“I mean, there were times when I thought we might not finish it at all!” laughs The Kills’ guitarist Jamie Hince, just days after the announcement of their new album ‘Ash & Ice’. His reservations didn’t stem from frustrations in the studio, or something more simple like writer’s block. In the lead up to their fifth album, Hince had to deal with a major hand injury, which would end up shaping their latest offering more than anyone might’ve first expected.
“I had surgery six times and had a tendon transplant so it was really just about grabbing the moments here and there,” he elaborates. “I think there was a sense afterwards - having finished the record and looking back on it – that there’s a thread of triumph, as a theme of the record.”
For the follow-up to 2011’s ‘Blood Pressures’ the duo inevitably found themselves dealing with a selection of new challenges. Not only was Hince’s productivity coloured by the diagnoses of his injury, all while the band were both writing on different sides of the Atlantic, but the pair – Hince is joined by Alison Mosshart – also decided to relocate to somewhere completely new for the recording of the album. While the majority of their previous records saw them head to Benton Harbor’s Key Club Studios, in Michigan, to get away from the outside world, this time, they wanted to place themselves right in the thick of it.
“We couldn’t avoid the fear that time was running out.”
— Jamie Hince
“It was really difficult,” Hince says quite plainly, when opening up about the recording process itself. “It was difficult because all of this surgery kept putting us back and we couldn’t avoid the fear that time was running out.
“We always record in Benton Harbour, which is a secluded place where you lock the doors and it’s all very secretive. It’s like you’re building a machine or something, which I’ve always loved, but this time, it felt like it was time to invite some chaotic opportunity and be somewhere that things will happen. We decided to do it in a house in Los Angeles - I shipped over my mixing desk and my gear, my friend did the same and we just set up this crazy studio in a house.”
Unsurprisingly, the chaos found them: whilst the idea of recording in a house seemed appealing at first, the pair soon came to realise there were a few pitfalls to their plan. “There are things you don’t think about,” he laughs. “When someone’s trying to work something out, you’re not in soundproofed rooms and you can constantly hear someone playing a part over and over again. It drives you crazy! You can see it on the engineer’s face! So, morning 'til night there’s this chaos of noise and panic.”
“Morning ‘til night there’s this chaos of noise and panic.”
— Jamie Hince
Along with a never-ending stream of noise, Hince soon realised that 'Ash & Ice' wasn't quite living up to his own – admittedly lofty – expectations. “I find writing a record…” he starts. “I never take it lightly. Some would say I take it too seriously! It is a kind of majorly serious thing for me. Not that there’s not humour in it, but it is a panic, life or death situation for me. There are things I can’t let go if they’re not good enough - there’s almost an emotional trauma to it!
“I think to be honest, when we got to LA, I realised we had more writing to do,” he continues, “I felt like we weren’t ready to bash out the songs. I really wanted to look at them, and I was being a bit of a dictator, getting us to rewrite lyrics and stuff. The lyrics were really important to me this time; I didn’t want to write any vague rock and roll clichés. I wanted to write a record where we meant what we were saying. There was a lot of me saying to Alison, ‘we need to rewrite this’ and there were a lot of tears. I think she just thought I was doing it to wind her up!” Eventually, though, everything fell into place, and that sense of urgency they felt has become a part of the fabric of the album. “There is a sense of that chaos which you can hear.”
The Kills' new album 'Ash & Ice' is released on 3rd June through Domino. Taken from DIY’s 50th issue special, out now.
Photos: Mark Squires.
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