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Interview for Sheffield’s Sandman magazine.
“Er, I was just checking light levels…,” says Sandman’s snapper.
By this time the four black-clad men stood in front of him in a Sheffield sidestreet car park have already pulled more rock shapes than most bands manage in a full gig, let alone a photoshoot.
The band is Kik, whose self-belief and self-determination may indeed elevate them to the stadiums they believe they will one day inhabit. The band – singer and guitarist D’Lear, keyboardist J-Hi, bassist Damian Rider and drummer Marcus Dale – formed two years ago as a reaction to what they saw as a boring streak in the nation’s bands.
D’Lear explains: “All of us wanted to put together a band that was glamorous again and over the top, we were a bit fed up of seeing so many guys in jeans and t-shirts, add a bit of glamour back to it. I’ve never understood Coldplay for instance. You go and see this band, the guy playing his piano. You’ve seen it on TV. I imagine if you’re at the gig and stood at the back you’re thinking you may as well have stayed at home and put the CD on in my bedroom.
“On a website we’ve been described as a darker Pink Grease, which is ironic because we’re more commercial. I understand they look at me with the dark hair and dark make up and say that though.”
“If you ask us to describe our music it’s so difficult,” says Marcus. “We’re like lots of different bands over the last 40 years. We have a really wide range of tastes, not just personally but when it comes to the band. Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails are bands that we all really like, but I’m much more into dance and house, J’s a much more a dark 80s synth man, the rest of us are more rockers at heart.”
“People say when they see us live they can pick certain influences with me,” says D’Lear, “but I think that I’ve just stole every famous frontman’s moves, I’ve just taken every top rock star, put them in a kind of mincer, and I come out the other end.”
They’ve been described as a ‘rock n roll Goldfrapp’ and an ‘Electroclash Darkness’. Sandman suggests the latter may be less than flattering and the band disagree, and do see the comparisons.
“After years of Radiohead and Oasis,” says Marcus, “I’m not knocking those bands, but since 1995 that’s all we’ve had, guys who get up on stage in jeans and t-shirts and we make a bit more of it. The only comparisons they’ve got are the Darknesses of this world.
“Everybody got bored, everybody got stale, and no-one had ever seen anything like the Darkness! It blew away all the stereotypical bands that had defined what a band was at the time.”
The band’s music has obvious influences from the darker end of synthpop, with heavier guitars that appeal to rock fans. They’ve been championed by rock station Kerrang! FM, which is based in Birmingham and broadcasts across the country via the Web and digital.
“We DJ at an alternative club in Birmingham sometimes,” says J, “so obviously we’re playing our own stuff, and then two or three other DJs start playing out stuff too. Kerrang! FM’s DJ’s started playing our stuff. They do a show called The Slam, a bit alternative, a little bit gothy, and they playlisted about five different songs over a three month period.”
“It was great because they don’t play unsigned bands,” says D’Lear. “At the end of November they asked us to do an hour special based just around us,” says J. “And then in the meantime they asked Gary Numan if he wanted to do a one hour special. Later on they got back and asked if we’d do a two hour special between us, seeing as we know one another [J is a friend of both Numan and his wife] as there’d be more banter and stuff. We did a two hour special and they repeated it over Christmas.”
In their home town, their recent live forays have centred around their own occasional club night, the Kikkatklub, at The Room (formerly the Fez Club).
“The last one we did at the end of January,” says J, “was the first time we played it on our own. We did it last year supporting Kid Symphony, and he never turned up, so we ended up headlining. Then the people who ran the Fez Club asked if we wanted another night. So we started this thing called the Kikkatklub, obviously a play on our name. At the first one we decided we weren’t big enough to play it ourselves. Pink Grease were looking for a gig and so we supported them, but called the whole night the Kikkatklub. And then it was pretty much sold out, so we played to a lot of people due to that.”
“The idea behind the Kikkatklub was a night where you could go and they’d just play whatever was cool,” says Marcus. “Clubs restrict themselves with genres, it’s like we’re going to be a dance club, we’re going to be a rock club, we’re going to be an alternative club. But people are much more cosmopolitan in their music tastes these days, people like a bit of everything. As long as it’s cool then why not play it? That was the idea of that. Then we just get up and play in the middle of it. That’s exactly what we wanted to do.”
“It also keeps some of the energy of the night, if you go and see a band that happens and that’s it,” says Damian. “If you make it a club night you can keep the night going and make it a bit of a scene.”
They chose to take a risk at the next gig, and play without support, and managed to pull a crowd of just under 200 themselves. Part of this decision comes from the fact they like to set up the stage purely for their elaborate show, and also due to the practicalities of an electric drumkit.
“We’d have to completely strip their kit down and set ours up before you go on stage, it ruins the vibe a bit if people come and see you set your stuff up, because we want to come on like rock stars! It kind of ruins it…”
Theatrics and props are an important part of their stage personal, which has in the past led them into trouble.
“Part of the show, there’s this track we do called Simulate,” explains D’Lear. “It’s about how people kind of fall into categories, and I wanted to show how rockstars fall into a certain category. So I used a microphone which is full of white powder, then there’s sampled voices, and I sniff it and drop to the floor as this big synth hits.
“We were playing in London at one point and they banned us from the venue because they said that we promoted drugs. And a guy came up after and asked if it was really full of coke, and I said do you know how much money there’d be?! It was actually icing sugar. It’s part of our show now, people come and see us and go, ‘where’s the coke mic?!’. There’s other things like wanking with glitter…”
They’re hoping for a deal, but if doesn’t arrive in time they’ll be releasing their debut single on their own label, backed by dance remixed by produces such as Barry Gilby and Ade Fenton.
“From what people in the industry tell us, it’s about building up a local vibe,” says J. “Hopefully if we’re pulling 250, and then at the next we pull 300, you’d think someone in the industry starts to take notice. But if they don’t, we’ll do it all ourselves. We’ve got plans in the summer to release our first single, on our own label. Hopefully something will come along so we don’t have to do it ourselves, but we’ll do it as a little cottage industry.”
They’re also aiming at festivals. “Festivals would really work for us,” says J. “I think we’d stand out. On a day where you have twenty bands on I think we’d stand out.”
“I’m not sure we’re best suited to daytime activity,” says Marcus, “but what the hell we’ll do it anyway.”
“We don’t care if people love or hate us, as long as they talk about us,” says D’Lear.
What strikes you about Kik is their staggering self-belief, their unfaltering faith that they are going to end up in the major leagues.
“We’re aiming for stadiums to be honest,” says Marcus. “We’ve always wanted to do a U2. We think we’ve got the choruses and the singles to do that, with the right exposure and the right MTV exposure we think we’re capable of that.”
“We’ve just taken the best bits from different eras to create us,” says D’Lear, “so there’s no-one I really want to see. People have asked me about being in bands, to give them some advice, because I teach guitar as well, I just go imagine the best band in the world on stage and be it. That’s basically what we do. If I wasn’t in this band, I’d wish I was.”
“What keeps you going as a band,” says Damian, “and it sounds big headed but we do get it, [is when people say] you’re the best live band I’ve ever seen.”
“Someone said to me in Birmingham that we sent shivers down their spines,” says D’Lear, “and that’d only happened with three bands. ‘Bauhaus, Nine Inch Nails and now you’.”
“Also, again to be big headed,” says Marcus, “we’re not scared of anybody. There’s nobody we’re scared of playing a bill with, because no-one exactly like us, and we’re good at what we do. At local gigs where you’re playing with third rate Oasis bands who are never going to get signed, you have them coming up to you and saying, ‘fucking hell, I want to be like you’. You’re in a third rate Oasis band. Why are you doing that? Form a better band.”
“People ask me about my band and I say I’m in the best band in the world,” says D’Lear, “and I go well are you? Is your band the best band in the world? And they go no, and I say get out of it and get in the best band in the world.”
“You ask people what they’re band’s like and they say ‘well we’re all right’,” says Marcus. “Well what the fuck are you doing in that band? Get in the band that you want to be in, we’re fucking brilliant, we really are. And we’ve said this before, we’re the best unsigned band in the world.”