes. The most awful thing happened to me about ten years ago. It really did impact me – I grew up and got a proper job. I’m still coming to terms with that. It’s difficult!
Jeff: people talk about those days, but we did it, we got in a van and I wouldn’t change a thing. We had amazing times and progressed the band as best we could.
Pete: Looking back at the van days, you don’t see much on tour buses, but when you’re actually driving it and in a van, you’re just there, living every minute and you see and you meet people…
Jeff: Those days, we wouldn’t change a thing… but we sacrificed everything because we wanted to do it and we believed in what we did. We wouldn’t change a thing…
Pete: You’d see your friends. People you’d known for years who’d be out drinking or have a lovely house or just be back from holiday and I’d be there with, like, twenty quid in my pocket… I don’t miss that!
Jeff: but we did… growing up, we were in to similar genres of music, we did what we’d always wanted to do and to a great extent. This guy here [Mark], used to badger the shit out of everyone…
Pete: This was before you could email people, you actually had to pick a phone up…
Mark: I used to be relentless, just pushing for tours, the squeaky axle gets the grease… it was just relentless.
In that sense, has it really changed? You have all these channels to reach the fans but, as you said, there’s a wood and the trees effect so if you’re not out on the road and putting yourself into the public eye, you still remain…
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. The internet… everything’s changed. Social media. The way that music’s promoted has entirely changed. It’s interesting coming back after a twelve-year hiatus. It’s interesting.
One thing you’ll possibly lose if you go down the track-by-track route, other than having the flow of the album itself, for those who see albums as being a complete package with all the art work – something the early Kill ii This albums had on both ‘deviate’ and ‘trinity’ – that would be a shame if that went by the wayside. Is there another way you could… whether it would be to release singles or have a cover design for download…?
Mark: I think it would depend on whether were looking to go with a record label. Whether we got an album together and it’s something we have briefly chatted about, could we get it released by a bigger label – complete an album and then get a label behind it. Maybe, maybe not. It’s an interesting point because you lose that tactile element of actually having the record.
Pete: Some of it went out the window when the CD came…
Mark: I think it did to some extent… it’s an interesting point. Artwork and I’m sure you know all the various ways that people have gone about packaging their music in a different way, like the Wu Tang Clan just produced one of their album and it went to the highest bidder and you might have heard about that. It went for a million dollars.
Pete: You’re joking…
Mark: Yeah, there was just one. They made it and it was just one CD and it was there new album and it went to the highest bidder and the guy paid a million dollars for it. We’d get about £30.
So, you’re doing everything inhouse at the moment?
Mark: yeah, at the moment that’s the plan. Play some shows, let people know that we’re back and take it from there.
Pete: I’m enjoying it…
And the Bloodstock was a big one…
Pete: we’d done a few before that – time just got away from us. We did a few shows and then a year went by and Jeff was out of action with his back anyway, so… the Bloodstock thing was a real chance for us to prove ourselves.
Jeff: we’d talked to Bloodstock for a couple of years actually. We were rehearsing one day and Alan (Hungerford) who used to follow Kill ii This and come to all our shows – he rang me up whilst I was on my way home and asked if we fancied playing Bloodstock. He asked if we wanted the main stage Saturday or Sunday and I was like [squeaky voice] Saturday!
Before all the hangovers…
Jeff: Yeah! So yeah Alan… it was great, we really enjoyed it. I guess we’ll go this year and hopefully go back again. There’s this long history of belief in British bands at Bloodstock and I remember doing the first indoor one and the first outdoor one and it’s built up to a great festival in its own right.