When it comes to choosing a studio in which to work on an album, most bands have set criteria. Sound quality, top-notch producer, comfy couches -- all very normal things to ask for.
The Kills weren't interested in these. No, they were looking for a cursed mixing board.
Jamie "Hotel" Hince, drummer/singer/guitarist for The Kills, says the ghost hunt began while working in France. He loved one studio's Flickinger mixing board, and was told that only 20 were in existence. The last one had been made for '70s funk pioneer Sly Stone, and was rumored to have caused the downfall of its designer, his company's bankruptcy and Stone's eventual madness.
"I'm a real sucker for myth and legend, and this story kept being built up beyond proportion," says Hince, speaking from his home in London. "There are stories of [Stone] holding delivery boys hostage for a week and demanding that they make his console levitate."
After much research, the cursed console was found in a studio in small Benton Harbor, Mich., population 11,000. Hince, along with his Kills co-conspirator, singer and guitarist Alison "VV" Mosshart, booked the studio and packed their bags. Their second full-length album, the fiery No Wow, soon was written and realized.
Fronting lyrics full of danger, love and loss, the album's themes came from The Kills' constant touring, of living a life on the road, nearly on the run. Flexing her cigarette-stained alto vocals, Mosshart works a sexy snarl la early PJ Harvey or Chrissie Hynde, while Hince supplies the swagger.
Surprisingly, that bravado is born out of fear. While touring, they rely on being nervous, says Hince, and on that terror turning into adrenaline, which they then farm for their performances.
Apparently, producing No Wow was no different. The cursed console only added to the ambience.
"We went with pretty much nothing," Hince says. "We wanted to make a record from our hearts, to see what we were really about, and what we could do under the gun -- with only three weeks to record -- to increase the fear a bit more."
Luckily, their surroundings didn't provide much of a distraction. Benton Harbor isn't well-known for its thriving social scene.
"There's nothing to do there, no club or anything like that, so everyone hangs out in the 24-hour supermarket, because that's the only thing that's open," says Hince. "There's this incredible scene of all these teenage kids going to the supermarket, dressed up to the nines."
While Stone's mixing board didn't generate any spooky stories, it did turn out to be just plain weird. According to Hince, a studio engineer took it apart for a cleaning and found balls of cocaine inside. Apparently, Sly was as inventive with his interior decorating as with his music.
"We had heard a rumor that he had painted it in ultraviolet paint, and used a black light to see his cocaine on it," says Hince. "The studio people brought out a black light, and sure enough. It was amazing!"
-- Kara Luger
Bloc Party with The Kills
Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver
Friday, Sept. 16, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20; call 520-9090 or visit fillmoreauditorium.com.