Unpublished Interview of Dan Kilian by Todd E. Jones

As I clean out my hard drive, I found this interview. This guy Todd wanted to interview The Ks for his music blog. Sent me these questions and I wrote up wordy answers and sent them back, but I guess he’d lost interest by then. I think The Ks deserve the press, so here is the full Todd E. Jones interview.TODD E. JONES: What goes on?

DANIEL KILIAN: Many good things. The Ks are all pretty stoked to have this new CD out. It still sounds good to me, the band’s gotten really tight live, and we’re ready to take over the world one block at a time. Reading a good book, Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, listening to the new Spoon, and consuming lots of pop culture and food.

TODD E. JONES: Tell us about the debut The Ks album, ‘Can’t Get It Together’.

DANIEL KILIAN: It’s almost a greatest hits album for me. When we put the new version of the band together, the bandleader (who soon left the band—still writes some lovely horn arrangements for us) had a number of my songs in mind for both the full horn section version and the raw-Ks, and the songs ranged from new tunes to old, to really old. We recorded a song The Mosquito which I played back when I lived in Louisville Kentucky with this band The Uglies.

TODD E. JONES: Favorite song on the ‘Can’t Get It Together’?

DANIEL KILIAN: The first one that comes to mind is ‘The Man in Black.’ It’s a little clever, hopefully not obnoxiously so, in reducing Hamlet into so much teen angst. I think there’s a good chorus and some key lines getting the Shakespeare reduced “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” becomes “More going on than you could dream.” It’s not a proper substitute for seeing the play, of course. And it’s a rocker; got to like the rockers.

I’m also fond of ‘Dad’s Gone to Baghdad’ which deals with my Dad’s death, and the nightmare we’re in overseas. In my wild dreams it transforms the lies of the Bush administration into the dream of the afterlife for my Dad. Trying to be hopeful, not sarcastic. It might just come off as a light protest song, which I think my Dad would be okay with. Our sax-man Jon Laserbeams Mossberg put some nice harmonies on that and I think it ends the album on a nice gentle touch. Kind of a Her Majesty if this was our Abbey Road.

TODD E. JONES: How is this new album different than your last album?

DANIEL KILIAN: In almost every way. The last album ‘Skunk’ was recorded with a very different version of the band in California, by the great Billy Burke at loveless motel room. That band always teetered on the brink of misery, while there was a much happier vibe between the players this time around. We did this one in Gowanus, at Seizures Palace. The also great Jason LaFarge helmed this one. We did get Billy Burke to master it, and it would not be The Ks if Ray The Razor Beyda wasn’t there on the guitar. Got to have Ray. Both albums are good, I think, and both were recorded live in the studio over a couple of days, with some overdubs. Songs are shorter on this one.

TODD E. JONES: How did you get involved with Flatware Productions? Is this your own label?

DANIEL KILIAN: It is our own ‘label’ for self release. I’ve been using ‘Flatware Productions’ as a name for publishing ever since I was in The Uglies. The first album we released back then was called ‘Spoon’ so Patrick Fitzgerald, our bass player then, dubbed our output ‘Flatware Productions,’ and I’ve stuck with it, mostly as a tribute to my buddy Pat, and I guess to stay consistent.

TODD E. JONES: One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘Good Man (Most The Time)’. What was the inspiration behind this track? What is it about?

DANIEL KILIAN: That’s a real ‘songwriting’ song, almost country, if it wasn’t poppy-soul. It’s like a sonnet in the way the structure can really make it easy to write. Just a key phrase good man…most of the time and then I just need verses and a bridge. That one just spat out of me, easily, I seem to recall. I don’t remember writing most of my songs. They all feel like covers after a few days. I guess I was thinking that I’m a pretty good boyfriend, though not always. I think it’s something most men can relate to. A song of flawed commitment.

TODD E. JONES: How did you meet the members and eventually form The Ks?

DANIEL KILIAN: Well, I was working on a side project, Pleasure Mechanics, from the original Ks which included a horn section. The kids seemed to like it, so I was all Why are we doing this as a side project? The original idea was to take half of The Ks and half the Pleasure Mechanics, unknown-supergroup it and proceed, but we ended up having to replace just about everyone pretty quickly, mostly through craigslist.com. Ray was in the first band I was in New York, and we stayed friends until we brought him in as a substitute guitarist for The original Ks, and thank goodness he stayed.

TODD E. JONES: Who is the person in the wheelchair?

DANIEL KILIAN: It’s a pretty ridiculous photo, really. The actual bass player on the record isn’t there, and the guy on the left isn’t even in the band. The guy in the wheelchair is the perfectly able-bodied Jon Laserbeams Mossberg, of the alto sax. None of these nick-names has really stuck too much. Early on, there were four different guys in the band named Dave, so it seemed important to have nick names, but I’m really the only one who uses them, with the exception of Soup, aka Dave Campbell, the drummer, heart and soul of the band. That’s him in the center, his face obliterated by the CD holder. We’re in our rehearsal space, grabbing whatever looked interesting and not working hard enough on our band photo.

TODD E. JONES: What is the creative process like? Do you make the music first or do you start out with a set theme or lyrics?

DANIEL KILIAN: Usually I’ve got a key phrase, and that’s got a melody. I’m guessing the words make what melody I’ve got almost inevitable. I just grunt Dig dog, dig down dig down and I’ve got the phrase. Everything else is just songwriting problem solving after that. What chords go under that phrase? What kind of verse explains the meaning of it? That phrase isn’t really a chorus, need to make it a line in a verse or the bridge, write a chorus. The first verse and chorus usually spit out pretty quick if the song’s any good.

TODD E. JONES: The album includes many themes of addiction, alcoholism, and struggling through life. How true are these themes in you life compared to the way things are in the album?

DANIEL KILIAN: There’s a lot of fiction in there. I was amazed at how many booze references there are. I think it might just be a songwriting conceit to explain the blues with liquor. A lot of embarrassing memories come from drunken moments, which can be ‘inspiring.’ I often turn one thing into another, so that it’s autobiographical to me through my personal mythology, but not taken straight from the song. Not being organized turns into drunkenness. A metaphor might be the album cover: I make a picture of a guy who ‘can’t get it together,’ so to convey that I make him passed out with a bottle, and then the guy making the album cover Photoshop’s the bottle for some extra design on the back cover, and that’s how the myth of my life of addiction spreads. That and all the drinking, of course.

TODD E. JONES: One of the best songs on the album, ’13 Steps’ deals with alcoholism. Do you still drink? How has alcohol influenced your music?

DANIEL KILIAN: Well, the song is about the 13th step: drinking again, at least so I thought. After I’d written the tune, my apartment mate at the time, Jeff Nichols (on whom the upcoming movie ‘Trainwreck: My Life as an Idiot’ is based) who’d actually been on the program told me the 13th step was getting laid. I almost had to scrap the tune, but I just rewrote the second verse.

I often thought I might end up one of those drunken artists, but I find I drink less and less. Wine and hard liquor give me killer hangovers, so I’m strictly beer, and not so much anymore. Except this last weekend, which was ridiculous.

TODD E. JONES: How did you overcome your addictions?

DANIEL KILIAN: I’m sorry, I’m really too wasted to answer this question.

TODD E. JONES: Do you (or did you) do drugs? Which ones? If so, how did you stop?

DANIEL KILIAN: Kids, don’t do drugs. They slow you down and make you tedious.

TODD E. JONES: What is your opinion on the 12 step programs? A.A.?

DANIEL KILIAN: I prefer the DTs.

TODD E. JONES: Who is Eliza Lynn?

DANIEL KILIAN: Eliza Lynn is a girl with a four syllable name. That’s one I knew had to be a name, and had the melody underneath, and it had to flow just right. I was walking around humming different names for a long time on that one. I often do what I call Turning my problems into teenage girls. Every song can’t be about being broke, so I shift the pain. I suppose she’s every demanding femme fetale I’ve experienced or imagined. She is my ‘dark lady.’ The slow, ‘Saloon’ version came first and then we souped it up for the ‘bar’ version. Yeah, I guess I really do want everyone to think I’m an alcoholic.

TODD E. JONES: The song ‘Election Night’ is magnificent. Politically, what do you think about the current state of our country?

DANIEL KILIAN: Counting down the days until he’s gone. W will be seen as an aberration and we’ll eventually undo a lot of the damage he’s caused. I hope.

The current state is soooo depressing, because the problems we face (global climate change, genocide, Islamic fanatics) are really going to require greatness. The idea that we might elect Hillary Clinton scares me, or that she might lose to some lobbyist hack like Thompson for 4-8 more years of denial. Some pandering caretaker isn’t going to cut it. We need to go out on a limb, and start investing in the technology we need to go green so that it’s actually there, not just a bunch of cap-and-trade and rhetoric during the next oil price gouge.

Also, do you think Hillary will keep from killing people?

I love elections, but without real election reforms it’s going to be more of the kinds of policy wherein we all know we need Universal Health care, but no real contenders can imagine it without the insurance companies. Fie!

TODD E. JONES: Musically, what else have you been working on?

DANIEL KILIAN: We’ve got enough new material for a new album, something a little darker than this last one. We’ve just made this album, and the money is…not so good, so that’s going to be a ways off. I’ve written some short rock operas, so if we get desperate for audience, we might put together a big production at a black box somewhere downtown.

TODD E. JONES: Word association. When I say a name, you say the first word that pops into your head. So, if I say, ‘The Velvet Underground’, you may say ‘Lou Reed’, ‘Heroin’, or ‘Andy Warhol’. Okay?

DANIEL KILIAN: Okay.

TODD E. JONES: Television Personalities.

DANIEL KILIAN: Worse.

TODD E. JONES: Felt.

DANIEL KILIAN: Plush

TODD E. JONES: The Dandy Warhols.

DANIEL KILIAN: Oh these are bands! I’m not too terribly hip, am I? I saw that movie with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. Dandy Warhols…inaccurate comparison?

TODD E. JONES: Pixies.

DANIEL KILIAN: Love.

TODD E. JONES: Momus.

DANIEL KILIAN: Novelty?

TODD E. JONES: Severed Heads.

DANIEL KILIAN: Google?

TODD E. JONES: Roxy Music.

DANIEL KILIAN: Avalon.

TODD E. JONES: The Velvet Underground.

DANIEL KILIAN: Lou Reed.

TODD E. JONES: The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

DANIEL KILIAN: Retro. We’re retro too, but I like to think of us as stealing rather than imitating.

TODD E. JONES: Spiritualized.

DANIEL KILIAN: Pink Floyd. Not really fair, but that’s the word association. I like Spiritualized.

TODD E. JONES: Close Lobsters.

DANIEL KILIAN: Delicious? Google?

TODD E. JONES: Joy Division.

DANIEL KILIAN: Downbeat?

TODD E. JONES: Happy Mondays.

DANIEL KILIAN: Black Grape.

TODD E. JONES: Stone Roses.

DANIEL KILIAN: I like that Messiah She’s My Sister song.

TODD E. JONES: The Fall.

DANIEL KILIAN: Pavement. Don’t forget The Beatles, The Clash, Tom Waits, Spoon, Elliot Smith, Belle and Sebastian, The Rolling Stones and Neil Young

TODD E. JONES: George Bush.

DANIEL KILIAN: Handcuffs.

TODD E. JONES: Where were you during the September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it?

DANIEL KILIAN: I was working downtown in the financial district. I ended up walking home. Our office was closed down for like a month, and then we were in this temporary space, and then we finally went back downtown, and it smelled bad for a year. I became a news junkie and I wrote a song about a dead bird. Also, I invaded Iraq. Seriously, that stuff combined with the fact that I hated my job to begin with really made me miserable to work with. Fortunately, I was laid off during a big merger and acquisition bleed-off, making me part of history yet again.

TODD E. JONES: Are you in a romantic relationship now?

DANIEL KILIAN: I am in love with a beautiful girl.

TODD E. JONES: Tell me about how and why you named the band, The K’s.

DANIEL KILIAN: We’d been named Connecticut, for a while which is where I grew up. Also, we connected and we cut. People didn’t know how to spell the name of the state next door, and it was 11 letters long, which was too long, caused problems. One letter seemed better. Simple. Same sounds, Ka Ka Ka KA! Also, it stands for Kings of Rock. We decided for simplicity sake that we wouldn’t use an apostrophe. No one seems to get that.

TODD E. JONES: What is the meaning behind the title of the album, ‘Can’t Get It Together’?

DANIEL KILIAN: And there’s an apostrophe in the title of our own album! We really can’t get it together!

‘Skunk’ named itself: There was a skunk frequenting the site of loveless motel while we recorded, and it really captured our imagination. This one didn’t have an obvious title, so we went with a variation on the leadoff track, which seemed to spell out how a lot of us felt.

TODD E. JONES: What is the biggest misconception do you think that people have about you?

DANIEL KILIAN: That I’m cynical. The biggest misconception people have about The Ks is that we’re willing to play a local gig on a Sunday night.

TODD E. JONES: Where did you grow up? What kind of kid were you?

DANIEL KILIAN: West Hartford, the suburb of the world. I made my mother cry.

TODD E. JONES: What was the last dream you remember?

DANIEL KILIAN: I was at the apartment of this girl I went to high school with, and she had a really huge apartment with a hair salon built into it. Her husband had a wing full of guitars and gear. It was weird because I never paid this girl much thought, and I’m not a big guitar gear head.

TODD E. JONES: What was the worst date you ever had?

DANIEL KILIAN: My prom. I became incommunicative and couldn’t talk to my date. I still cringe, thinking about it.

TODD E. JONES: Do you think success and credibility are mutually exclusive?

DANIEL KILIAN: Hell no. The odds are getting fat for either, though.

TODD E. JONES: What have you been listening to in the last couple of days?

DANIEL KILIAN: The new Spoon, Ryan Adam’s ‘Heartbreaker,’ LCD Soundsystem ‘Sounds of Silver’, Tom Waits’s Orphans, Bonnie Prince Billie, ‘I See a Darkness’ and the first Violent Femmes record. Actually it’s been more than a couple of days since I’ve listened to LCD Soundsystem or Tom Waits, but I’ve been listening to them a lot recently, and I’m trying to get cool points for that.

TODD E. JONES: What else do you do besides music?

DANIEL KILIAN: I’m a receptionist at an art shipping company. People need better phone manners, by the way. I sculpt. Lately my materials are rubber bands, plastic bags with tape, or string. I also write. For my latest writing gig I pretend that I’m the Pope for newsgroper (Note: I obviously write for K Log now. Newsgroper treated me shabbily).

TODD E. JONES: Will there be another The K’s album?

DANIEL KILIAN: Eventually. Can’t Get It Together’s going to have to hold you for a while though.

Editor’s Note: Look for Love and Other Monsters (Working Title) coming out in 2010.

TODD E. JONES: What’s next?

DANIEL KILIAN: We play Arlene’s Grocery on the 26th of this month, here in New York. Mailing out CDs.

TODD E. JONES: Final words?

DANIEL KILIAN: Get into The Ks. Go to their shows and buy their products. You can always take away, you can never add on. Thank you.

–Todd E. Jones, though he didn’t really do most of the work. What happened Todd?

Editor’s note: Todd recently got in touch with us again! Apologized for never following up on the interview; Things were going on. All is good Todd! We shall contact you again!

Bob Dylan

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