HumanKind
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HumanKind

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Pick a three-digit number. That's what HumanKind drummer Jason Gardner tells me to do last Friday afternoon during his band's rehearsal break. We're burrowing through the Sound Museum in Allston, MA so that HumanKind guitarist Sean Murray (a/k/a Shizzrock) and bassist George Chinaglia (son of legendary Italian soccer player Giorgio Chinaglia) can satisfy their nicotine cravings. I blurt out the first numeric combination that comes to mind: "376." Gardner offers me the opportunity to reconsider my choice (I don't), then removes a folded Post-it note from one pocket of his wallet, which he's just had me hold to prove that it's not rigged. A pencil scrawl on the paper scrap predicts my number: "376."

Gardner is a professional magician and escape artist, but he isn't the only HumanKind member who makes a living performing tricks: HK frontman Al Millar, who watched his band mate's mind-reading display with the knowing grin of a proud conspirator, is a knife-juggling contortionist who can slip his entire body through a squash-racket frame. A sinewy, tattooed Aussie who spends the warmer months flummoxing Faneuil Hall tourists with his freakish flexibility, the 27-year-old is so supple that he can stick his head so far through his legs that it looks as though he's sniffing his own ass. Usually billed as "Alakazam" or "the Human Knot," Millar finishes his street show by standing on a tall metal pole, juggling small spears, and balancing a two-headed blade that's spinning atop a rod with a mouthpiece that's clenched in his teeth.

Millar grew up in Sydney and left home to join the circus as a teenager. "That's no bullshit, either," he says, explaining that he worked as a roadie for a year before starting his own act. In the decade since, the Allston resident has performed in 16 different countries and 18 American states; has placed first in various street-performer competitions, such as the Rotterdam Street Festival, Australia's Applause Festival, and Canada's Halifax Buskers Festival; and has even drawn a loyal fan base. One particularly enamored Canadian fan bragged online about getting a tattoo "just like Al's" in a message-board thread devoted to Alakazam-related developments.

"It's insane. It's like a mini sub-fame that you can walk away from," says Millar at Allston's Herrell's Café on a Thursday afternoon before band practice. "But as soon as you get on the plane and leave, it's just you again" — meaning that his street-performer credentials mean shit in the music world. "I'm at the top of one ladder, and I'm jumping to the bottom rung of the next ladder," Millar admits. "It's like coming from a bathtub and jumping into the ocean."

Millar and Gardner formed HumanKind three years ago in Australia, after having met on the street, with Chinaglia joining soon after. Murray replaced another guitarist this past April. The Boston-based foursome just finished their first release, cHoKe. Millar employs a catchall mouthful to describe their Stone-Temple-Pilots-eating-Korn-and-Godsmacking-Alice-in-Chains sound: "Ghost rock-and-roll punk angst-filled rust-metal freak-show circus-core spook-rock music." Whatever you call it, at Friday's rehearsal they're a slick montage of mid-'90s rock radio with existential guitar solos, tribal drumming, and Millar droning on about holes in his head, his murdered sanity, and screwing in a cheap motel.

That said, there's a marked difference between Millar's madcap busker role and his sullen-frontman persona. "On the street, I'm funny," he says. "I've got this lovable character. With music, I'm singing about my pain." Even a guy who's never had to report to an office claims to have his troubles. "I'm one of the loneliest guys you'll ever meet. I have to travel to do my thing. I can't form relationships. I see my family once a year." Millar is not a United States citizen, so he can't live here year-round. He just returned from beach-filled days in Australia, where he still keeps an apartment.

Even though Millar once juggled chainsaws on-stage in Revere, and Gardner did an on-stage escape routine at the Sky Bar, HumanKind protest the idea of promoting themselves as a rock-carny act and avoid the trappings of novelty-act status. "We definitely want to incorporate some of those stunts into our show," says Gardner. "But obviously the music is most important. We're not a circus act. But eventually we can pull that stuff in — like a black-leather straitjacket and some barbed wire, things for Al to squeeze through, stuff that's a little more theatrical. Less circus, but more rock-and-roll."

-Written by Camille Dodero - Boston Phoenix


Discography

HumanKind"HumanKind"demo release 2004
HumanKind"cHoKe"-Debut Release 2006
HumanKind"Blood & Skin"- Release 2008
HumanKind "Monster Minor"-realese 2009

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Bio

NU GRUNGE/ROCK/ALTERNATIVE
"HumanKind" A dangerous
rock & roll band of side
show freaks and masters
of mind control. An epic
trio of world traveling
street performers, gypsy
born mongrel babies and
alien space hooligans.

HumanKind plays Nu Grunge
Rock and Roll, punky angst
filled hard core tunes,
and at times perform
freakish circus sideshow
tricks live on stage.

HumanKind delivers a
thunderous hard rocking
show that make you want
to take off your clothes,
paint yourself red and spin
around like you are the
only person left on the
planet, while sifting
through the angst of your
soul for the essence of
rock.