Kissinger
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Kissinger

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Rock and roll is a harsh and fickle mistress. A couple weeks ago, the boys of Kissinger — voted best rock band and best alt/punk band in Austin, Texas in 2002 — said their prayers and hopped into the van with their collective sights set on blazing a missionary trail across America's midsection. Their first stop was to be Wichita's favorite rock dive, Kirby's Beer Store.
     
But 'twas not to be — Kissinger's van chewed up and spat out its fuel pump in the Oklahoma City metro area on the way to the show. Opening act Darlin' Maudie soldiered on in Kissinger's absence, and the crowd was left to wonder what happened to the headliners.
     
Most bands would have just scratched Wichita off the itinerary and gone on their merry way to Lawrence, Omaha, Columbia or wherever they were next scheduled. But not Kissinger. Nay, these crusaders' duty is to spread the Rock to the faithful, and convert doubters wherever they might lurk (and drink). Last Sunday the band added Wichita to the end of its tour schedule, and appeared — better late than never — with a van full of blazing guitar licks and straight-up rock attitude.
     
Darlin' Maudie once again held down the early set, this time dressed in full clown regalia. Catchy and rockin' as the band might be, the Bozo-centric presentation was frankly a bit creepy, — especially when guitarist/singer Mike Evancho covered his face with a disturbingly lifelike rubber mask, topped with his own glasses.
     
Then Kissinger rolled in. The four young lads in the band (singer/guitarist Chopper, guitarist Steve Garvey, bassist Lucky and drummer o3) wasted little time setting up their equipment and getting their segment of the rock show started. As on previous occasions, the ever-animated Chopper kicked off the noise with his evangelistic rhetoric, introducing the opening blast, "John Bates." For the next hour, the stage was alive with arms and legs, flailing guitar necks and flying sweat.
     
While o3 is by nature cemented behind the drum kit, the rest of the group makes no bones about rocking the hell out — all over the bar. When Lucky wasn't on his knees, leaning back until his shoulder blades rested on his ankles, he was strutting across the floor to the bar, all the while pumping out precision bursts of bottom end on his sweat-soaked bass. Chopper gesticulated fervently, half carnival barker, half meth-addled fundamentalist preacher. He had no compunction about climbing up from the stage onto the table in the center of the floor, squeezing tasty licks out of his Stratocaster and contorting his face as though he was on the business end of a football-sized suppository — and all while trying to keep his head out of the ceiling fan (Chopper is 6'5"). Many a flying leap was taken as the Rock, not unlike the Holy Spirit, flowed into every corner of the room.
     
All too soon, it was over, and the band was moving merchandise from the back end of the van. Chopper says they'll be back this fall. That's an unfortunately long spell to have to wait for the next sermon, but Kissinger has a big nation to cover. The missionary's job is never done.
     
As a veteran of many, many live performances, both as performer and spectator, I can attest to this: There are a lot of really crappy bands out there, and even more truly mediocre bands. It's the rare occasion when I can go out and see an act I'm not familiar with, and be truly and thoroughly rocked. Kissinger is such a band, and like all Holy Crusaders, their mission will most likely continue until someone pries their axes from their cold, dead fingers. - f5 Wichita


Poor, K.C. We barely knew what bit us. Out here in the "Great" Plains, a hot show is when Randy Travis fronts the Kansas City philharmonic. When a pop juggarnaut like Kissinger rolls into our sleepy cowtown, there's barely enough hockey gear around to cover our private parts from the band's rapacious rhythms and groping guitar antics. So it was with trepidation that I went to The Brick last Friday, and it was with a trembling heart that I prepared for their controlled car-wreck of power chords and sing-along choruses. But for Kissinger, I knew, the whiplash would be worth it.

Unleashing flying kicks, precarious leaps, and teetering spins that could easily have landed them in the E.R., Kissinger exposed its melodious misadventures to some terrified young women and the 17 grimy guys who constitute the Kansas City rock "scene." The band ignited the evening with a blistering diatribe against what frontman Chopqper termed "a hot check-writing motherfucker from Texas"--the eponymous John Bates--and proceded to burn through its remaining repertoire with the delicacy of a flamethrower pointed at a butterfly. Noticeably absent from the playlist were "Consider Bridgette," "Gold Rush," and the other light fare that soften up Kissinger's sonic buffet, jettisoned in favor of greasy excesses ("Bike Vs. Truck") and hormone-fed homages to men named Rod ("I Don't Think You're Sexy... I Know You Are"), which went down like a candy apple packed with Mach III blades.

For the teenypop trump card, "Urbia," the guys ratcheted up the band blender to "liquify," and that's more or less what happened to the poor schmucks in the front row--thanks to Chopper's maniacal spit-launch delivery.

By the time "Rock and Roll Asshole" reared its ugly nether-eye, all bets were off. The prada-clutching chicas were cowering in back and even the normally intrepid punk rockers by the speakers had been sent scattering by Steve Garvey's ear-bleeding curtain of feedback. Choppie ditched the mikestand and the Strat and jumped into the front row as the band lit the fuse on its farewell number, unrecognizeable bassist Lucky doing a besotted duck walk through the crowd as he thudded out the back end to "Asshole."

Somewhere in the musical mayhem Chopper sidled up to a lass at the bar, popped a few questions on her, and took in her startled responses with a look at once considerate and crazed, mirthful and menacing.

When the final, ebulliant note sounded--barely 40 minutes from the opening--there was a palpable sense of relief among the weak. But for the mighty, even the broken strings and indecipherable sound mix couldn't diminish the delight. For them--for us--the show will linger long in the drunk tank of memory: a scorching set, compact and tight, like a midget of limited sexual experience. - Kansas City Rocks


Discography

1998 - Consider Bridgette 7" Produced by John Croslin
2000 - Charm CD Produced by John Croslin - WCI Records
2001 - Kissinger Clipped EP - WCI Records
2002 - Rock and Roll Ain't Cheap EP Produced by Kissinger - WCI Records
2004 - Charm re-release - WCI Records
2005 - Me and Otto - WCI Records (May, 2005)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

It’s not uncommon for the people who see Kissinger’s amp-leaping live show to tell stories about it later. In fact, Kissinger depends on it. For the last three years, the Austin, TX band has been touring through the Midwest regularly with nothing but word of mouth testimonials to fuel their growing following. Yet, with the release of Me and Otto Kissinger is being discussed beyond the interstate bars between Austin and Detroit. And instead of recounting the between-the-legs guitar solo or the 6’5” singer who flew off the stage, people are talking about Kissinger’s songs.

Kissinger released their first 7” single in 1998. Producer John Croslin (Pavement, Spoon, Guided by Voices) heard the songs, and signed the band to WCI Records to record Charm. The album debuted locally in 2000 to a wave of critical acclaim. Over the next two years, Kissinger would win 6 Austin Music Awards and have three songs from Charm added to local radio stations. In 2002 the band took over ownership of WCI Records and released Rock and Roll Ain’t Cheap, an interactive EP with 4 songs, 4 short films and 4 live music videos directed by Hip Williams (Mates of State. The Mooney Suzuki). By 2005, Charm had shipped over 30,000 units. In March of 2005, amid the frenzy of the SxSW Music Festival, The Austin Music Foundation selected Kissinger for the Incubator Project (an honor that comes with up to $15,000 toward recording their next project!)

Kissinger’s story is about their songs, and Kissinger’s songs tell stories. The stories told on Me and Otto read like best sellers. Gamblers, murderers, thieves and adulterers lurk among the stark melodies. Characters fall in and out of love, commit unthinkable crimes and bet their fortune on chance.

During the writing of Me and Otto, singer Chopper was car-jacked at gunpoint. Along with the car, the gunman stole the guitar Chopper had learned to play on when he was 12 and his notebook with many of the half-finished lyrics for the album. Police found the car months later, totaled, with no sign of the guitar or lyrics, which would have to be re-written.

Once Chopper reconstructed the songs, Kissinger played some demos for Producer/ Engineer Robert Shimp (The Donnas, R.E.M.), who arranged to come to Austin to record the album. Shimp created a landscape of speaker-crackling guitar tones that highlight Kissinger’s road-galvanized chemistry. The album, recorded in only two weeks, showcases Kissinger’s natural sense of songwriting as well as the band’s frenetic live energy. Me and Otto will be released in May of 2005.