Ten Years gone
I reckon as I post this piece, that it's pretty much ten years since Mona, Luis, Holly and I went onstage at Madam JoJos to play Six Inch Killaz' last gig. Ten years. I'll write more about that gig and subsequent breakup soon, but I just wanted to mention that fact here.
Part 6: Fuck shit up
Wayne Morris, our manager, was a little mousy looking bloke. Certainly rather unassuming, with thinning dark brown hair, downturned turtly mouth and a shifty air.
But he seemed to have a plan and talked authoritatively about it so we were happy to be led. Like I said before, at a certain stage in their lifespan, bands can definitely benefit from professional advice, be it from a lawyer, a manager, a good booking agent or plugger (or, holy of holies, a sympathetic A&R) and we thought that that time had come for us.
Arrived Half Dead
Wayne had instructed us to fulfill our existing commitments, and one of these was an arrangement to do some recording at a studio in Ladbroke Grove called Talking Drum. I think this connection came from Luis - Candy Darling, his other band might have previously done something there, I think.
As usual with the Killaz recording experience, this session, in July 97, was fraught with uncertainty and crap. It was our practice to get as many songs down as possible in the first two thirds of a session booking, then mix as much of it as possible as quickly as possible in the remaining time.
This way of working depends on getting off to a flying start, but Jesus fuck were we hungover that Sunday. We'd played a late night club gig in Soho the night before, then I think we'd all gone to the Way Out and got slaughtered on vodka and alcopops. At least I think that was what happened. All I know is we arrived half dead at the tiny studio, which was mercifully dark inside (though it was unfairly summery and bright outside).
Our recording session at Talking Drum (produced by none other than Nick Farr, Christian Death's guitarist) was the night after a pretty wild gig, but it wasn't in Soho... Still, it was a cool gig, and I've emailed you a photo which might help stir a few vodka-addled memories... I also remember Holly and I doing a spur-of-the-moment interview for some guy with a video camera who was making some film...on what? Never heard from him again, I gotta say...
Miss K says:
Luis, I'm constantly amazed by your powers of recall. Was that Club Kitten gig at The Garage? It looks like Upstairs there in the photos...
Also, didn't we go to do an appearance at some club in Soho afterwards? There's some seed of a memory in my addledness that tells me we'd double booked that night for some bizarre reason.
Club Kitten was a (student?) venue in Whitechapel, run by someone who's name I've forgotten on the fringes of the Kitsch Bitch crowd. The Chopper Girls came.
Rob Cheetah says:
I remember Whitechapel. I was there - it was my first visit to Club Kitten - I knew I wanted to start Kitsch Bitch - and I wanted to see the Killaz again for inspiration. I remember Luis waiting outside the club afterwards (for a bus?) holding his caseless bass guitar. He seemed crazily bold - it was still a pretty rough place to be - and he was carelessly, heroically drag. The Six Inch Killaz impressed as always.
Miss K says:
And that I don't remember at all. Yet I must have played there because I definitely played a gig the night before we went to Talking Drum.
Anyone remember the club appearance in Soho? It was after a gig (I'm convinced it was the night before Talking Drum as well, unless we went to the Way Out) - we turned up and for some reason I remember trying to get gear into or out of some filthy crawlspace right beneath the stage and eventually giving up and getting drunk.
...Was it that night we were supposed to be playing another gig straight after (at Substation Soho, I'm quite sure)? Well, as sure as shit, we DIDN'T! The Club Kitten gig meant that there wouldn't have been time for a sound check, and so we didn't bother to play; instead, we just made a 'personal appearance'... G*d, are we stars or what?
Luis - your memory is amazing me also. I remember the Substation thing now - it was a club called Monster, and Todd Haynes was there. I said hello to him and said I like his films, a strange encounter. I can't remember if Club Kitten was the same night, but we did Club Kitten at 2 diff venues, first in Whitechapel/Aldgate and later at Camden Lock.
Miss K says:
Thank gawd we've got that straight. So, the Talking Drum session followed a two gig night (though we didn't actually play the second one!). I now vaguely remember standing outside the venue in Aldgate (near the Whitechapel Road end of Brick Lane) waiting for a cab to Soho and talking with Rob - still have no memory of the actual gig though. I think Todd Haynes was casting Velvet Goldmine at the time and there was vague talk of us appearing as a New York Dolls type band in the film - that must have come from your meeting, Mona.
So no wonder we were so tired and emotional the next day at the studio...
I don't think Holly and Jasmine fancied singing to start with, so I did the vocals on the first track we recorded, a brand new bit of glam racket with music by Mona and lyrics and twiddly bits by me called Disco Junky, which had the surprising addition of whistling over the end of it.
Miss K says:
I'm a big fan of rock and roll whistling - it's the highpoint of Roxy Music's version of Jealous Guy, and Shaun Ryder's tuneless blasts were one of the things that made The Happy Mondays one of my preferred bands of the decade. Two words - Roger Whitaker. Anyway, I still enjoy the Talking Drum recording of Disco Junky because of my rather fine whistling at the end.
Mona was in a bad mood that day. It's probable that doubts about Wayne were already forming for her. She was having technical problems with her guitar as well, and just didn't rise from her grouch all day. Holly and Jasmine were like zombies, though they both perked up later during the mixing. Luis was full of protean energy though; he was providing the impetus for us to struggle through.
From what I remember Holly couldn't even get out of bed to make it to Talking Drum on the main recording day, I think she added overdubs during mixing. I don't remember much else specifically about the 'session', but it was just a disastrous day, everything but Disco Junky was awful, and I didn't warm to the studio (a grungy flat near Ladbroke Grove) or host-producer.
Tuning was a big issue throughout the day. At various points, both mine and Mona's guitars were hopelessly out of tune, although the effect isn't actually unpleasant at times on the version of Mr. Bossanova you've already heard from this session (it almost sounds like the hootling lead guitar part by Mona is deliberately detuned). On the absolutely abysmal version of Dogs in Heat, there's no hiding place though as both guitars and all the vocals are hopelessly out. It's shockingly bad and I'm not going to inflict it on you.
The rate of songwriting within the band had slowed down radically. Because of my increased detachment from the Killaz, as related last time, I'd pretty much stopped writing - my only contributions being the lyrics for Disco Junky (intended as temporary, but which stuck) and a bit of a joke song called Velcro, about 50 seconds long, an ode to hook and eye fasteners to the ripped off riff from Psychomafia by The Fall.
Luis was dividing his creative energy between us and Candy Darling so he wasn't contributing ideas. Fortunately, Mona was still knocking tunes out. Crimson, an intense and grungy rocker which was something of a companion piece for Shipwrecked (below) and New York, another in a line of brilliant throwaway punky list poems, this time extoling the grimy virtues of the 60's and 70's big apple, "our spiritual home", as a mythic and inspiring construct of a city which, as mentioned before, informed the fabric of Six Inch Killaz far more than the dreary and conformist London we were struggling to outliive. It was one of the highlights from this year but sadly no good recording of this song survives.
Wasn't contributing ideas? I hadn't been contributing SHIT to the band's songwriting for the past couple of years; not 'cause I didn't give a toss - I just always thought that you and Mona were such better songwriters, that's all...
Shipwrecked is a lovely song, again by Mona. We'd been playing it for a few months. It's a sweet sour Velvet Undergroud-esque ballad, sounding like something written between White Light White Heat and the third album. I'd been working really hard on the lead part over the previous couple of practices and we put more care than most into recording it.
The guitar playing is pretty good I think. Jasmine is really trying to give a performance here, and while it's ragged and the tuning is very dodgy, it works fine for the tale the song tells of "another unpaid whore, seeking love to feel secure". They're some of Mona's most poignant lyrics; to me they express the marginalised, remaindered nature of a transgendered existence with chilly grace.
I did the tambourine as an overdub at the end, and it was the most hellish experience. I think it must have taken about 500 takes, dropins, shouting, crying, the lot. It sounds simple but you try keeping time like that when you're sweating and shaking from a Hooch hangover...
..."Shipwrecked" and the other songs from this time were Jasmine's lyrics and my music...
We never really gave ourself enough time on this session, and frustratingly we left Talking Drum that evening with nothing mixed. Luis, Holly and Jasmine went in later in the week to finish the mix - Mona and I couldn't because of work.
I think at the time that Mona was pretty unhappy with the final mixes, but to be honest the whole session was so meh that it wasn't a surprise that she had a tarnished view of it. Nevertheless, I certainly think Shipwrecked at least stands the test of time.
See what you think:
The Talking Drum Session, July 1997
The version of *Bossanova* we did this day has already been presented in a previous instalment but it's there below as well to pad stuff out. We also did awful versions of *Dogs in Heat* and two more new Mona songs, *Crimson* and *New York*. The version of Crimson below is a harder, better, more lo-fi version recorded a few months later on 4-track.
- Disco Junky (Miss K / Mona) 2.21 Recorded at Talking Drum, July 13 1997. Engineered and mixed by Nick Farr
- Shipwrecked (Jasmine / Mona) 2.41 Recorded at Talking Drum, July 13 1997. Engineered and mixed by Nick Farr
- Mr. Bossanova (Jasmine / Miss K) 2.47 Recorded at Talking Drum, July 13 1997. Engineered and mixed by Nick Farr
- Crimson (Jasmine / Mona) 2.28 4 track demo recorded at York Way Court, Oct 1997
All songs Copyright Control © 1994 - 2009 Six Inch Killaz.
Wayne wasn't particularly impressed by the recordings, though he later used Disco Junky in Trashola, the film we were about to commence shooting.
In fact he was more interested in the very early, brutally lo-fi recordings. His theory about launching a band was that people wanted to hear musical / sonic progression, so it was good to start off with an "underground" release of primitive sounding material, then follow it up with a succession of more polished stuff.
So he picked very early versions of Trashola and P.I.G. for the film's soundtrack. Probably correctly as these versions, recorded onto cassette tape on a four track in 1995, had a sort of manic energy and throwaway abandon that often went missing on our more lavish productions.
So the filming went ahead, on DV, at York Way Court at the end of July. I was unable to make the first shooting day due to work - this consisted of a lot of interview footage with the others, with Holly in particular being very amusing. She was a real natural in front of camera - a comedienne with a fine line in sarcastic putdowns.
The second filming day was entertaining if tiring. I'd spent a day at a work "bonding" day at a bowling alley in Park Royal, North Acton, so there was a surreal tinge to proceedings already when I arrived at York Way Court in the early evening with my bag of clothes and make up.
I hurtled into my first outfit and went into Jasmine's bedroom to film a rather embarrassing interview (as I'd missed the interview sessions on the first day of the shoot). I did my usual "bored fuck off don't give a shit" act that I'd perfected on stage but unfortunately on camera it comes across as "this bird is completely fucking brain dead". Ah well, win some lose some.
The next bit was more fun as we went on to film some amusing inserts in the corridors where we had to introduce ourselves. Holly's friend Dolly (aka Pearl), playing our buxom cock-er-ney landlady made some hilarious interjections too. Like Holly, she was a natural.
We then filmed the pop video bits, which was quite exciting. The best was of course the Trashola clip at the top of this post, with the five of us fighting to be seen in the flat's narrow hallway. We also filmed clips for P.I.G., Disco Junky and Jackie, the last of which I show below as, despite tha atrocious quality, I think we all look really nice in it. The song ain't bad neither:
If you watched it through, you'd have seen a cute interview snippet with Holly that closed the film. She really is fantastic on camera and in real life. Funny, cutting, dry and beautiful. I love her!
Anal Object Insertion Memories
The shoot concluded rather late into the night with several pick up shots and comedy scenarios throughout the house with a bunch of trannies, junkies and other flotsam and jetsam who'd popped round to "bulk up" the scenes.
Maybe because of my growing distance from the rest of the band at this time, I hadn't quite realised that Jasmine's smack problem was starting in earnest around this time.
Luis often partook with her, but I never had the feeling that he had as much of an addiction problem as Jasmine. Certainly the shoot was punctuated by smoking of heroin, which Wayne seemed rather gleeful about, having Donald capture it on film.
I guess it was manageable at the time but it would become one of the factors that drove us apart in the end as Jasmine became pretty singleminded in her chase for the brown.
Perhaps the most memorable bit of filming was Luis' incredible performance of "lose the Oscar statuette up my anus" (or was it a Barbie doll? I often get my anal object insertion memories mixed up...), which was filmed and included in a harrowingly psychotronic (and rather hilarious) post credits sequence.
Didn't make it to the final cut, I'm afraid, as the Oscar statuette (inserted by a pretty blonde female extra) kept slipping out of my ass as I lay on Holly and Jasmine's kitchen floor!
Fucked-up Brian Molko
So far so good, you may think. On the Wayne front.
Quite quickly, apparently, he's taken over our gig bookings and promotion for us, picked two songs for our first single release and shot a film pilot from which several promo videos could be pruned.
Our next scheduled meeting was a club appearance at a rather swanky venue on Berkeley Square in Mayfair called 59. As Wayne needed some pickup footage of the band playing live, we decided on some more filming then, which was a club night called Tasty Treat run by my friend Dougee Dimensional from the "glambient" band The Gentle People.
The performance wasn't much cop - Holly and Jasmine singing over a backing tape while we mimed our instruments. I always find that hard to do convincingly. But Wayne got his footage. Later, we did more filming in the cocaine fogged ladies' loos, where Wayne cornered a rather fucked-up Brian Molko from Placebo and forced him to appear with us in a rather cringeworthy scene.
Soon afterwards, we played another gig Upstairs at the Garage - this was for the fabulous LGBT-mixed indie / rock night Club V (formerly Vaseline ↓).
Wayne didn't come to that one and we had a really good time. It was almost like stepping back a year to more carefree times for me.
This was the last of the bookings and commitments that we'd organised before Wayne.
Now it was all over to him.
Wayne, Dave Edmunds and Donald came round to York Way Court a couple of weeks later and we looked through a rough cut of Trashola. We were actually meant to be reviewing rushes as we'd agreed on us having shot approval, but Wayne glossed over that citing time difficulties. Still, he agreed to take out shots we didn't like, which was good as I looked fucking awful in some of them.
And so we waited for the fine cut. And we waited for the next steps on the single. And we waited for the promised gigs.
And we waited.
And we waited.
Gradually, over the next month or two my distance from the band grew as we continued to wait for a message from Wayne HQ.
I'm not sure what was going on closer to the core, but I think Mona and Luis were trying to make contact with him.
I remember around the beginning of this hiatus, Mona produced a single sheet document called "Wayne so far", which was a pretty accurate summary of what Wayne promised to do for us. I still have that list now, which is why I'm able to piece back together the confused events of that period.
In the end nothing on the list ever materialised except the film, which I eventually saw in a ragged second or third generation VHS copy that Luis gave me much later. I know that the director, Donald Takeshita-Guy has been exhibiting the piece recently.
I quite like it - it's out of control, chaotic and rambling in the cut I've got on tape and as such it seems pretty accurate to me. The promo video segments such as the one for P.I.G. below still stand out.
Some might argue (and perhaps they have a point), that the band probably would have drifted apart without Wayne's intervention. As I keep repeating, despite our good points (our looks, our personalities, our tunes and attitude, in case you weren't paying attention), our lack of drive and cohesion as a group of people were constantly getting in the way of our progress. So it might well have been the case that without Wayne's intervention, we might have disintegrated anyway.
I dunno. Irrespective of that, Wayne dicked us about almost fatally.
Whatever the case, by about November 1997, we were as close to not being Six Inch Killaz as we'd ever been before. I don't think we'd practiced at all in the intervening months, and because of Wayne, our manager, not doing anything, there were no gigs, we'd written no new songs and I'd hardly seen the others for two months, except to meet Luis quickly in a pub to pick up the VHS of Trashola.
Then, bizarrely, the direction of the drift reversed and, like some crazy asteroid belt, we started to coalesce again.
Not strictly planned, but it began approximately when Wayne's associate, Dave Edmunds, got back in touch and told us that Wayne had asked him to take over the promotion of the band and that he had some plans for us.
It started off unpromisingly with a photo shoot at some club in town - I think it was Eve's Club or the Metro or the Rheingold. It was a complete shambles anyway. I arrived late from work and stressed, the photographer didn't seem to have any professional equipment.
The photo shoot with Dave Edmunds took place at the Rheingold, where a preview of 'Trashola' was also screened for the adoring crowds...
A bit of a non event really, but Dave told us that he'd also organised a feature for us in Ritual Magazine, which at the time was one of the world's leading fetish scene glossies. It would comprise an interview and a photo by James & James. Cool!
While we always felt that we needed to be in more mainstream press than this, it was a pretty cool opportunity and so it was that I found myself back at York Way Court in my leopard hat to be photographed (see top of article) in front of the wall of glam.
It's become one of the two iconic shots of the Killaz (along with Pearl's shot form The Garage the year before) and captures every ounce of our glamour and attitude and the feeling of being in our gang; ironic, being that the gang was so close to disintegrating. The interview is really good too - you can read it by viewing the original size image.
In many ways this picture and interview served to reboot Six Inch Killaz again. Or rather resuscitate us - the corpse had been cooling on the slab for quite some time when it was jolted back to life in WInter 1997.
This heralded the beginning of a hectic and exciting 18 months. Over the next year and a half the band would enter a period of change and high creativity, form new musical friendships, be central to the birth of a London rock scene to rival any I've been part of, and enjoy a level of gigging, TV appearances and recording that would exceed our other great year, 1996.
1998 would take us almost to the point of success in the fickle and shitty world of music but would ultimately end in a slow and painful fragmentation again, before the final end of Six Inch Killaz in Spring 1999.
Wayne was a toad - you make him sound like he was quite nice. He wanted us to be the new Marilyn Manson. Random Wayne fact - he designed the original Hitler European Tour t-shirt in Coventry in the early 80s - a friend of mine at college knew and disliked him. Rob (Cheetah) said he was widely hated. IMO Dave E was equally sleazy and crap.
Miss K says:
I think my memories of Wayne are pretty much as I wrote them - I had very little to do with him at the time - my major memory of 97 is that I had much less involvement with the band than everyone else.
So I have sketchy memories of Wayne but I certainly don't think I portray him in anything approaching a positive light, if you read this part and the last part together.
Anyway, I'll draw my conclusions about the whole Wayne episode next time.
NEXT TIME: Superstar and other tales from the end times...
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