The Kills with the VUe at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Monday (July 21). $8.50. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
From the blaring belligerence of the Kills' Keep On Your Mean Side (Rough Trade/Sanctuary), you'd expect the guitar-gouging duo of Jamie "Hotel" Hince and Alison "VV" Mosshart to be spitting pure venom all day long. After spending a few hours defending the sonic brutality of their delightfully demented debut to the press, it seemed likely they'd be at their surly best when I ring their Manhattan hotel room for my interview. So imagine my surprise when Hince pleasantly opens our conversation with an apology for Mosshart's absence.
This being 2 pm, it's totally understandable. I imagine Mosshart hasn't yet returned from the previous night's debauchery and is probably at this very moment lying semi-conscious in a Bowery dumpster covered in someone else's blood. Evidently, there's no need to call the paramedics or a coroner just yet.
"Actually," clarifies the soft-spoken Hince, "Alison's mum and dad are up from Florida, so I think she's taking them out to the theatre for a matinee."
What? That doesn't sound like the menacing Kills shouter I know from scorching blues breakdowns like Fuck The People, Black Rooster, Fried My Little Brains and Cat Claw. But then again, every time I've bumped into Cramps frontman Lux Interior at a record store he's always been calm, cool and collected - the complete antithesis of the frothing-mouthed madman I've seen rolling around naked in black pumps at shows.
There's something to be said for creating an exciting stage persona. Why shouldn't Mosshart be able to go out to see The Lion King with the folks on a Sunday afternoon and then fashion her hair into Danzig-like devil locks and growl malevolently for the Kills all night long?
Before hooking up with Hince, formerly with UK alt-rock power trio Scarfo, Mosshart was singing for J Church-style pop-punk outfit Discount, whose claim to infamy was releasing a Billy Bragg tribute EP, Like Billy, that Hince released in England on his Impresario label. Clearly, it hasn't been all mean all the time for Mosshart.
"Truthfully, I don't like Billy Bragg at all, and I never really enjoyed Discount's music all that much either. But I thought Alison was a great singer and an incredible front-person. She'd written these amazing songs but wouldn't perform them until I met her and kept on haranguing her to play them.
"It might sound odd, but working together didn't initially occur to us. We were just encouraging each other's interests in music, film, photography and screenprinting. We both felt bands had become generic forms designed to release albums, then tour to support them. We were more interested in a celebration of art, and the Kills concept developed naturally out of that."
Rather than simply run from city to city supporting Keep On Your Mean Side, Hince and Mosshart are documenting their current tour - which continues through Japan and Australia before finishing in the U.S. later this year - with daily Polaroid snaps and plans for an exhibit, a book and perhaps even an animated film.
"We've got lots of cameras with us, some SX-70s included, and we're taking loads of documentary stills constantly. We've got this loose notion of presenting an image each on our Web site (www.thekills.tv) every day as a sort of pictorial tour diary.
"Today I've been taking shots of what's showing on the various pay-TV channels in our room. There's some freaky stuff happening."