Part 3: Pride before fall
In '96, things started happening like there was a purpose, like we planned it this way. With the Killaz, of course, nothing could be that simple, but for a period of time at least, we all began to lurch unsteadily in the same direction. We got some press and TV coverage, played a good quantity and mixture of gigs of all sizes, from club nights to festivals, we recorded our first "proper" demo. We even got a drummer. Things were looking up. Well, not exactly up, but if we were in the gutter, we were at least twitching, trying to turn our heads towards the stars we suspected were up there somewhere.
In orbit around Saturn
But back to the beginning. As you recall, the year had started with the gig in Fulham. This wasn't a massive hit with the audience as I hinted last time, and I ended up having a big argument with a friend's partner afterwards - we'd so incensed her with our shambolic performance that she proceeded to lay into me with a drunken tirade where she hilariously accused us of unprofessionalism and berated us for having the nerve to go onstage with such a poorly rehearsed act. She was a leading light in one of London's notoriously untogether experimental cinema collectives, which made her rant all the more amusing.
Of course it was all about nerve. And man, we so won, cos she never came to see us again but we carried on for three more years.
Soon afterwards our TV appearance on Shift was broadcast. It was a good piece, dominated by Holly (funny, rude) and Luis (terrifying). I remember that my friend Tom, filming the gig, had trouble recording sound - the boom mike they'd brought was broken and they had to rely on the camera's inbuilt microphone. I also remember assuring him afterwards that it probably didn't matter, given our sonic qualities anyway. See for yourself - Luis has kindly digitised the video here:
It got us booked a lot anyway.
Gigwise, it was the Killaz' busiest year. I reckon we must have averaged out at about a gig a month in 1996, which is pretty decent for a band without management, a booking agent, a record deal or sense of discipline. Based on our burgeoning press profile and also Luis and Mona's tireless work on the tranny and queercore scene, we managed to snag some interesting ones as well.
We had first run ins with a bunch of club nights that would book us again, including the excellent Vaseline at the Garage who then led the queercore / indie front. It was a really good club night and we were fortunate enough to be invited to play at their first anniversary party with US queer garage punk band Mouthfull, in April. This was our first really good gig. It was packed and we managed to hold it together enough to play a good set and we went down like a house on fire. The cute little LBGT indie kids loved us. The weird acoustics of The Garage's narrow little upstairs room really suited our howling wall of noise to a tee.
We also did some really good publicity pictures there after we soundchecked courtesy of Holly's best pal Dolly (aka Pearl), who was a lovely sort-of-mum to the Killaz. She held us together with her no nonsense nature when we were falling apart during practise, soundcheck, onstage, or points inbetween. I guess she was our "number one fan". I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we'd asked her to manage us. It crossed our minds a few times. It helps to have someone down to earth with you when your head is in orbit around Saturn.
We also has first visits to two so-called "multimedia" clubs, where mixed bills of film, comedy, cabaret and music were the order of the night.
Cinergy was later to have a successful run at the ICA, but we played there when it was at the Minema, which, as the name suggests, is a mini cinema in Knightsbridge, one of the poshest parts of London. That was a very strange evening. Imagine a bunch of slightly bored arty people sat in uncomfortable cinema seats. They've twitched and muttered through a variety of, well, variety acts and films, and then we come on and shove the sonic equivalent of a ten foot spike up their arses. Luis plays the whole gig in a state of seething with his cock out. Fear and awe. It was a uniquely bizarre experience.
The Minema gig, I remember stripping naked and then bashing my head on the ground so hard that my head split open and blood poured down over my face! Cool show. You say '96 was the year we were gigging most frequently, but by '97-'98 we were gigging a lot more - certainly more than one show a month on average, anyway.
Miss K says:
Not quite how I remember it - especially 97 which was quieter. But I bow to your better recall. 1998 certainly was another big year for us.
Later the year we played another of these cabaret type shows, this time Nux Vomica, at the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, where we supported spoken word punk fossil John Cooper Clarke. It was another interesting experience. This was put together by Martin Jaques from The Tiger Lilies and we thought the gig might potentially lead onto something interesting but again, the audience cowered from us in terror and it went down badly.
I guess ultimately these types of gigs just didn't work for us because deep down we were a pretty straightforward rock n roll band and these audiences were again looking for some kitsch, camp, cabaret-style entertainment from the "drag act". Oh well.
But you want to hear about Amber, the Killaz' one and only real drummer.
She'd been in touch with me via an early incarnation of the draGnet. She was this glamorous Geordie tranny with a penchant for Vivienne Westwood heels (she was actually genuinely "well-heeled" with a cushy bank job in the city and a big black Mercedes and everything) and mentioned that she used to drum in punk bands in the North East a few years back.
This seemed too good to be true. A tranny who knew their way around a five piece kit? We'd been thinking about giving Dr. Rhythm the boot and finding a real drummer (and been pretty much resigned to going for a run of the mill boy behind the kit) and Amber's appearance hurried the decision along, especially as we'd just been offered a plum gig in 1996's Pride festival in July, thanks to the appearance on Shift.
So we had about a month and a bit to audition Amber, teach her the songs and get ready for the gig. NO PROBLEM!
We first played with Amber at some fairly pricey rehearsal rooms in Drayton Park, behind the Holloway Road. You could tell we were suddenly serious about this as this place was properly soudproofed, air conditioned, and even had a drinks machine in the lobby. But it was a beautiful, warm June evening and we were all pretty excited. We decided to take Amber through a few of our easier numbers, including Trashola and P.I.G. She was understandably nervous, not having even picked up a pair of sticks for years.
Even so, we were a bit taken aback. She was very rusty, having special trouble with the monotonous 2-2 of P.I.G (to the extent that we eventually had to rearrange it to have a more normal 4-4 beat while Amber was with us, which unfortunately made it a much more ordinary song), and she was all over the place on Trashola, speeding up and slowing down and missing bits of fills and stuff. She also completeoly failed to come to terms with the crucial break before the last chorus of Trashola, which we were keen to do something cool with now we had a real drummer.
We went through a few more songs and then told Amber thanks, we'd get in touch.
We should probably have just called her later and said politely, "byee!", but in that Six Inch Killaz way that you have come to know and love, dear reader, we ummed and ahhed, vacillated, rubbed our chins, disagreed and completely failed to make a decision, coming to the momentous conclusion that we should just try her until we could decide whether she was any good or not.
(I was actually a little chuffed to be playing with a human drummer as it did make us sound more like a real band, boring old muso that I am...)
Luis, of course was correct and to the point when he turned to us in the courtyard of the rehearsal rooms and said "he's fucking shit," before slouching off home.
But anyway, Amber became the Killaz drummer for a while.
This meant serious changes in the way we practised. Before, like I said, we'd just pile up at Holly and Jasmine's flat, plug in the amps and Dr. Rhythm and there we were. Now, it was altogether more complicated and we started going to a place called Scar, near Camden Lock, underneath the railway bridge up from The Hawley Arms.
Scar was chosen for its extreme cheapness. It was, to put it bluntly, acoustically, hygienically and sonically shit. The amps were always on their last legs, the cymbals and snares always shot and the three rooms all sounded like poo and smelled of pee. And the microphones always smelt like someone had died in them. It's improved a lot these days but back then, it was the bottom of the line as far as London practice rooms that you actually pay for are concerned (well, actually we later discovered somewhere even worse and cheaper, but that's another story).
It was soon clear that Amber wasn't really working out. Also, it was becoming abundantly apparent that Luis could barely stand to be in the same room with her. Luis pretty much either likes you or hates your guts and wants to kill you. There's no middle ground. There's no one he "just gets on" with. i guess we all lucked out that he liked us all. But I feared for Amber once she and Luis were in the charged onstage atmosphere.
Nevertheless, in our crap fashion, we managed to rehearse up some sort of set to take to Pride '96, on Clapham Common, which was a huge one day GLBT festival that was at the endpoint of those massive gay pride marches that we used to have in those days. We were booked on the Cabaret stage, sometime in the evening.
I remember very little about it. It was quite cold and damp though, for July. Don't you love the London weather?
I do remember arriving quite early with a couple of friends from a "glambient" band called The Gentle People, and proceeding to get quite drunk almost immediately, wandering around aimlessly as you do at festivals. I think we soundchecked. I remember that Amber was wearing a top hat, fishnets and tails, which made her look like some big-haired stage magicianess. She spent all afternoon bitching about not being able to wear heels when drumming. By the time we went onstage, we were all drunk, except her.
And that's it. I recall nothing else. I think we all survived it. It may have gone OK. I just have no idea.
As it happens, I remember the Pride gig very well. Not a bad set - Amber more or less kept his end up, but 'cause we were the last act on, that meant that the plug got pulled on the P.A. just as we were launching into our final number - our cover of Blondie's 'Rip Her To Shreds'!
Miss K says:
That happened to us a lot, I seem to remember - having the plug pulled.
Funnily enough, I've just got back from having a little post Crimbo drink with a close friend who came to the Pride gig and he reminded me of an immensely amusing detail that I'd completely forgotten about.
This was the only Killaz show that was signed for the hard of hearing!
Yes. A lady approached us beforehand and asked us for the lyrics for our songs. We didn't even have a proper setlist so this was quite difficult eventually Mona gave her some words to sign.
And she stood at the edge of the stage and international sign languaged each and every one of the songs. God knows what she made of it.
Of course, we were all very, very drunk.
Next thing, we're in the back of Amber's Merc on the way to the Way Out, passing around a bottle of Vodka. This was when the Way Out was in the Rheingold, just off Oxford Street. It was a bit nicer there, smaller, dingier, than after the move to the CIty. We soon split up once we were there. Jasmine and Holly were great at getting guys to buy them drinks, but I got stuck with this ferrety Scots man who bought me one rum and coke then thought that entitled him to grope my bottom all night. I eventually had to buy him a drink and then ditch him when he went to the loo after scrawling his number and sticking it down my knickers. I found it two weeks later. "Gorgeous Gordon" he was called. Jesus. I hadn't go the hang of this "having drinks bought for you" lark at all.
After a while Amber came and found me and offered me a lift home. I spent the whole journey back to North London having a drunken swearing rant about fucking admirers and how all they wanted was a quick grope and a blow job in the alley after buying you one short. Amber was quite quiet the whole journey. Later on, I realised that probably she was having the same reaction towards us as some of our more terrified audiances were. She'd been looking for the safe glam band to play in as well.
We did another gig together at some tranny club under a Greek restaurant in Green Lanes a month or so later. After that, she stopped coming to practices and Dr Rhythm was quietly reintroduced into our lineup.
Ultimately, Amber was not only not a very good drummer, she just didn't fit in with the Killaz' "loose" ethos. Nice shoes though.
Bizarrely, (and with correct appropriatness - I was always a polite girl), the Luis animosity went right over my head. AND I was a good drummer but ya need ya own kit and more than 15 mins warning for it to work..but I am not bitter.
Miss K says:
Being a more "experienced" musician now, I know this, but I'm just writing what I remember.
And as for Luis, I'm glad you never noticed the 'lurve'.
Hey, listen Amber, I NEVER had any particular dislike for you - granted, at our first rehearsal together, I did think to myself that you couldn't play for toffee, but then, so what? I couldn't play bass! Do remember though, you once suggested we do a cover of 'Diamonds are Forever'. Holly and Jasmine, who were always extremely suggestible to any kind of kitsch, immediately started making delighted chirping noises, while I broke out in a cold sweat at the thought of our fulfilling all those wanker promoters expectations of a nice, safe, ironic tranny group. Thank God it didn't come to that...
Miss K says:
NEXT TIME: More 1996, right up to the very end of that year, in fact.
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