Headless Kross interview
TBR: Indulge us with a bit of history and tell the people how Headless Kross was formed.
Jonny: Guess it started when I’d had a few drum practice sessions at Tommy and his brother James’ studio after over 10 years of not playing. Tommy suggested having a jam. He actually had a good few riffs already so he stuck them on a demo and sent them to me. First practices were so easy with stuff to listen to beforehand. We bumped into Derek (who we both knew) a few weeks later at a Kylesa gig. Tommy asked if he’d be interested, he said yes. It all came together pretty easy to be honest.
Derek: Before this, in terms of bands in a similar vein, I had played in a band called Ultimo Dragon, and briefly in The Order of the Black Cross. Both quite slow and heavy. We’ve all known each other for a while, being at the same shows etc, and as Jonny says, they had been jamming a bit and asked if I would have a go on bass and voice.
Tommy: Previous to Headless Kross I was drumming in a band called Atomgevitter. Thrashy hardcore kind of stuff. We decided to call it a day last summer, bowing out with a tour of South East Asia.
TBR: How did you guys arrive at the band’s musical identity and the sound that you were going after during the early stages? Was there much discussion about this sort of thing or did you guys just get in there, jack it up past 11 and start rocking out?
Tommy: I guess Headless Kross is a reaction to playing so much fast stuff over the last seven years in Atomgevitter. Some boogie was required.
Derek: I just turned up.
TBR: Personally, I tend to think that creativity is or can be strongly influenced by one’s environment and Glasgow has a pretty strong identity as a city. In what ways would you say that growing up or living in Glasgow has influenced your creative direction and personality as a band?
Jonny: I guess Glasgow can be fairly cold and grim sometimes. That may reflect now and again in our music. Also, Glasgow has (in my opinion anyway) a pretty strong music scene. That can only be encouraging for bands. There’s plenty of gigs going on. Of course, there’s stuff out there I don’t rate. For me that is a reason to make better music to swing the balance.
Derek: There is a certain bleakness that creeps in to the ideas sometimes.
TBR: Who or what sorts of bands inspired you guys early on?
Derek: I was spending a fair bit of time listening to Gallon Drunk, The Cramps, Nick Cave and some old Garage stuff. I hadn’t listened to a huge amount of heavy music for a while, but was partial to a bit of Church of Misery, Om and Kylesa, hence my presence at the show where our fateful meeting took place. Once we started playing I regressed into a more primal state, and started listening to more Black Tusk, Eyehategod, Kvelertak and things.
Jonny: When HK got together I was pretty much listening to what I do now. Folk like Captain Beyond, Bodkin, Pink Fairies, Black Oak Arkansas, Jeronimo, Edgar Broughton Band etc as well as the likes of Church of Misery, Eyehategod, Yob, Earthless, Saviours etc.
Tommy: When the band started I was listening to a lot of Earthless, EyeHateGod, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Congo… a lot of doom and a lot of the obvious Krautrock stuff like Neu!, Can, Amon Duul II. Also, I’d just read Julian Cope’s Japrocksampler book so Flower Travelling Band was on heavy rotation.
TBR: As players, who are some of the musicians on your instrument that you admire?
Jonny: Usual folk – Bill Ward, Mitch Mitchell, Mick Harris, Ginger Baker, Bonham. Also J.P. Gaster, Coady Willis, Tony Hajjar, Zach Hill, Mario Rubalcaba, Des Kensel.
Derek: David Wm. Simms.
Tommy: Billy Gibbons, Bob Mould, Matt Pike (get well soon!). …and everyone who’s better than me.
TBR: Are there any musical influences or tastes you have that might surprise people?
Derek: I like some Northern Soul, and 60’s girl group stuff. I also quite enjoy a bit of Rockabilly music.
Tommy: I love Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, that kind of stuff because that’s what I learned to play guitar to. Also love The Byrds, especially the later stuff from around 68-72. When they were a really great live band. Like a bit of bluegrass. And Dub.
Jonny: I’m into some hip hop. Folk like Company Flow, Deep Puddle Dynamics, Mr Lif, Antipop Consortium, Rammellzee, Cannibal Ox, Beastie Boys (R.I.P. Adam Yauch). I also like a bit of mountain music now and then. John Hartford is a legend. Le Tigre are a pretty good live band although i’ve not seen them in years. Really like Morphine too. The world has a bit less genius in it without Mark Sandman. Don’t know if those are in any way surprising.
TBR: I understand that Bear was recorded in two days. Holy fuck!! Do you guys have any stories coming out of that recording session or did you just get in there, fire back a bag of pork rings, lay the tracks down and get the fuck out?
Jonny: The two days recording was like having six practices punctuated with sandwiches and sleep.
Derek: I wish there were pork rings. What are pork rings? We had practiced a lot, and it just came together really easily.
Tommy: Everything was planned to perfection. It was like a military operation. Or a well-rehearsed bank robbery.
TBR: You guys got a great sound on the record so we can’t resist asking for a run-down on your kit list – including that freakish Peavy bass bin.
Jonny: Drum spec is pretty easy. I can’t afford a kit so i used the studio’s Pearl export. The snare is a 14″ x 5.5″ Premier Artist Maple and I love it. My cymbals are Zildjian Z3s. Mastersound 14″ hats, 17″ medium crash, 19″ medium crash. I use Tommy’s Sabian ride and a wee Sabian splash that i bought ages ago. Oh, and the cowbell is a Meinl 8″ headliner.
Derek: I use an Ibanez guitar, a Laney head and cabinet (and borrow Tommy’s monstrous Peavy on occasion), a Bass Bigmuff, a Boss Bass Overdrive and a Micro Pog Octave Generator.
Tommy: My amp is an old Marshall JMP head. I play through a Blackstar valve distortion thing, a Big Muff, Phase 90 and an Echobase built by Moose Electronics. My guitars are a Guild SD-60 with the original pickups replaced with humbuckers and an old Epiphone Flying V which I love.
TBR: Any plans to release Bear on physical format? CD? Vinyl?? Cassette???
Tommy: Plans are afoot for a CD release on At War With False Noise Records hopefully before Summer. We’ve also got a new recording in the bag called “Army Of Serpentine” which may see the light of day on vinyl or CD also. Check out the EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW on the TBR Bandcamp page!!
TBR: Credits for the recording on Bear are listed as follows: Engineered by James Duffin. Mixed and mastered by Tommy Duffin. Is there some kind of collusion or conspiracy there or what?
Jonny: You’ve outed the attempted World Duffination! You have no idea what you’ve stumbled upon.
Tommy: This is a pretty tight organisation. Keep your outsider ways to yourself.
Derek: This snooping paparazzi instinct could land you in trouble…
TBR: You guys just released a video for “Burning Hammer” which was incredibly well done. How’d that come together without the financial support of a label?
Derek: …and in only one afternoon too! We just borrowed a projector, taped some sheets to the wall and pleaded with two of Tommy’s friends to do all the hard work.
Tommy: Thanks to our very talented friends John Sinclair and James Urquhart at www.thebigsink.com who did an amazing job of putting it all together. We owe them big time.
TBR: I notice that you guys have a number of dates booked over the next couple of months? Have you taken HK out on tour yet or plan? Any plans to?
Derek: The Bear tour rumbles on, taking in such sights as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Glasgow (a different bit). We don’t see tours so much in terms of a joined up series actual interlinked shows…
Tommy: Touring is more a state of mind for us. We go on “tour” every time we play. It’s a lot less expensive this way.
TBR: With such an amazing band, do you guys bother with day jobs? What do you do with yourselves when you’re not crushing skulls with Headless Kross?
Derek: Unfortunately genre specific complaint-based rock music isn’t as commercially viable as we would prefer. I have to resort to lecturing English and Psychology to make ends meet.
Jonny: HK doesn’t bring in enough coin to pay for my lavish lifestyle of sandwiches, smokables, craft beers, burgers, dickies, & t-shirts so I work at a wholefoods warehouse co-operative.
Tommy: No one’s funding this musical revolution baby. Also, a hard day’s work never did anyone any harm.
TBR: I hate to pit two proud cultures against one another, but this needs to be settled: which dish is more “metal”: Haggis (Scotland) or smalahove (Norway)?
Jonny: Damn! Having looked up smalahove I’d have to say that it is pretty metal. Maybe just a bit more metal than haggis. That’s the unbiased vote as I’m Irish.
Tommy: Umm… I can’t comment.
Derek: Having only tried haggis, I would have to say it’s haggis.
TBR: It’s been awhile now – have you guys begun writing any new material since Bear was released? Do you see any conscious changes that you’d like to pursue as the band evolves or do you see things evolving naturally on the foundation that was laid on the first album?
Tommy: Well, there’s the previously mentioned new recording which is basically one 17 and a half minute track which starts as a cover version and basically goes off on one for a while . I see Bear as a jumping off point, something to get us playing and the new thing as an opportunity to try some things out in preparation for the next proper album. We’ve already got some stuff for the next album coming together as rehearsal demos.
Derek: In terms of words, the next album will have more of a connection between songs. Not exactly a concept album, but not exactly not a concept album either.
Jonny: I just turn up.
TBR: Headless Kross topped my personal list for best independent release of 2011… Care to share a few of your top releases from last year?
Jonny: The Slomatics/Conan split was excellent. Looking forward to upcoming releases from them both. I really like the Mars Red Sky album. Danava’s new one is great too. Releases by Omega Massif, 400 Blows, Om, White Hills, Russian Circles, Yob and the Big Business quadruple single also got regular playing.
Derek: Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers was quality. Also, Congo’s physical releases last year are well worth tracking down.
Tommy: I really liked the OFF! stuff they released. Also, Yob’s Atma is great.
TBR: What’s the next move towards world domination?? There have been rumblings about a new song as well as a split release…
Jonny: The name of the new song is “The Silver Hand”. The intro is a version of Amon Düül II‘s “Deutsch Nepal” which they very kindly gave us permission to release. Then it slows down to go into “Towards the Silver Hand”. It’s be coming out on a split release via Head of Crom later this Summer.