Posted on Mar 10th 2010 11:58AM by Evan Minsker at Spinner.com:
Even if you haven't heard 'Dracula Boots,' the 2009 album by Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, there's still a very good chance that you've heard Kid Congo Powers' music before. Powers, the former guitarist with the Cramps, the Gun Club and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, is releasing five 7-inch singles in a subscription series called 'Ten Greasy Pieces' and is currently finishing his memoir. Kid Congo talked to Spinner about the voodoo in his rhythm and dancing the hoochie-coo.
How did the Pink Monkey Birds project start?
The Pink Monkey Birds has gone through many gestations through the past five or six years, maybe longer. But the current version came when I moved out of New York, because my partner got a job in Washington, D.C., where we live now. It was the end of an era sort of thing. But I had just put out a record on a label called New York Night Train, which is run by a friend of mine named Jonathan Toubin. He is from Austin, Texas, and he just kept saying, "Kid, you have to have a Texas rhythm section." So he recommended the bass player, Kiki [Solis]. Ron Miller, who's the drummer, he had just run into. That was probably 2007. The minute I played with the two of them, we all just kind of looked at each other and were like, "Oh, my God, we haven't even learned two songs and it's already incredible!"
How would you describe your sound?
We sound pretty good [laughs]. Just kidding! We get big points on 'American Bandstand' because it has a good beat and you can dance to it. I wanted to make music that was as simple as possible. When I was in The Cramps, what they were trying to get at and what I really understood about them, was they talked about rhythm being like voodoo. Something else takes over when you play it. One prime example is Bo Diddley. That's what all my favorite things are. So we're definitely trying to get some magic out of rhythm, and the idea is to create something simple that creates a new language.
Where did the name "Kid Congo Powers" come from?
That was my Cramps name. I didn't have it before I was in the Cramps. They were like, "You have to have a Cramps name," because it's kind of like a game. I had all these names and I had friends writing lists and Lux [Interior] and I were writing lists, and so we got together with all our lists. Originally, because Bryan Gregory was whose place I was taking, and my actual name is Brian, so I said, "Well maybe my name should be Bryan Gris Gris." But they didn't think that was so funny because they were really mad at him. But Lux had this candle on his mantle, and it was a Congo candle, and on it, it said, "When you light this candle, Congo Powers will be revealed to you." "Congo Powers, that's a great name!" So that was it. And on my list, I had a bunch of "Kids," because I thought it was like a boxer or a pirate.
You're working on a memoir. Could you share a story from the book?
I had my very first punk rock boyfriend in 1978 who lived in San Francisco. I was living in L.A., and I went up to San Francisco because the Sex Pistols were playing. So we went and that was all great and crazy, and then of course I had to stay there for a few days, and my relationship ended. The Sex Pistols broke up, my relationship ended -- it was terrible. I got in this car and there's a huge rainstorm going on. So we decided that we were going to drive back to Los Angeles one evening. The roads were all closed and it was flooded on the highway. So we said, "Oh, we know our way back through the hills." So we're driving the hills and it's raining and getting worse and worse. There was nowhere to stop, but someone said, "I have to piss." So we got out of this van and we just heard this complete rumble of sound, and we realized it was an avalanche. We jumped under the van and just heard the roar of the train going by. And then we heard it stop. We got up, we looked out, and probably 15 feet in front of us was a wall of rocks about 10 feet high. So we turned around and went back to San Francisco.
What are some of your influences?
I've been listening a lot to this radio show online called Intoxica Radio. This DJ, Howie Pyro, who's an old friend of mine, runs a podcast and it's live on Tuesday nights. It's mostly '60s stuff and it's kind of novelty records but also rock 'n' roll records and crazy, obscure garage rock to R&B to pop. He has an incredible collection and he always has weird themes, like "In the Jungle." I've also been collecting so many 45s that I've become a DJ, somehow. Those are more party records -- mostly '50s, '60s stuff.
How about guilty pleasures?
Guilty pleasures? Wow. I don't really have any guilt [laughs]. I just got a single of 'Lady Bump,' by Penny [McLean]. That's a really terrible song, but I really love it. I'm embarrassed to say I like it.
What's your biggest vice?
Hmmm, I don't drink, I don't smoke -- I do dance the hoochie-coo, but I don't know if I consider that a vice. My vice is probably kombucha tea. I'm addicted to it. It's a healthy addiction, though.
What's in your festival survival kit?
Earplugs, aspirin, and a fake ID [laughs].