End = Nigh
Approaching the end now but, writing this, it amazes me how much we packed into the last year. As usual I publish this in the knowledge that my memory gets hazier day by day, so if anyone has any recollections, contradictions or embellishments from over ten years ago, I will, as in past instalments, add them. So email me!
20th August 09: comments from Luis and additions from me.
22nd August 09: comments from Mona.
Part 8: On the dancefloor till the music stops
Things seemed to accelerate out of control as Six Inch Killaz dived deep into 1998, deep into the end times. And out of the blue, and seemingly simultaneously, a plethora of stuff began happening.
First came the end of the Killaz flat in York Way Court.
Our longtime refuge, where Jasmine and Holly lived and where we met, talked, watched videos, smoked, drank and rehearsed, was scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt and so the girls were given their marching orders, abruptly relocated Eastwards across the borough of Islington to the infamously dodgy Marquess Estate on the Essex Road.
The old flat on the corner of York Way and Copenhagen Street, despite its manky surroundings, had been a haven, warm, cosy and lived in for years by the two friends who'd, as I'd mentioned before, moulded it with their character, plastering every inch of wall space with glamorous images. The new place was, by comparison, cold, dark, hollow and depressingly bare. We still gathered now and then to work quietly on new material but the place made me (and the others, I'm sure) feel withdrawn and sombre. Holly and Jasmine too were, by that time, becoming alienated from each other, their friendship crumbling under the stresses caused by Jasmine's heroin habit and so the flat never really became a home. Within less than a year it would be vacated.
Miss K says:
OK, I got this chronology a bit wrong. Luis kindly wrote to correct me and to point out that Holly and Jasmine had 'broken up' way before Essex Road...
Holly, she'd long gone - in fact, I think it must've been since autumn/winter of 1997, as when I asked Holly why she was no longer living with Jasmine (at York Way Court - K), Holly replied that she went to stay with Pearl during the winter months, as it was just too cold in York Way (Holly was right, too, 'cause I'd been living with Jasmine since September when I started at Sussex Uni - I lasted all of three weeks!) Jasmine and I were thrown out (along with all the other occupants) of York Way Court in March ... and Holly didn't return...
(So,) Essex Road? Holly never lived there - hell, Pauline (formerly close to Jasmine, but by then Luis' partner, now wife - K) and I tried living there for a few months; but in the end we gave up, as Jasmine's jealousy was too much to bear...
Miss K says:
I was so pleased when you got into that film course at Uni. Such a shame it never worked out.
Unable to practice at volume in the new flat (the neighbours in York Way Court had been far more accommodating and far less frightening), we were, for the first time in ages, forced to look for studio space in which to rehearse. We went back to Scar in Camden for a while, then managed to find somewhere even cheaper and more makeshift. Mona found it - I think it might have been at the suggestion of Rob from The Cheetahs - but anyway, from that summer to the end, the inappropriately named
High Hi Fashion Music Collective on Brewery Road, N7, became home to us on a weekly basis.
It was a weird place. Undeniably cheap, it was run by a group of Afro-Caribbean people who'd taken over a big old sewing machine factory (there was still a battered sign outside) at the York Way end of the street that connects at the other end with Caledonian Road, and which, perhaps appropriately, has long been home to massively professional rehearsal rooms and top class facilities hire for bands touring London.
High Hi Fashion' wasn't one of those types of places. Once you negotiated the musty and rubble strewn stairwell, you'd come to a big, parquet-floored area (the old factory floor, gutted of furniture and equipment) where steel bands and dance troupes would be found rehearsing for Carnival and the like. In a corridor off from this was a bunch of offices that had been turned into rehearsal rooms, sort of. I say sort of, because nothing had really been done to them as such. There was no soundproofing and I think we had to lug our own amps there to some degree. They were pretty much just empty offices with crappy carpet tiles and fluoresent tubes, some working, most fizzing, that you could play in at considerable volume, as the rest of the building was half derelict and unoccupied, though the sound leak from adjoining rooms was terrible if (as occasionally happened) another band was in at the same time. I don't think that there was even a proper PA for the vocals and we had to use our own mikes through some kind of improvised mixer-amp-speaker setup. The place was probably squatted by the owners; I don't know. Obviously it's not there any more. I think it's one of those self storage places now.
Still, we were able to rehearse there and it was cheap, like I said. I remember the dreadlocked guys who ran the place always looked bemused by us. Bemused, but kind of amused too. Well, you can probably imagine how baffling we must have appeared, with our plucked brows and long nails, flouncing around in a grump once a week, making our appalling racket. I remember Luis and I bursting into the main room once looking for the guy in charge and scaring the life out of a bunch of teenage kids rehearsing on the steel drums. Alien worlds colliding, it was.
I found Hi-Fashion on the phone book. I think Cheetahs started there after us, but can't be sure. They eventually had their own PA in one of the rooms - I think it was an old WEM one from the early 70s - looked like the control panel from a space ship.
Late night variety show
Out of the blue during this period of turmoil and change, I was contacted via our brand new website by Kate Copstick, the producer of an ITV/Carlton TV show called "The Warehouse", a late night variety show which set out to give undiscovered London based performers a platform to showcase themselves. She was tentatively interested in booking us for a show in the next series.
She was offering hitherto unheard of riches (for us) of £400 for the appearance! Remember that as an unsigned, virtually unknown band, the fees we'd normally be used to getting from a gig ranged fom zero to £50 on a really good day. So we quickly sent her the Toe Rag demo (at that point the most 'professional' recording we had) and waited for a reply, which duly came a week later when I spoke to Kate and she said she was concerned that we were just too rough and unprofessional sounding for a mainstream TV show. She still, bless her, seemed keen to give us a chance so we agreed to do a short audition for her at the now sadly defunct Backstreet Studio under the arches at Holloway Road station.
So, for the first time that I can really remember, we really put our guts into trying to make it sound "tight". We rehearsed and rehearsed running up to the audition night, going over a small group of songs, including Trashola which we decided was the one we were going to play if we got the gig.
We spent what amounted to a fortune for us (given our normal studio fees) that evening on one of the bigger rooms at Backstreet. I was pretty nervous. We had time to run though the stuff a couple of times before she arrived, and I remember thinking that I was awful and that we sounded terrible and that we were wasting our time and hers.
Then this diminutive Scottish woman walked in and introduced herself. For some reason, Luis seemed to find her appearance inappropriately hilarious and spent the whole time smirking and on the verge of giggles. We settled down and played. It was weird. The room was too big really. Just huge and boomy and lacking in atmosphere, especially as we were playing to one person (well, technically, I think we'd done that once before, at The Laurel Tree in Camden).
But do you know, we were really good. We suddenly lost the nerves and locked into the songs and produced, as I recall, an amazingly tight and confident performance. Adrenaline often causes this to happen in live situations that are, for some reason, "extra live", like this one.
Afterwards, Kate was all smiles and produced a contract for us to look at, sign and return to her. She hadn't even noticed Luis' bizarre semi-hysteria at her appearance.
Later, as we drank in the pub next to the station and tried to calm down, he told us that he recognised her from some kids comedy show which also featured papier-mache headed Northern comic Frank Sidebottom. Actually, she's a very interesting character. Performer, producer, writer and former editor of The Erotic Review. And perhaps her greatest claim to fame would now be for booking Six Inch Killaz on The Warehouse...
I was delighted to meet Kate Copstick, as she was the original Mrs. Merton! That is, Frank Sidebottom (who I was a big fan of - he's made a comeback over the last year, by the way) created the character and asked Kate to play her on his records! Caroline Aherene took over the role after a while, however, and ended up ripping off the character for her own purposes...
The Warehouse was taped in a huge, well, y'know, warehouse (converted into a TV studio), over near Bromley-by-Bow, off the Old Ford Road bypass in a scuzzy corner of the East End. We arrived fairly early on a damp, grey late April day as they wanted all the 'artists' onsite pretty early - I think they were filming three shows back to back that day meaning they had a lot of acts to shuffle on and off the stage in rapid succession so they couldn't afford to wait around waiting for unreliable 'talent' to arrive and get ready.
So we pitched up at the large portakabin that was serving as the green room. It was like a zoo full of variety acts of all shapes, colours and sizes. Sure there were a couple of other bands, but the majority were standups, jugglers, sword swallowers and the like, all desultorily picking their way through assorted crisps and related nibbles, weak booze and other bottles of pop.
We glowered at them and plonked ourselves and our bags full of outfits, wigs and makeup into some plastic chairs in the corner. Jasmine and Holly unpacked the trademark 2L bottles of vodka and coke and we prepared to wait.
We had several hours to while away as we were on pretty much last so there wasn't much point in doing anything like getting ready. To avoid getting hopelessly drunk, I think I actually went for a walk. There wasn't much around there though, derelict factories and warehouses. A muddy runoff from the river full of plastic bags and overturned trolleys from the big Tesco that dominated the surroundings, where I bought something to eat. My memory of these times is generally hazy, but I remember that walk particularly vividly. Tuna and sweetcorn in brown bread, munching in the drizzle as I wandered the grey streets. Hours to kill until I'd find myself getting changed with the other back in the smoke filled green room of tedium...
I'd had a stage costume made by a fashion designer friend of mine, Roger Craig-Searle. We'd concocted this idea of trying to make a kind of Studio 59 disco era trouser suit. He'd been particularly enthused by Seventeen and thought it appropriate that I should dress like a dark avatar of the disco era. While I was at his house having a final fitting and trying to make it cover my fatness (I was pretty chubby around that time) I spotted a fantastic black cowboy hat with SPUNK in 3D gold letters along the top of the brim. It belonged to Sean, his flatmate and film costumier and I begged to borrow it. With a couple of crow feathers in the brim, the Studio Seventeen trouser suit, a net top and heels, how could I fail to look amazing??
I realised the horrible truth a few weeks later when we received the tape of the programme - with my tinted shades and guitar I looked like some sort of hideous amalgam of Bono and The Edge, in drag. AAARGH. All I can say is I'm as appalled as you, dear reader. I should have known better and I deserve to be punished. I am so so so sorry...
The performance was fine. We came out of the green room into a massive space full of audience people, where we were introduced by the floor manager to a flustered looking but very enthusiastic MC. We were nicely drunk so were generally fairly docile and good-natured, though I seem to remember Mona being in a grump about something. I was a little concerned that they would have a problem with SPUNK hat but it was a late night show and they didn't seem to care. It actually barely appears. I think (though I don't recall) that there was time for one run through. Or it might have been that we'd sound checked when we arrived. Yes, that seems more likely now I put my mind to trying to remember.
It being a recorded show, there were lots of stops and starts and pauses and rethinks, but eventually Mona was able to kick Dr Rhythm into gear and we launched into Trashola. Two and a bit minutes later the audience, which was dotted with friends who'd made the journey out there, were applauding and it was all over.
To the best of my memory, there was no soundcheck! I remember we came onstage, the drum machine started up - but it was too damn quiet! Just before you and Mona kicked off, I yelled at the sound guy to stop and turn it up... He did so, and started it up once more - and we performed the song in one take, without a hitch... :)
Miss K adds:
Yeah, I do remember that now. It was something of a miracle that it worked out so well. But we were phenomenally well-rehearsed for us, pretty much all that year.
At the gantry bar at the back of the studio afterwards, there were plenty of wellwishers. My punk rock loving friend who had been critical ("that were shite, mate") of our 'non performance' at The Hope & Anchor the year before was gratifyingly impressed and I also hooked up for the first time with Jamie (aka Mr Jam), the photographer who would shoot Deathline almost exactly ten years later at the Vibe Bar in Brick Lane.
After a while, and as is normal in these tales, booze-induced amnesia set in, but maybe we all cabbed it to some club or other later. Who knows? At any rate we were pleased with our day's work and were looking forward to seeing the broadcast version, which turned out to be pretty good. See for yourself courtesy of Luis' YouTube channel.
Miss K adds:
We seemed to make a good impression on Copstick. I've just been rummaging in the shoe box I keep full of Killaz memorabilia and have found a letter from her, on Carlton letterhead:
Kate Copstick (letter dated 6 May 1998):
Well, it is all tweaked, glossed, tucked, lifted and lovingly put to bed. You look fab. Fab is an all purpose television term meaning... well... FAB!
I hope you enjoyed doing the show as much as we enjoyed having you on it. It is all rather kick, bollock and scramble out there in No Man's Land by Bow isn't it? But we all thought you coped brilliantly.
Our publicity guru Murray is hard at work sending out press releases on everyone involved, so fingers crossed for some media interest! But then you know what the media are like...
Please stay in touch - let us know about gigs... we'll come! I will get in touch if anything comes up after the show... people wanting to book you or ask about albums or anything... you'll know about five minutes after I do!
Once again, thanks for being part of The Warehouse. All the very, very best for the future and please do remember us when you're famous! Trash becomes an art form! Thanks for everything!
All the best,
Miss K adds:
Nothing really ever did come of it. And we never saw her again, but it's a nice letter and she "got" us, I think...
But that was over two months off and we were still gigging and writing. I know I've persistently presented this period as a sort of twilight for the band but in reality, while our demise was imminent, our output and workrate was pretty high throughout the year, prompted as we were by our Kitsch Bitch / Cheetahs friends, about whom I wrote in depth last time, and who were always urging us on to do more stuff, and, more importantly, because of their support, getting us opportunities to play.
In this period of our career the sets were built round the trio of late songs which I still consider to be among our best. Coincidentally all starting with the letter "S", Schizoid and Superstar, which I introduced last time, were soon joined by my composition Seventeen.
As I noted previously, I think I was trying to craft a radio hit at this time, and I think this song was the culmination of that effort. Structured around a repetitive disco beat and a scratchy, circular bottom-E riff played by Mona, Seventeen is a fatalistic, cynical but curiously triumphal ("screw the poor and fuck the rich") and catchy song about the descent of a movie starlet into drug abuse and prostitution. It's simultaneously glam, rocking and very poppy and partly based on the trajectory taken by a friend of mine at the time (though she pulled back from the abyss unlike the heroine of the song). It didn't take long to become a standard song on our set though I think at times we performed it poorly.
I still play Seventeen today with Deathline; I like it. It was also one of the few Killaz songs that was well realised as a professional quality recording. But more on that later.
I wrote some more songs at this time but they didn't make the grade - one was called Speed Queen, after a laundrette in Holloway and another was called Toilet Duck, about the desire to rid the brain/memory of useless crap.
Miss K says:
I remember we had a vague obsession with that launderette. I think we talked vaguely of shooting an album cover there if we ever got one together. I was particularly enamoured of the logo. I don't ever recall your song though, nor Toilet Duck.
Despite my fondness for the material from this time, I'll hold my hand up and admit that I don't recall a great deal about the gigs we played in the late spring and summer of that year. Rob and the rest of the Cheetahs were often present though, either sharing a bill with us or enthusiastically supporting us from the audience. Like I said, we owed them our lives that year and I hope we repaid them somehow. They definitely seemed to enjoy watching us play and hanging out with us. Technically as well as musically and passionately, they were a fantastic band and it meant a lot to be held in such high regard by them.
Rob especially seemed to see qualities in us that no one else did. He spoke excitedly about our "looseness". For him, it was an irreproduceable and undefinable quality that he perceived in us and greatly admired, and which he equated with the improvisational verve he heard from the jazz music he'd encountered in childhood through his father. I'd always put our looseness (or rather lack of tightness) it down to bad technique on our part, but I think somehow we'd stumbled upon something chaotic and energetic that he valued.
Gavin (Cheetahs bassist - K) wrote an obit of the band in the Cheetahs zine Big Bad Pig where he said we were like watching an airplane crash (in a good way, somehow). I think Rob liked what he perceived to be our 'guts' and a kind of rocknroll OCD reality.
When you perform, you desperately need your audience to react and produce energy for you to feed on. That feedback loop's what keeps your performance from falling flat and dying. When it happens with a large crowd of people, it's the most incredible feeling in the world. You feel invincible. I've felt it with Deathline and Electric Shocks, but rarely with Six Inch Killaz, except in this period of our career. Rob was like the generator driving that energy feedback. And we gave him and his friends and their followers the energy that they amplified and chucked back at us. It was a great time. We played tiny shoeboxes like the Red Eye on Copenhagen Street, supporting Cheetahs, and bigger venues like Club Kitten at HQ Club on Camden Lock. I'm pretty sure I missed a couple too, or at least one more Alcohol club night, this time somewhere else in Shoreditch.
But no matter, the beast was moving again. There was, as I explained last time, a palpable buzz about the whole Kitsch Bitch "scene" and we felt like we could all get on board and step up to the next storey.
Thing is, how many more flights of stairs would there be? Those heels were killers...
In the footsteps of Meat Loaf (or Mr Loaf to his friends)
Well, Cheetahs and Six Inch Killaz were both unsigned and unreleased and we'd been wondering if it was time to do something about it. Remember that this was a time before MP3s were commonly available, there were probably only a couple of portable players (who remembers the Rio?) out there. Sites like MySpace we're just a glint in a future entrepreneur's eye. The only way to distribute music was on vinyl or CD. We were all quite into the idea of the two bands announcing themselves onto the music screne with a split 7" single to capitalise on the buzz surrounding Kitsch Bitch. Rob 'Cheetah' Mune was to produce the Six Inch Killaz side of the single.
We were lucky enough that Rob was good friends with Martin 'Overdog' Eden, musician, engineer and co-owner of Big Fucking Digital, a state of the art digital recording studio on Britannia Row, just off Essex Road (the other end from the flat) and we were, sometime in June, able to book in for some weekend downtime recording there. This was a very different recording experience to what we'd encountered before. Not only was everything going down onto ProTools on Apple Macs (no tape!), but we had Rob and Martin (as Producer and Engineer) carefully crafting the sound on our behalf, telling us what to do and suggesting enhancements and additions that might make the songs better. I found it fascinating and things I learnt that day kind of inform the way I record stuff now.
It was also an unusually good atmosphere for a Killaz recording session. We were among friends and it chugged along easily from late morning into the night with no commercially imposed time limit. In between takes Martin would regale us with studio stories such as the time just before we were there when Meat Loaf came in to put down vocals over a pre-recorded orchestral backing track, but was unable to sing in tune, and, in a superb piece of celeb huffishness, stormed out claiming that it was the whole orchestra, not himself that was out of tune.
We recorded three songs with a view to picking the strongest for the single. Of the later work, we laid down Seventeen and Superstar, balancing their poppiness with the fieriest and rockingest of the early songs, in the process making P.I.G. probably the most recorded of all the Killaz songs.
We started with Seventeen and it worked well, Rob and Martin using lots of studio trickery, overdubs and layering to make what's actually quite a sparse song feel full and powerful. Late in the mix, Rob decided that the final bars of the chorus and the outro needed a bit of Roxy-Musification and phoned a friend who brought in her sax to lay down a bit of reed to counterpoint the guitars. It really worked.
P.I.G. was slightly retooled in the mix, Rob bringing my lead line to the fore and pushing Mona's rhythm part down into the backing (perhaps a little too far, as the song misses some of the drive, though I understood why he did it - bringing out the punky top end). When I came out of the booth after recording my lead part, Rob paid me the unexpected compliment that "it was like listening to fucking Johnny Thunders in there", which was nice. Overall it's a really good, pumping rendition of the song, perhaps missing some of the raw power of earlier recordings.
Superstar wasn't a success. We spent the least time on this third track and it sounds rushed as a result. It's a few tricks short of working and rather than being majestic, soaring and glamorous, the recording comes over as ponderous and flat (in the dual sense of 'without energy' and 'out of tune'). You heard better demos of this song in the last instalment.
Martin's digital trickery was used to cover up a multitude of minor sins, including my inability to keep time when playing the piano part in Seventeen, to Jasmine's minor tuning issues in Superstar (see, it's not just Meat Loaf), and the session ended pretty positively with two really strong tracks in the can for use on the hopefully forthcoming release. Easily the Killaz' most successful studio session, in my opinion.
LISTEN: Seventeen / BFD Session
Below are the recordings of Seventeen and P.I.G. from our session at Big Fucking Digital in June 1998. We also recorded Superstar but that's omitted for quality reasons. Hopefully you can get an idea here of what the Killaz might have sounded like as a commercial proposition. It's certainly the most polished we ever sounded. Also included for comparison is my current band, Deathline's version of Seventeen which was included on our recent debut album, SixtyNine.
- Seventeen (Miss K) 3.33 Produced by Rob Mune. Engineered and mixed by Martin Overdog-Eden at Big Fucking Digital, June 1998
- P.I.G. No.2 (Mona) 2.21 Produced by Rob Mune. Engineered and mixed by Martin Overdog-Eden at Big Fucking Digital, June 1998
- Deathline - 17 (K Sato) 3.31 Produced and recorded by Deathline at Dynamis, London, 2007
All songs Copyright Control © 1994 - 2009 Six Inch Killaz, except "17", copyright control, © 2006-9 Deathline.
As autumn swung round, we continued to work on new material and book more gigs as the Six Inch Killaz / Cheetahs / Kitsch Bitch axis grew in momentum and reputation. However while it seemed that things were rosy from a "career" perspective, the tensions in the band were quietly tearing us apart. Holly, almost unable to look Jasmine in the eye any more, had already (I think) moved out of Essex Road to go and live with our long time friend Pearl (aka Dolly). Jasmine herself was becoming more and more unstable in the grips of heroin and was just unpleasant to be around, with unpredictable mood swings, missing rehearsals, flakiness which when she'd turn up late for gigs and fluff songs that she was meant to carry, and the incessant chasing of money which made us fear even for the safety of our own gear.
Something would break, and soon, but there was still time for a last hurrah as Six Inch Killaz entered the final amphetamine-boosted straight of our wayward race. As I'd said, somewhat presciently, in the interview with D>Tour magazine a year previously, we wanted to be "loud, idolised and dethroned".
And so it was coming to pass...
I don't know how you remember this stuff, maybe if I was hypnotised I could add some more. You seem to remember me being grumpy a lot... I wasn't totally despondent and grumpy, but when we started rehearsing properly again problems came to the surface more.
Miss K says:
I have to dig really deep to pull some of it out. It comes back in flashes which then start to join up and I try and write things down when I have these moments (although clearly the flashes sometimes join up in the wrong order as Luis pointed out above). LIke I said before it's becoming an increasing struggle as we near the end. It's Luis' almost crystal clear recall that amazes me the most.
I do remember you being generally unhappy towards the end. You often mentioned afterwards that you felt it should have ended sooner but that Kitsch Bitch kept us going. To be honest you took most of the responsibility of holding the disintegrating mess together so I'm not surprised you were down. But there were some good times in that last year.
Not just the beginning of the end, but the end of the end, as the Six Inch Killaz story draws to a close...
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