Stopping off in Glasgow for the night the Manc 3-piece pummel the audience with thick slabs of noise and a guitar tuned to the sound of razors slicing through skin. Clad in red lycra they leer through translucent plastic masks punctuated by gaping eyes and lipless mouths. Both entrancing and unsettling a Kong show is something special. Their performance is impeccable and they hold the audience - giggling like schoolgirls at every word - in their sweaty palms. Whilst they break to change a drum skin, bassist Lulu summons ‘Gary’ from the merch stand to belt out a Bon Jovi number and stretch his foreskin out as far as he can. It’s the biggest in the world apparently.
What marks Kong out from the rest of their hardcore brethren is a true mastery of their instruments and an ingenious approach to song writing: part telekinetic jam; part assault on the senses. This is embodied in secret weapon Krem, otherwise known as Mark Heron from Oceansize. Krem is the engine of the band; relentlessly powering his fellows along with brain-straining beats as they pound punk rock into impossible shapes. Jerking in all directions these sound less like songs structured and performed than spontaneous fits of rage channeled into sound. Rather than tugging at your heartstrings Kong tear your body to pieces; tossing your entrails around and blowing bubbles in your blood.
Having at last slunk offstage, the atmosphere buzzes with the delight of the crowd, breathlessly recounting the best bits. Kong have them now.
Intrepid correspondent Thomas Hoare and myself caught up with singer/guitarist Magpie afterwards for a bit of a chin wag.
Jim - How’s the tour been so far?
M - Well we’re only two days in so it’s alright. We’re off to play a festival in the moors somewhere. Uh… Skipton, that’s it.
Thomas - No way, that’s in Yorkshire, innit? Have you played a gig in Barrow-in-Furness?
M - We haven’t done yet but we play there on the 14th at The Canteen. Sounds like part of a school which would be pretty good actually.
T - That’s where I‘m from. It’s a pretty interesting place. Really weird. It’s famous for making nuclear submarines.
M - We could go and see some submarines?
T - Yeah man, have you heard of Trident?
M - Toothpaste?
T - More or less.
M - Trident is a fuckin’ toothpaste! Oh no, Spearmint! Spuggy! Fuckin’ chewing gum. So yeah, the tour’s fuckin’ good. We’ve done two days and two young men have had their willies out.
T - Yeah, I enjoyed the foreskin.
M - Oh Gary! He saw us play in Preston last night and was so wasted. He had seven litres of cider, crawled in our van and woke up in Glasgow.
J - Did you know he was there?
M - Oh yeah. We’ve got him selling our t-shirts. He woke up this morning and was like, “How long am I away for?” We’re like “9 days” and he says “Oh no” (whimpers). He got on the phone and rang his boss and said “I’ve got some bad news.. I got really wasted and I climbed on a tourbus and now I’m not in the country.” It is the truth but it sounds so fuckin, unreal! He’s like a cocktail bar guy, he does (gesticulates with hands) cocktails and all that. So day 1 and 2 have been alright and now we’re in Glasgow which is fucking phenomenal! Got lots of friends here.
J - I seen you played here at the Stag and Dagger festival in May.
M - In Sleazys? That was alright but I think we were fucking drunk that day.
J - You were downing a drink after each song.
M - Some shows get ropey with Jack Daniels but I think we’re trying to stop that as much now.
T - Is it not hard on tour? Y’know, day after day?
M - Well, Europe was bad because they treat you like gods over there. Krem (drummer) doesn’t drink Jack Daniels but me and Lulu; we’d put it on cornflakes if we could. We were literally getting two litres of Jack Daniels on our rider every day for three weeks. We were drinking a litre before fucking sound check and we were the support act so you were either seriously pissed or beginning your hangover just as you were about to play. So you’d start nailing the second bottle of Jack Daniels and you’d be super fucking high again. But only for about 30-40 minutes. It was hell after a while.
T - You’ve got some quite provocative artwork. Who does that then?
M - Well, I’ve always done all of our T-shirts, all of our record covers, all of our posters, all of our passes. The only one I didn’t do was ‘Blood of a Dove.’ That was Joby J Ford (of The Bronx) who did that. I do artwork for a bunch of bands: Future of the Left, Biffy Clyro.
J - So what‘s happening with your new record? Have you started recording?
M - Well, the thing is there’s lots of material. We jam out for a long time and get lots and lots and lots of recordings. Then Krem takes them apart and finds the really odd bits that maybe I wouldn’t pick, and puts them together. It takes a while but you think: “Fuckin’ hell! He was right there.” So we do a lot of that and then there’s the other style of writing songs where I basically bring the guitar riff and I’ve got an idea of how I want it to go and then the other two just smash it into a million fuckin’ pieces and I’ve got to relearn it. We do that quite quick, so some of the new songs like ‘Rat Lab’ and ‘Ribbons’ come together pretty fast. We’ve got a lot of stuff we wanna put on it. J - And are you gonna do it the same way you did the first one? Record it live?
M - Yeah yeah. Up to now the only way we can represent this fucking music is just to play it in a room together. Because we have to tour on next to no money there’s no way you can be ambitious. Even to add an extra member into the band would just add an extra dimension. Its not even plausible. You’ve just got to be able to play what your record is.
J - So is it you guys actually doing the recording or do you have an engineer? Do you know much about recording and stuff?
M - Oh yeah we all fucking know about recording. Big time. We all know what we want. We recorded the first record three times with three different people and they all had their own idea of how it would be to record us, and it just never worked out at all. Then we stumbled across this guy called Robert Whiteley who made some records that we really like: That Fucking Tank and Kill Yourself. They were and still are amazing records. The Kill Yourself album is just unreal for when it was recorded. We were just like “We want a bit of that.” You know it’s just a band in a room somewhere. We just recorded a new single ourselves in the studio we share with Oceansize and then sent it to him and he just fuckin’ made it bombastic. I think it’s coming out in December on 10″. They wanted to put another Brew band (Kong’s label) on it so they chose Castrovalva. They asked us to pick another band to be on it so we picked Shield Your Eyes who are the best fucking band in the world right now. Fucking nobody’s near them motherfuckers. Out! Of! This! Fuckin’! World! I fully love and endorse everything they’re doing right now. Three albums in three years. Solo records in between. They stink, they smell really bad. And the other band is That Fucking Tank. They’re just… People should know who TFT are! They used to be quite crazy but now they’re these grumpy middle-aged Yorkshiremen. I like them even more.
J - So what’s the second album gonna sound like. Is it more/less of anything? A different direction?
M - I don’t know. It’s really funny because I can’t really compare it to anything. I don’t really like much music and I don’t really listen to much fuckin’ music. I’m being honest, I don’t. So it’s hard for me to compare it to anything other than us. But I can’t say it’s more of anything. Up to now, the idea for it is to be heavier, so you can move to it more. It’s not simpler fuck’s sake. It still fries my fucking brains out. But I think it’s gonna be more bombastic, and fuckin’ bsssssh! There’s not as much screaming going on. It’s more just torture, just moaning like “aaauuuugghhh!” Just letting it come out. I don’t know. It’s weird.
T - I’ve read a lot of reviews about Kong and the band you get compared to every time is Fugazi. Are you happy about that?
M - Of course, I’m happy. No! I’m unhappy. I like to be compared to them because they were an independent punk rock band who put out very simple, very simply recorded records that were fuckin’ unreal and toured it on their own label and stuck with it! But musically I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t think Kong sounds a bit like Fugazi, especially because Fugazi to me is straight sounding guitar with jazzy punk drums and that’s totally not what we do at all.
J - I think most writers covering you are struggling to think of something to say.
M - Yeah, they just copy everybody else. Everybody says Shellac and Fugazi. That just because of Steve Albini’s sound. Most of my peers and friends - and me - are just like “Oh fuck we wanna make an Albini record.” There’s that connection because Rob kinda works like Albini. He’s a microphone freak and we’re all gear freaks.
J - I just find it lazy. When we’re writing we always try not to compare bands with other bands. Unless you really have to, y’know.
M - Yeah I guess maybe if you were ever gonna do that it would be so you didn’t isolate the band. So you could recommend Shield Your Eyes and That Fucking Tank as part of the same scene. Ox Scapula from Stoke are another fucking unreal band. It’s these bands you find on the road. What they’re doing is really inspiring. Not musically but how they’re doing it, and you end up crossing paths. It’s mad how you’re nowhere near each other in the grand scheme of things but something just makes you go “Fuckin’ hell! I’m glad I met you because your band’s unreal.” I won’t listen to radio, I don’t watch TV at all. I listen to Rolling Stones records and old fucking blues records on 12” vinyl and I love music that way. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Just need to get some more 12”s coming out. I can’t say much about it but there will be Kong on vinyl.
J - The only way I could describe your music - and I’m not saying it’s what you’re trying to do - is like punk with the emphasis on musicianship and dispensing with any pretensions about talent not mattering. Is that something you’d agree with?
M - Yeah’ I guess. When there’s three of you in a band you’ve all got to be on it and work really well together. And we do. We all play quite well I guess. I mean I might put 5 strings on my guitar next year, who fucking knows. But at the moment I don’t know if I would consider myself a great musician. I can make parts up pretty quick. I think that’s my trick: coming up with something really quick and then just sticking with it.
J - I guess the chemistry between the three of you is more important than the individual members.
M - Yeah, it’s funny though. When you’re actually rehearsing there’s very little of that. You’re just in your own zone because you have concentrate. A lot! And then after that you’ve got it. I mean we’ve been playing this shit for a long time now, especially the ‘Snake Magnet’ material. I could play it while jerking off y’know. Whacking one out over Front magazine, blowing my nose and wiping my arse on a burger and still play the fuckin’ songs. They’re second nature now. You can go a little bit looser on them.
J - Night night Magpie.
M - Night Night.