Nostalgia | Kill Kenada
Tim Smithen – Bass & Vocals
Stevie Styx – Drums
2003: DEMO (audio)
- Choke/Eastern Sun Demo [Self Released] 6:01
- Glo Horizon Demo [Self Released] 2:40
- Scram Demo [Self Released] 4:02
PART ONE (subtitles)
We met Stew through friends whilst at secondary school. We needed a drummer and Stew did that. We kind of moved in different circles, and Stew was a bit of a… (FORGIVE ME, FRIEND) chav? He was more into mixing and house music and so forth, and to this day, I don’t really know the story of when/why he picked up drumming. Nevertheless we jammed a little and it worked, and we all became good friends. The early days of the band were just terrible music and Radiohead covers. Tim played rhythm, I played lead, we had a different bassist and even a (yessss) keyboard player.
Tim was the Akira/Manga nut. I swear he had a cabinet in his room that had something like a hundred honest-to-God VHS tapes. I always liked Akira, but was never mad for it. It just seemed like a good reference point for a band name (after we dabbled with the hilarious names ‘Clamour’ and ‘Cider Whores’). We originally started with just ‘Kenada’, eventually thinking that it was a bit flat, so changing to ‘Kill Kenada’.
To this day it remains spelled incorrectly (Kenada instead of Kaneda) and we never bothered doing anything about it. By now, the correct way of spelling it looks plain wrong to me.
As puberty and all that hit during the early nineties (before we started the band), we got into Blur and Britpop, and then we started hitting gigs (for some reason we all completely missed grunge/Nirvana). Anyone that was playing down South, basically. Bluetones, Cast, Dodgy, Charlatans, you get the idea. I remember seeing Super Furry Animals at the Portsmouth Pyramids and being blown away by the support band Urusei Yatsura. I preached these guys to everyone, over and over and eventually we rolled from their lo-fi stylings, at age 15, into Sonic Youth, Pavement and all of the ‘proper’ bands of that genre.
We jogged along pretty idly for a few years (I guess from around 1996) playing crappy music and covers until Glasto ’99 which me and Stew attended. This was a bit of a hilarious bonding weekend as we darted around the site trying to watch Dark Star, Pavement, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Mogwai, Deus, Elliot Smith, QOTSA, Wilco, Death In Vegas and so on and so forth, all whilst completely off our fucken mash. After that, we pretty much shook on it, said ‘the fuck are we doing with this music thing?’ and resolved to write some decent tunes.
Here is what we looked like in our practice space around then:
I think shortly after that, we wrote our first proper songs (sadly, no recordings remain), which followed up with some of the first really relevant Kill Kenada songs ‘Scram’, ‘Psychic Firm’ and ‘We Got Down’ (are these even on an album? I have no idea). It was around here that we started climbing the Wedgewood Rooms battle of the bands. I think by the time we got to the final (I’d love to have a date, but uhhh, sometime in 2000? 2001?) and won, we had ‘Choke’ in the lineup which ended up being our first single.
“Glasto ’99… this was a bit of a hilarious bonding weekend as we darted around the site trying to watch Dark Star, Pavement, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Mogwai, Deus, Elliot Smith, QOTSA, Wilco, Death In Vegas and so on and so forth, all whilst completely off our fucken mash. After that, we pretty much shook on it, said ‘the fuck are we doing with this music thing?’ and resolved to write some decent tunes.”
It’s pretty ridiculous that most of our early gigs were at the Wedgewood Rooms, as that is probably one of the best venues I’ve ever played at. Great front of house sound, your own monitor guy, and a decent back stage area to do our pre-gig hot yoga. I seriously think that only maybe one or two venues lived up to that. Most were just ‘there’s the stage, turn your fucken amps down’.
I think I had a phaser knocking around that never got used, and a bunch of grand ideas that I could never afford to follow through on. The only reason I ever even started playing guitar was because Tim showed me a fuzz pedal and played his guitar with a slice of bread or something. I thought the idea of making these sounds, without knowing anything technical, absolutely fascinating. For this reason, I had an electric guitar and cheap stomp box before I ever had an acoustic, and months before I ever even had a lesson. My parents/neighbours very likely hated the ‘soundscapes’ I was producing out of ‘turn the gain to maximum’ technique back then.
We had some friends in a local Chichester band called ‘Maker’ who renamed to ‘Machina’, and later to Make Good Your Escape, and we did a pub gig with them at which point we met their manager, Alex, who offered to get us some shows in London and see how things went. As a bunch of 19-20 year olds who’d only played in the local pub or down the road in a battle of the bands, this sounded like our X-Factor moment. Before X-Factor was even a thing. What halcyon days they were.
Our first London shows weren’t that impressive, but it was fine enough playing at the Dublin Castle (first one I can remember), or getting thrown on first at dive venues, and having to drive back to Bognor with one of us folded up around the kick drum in the back of Tim’s Dad’s flower delivery van (the thing was basically lego on wheels).
“We had a gig somewhere in those first few years of things taking off with Graham Coxon in attendance and sending me text messages about how great it was (for an early Blur fan, this was quite a thing), Zane Lowe yelling ‘KILL KENADA!’ at us from a bar as we walked past, along with Gordon Raphael, and a few other minor celebrities seeming to know who we were.
Needless to say I had an anxiety attack and had to go sit down in the Camden Tesco’s toilets for twenty minutes.”
We had a gig somewhere in those first few years of things taking off with Graham Coxon in attendance and sending me text messages about how great it was (for an early Blur fan, this was quite a thing), Zane Lowe yelling ‘KILL KENADA!’ at us from a bar as we walked past, along with Gordon Raphael, and a few other minor celebrities seeming to know who we were. Needless to say I had an anxiety attack and had to go sit down in the Camden Tesco’s toilets for twenty minutes.
We actually met with the guy who signed (or at least represented) Hell is For Heroes around that time, but I don’t think it was a good fit, as we were never really a solidly ‘noughties’ emo-haircut style band. Even though we probably had some music that had the hooks worthy of a single, we would only play it for 20 seconds, then stick six other pieces to the end of it and call it a song.
I honestly don’t have too much more to say about the scene, or wave, or whatever. We were trundling around the country, in my little Volkswagen, sharing kit where we could, and sleeping on floors. Everyone else seemed to be getting wages and tour support, sound guys and big vans. We never really stopped feeling like a local band thrown into the whole thing. Any time we did any ‘proper band’ stuff (radio, TV, big gigs), I really felt like we were three starry eyed teenagers who sort of couldn’t believe it was happening.
If a venue gave us crisps and water for free, we basically felt like Led Zep. If we actually got paid enough to cover the petrol, holy shit.
Touring involved lots of sleeping in a Volvo estate, lots of ‘oh thank fuck, we have friends at Uni in this town’ sleeping on dorm/shared house floors after humping all the gear in at one in the morning and stacking it in the kitchen. Lots of kit share, lots of ‘who’s driving tonight, then?’, lots of leaving Newcastle at 12:30am and getting home around 6:30, just in time for work. Lots of riders comprised entirely of beer and crisps, lots of Ginster’s pasties being the only solid food you’d eat for two weeks, lots of changing strings.
The one thing we didn’t have lots of was a transit van. We did 99% of the touring in either Tim’s Dad’s Volvo, Tim’s Dad’s work van (for one-off shows we came back the same day on), and, mostly, whichever car I hadn’t toured into the ground that week.
We had a few dead batteries on the side of the motorway five hours from home, a few police pulling us over to enquire about our insurance (cough), and more than one instance of the bonnet flying up and covering the windscreen whilst doing 70mph on the motorway.
I’m ignoring the gigs here! They were (mostly) awesome.
2005: THE PINK ALBUM (audio)
- The Psychic Firm The Pink Album [SUBV000] 2:21
- Graveyards & Parking Lots The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:06
- Soap The Pink Album [SUBV000] 4:15
- K Screams 2 Kill The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:13
- Sado Maso The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:17
- Hit The Floor The Pink Album [SUBV000] 2:53
- Kill Konvosation The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:41
- Tear It Up The Pink Album [SUBV000] 4:36
- Choke The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:35
- Massachusetts Murder Medallions The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:55
- Red & Black The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:46
- We Got Down The Pink Album [SUBV000] 3:13
PART TWO (subtitles)
I think we did one more tune in that session (Glo Horizon), and I think this probably ended up as a b-side to something. From then on we did another session in the same studio with some older tunes and a couple of newer ones, just to see how it felt, then we moved on to do the Pink Album at Gordon’s own studio.
I’ll try and elaborate fully, but my memory kind of fails me here as we drunk a lot of absinthe while doing that record. I couldn’t tell you how many days we were there, but I think it was done in only a handful. I remember Tim standing in the hallway of this massive run-down industrial block that the studio was located in and yelling out echoed vocals for some tracks, covering each other with gaffer tape, and doing practically the whole thing live whilst hammered. I remember yanking the exhaust pipe off my car parking up on day one, and having to drive home after it was all done, holding it in one hand, driving with the other, and the whole pipe sticking out the boot of the car.
You can see a brief highlight of us re-recording Scram here:
I’m going to be honest here, because I don’t really feel that Gordon had much of an influence or production aspect to our band. He was a great engineer, for the most part, and we recorded some really ‘real’ sounding songs with him while we were young and demanding to do everything live with only one microphone and no compression etc. (we must have been a real pain to record). We never bought into the Gordon ‘Strokes’ Raphael thing, as we were quite different. I think he was just a very chill guy who didn’t tell us to reverb everything up or overproduce anything. He had a good ear for a live sound, and we just kind of rolled with it.
Sado Maso was my favourite KK song… Unfortunately, I usually picked pretty un-single-worthy tunes to champion. Bit of a weird one, because it’s another of those songs that ends up sounding like two concepts welded together. It also doesn’t really have much of a chorus, so we never got the chance to do a very disturbing video for this one. Maybe there’s some very nasty video out there that it already syncs up with? That’d be something.
Before we did the better known videos that ended up on TV, we actually did a video for Choke, filmed at Tim’s parent’s house which I honestly don’t think anyone even has a copy of any more. It was the most cringey, Busted-esque teenage ‘party’ video you can imagine. There were actual strippers there, for some reason, and we almost moshed straight through the floor of Tim’s flat.
The Red and Black video version was recorded at some studio in London as basically a demo, whereas (as mentioned above) Choke was done by Gordon on our first meeting. They sounded a little too different (the Gordon stuff was more raw and live sounding), so we re-did Red and Black when we laid down the rest of the Pink Album.
The video was done on a crazy small budget, from what I remember (which is basically why we’re in a massive, completely unfurnished studio space). Busted were next door filming for a tune about crashing a wedding or something, which is why we have a picture of them from that day (#soulpatch):
So yeah, that was one day of almost completely directionless ‘mime the song 100 times’ in a big blank cube. It was fun, and I appreciate everyone who worked for free or offered us editing etc. on the cheap.
Massachusetts had a little bit more budget, but neither this or R&B had real wardrobe or make up or anything. Any money was spent on the filming, and in MMM’s case: an actual truck driving round an airport all day with a faux alleyway constructed in the back. I have no idea how many health and safety regulations we must have broken by doing this, but around the middle of the day, the driver hit the brakes a little harder than we were expecting and Timmy and me went face first into the drum kit. I broke one of my front teeth in half (again), but that was about the extent of the damage. I got twenty minutes off while they did some Stew/Tim close ups, then we were back at it. All the flopping around you can see us doing is because the truck is swerving around all over the place.
Just to clarify: no buffets, no fluffers. I’m pretty sure we didn’t even eat on those days.
I think we may have done a gig the same night, or had just come back from a gig and subsequent party/sleep on a floor evening, which probably marks it as one of the rare ‘actual rock & roll’ things to happen to us.
2006: FLY (video)
PART THREE (subtitles)
Not sure if I covered this (I’m piecing this email together over months), but Regina was someone we were introduced to in the very early days of Gordon Raphael, as she was an unknown girl playing piano in her lounge and hitting a stool with a drumstick. She liked the Choke CD we did with Gordon, and we liked the Your Honour (and other tracks) CD she had done with him. A collaboration was set up and we went into the studio to record.
In hindsight it was probably quite stupid to turn up at some X thousand pound per day studio to record a song we hadn’t even rehearsed.
I guess in the folly of early twenties naivety we thought we’d be brainstorming ideas and turning this piano tune into some wonky Kill Kenada trademark of stitched together nonsense, but it honestly ended up as mainly power chords and screaming over the top of Regina.
It did get single of the week in the NME (which used to mean something, I guess) though, which I suppose indicated we did something well.
Ah, Gonzo on Snow. The start of this was kinda banal, our friend Chris driving us up to Milton Keynes, and then trying to navigate what is essentially a real life Sim City.
We got in and put all our gear in the ‘gear area’, then faffed around a bit. I think a band or two went on before us, then we got ten minutes or so to get on stage and check everything worked. We had no sound guy (as ever), which is why our recording sounds so massively worse than every other band (basically just being whatever went through the desk, completely unmixed). I believe Choke was the first song we played? I’m not sure there are any decent recordings of it, because my SG had a panic attack in the cold and started cutting out. Between the end of that, and the start of the second song I was frantically hitting every pedal and lead trying to work out what was going on, before saying ‘fuck it’ and trying my Jazzmaster.
Now, this guitar was not set up properly at all. Strings were half dead above the 12th fret, and it sounded massively different to the SG and needed different pedal settings etc. But whatever, on we go.
Weapons of The Night (aka Natural Born Killer) was a pretty new song at that point, and I think we changed a few parts of it, but I’d just like to give a massive shout to whatever adrenaline was pumping through Stew’s veins when we played this, because this is some of his best and most calculated drumming, and he’s playing it at approximately twice the speed we ever intended (see above).
After Tim threw himself into the crowd (camera angles make there look like a decent amount of people, but there was maybe.. 50?) we did the interview, and that was kinda it. I honestly don’t remember many of the other bands hanging around, or mingling at all. It all felt pretty sectioned off, and as explained above with us always being kinda blown away by things, I think we were just amazed we were there without trying to network or further our musical careers at all.
It’s kinda a shame, because I don’t think we ever really bumped into Million Dead on the circuit again, despite being part of that whole era.
We found a free bar, vodka, Red Bull and beer, and subsequently got completely annihilated. I remember finding a blow torch and trying to melt a full pint of lager in the car park (as you do), and Stew vomiting out of an open window on the motorway on the way back. I have no recollection of actually getting home.
2010: FROM MAGGOTS TO FLIES (audio)
- Scumbag From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 1:16
- Welcome To Hell From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 2:52
- From Maggots To Flies From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 2:57
- Real Strobe City From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 1:59
- In Your Throat From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 3:34
- Natural Born Killer From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 4:01
- The Ballad Of Nancy Walker From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 3:01
- ABC From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 3:50
- OMG From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 2:54
- Hey Man From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 3:57
- Back From Maggots To Flies (SUB003] 2:06
PART FOUR (subtitles)
In all honesty, I almost don’t feel like a part of it. The Pink Album, and demos beforehand like Choke etc. all made sense to me, but the second album… I’m almost not even aware that it was put together as an album. It just feels like we recorded ‘some stuff’ every few months, and at some point it was pasted into a mix CD.
I remember checking the Bandcamp page a while after the band had more or less dissolved and a bunch of tracks had different names, and there was an intro and outro track I’d never heard, as well as a couple of guitar overdubs I definitely didn’t do.
I think Tim and our manager had taken charge at that point and were just trying to get what we had together and polished up rather than let it all drift away.
It’s honestly less dramatic than it probably looks, but Tim and our manager had slightly bigger ambitions for the band that involved a more… streamlined song writing process whereby one of us would come in with a song more-or-less completed, and then we would embellish it as a band (how, y’know, 90% of bands probably work). I was on the fence, but Stew didn’t really like the songs that were being brought in, and didn’t feel like it made much sense to work on music we all didn’t like. I think everyone can see the points of both sides of this argument, but it’s a difficult one to resolve.
It’s fair enough from everyone’s perspective, as we’d spent the last five or so years going from little more than a covers band, to finally finding our musical feet and finding some success, but were we going to toil away in musical obscurity for another 5-10 years? Were we going to naturally smooth out the edges and go from schizophrenic songs like Red & Black / MMM to something more cohesive like Weapons of The Night? It felt like we had to make a decision, and unfortunately we didn’t all agree on the direction of the band.
“Steve Albini is an interesting guy, for sure… Rocking up in his boiler suit, sitting during recording reading some technical manual (so he’d be so bored, any mistakes in the recording/mix would ‘jump out at him’).
He was mainly a very, very good engineer, rather than a producer. You’d say ‘make it sound live’ and it’d sound live. If you had a buzz, or ground loop hum from somewhere, it’d be dealt with.
And watching him manually cut and paste bits of -physical tape- together to fix a snare or kick drum, instead of drag/dropping in pro-tools was some next level shit that I STILL don’t understand.”
By the time Stew decided it was best for him to leave, we had studio time booked with Albini to lay down some songs we weren’t all completely on-board with (I’m honestly not sure if any of these saw the light of day in the end) so we were in a bit of a pickle.
There’s no animosity between any of us. Tim and Stew were both invited to each other’s weddings over the last few years, and we all hang out when the chance occurs (me and Stew are still in Brighton, but Timmy moved to London a while back).
I even jammed with Stew for around six months or so after he left the band, before the distance got a bit much (I think I was in Brighton, and he was in… Petersfield? Or something, at the time). Sadly, another one we never had recordings of. Maybe we’ll pick it up again in another ten years.
I don’t think either of us personally knew Eldge, but he was part of the BIMM crowd (me and Tim were from Bognor, and BIMM is obviously a Brighton thing, so we weren’t very ‘in’ with them) that people we knew were friends with.
We didn’t really have that many practice sessions. Maybe, four or five and a CD of the tunes given to Eldge. He was super excited to be working with us, knew us from TV, thought we were minor celebs etc. But, again, we just felt like stupid kids. We were probably more nervous than he was at our first practice, given that I don’t think either of us had played with a drummer that wasn’t Stew since we were about 16!
Basically (and the dates are rather fuzzy here), Eldge left us around… early 2009? Then we had our friend Steve drumming for around six months, but we weren’t really gigging much, just trying to tie up new songs, recordings, loose ends. I think this is where a lot of the ‘second album’ was recorded.
Steve, unfortunately, couldn’t really commit, and so we recruited another friend, Dave (who is currently drumming in Tim’s new outfit) to help us out.
At this point we’re reaching somewhere around the end of 2009, and we took the usual Christmas break from rehearsals around mid December, at which point (December 22nd), after a couple of years of on/off incredibly bad headaches and doctor appointments, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour ~record scratch~
That ended up being taken care of in early February of 2010, but it was a very touch and go procedure; eight hours with my brain hanging out, and almost ended up with me being turned into Guy Pierce in Memento with a short term memory of five minutes, and ending up in care for the rest of my life. I was off work for three months, and then recovering for a further nine or so, and during that period I obviously couldn’t practice, or record, or really do anything, so the band just kind of… faded out.
Tim moved on to another band, but there was no push to create a new Kill Kenada, or drag existing songs into a new project.
AND THAT’S HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER!