Kid Congo has his cake and eats it
KNOXVILLE GIRLS with the TiJuana BiBles at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Sunday (May 13). $9. 416-968-2001.
as guitarist of choice for the cult-rock dark side, the Knoxville Girls’ Kid Congo Powers can be counted on to add a sleazy sizzle to the mix.
His role in the Gun Club — much like his work with Lydia Lunch, the Cramps and the Bad Seeds, right through to his current boys-night-out debauchery with bruising New York buddies Jerry Teel, Bob Bert, Jack Martin and Barry London — has been as the six-string foil for an over-the-top microphone abuser.
But that’s about to change with the release of the No Comprendo (Matador) album by electro-trash tyrant Khan.
The highly entertaining collaborative project, in which Khan provides the seductively squelchy accompaniment for the salacious thoughts of guest vocalists Diamanda Galas, Andre Williams, Julee Cruise, Jon Spencer and others, can be seen as Powers’ coming-out party as a singer. At least his tracks, Why Hurt Flesh and Vaseline, mark the first session in which Powers hasn’t been paid to play guitar and keep his mouth shut.
“Khan saw me doing a show with the glammy band I front — which is kinda like Leonard Cohen goes disco,” explains Powers from upstate New York, “and asked me if I’d like to do a couple of songs for his new record. He had the tracks finished — I just wrote some lyrics that, um, I thought would be appropriate for Khan, and sang them.
“Everything worked out so well, I’ve been spending time with him in Mexico, where he’s now producing an album for me.”
Before Powers finishes recording with Khan, he plans to release a collection of home recordings and outtakes from past sessions that will show he’s been developing his vocal chops for decades, albeit strictly on the down-low.
“I’m finally getting over telling people that I don’t consider myself a singer, because, well, I am. Since I started going through my old tapes, I’ve found a lot of stuff that I’d just recorded for myself and then put away. I’ve always had so many other things on the go — different bands and recording projects — I never had any time to focus on my own work.
“This compilation, which I’m thinking of calling El Kid, should be ready to go soon. I just need to get permission to use a few tracks I did with Die Haut, Nick Cave and the Cramps.”
In the meantime, Powers will continue having a blast with the travelling rock and roll circus that is the Knoxville Girls.
“You can get so wrapped up in trying to make artistic statements that you sometimes forget that music is supposed to be about having fun. I really like being the scientist and exploring new sounds, but there are times when it’s better to just be a chocolate cake.”