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Here's Five: Kid Congo Powers

Here's Five: Kid Congo Powers

Wednesday 17th August, 2016 1:20PM

Cult rock 'n' roll figure Kid Congo Powers has a musical background that others can only dream of. The California native has slung guitar for the likes of The Cramps, The Gun Club, and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - and for the last 10 years he has fronted his own band The Pink Monkey Birds who are winging their way over for two performances early next month. In anticipation of their debut shows on New Zealand soil we dropped Kid a line to ask about some of the most memorable moments in his enviable career. So without further ado, here's five from Kid Congo Powers...

1. The Cramps - 'She Said' (1980)
Recording with The Cramps was my first recording experience ever! The recording was for the Psychedelic Jungle album at A&M Studios in Hollywood, home of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. Although there were many moments to remember, like borrowing Karen Carpenter’s crash cymbal for the song ‘Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk,’ it’s the cover of wild man Hasil Adkins song, 'She Said' which is seared into my brain.

First off, it has very little structure; other than a chorus which explodes around the world’s craziest monologue. Getting it right is a delicate balance of instinct and wits. We did a take or two but Lux Interior was not satisfied with his vocal performance, so he shoved a Styrofoam cup into his mouth to achieve the perfect Hasil Adkins’ pitch. The song came alive as the band hollered screamed and whistled all the way through it as we played. At one point you can hear (drummer) Nick Knox knocking over a giant standing metal ashtray as it clanged to the studio floor. It was at that moment I became a believer in the notion that magic most certainly does happen in the recording process. The conduit could be as simple as a Styrofoam cup in the mouth. Take note.

2. The Gun Club - 'Walking with the Beast' (1984)
When The Gun Club was recording The Las Vegas Story LP at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood, the producer, Jeff Eyrich, got us time during the graveyard shift (11pm to 6am in the morning). In the adjacent studio during these hours was Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac). Ry Cooder was in our studio daytimes, I believe recording the soundtrack to the Wim Wenders’ film Paris Texas. One day I walk into the recording room and saw Jeffrey Lee Pierce pick up a blue plastic tube from the Cooder pile of junk in a corner, I think percussion instruments. He started swinging it above his head, creating a sound like high-pitched wind. Our friend Phast Phreddie walked in and picked up a green tube then me and Terry Graham picked up the yellow and pink tubes, whirling the whirlies around our heads creating quite the ominous wind storm. It looked like one of those hills with the solar power propellers spinning on them, creating psychedelic sustainable energy. Luckily Jeff Eyrich was in the control room and flipped the switch on the tape recorder. When we recorded the rest of the song Walking With The Beast Jeff said: “Play as loud as you want” so we turned the amps up to 11. Happy accidents reign supreme.

3. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. 'From Her To Eternity' for Wings Of Desire soundtrack. Late ‘80s.
For me, this was a particularly charged session on many levels. Not only was it one of my first duties as a Bad Seed, it was my first time in the legendary Hansa Tonstudio, snuggled up against the Berlin Wall. Iggy Pop recorded ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Lust For Life’ there. David Bowie recorded ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ there. Boney M recorded there! It was a palace full of special magic in my eyes and ears. To top it off, we were to appear, as ourselves, in the Wim Wenders film, Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings Of Desire) in the coming days. We were laying down the playback. I love being part of movie magic. Although the song ‘From Her To Eternity’ had been previously recorded, the live version had become a beast of its own. The band at the time was Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Thomas Wydler, Blixa Bargeld with new members, Roland Wolf and myself. As was par for the course in 1980s Berlin underground, the studio was overflowing with artists, eccentrics, and other musicians having existential speed talks that made your brain want to explode. In this atmosphere we got the track down in no time at all; or was it all night? Anyways, it sounds great in the film. I’m proud to be a part of it all.

4. Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds - 'Kris Kringle Ju Ju', From the 2009 album Dracula Boots

In 2007, when our new drummer, Ron Miller, suggested we go out to rural Kansas (Harveyville, Pop. 250) to record an album in an empty high school gymnasium that he and his partner had bought, I could not resist the temptation. We did the album in one week, New Orleans beats, noise and beatnik poetry. For 'Kris Kringle Ju Ju' we spread out on the basketball court around one lone mic in the middle clapping and shaking a tambourine. The reverb was so loud in the room we didn’t have to add any to the mix. We loved the squeaky drum pedal as well. The room became the star of Dracula Boots to us. Simple and sublime.

5. Kid & Khan - 'Why D’Ya Do It?', From the 2004 album Bad English
In 2000 I met and started collaborating with minimal electronic music pioneer and provocateur Khan when recording his album No Comprendo. Our rock meets electro combo pre-dated the “electroclash” movement, when it was still like bringing Satan into the room if you played a guitar at a techno club. Even worse, we danced, stripped and jumped in the audience. Half loved it, half were disgusted. Our goal reached! On a full length LP, Bad English, we covered Marianne Faithful’s tour de force, 'Why D’Ya Do It?'.
"Why'd ya do it, she said, why'd you let that trash
Get a hold of your cock, get stoned on my hash?”. Why not!

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds

Saturday 3rd September, The Tuning Fork, Auckland
Sunday 4th September, Bodega, Wellington

Tickets to the Wellington show available HERE at UTR, tickets to the Auckland show are available at Ticketmaster.


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Sat 3rd Sep
The Tuning Fork, Auckland
Sun 4th Sep
Bodega, Wellington