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Here's Five: King Missile

Here's Five: King Missile

Wednesday 4th February, 2015 1:58PM

Musician, author and poet John S. Hall launched avant-garde outfit King Missile with a handful of friends way back in 1986. Since then the group has been through a few different incarnations, always with Hall at the core, and is now up to King Missile version IV which incorporates Azalia Snail and Dan West (who together comprise their own musical project LoveyDove).

Despite the band's nine-album strong back-catalogue, one song in particular springs to mind when the name King Missile gets mentioned: Detachable Penis. The deadpan piece, penned across several years and released in 1993, came with a certain amount of commercial success that was tampered with commercial backlash due to it's radio unfriendly subject matter. And, as Hall noted in an interview, the song's novelty factor drew in fans who didn't really care about the other material the band was writing. And there is some really great material. Songs carved out of witty observations and crafty wordsmithery that are backed with effectively sparse musicianship and deserve to be appreciated in their own rights. With King Missile IV heading to these shores for a nationwide tour beginning next week, UnderTheRadar asked John to walk us through five of his favourite King Missile tracks...

1. Take Stuff From Work (1987)
I was in one of those modes where I was finding inspiration all over the place and writing things designed to be performed that night at one of the many open mics I was frequenting. I walked into work one morning and my friend Dave saw me come in and as a gag he pretended to stuff a keyboard into his shirt. I went to my desk and performed it that night. This was King Missile (Dog Fly Religion)'s first official video by JFK Nitzberg.

 2. Cheesecake Truck (1990)
This one is also about taking stuff from work! I was talking about potential jobs I could have and I thought, oh, maybe I could drive a cheesecake truck, but I immediately realised what would happen next, and wrote it out. (At that time I was not vegan, and loved cheesecake). This video was not sanctioned, I don't know who did it, but I like it, so I won't sue.

3. Jesus Was Way Cool (1990)
This was basically the way I felt about Jesus as a child and young adult, although by the time I wrote this, my conceptions had changed. I intended this to honour, rather than to criticise, religious passion. Some have said this is anti-Christian, but this is really about Jesus - not Christianity.

4. Martin Scorsese (1992)
We were touring behind our first Atlantic record, and Goodfellas was on the hotel TV-that "how the fuck am I funny?" scene that Joe Pesci nails, and we get into the van and I say to Roger Murdock, (our drummer at the time), "He makes the best fucking films." And Roger says, "I just want to shake him," and made a shaking motion with his arms and I wrote 'Martin Scorcese' right there in the van. For the video, we re-recorded the audio at the same time as the video, which was good, because it would have been hard to lip synch. Also, we didn't have to bleep out the curses - I just didn't say them.

5.Detachable Penis (1992)
We were doing a show with Sebadoh and we had just performed 'Jesus', and I blurted out an idea that had been rolling around in my head for weeks. "Our next hit," I said, "Will be called 'Detachable Penis'." This was before we were signed to Atlantic. It took months to write the first half of it, and well over a year before I walked down Second Avenue, towards St. Mark's Place and the second half became clear. And then I waited another year for Dave, Roger and Chris to come up with music that I thought worked. Patience worked out here. I'm glad.

King Missile IV is touring New Zealand with Lovey Dove in tow this month, the tour kicks off with a show at Auckland's Kings Arms on Thursday 12th February. Head over here for details and to buy tickets.

Click here to find out how to win an epic King Missile prize pack

Photo credit: Megan Koester 


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