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INTERVIEWS : Kitchens of Distinction interviews
Krew" - Sounds, June 30 1990
"The Kooky Krew"
"We were amazed when we saw pictures from the last Anti-Poll Tax march in London.
"There were all these people with, spiky hair, hurling bricks, and a load of them were wearing 'Elephantine' T-shirts!"
Despite his obvious mirth at relating this little anecdote, Kitchens Of Distinction bassist, vocalist and raconteur Patrick Fitzgerald seems genuinely surprised by his band's ever expanding popularity.
But after last year s glorious 'Love Is Hell' debut LP and the nonchalant genius of the 'Elephantine' EP, it's difficult to believe that this resonant British power trio should retain any doubts about their ability.
But Kitchens guitar maestro Julian Swales soon reasserts their true belief.
"Of course, we're actually much more interesting and mysterious than every other band put together," he declares, his tongue fastened only loosely in his cheek.
The third vital component to the Distinctive jigsaw puzzle, drummer Dan Goodwin, takes up the thread.
"This is a once in a lifetime thing. It could only be Kitchens Of Distinction, but there's no game plan with career moves worked out in advance. Whatever happens happens."
"I can see us being as famous as John Noakes," reckons Patrick, smiling. "We'll inherit our own Shep soon. We're happy to let things go slowly, though. I hate bands who seem in such a rush to be successful."
Refusing to let their feathers be ruffled by the rawk 'n' rawl circus, Kitchens Of Distinction recently released the single 'Quick As Rainbows'. Taking a leaf from Happy Mondays' wigged-out notebook, Sarf London's heroes headed for StockPort's Strawberry Studios to record with 'Bummed's knob twiddler Martin Hannett. Their meeting was, however, far from blissful.
"Our record company suggested we try working with a producer as we hadn't before," elaborates Patrick, "and, after we tried three people who were busy, we found Martin and went up to Stockport and well, we should have met him first."
"We came out of the session with three different mixes," says Dan ruefully. "We weren't happy with any, so we went back to London and re-recorded it with an engineer called Norman Hall - our latest guru!"
"Some of Martin's stuff is great," finishes Julian. "'Bummed' sounds brilliant, but with us he thought, Oh, bloody hell, these precious musicians who don't know what they want."
Any minor qualms aside, 'Quick As Rainbows' is another irresistible Kitchen sink drama, fired-up by Julian's shooting star guitar thrill and Patrick's almost fatalistic, love torn wordplay.
"The dynamics of that song are better than anything we've laid down before," says the singer. "It's got a far better feel to it."
"There's special techniques we use, too," grins Dan. "One of them involves hamsters."
Hmm, yes. But in typical Patrick fashion, 'Rainbows' ends with the telling line "always corpses at breakfast time". Contrary to my assumption, it's not a morning-after-the-night-before scenario.
"No, that's about waking up in the morning and looking at your lover across the kitchen table and both wanting each other to be dead. It's the final end to the relationship."
Some people could (and some do) accuse you of being a miserable bastard writing wrongs like that, Patrick.
"Of course we sit at home surrounded by black walls clutching razor blades all day," he deadpans sarcastically.
"Nah, we're really uplifting and joyful. It's our version of soul music. Maybe the lyrics aren't as optimistic, but they're more realistic than the stuff most groups write."
Optimism. Now we're talking, for the humour in Kitchens Of Distinction's work is often ridiculously overlooked. After all, this is a band who cheekily took the piss out of their record company's motivational messages in the lyrics to their sub-reggae masterpiece, 'Anvil Dub', while Patrick's 'tween song banter is becoming legendary.
"Some guy asked us why we f**k around onstage and crack up with laughter if
we're so miserable and emotional, but our songs are a release for us. The two things go
hand in hand."
The Days Of Passion" - Spiral Scratch, August 1991
"Within The Days Of Passion"
Bodies and equipment emerge into daylight. Youd be hard pressed to pick any of them out of an identity parade of mature students from the local university. The bands anonimity only throws into great relief the power, intelligence and beauty of Strange Free World, their latest offering and, by general consent, the album of the year so far.
PF: The last time we played here, there were only ten people.
Patrick Fitzgerald, only one third of the Kitchens Of Distinction, is waiting his turn on the coffee rota. Economic hardship being what it is in the East Midlands, there are only five cups to be found. Patrick is on the second shift. This, together with the open plan changing room (there is no door), and the perfunctory sound check, is accepted with good grace and more than a hint of mild amusement. It is April Fools day after all.
PF: In America last January we played a couple of shows on our own and then supported the Charlatans in San Francisco in front of 2,000 people. It was good fun. Its nice playing big places.
With both the Poly and the Uni closed for Easter, they might be hard pressed to make even 20. If thats what Patricks thinking, it doesnt seem to bother him unduly. And why should it? Their album, Strange Free World, and its attendant single, Drive That Fast, have both been rapturously received with Patricks lyrics being frequently mentioned in dispatches.
PF: Most of the songs are extremely difficult to write words for. I find it difficult anyway. I hate doing it. Its always the last thing in the song writing process. The melodies, the tunes are done first. The lyrics are the very last thing we bother about. I churn em out! The thing about the words is that theyre suggested by the music itself. As far as the lyrics go, theres an awful lot of water imagery and I really dont know why its there. I only realised it a month afterwards when I proof read the (lyric) sheets. Its an easy metaphor to use, isnt it? But its very powerful. Like in Gorgeous Love: I can feel the waves of your gorgeous love - it just seemed appropriate.
Patricks account of the Genesis of Aspray is typically self-effacing. You cant help but be drawn to someone so articulate, yet so untainted. (Nothings untainted, not even Pooh Bear).
PF: The whole feeling of that was very pretentious as far as I was concerned. I decided to write really pretentious lyrics. So I thought, whats really pretentious? Sartre! - so I took the idea of Nausea and the whole existential crisis and turned it into a three minute waltz! I thought it was funny. A lot of people miss out on our sense of humour
He cites The Third Time We Opened The Capsule from their first album Love Is Hell as a prime example of this kind of misunderstanding.
PF: Its so simple - its all about Jesus - turning water into brine. It was another joke, you see. No one else got it either - maybe its just not funny. The title is just a line from a dream that Julian had. The rest of the words are about the idea of being able to wake up every morning completely innocent.
So why is it that they seem to have acquired the reputation of a band well acquainted with grief?
PF: If Im writing about something, I like it to be a bit serious. Its not miserable (and Im really going to risk pretension now!) but I think theres a sadness there purely because its looking at the human condition and thats inevitably a sad thing. It doesnt mean you live your life in a miserable way but theres always that edge, isnt there? Always that feeling of What on earth am I doing? The other two are a lot funnier than I am but they wont write any words.
The Kitchens are often mentioned in the same breath as the Cocteaus, the Smiths, and Echo and the Bunnymen. Although well intentioned, Patrick feels that such comparisons are fundamentally flawed.
PF: I think it is hard to define what we sound like. But I also think that people who compare us with those bands are missing something because all of them have their set image and their leaders, whereas we work in a very different way. We try and do interviews together or to take turns. We do try and force that democracy in the band. The trouble is as soon as you have someone writing the words they seem to become important for whatever reason - its a historical thing. We had a review in Time Out the other week and it had just my picture: theyd clipped the other two off - so its now become my band all of a sudden! (laughs) yeah, pathetic.
And what of the pop press in general?
PF: Some of them are nice but the majority are complete arseholes. Its very depressing. These people who try to get an angle: theyre not interested in the band. Theyre only interested in how, as journalists, will be seen when they write this piece that they are writing for themselves because theyre so important. Its a major ego trip. The weeklies wont interview you unless youre flavour of the month. Its very irritating.
This is spoken more in sorrow than in anger. You can see his point: especially when somebody whos five or six years younger than you mistakes enthusiasm for naivety.
Patricks views on Section 28 (the bill forbidding the promotion of homosexuality) and Clause 25 (a kind sex-sus conflation) are well documented elsewhere. But how has the fact that he is gay affected the Kitchens?
PF: The bands all about being honest. The whole point about me being out is that it ends there. A lot of people are very relieved that somebody like myself is doing what I do. Not in the way that Jimmy Somerville does what he does but in that you can be into this kind of music and be out. Yeah, of course itll hinder us. I think it has done already but its not anything we would compromise on.
This collective responsibility also extends to the music and the working process.
PF: Were so self-critical. Incredibly critical. We almost dumped Gorgeous Love, Hypnogogic and Drive That Fast. It didnt work for ages. It took about four months for it to gel. It was a totally different song to begin with. Initially, it was like singing about condoms over Mahlers Fifth Symphony: nothing wrong with either of them but the two together dont fit inappropriate, wrong. Theres still stuff on the album we disagree about. Julian is convinced I sing Railwayed out of tune. I think its alright. He thinks its out of tune. (laughs)
PF: Dans the most definite about what he wants. Im quite happy to have odd little things happening but Dan will say: No, were not having that, or Yes, thats in - hes the main mixer - definitely - hes got an ear for it. You always have to ask Dan (laughs). No, you dont have to ask him - he just says it.
So what does the future hold for Tootings finest? If Patrick gets his way (and its a big if) Strange Free World will be the spring board for a more expansive, looser sound. The Kitchens are music fanatics, you see
PF: It goes beyond the Indie thing: World music, African stuff, Bulgarian voices, anything thats honest music we watched a Glam Rock video on the way up here the Sweet, Gary Glitter they influence me in a big way. I think were going to move off into a very bizarre direction next: Jazz-Dub-Flamenco-fusion, something like that - I dunno weve all got different ideas. My idea at the moment is to hone up the structures of the songs: Im really into the idea of making it looser now. The songs on Strange Free World are all really honed down - theres no room to breathe on it at all. Id like to spend less time writing the songs so that theyre more amenable to change in the studio. We had this one all worked out before we went in so there was less chance for experimentation.
I see us getting loads of other people working with us, either permanently or temporarily. The other two dont but thats up to us to sort out. I dont see that it should be a fixed unit. It should always be in a flux although it hasnt been so far. Orchestras more different guitars as weird as possible some Kurdistan shriekers or Bulgarian singers. Anything, so long as its not crap, as long as it works
What new material there is (one or two little ideas) wont be recorded just yet. Most of the next six months is taken up with the current tour before going back to America, and then its Germany and Japan. The Kitchens contract with One Little Indian gives them as much control as they want over their work. This, together with a licensing deal with A&M in America, suggests that its only a matter of time before things start to happen on both sides of the pond. So, is that the ultimate aim for the Kitchens? World Domination before the turn of the century?
PF: There is no ultimate aim. The ultimate aim is to carry on doing this as long as were happy doing it and to be aware of what were happy doing it and to be aware of what were doing. As soon as it stops being fun, well stop. I think being aware of what youre doing is incredibly important because you can get swept along by it all. Besides, were all sort of aging quite heavily
Three hours later. A near capacity crowd is entranced, spellbound. Patricks voice is railwayed along on a shuddering sweet surge of sound which Julian is somehow conjuring from a choir of invisible guitars. Dan anchors everything with muscular, metronomic precision. Trampled underfoot, the Charlottes flagstones seem to be floating
And, after its all over, youre walking home, ignoring the stars,
knowing, with your whole being, that theres places the other side of here
like the man said.
as purpose" - Alternative Press, November 1992
"Protection as Purpose"
Kitchens of Distinction live in a world of their own creation. An insular, protective shell surrounds the Tooting trio, fostered by music, strong friendship, and a love of language and living. Let the Kitchens loose in a foreign place and they'll probably get lost. Tell these jokers that they've just walked through a fully operative riot-in-progress and they'll reply, "We thought they were filming a movie. Didn't those policemen look real?!"
By Ken Micallef
Hopeless naiveté turns to brusque honesty when the members - Patrick Fitzgerald, vocals and bass; Julian Swales, guitars; and Dan Goodwin, drums - turn their attention to the music. Like three romantic Musketeers, the Kitchens craft shimmering, bittersweet songs that leave you caught up in ringing melodies and buzzing visions. It's fast music for daydreaming - part of the final gasp from a once great literary superpower. Fitzgerald's poetic lyrics and salty singing are couched in Swales' vibrant Sensurround guitar playing, a sun-light-through-stained-glass pop sound that won the group many stateside fans with 1991's Strange Free World. Their video for "Drive That Fast" secured 120 Minutes rotation, propelling the Kitchens into kitchens, and living rooms and dorm rooms across the continent.
ordinary cooking show" - Seattle Gay News, June 9 1995
"No ordinary cooking show"
Trying to sell an uncompromising, fiercely complex, literate band to the masses is a difficult proposition. Add to the equation an openly Gay frontman who makes no attempt to disguise the object(s) of his affections in his lyrics - and without going for the shock value that worked for Nine Inch Nails - and you've got a problem. That is, if you're a major label like A&M records. Though Kitchens of Distinction has topped the alternative charts with their shimmering wall of sound, a dense cascade of guitar, bass and drums that was influentially sculpted by veteran producer Hugh Jones (Echo and the Bunnymen, Modern English), mainstream success has been elusive.
"Passionate" keeps cropping up in reviews to describe Patrick Fitzgerald's poetry and vocals, but equally important components of sheer intelligence and dignity set it apart. That rare combination of dignity and poise has influenced more than a few Gay musicians - including Scott Wagar of Seattle's Girl With 100 Heads, who cites Kitchens as an impetus for starting his own band.
It's astonishing to think that the band is only a trio from the amazing fullness of their records - even more so when you see the band recreate that fullness live with the minimal equipment they use. Somewhat reminiscent of Simple Minds' new string-driven sound, guitarist Julian Swales runs circles around the monolithic drones of U2's Edge. The liner notes of their latest, largely self-produced album Cowboys and Aliens emphatically states, "No-one played keyboards." Their recent live show at RKCNDY revealed, among other things, that Swales does it all with standard foot-pedal effects and an old model Alesis Quadraverb.
"It's not the effects you use," he confided modestly to a group of fans after the show. "It's connecting them all together that makes a difference."
They manage to encompass some of the "dark power" that defined early Joy Division (that was New Order before they went disco), but without the overriding pessimism. Like on the single "Drive That Fast" from their first domestic release Strange Free World, the passion for life, beauty, justice whatever emotions it conjures - is overwhelmingly joyous and positive.
I spoke with Patrick just before the show on May 31, and he was candid on their label situation and their plans for the future.
Dan Morris: I know the liner notes on Cowboys said "no keyboards," but I'd swear there has to be on "Sand On Fire" and "Get Over Yourself' - at least a mellotron.
Patrick Fitzgerald: (glancing at Julian, who happens to pass by) Julian?
Julian: (defiantly) Never!
Patrick: Swayles will take some of these standard gadgets off the shelf, standard effects - then he takes them apart, then puts them back together again in odd ways.
I admit, I saw the sound check - incredible.
I think we did use bass pedals on "Get Over Yourself." That might explain it.
You did your first record, as I recall, with Hugh Jones. Your first U.S. release...
The first two, actually. That one and "Death of Cool."
He's so good at that impenetrable "wall of sound". You were trying to get away from that on Cowboys somewhat by going for a more live sound.
Hugh is very good at taking your ideas to the logical limit, really pushing things.
You've still got quite a dense sound, though. Did you find Hugh to be a bit gadget-oriented for you?
He wasn't gadget oriented, we were. We kept asking him, pointing at boxes, "What does this thing do? How does it work?"
I know the other two members of the band are straight. But even aside from some of the obvious lyrics, there are some definitive queer images, like in "Thought He Had Everything" - "At 11 p.m. he gets too nervous, even with his friends and beer for company."
That's pretty universal.
But then there's, "He must get home before he breaks without reason... Everything he sings doesn't help anymore..." That sounds personal... Are you single?
Yes, in fact. That's probably the only autobiographical song on the record. But universal, too, about being frightened by your own existence.
But it also seems skeptical of relationships, "... When you're in love you have someone to hit."
I'm more skeptical of people's motives for staying in relationships. That line was inspired by a couple, a man and a woman living upstairs. At night, you could hear them beat the crap out of each other. One night they were particularly loud. The next morning I talked with the woman - she had a black eye and everything - and she announced that they were getting married. It was too perfect.
I liked the title track Cowboys and Aliens. An all-out queer evacuation of the planet, pretty savage. "We'll take away our finery... We'll take away our culture... We're leaving ugly dust."
Think of all the art we've done. Remember, there was a line from that film, The Boys in the Band: "Mary, it takes a fairy to make things pretty." It's so often true when there's any culture, there's a fag around somewhere. And with all this angst and self-hatred that comes from Gay-bashing and the negative press... Well, we'll just take all our nice things and leave, the art, the literature - but they can keep Dickens.
I've never read Browning. I've never had any special literary training. I would count Walt Whitman as an influence. And Truman Capote - he worked so hard at what he did. I like the work of Raymond Carver. No one has the time to work that hard anymore, it doesn't seem to matter as much. Quentin Tarantino, I like him - he works hard... at being ugly.
I see Whitman in "Come On Now," "... and his laugh, it gets me through those troubled hours of men in suits..." Sounds like a record label conference for sure.
We had a great deal of trouble getting this album released. It was rejected at first, we did three mixes. They kept insisting that we needed a hit, so we went back and wrote one. We took that to the extreme, brought in a producer, added extreme strings, everything.
Yes, [producer] Gabriel Pascal. He did a great job on the new Peter Murphy (ex-Bauhaus) album.
I haven't heard it yet. But [Gabriel] did a great job - I really liked the vocal sound on that track. I think it's the best on the record.
Do you think you'd like working with him again?
Probably. He's very funny. As it stands, we're looking for a label (for distribution). We waited 18 months, we had two tours booked and cancelled. They said, "We'll give you tour support," and then they said, "We won't give you support." We were robbed of 18 months. Finally we decided to finance this tour ourselves, and it's the best tour we've done.
We did one show, with They Might Be Giants. We were playing to teenagers - usually we get a late 20s crowd.
There was one show in London, a guy stood near the front of the stage and was singing all the words back to me - I was touched. So many people, other bands have been giving us their own CDs this tour - in the band photo on one, he was wearing a Kitchens T-shirt, right on the cover!
But we're doing everything ourselves now. We want to avoid the "big guys" completely this time out.