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Midnight Sun: Koffin Kats talk psychobilly
Last week I headed down to The Pub in Yuma's historic North End to catch a performance by the Koffin Kats, a psychobilly-punk band from Detroit.
The three members are Vic Victor on upright bass and lead vocals, Eric “Ballman” Walls on percussion and vocals, and Ian Jarrell on guitar and vocals.
They were sitting at the bar when I walked in and agreed to give me an interview before playing their gig. Here is what they said:
CM: "Koffin Kats?"
Vic Victor: "It was something a tattoo artist buddy of mine ... him and I were sitting around drinking one day and we just came up with it..."
Ian Jarrell: "It's part of the formula. You take something evil and something cool."
CM: "You play psychobilly?"
VV: "We are a punk band with an upright bass."
CM: "You are from Detroit?"
VV: "Yeah. We are doing another U.S. tour. This is like our ninth."
CM: "Why punk rock?"
EW: "It's what we grew up listening to. It's what influenced us and what we loved. You've got to do what you love or it's not worth it."
CM: "A lot of punk has gone mainstream pop-ie. What do you have to say about that?"
EW: "Everything is whatever. It's all in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to music, and you are going to get all kinds of creations."
CM: "Is your music original?"
VV: "We are like 95 percent original. We throw in a classic cover here and there like a Stray Cats song ..."
CM: "Why the ’50s style?"
VV: "We cater a lot to the hot-rod culture. That is where our music is located around."
CM: "Beautiful classic cars, pinups and ...?"
IJ: "... Alcohol!"
VV: "It's mostly alcohol. Some bands focus more on the classic cars and pinups, and we focus more on the alcohol and the party."
CM: "Any albums?"
VV: "We’ve got five."
CM: "How do people get a hold of them?"
EW: "You can order them through us at KoffinKatsRock.com or through us at a show."
CM: "When did your newest album come out?"
EW: "October of ’09. It's about brand new."
CM: "What makes your punk rock unique?"
EW: "It's just us. I think anything we do is the Koffin Kats sound, and even though we morph our sound, it's Koffin Kats. It's just what we created."
VV: "There isn't a single band we listen to that we have immediately wanted to copy. We draw from all of our influences."
IJ: "We listen to everything."
VV: "... If you are going to put all your time and effort into it, then you should make it original."
I was excited to see some live punk rock. There used to be a good punk scene in Yuma, but it died some time ago. That was back when I was in high school playing for such punk bands as the Dirty Messy Cans, The Stonecutters and Smokin' Joe. I miss those days ...
Anyway, soon after the interview, the trio took the floor to perform. There isn't a stage at The Pub, so the band plays pretty much in the crowd, which makes it a very personal experience.
I was in the front row of a very colorful crowd. The ’50-era greaser guy and pinup girl fashion are in, and the ladies at the event were dressed to the nines. That is a classy era, which I admire. Hard drinkin’, fist fightin' and car lovin’, but always respectful to the ladies.
Koffin Kats gave probably the best performance I have seen in Yuma, and that includes the big names that have come through town, so that is saying something. They brought a barbarous energy to the stage, and Vic's vocals reminded me of Count Dracula - if he could sing. The man has a voice and it rang true.
Their enthusiasm was contagious as they played their frantic songs. Ian's guitar licks were spot on as Vic's nimble fingers swept up and down the large fret board of his upright bass.
There is nothing like the sound of a good upright. Electric bass just can't capture the beefiness of it. Their drummer was also ridiculous with his skills. If you ever watch a punk rock drummer, you'll be amazed at the speed they are moving, and even though Eric was playing at breakneck speed, it was still on tempo.
What most stood out on top of the great music was the performance. It wasn't a bunch of dudes standing around drearily. Vic tossed and twirled his bass, which is no small feat, and even stood on top of the thing while playing it. Very sick, in the words of my generation.
They gave me a copy of their new album, "Forever For Hire," and I have been listening to it nonstop ever since. I thought they were amazing, but they may not be appropriate for the older crowd. The music is testosterone-filled and ear-piercing.
The album pumps me up like an anthem preparing me for a war. What war, you ask? Life. And that is what I like about the Koffin Kats. Music to gear you up for your daily battle.
They should be back in town in the fall, so check them out if you don't mind loud, fast-paced music.
See you next week under the midnight sun...