We are much enamoured here at TINAS towers by ”Black Ocean Waves” – the latest from Washington D.C.’s King Giant, and so we jumped at the chance of asking rhythm guitarist David Kowalski and singer and lyricist Dave Hammerly some questions.
Firstly, thanks for talking to TINAS. I rightly gave the new album ”Black Ocean Waves” a glowing review, how has the rest of the world taken to it – and are you pleased with it?
DK – So Far, we’ve only gotten 2 reviews, yours included, and they’ve been great! So, we are very humbled and grateful that other people are getting it, and liking the music. Making this album has been a labor of love. It was challenging at times to get it done, so it’s especially rewarding to have it positively embraced so far.
I made some mildly disparaging remarks about your advanced years (I’m no spring chicken myself, believe me), and I wondered if you had interesting back stories pre-King Giant. Have you all been musicians all your lives? Would our readers have heard of any of the other bands you’ve been in or do you have any interesting previous occupations?
DK – Let’s see, for about 15 years, I worked for Tower Records, in many capacities: everything from clerk to Books Regional Manager. It was great! There was a wonderful camaraderie with all the people who worked there. Now, I work as an Audio Mixer and Sound Designer for TV/Film/Radio. As for previous bands, Brooks, Dave H, and I were in a band back in the 90s called The City Bleeds. I recently released a long lost album called “Crow River Crossing”. The CD and LP are available through the band camp site, thecitybleeds.bandcamp.com. The digital version is available at iTunes, Amazon, etc…. all the usual places. It’s a different band but you can definitely hear the genesis of the King Giant sound in that album. Especially with Dave H and his narrative lyrics.
DH – I have worked at the 9:30 Club since the winter of 1989/90. I still pull an occasional shift there when I have some time off from my main gig. That’s where I met all these guys with the exception of TI. “The City Bleeds” came along around 1996 and was active until somewhere around 2000. With that band I really started trying to develop these narrative lyrics, and both DK and Brooks were really encouraging.
There are some brilliant, very cinematic stories told in the songs on the album – are there any films or directors that you find particularly inspiring and do any of you have any experience of creative writing outside of music?
DK – When I first went to college, I was an English Major and I wanted to be a writer. But I soon realized that I didn’t love writing, I just loved the lifestyle of sitting in cafes smoking and having existential conversations.
DH – When they asked me to join King Giant, it was specifically because they enjoyed the lyrical style and thought it would be a good fit. We have had a lot of fun developing these different stories and characters and DK is a big part of that. I can get a bit carried away trying to develop characters and storylines. He has to rein me in. Otherwise these songs would go on for days. Although I’m not the only one in the band who likes to tell a story.
If you could have any director make a video with you, who would it be?
DK – I would love to make a video that has some humor in it. The songs are already dark enough that I think some humor in the visuals would be a great juxtaposition. Someone like Wes Anderson, or the Coen brothers would be amazing.
DH – I would say the Coen brothers all day long. I have always been in awe of their attention to detail. They tell these great, dark, American tales.
I love artists and songs that tell a story, I’m a huge fan of Tom Waits, and some of your characters could inhabit his universe. You seem to have the same ability to create believable, grimly fantastical worlds – does that come naturally, even accidentally or is it something you strive for for the sake of the album?
DK – Dave H writes all the lyrics so he can speak more about that, but I can tell you that I’ve always encouraged him to write narrative lyrics. I feel that his stories are great in their detail and imagination.
DH– I’ve always been influenced by Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and too many old school country artists to name. That’s the kind of storytelling I’ve always strived for. I like to think that when someone listens to our albums, they can close their eyes and see the characters. Writers like Waits or Nick Cave are such untouchable masters at that. I’ve always been attracted to the darkly, humorous songwriters.
I could ask this about nearly every song on the album, but could you tell me a bit more about what’s going on in ‘Trail of Thorns’?
DH – “Trail of Thorns” is a story about a killing spree. The character is conflicted by what he does. He robs out of desperation, kills out of fear, and thumbs his nose at God to appear hard. But his guilt still eats at him. He kills someone holding a crucifix, yet can’t bring himself to leave after because of his guilt.
Is there a theme or even a concept attached to the album?
DK – There is a loose water theme with this album, but no concept. Each song is it’s own story, and live’s in its own world.
DH – One of the things that I had in my head early on was the idea that I would create characters that were lost and wandering. The idea of people that float, somewhat aimlessly. Each song has that aspect.
I like the fact that your sound doesn’t easily fit within a genre but are there any artists that you feel this album particularly tips it hat to? I can certainly hear some Danzig and Metallica in there.
DK – I grew up listening to groups like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy, Sabbath, etc… I imagine you can hear all of their influences in our songs. I’m glad that you say we don’t easily fit into a genre, because I don’t feel like we do either. We’ve been going along with the whole stoner Rock / Doom Metal label mainly to the exclusion of the other genres. We aren’t thrash, black, death, grind, or core. Of course there are elements in the music fans of Stoner Doom can identify with, but I’m glad that you see that our influence goes far beyond Sabbath worship.
You recorded the album in Baltimore at Magpie Cage Studios with J.Robbins. Why there?
DK – Brooks and I have worked with J.Robbins years ago in a previous band, Jack Potential. He’s a great guy, great engineer, so it was an easy choice. Plus his work with Clutch, Wino, The Sword is a great resumé. We knew that we would get great tones there. Plus an unexpected bonus was Dave H did his best vocals there. The room felt really good to him, and he was able to finish his vocals relatively quickly with great takes.
DH – J.Robbins was great to work with. I had never worked with him before. DK was the first to suggest Magpie Cage but I think the key was Brooks. He said he had been really happy with his drum sound when he worked with J in the past and it kind of fell into place after that. It was the first time that we have ever recorded “out of town”. It was a great experience to go there, stay at a hotel, and just record. We were able to just be King Giant for a few days. Baltimore is close, so it made sense from a cost standpoint as well.
Lastly do you have any plans to tour this album outside of the US – specifically the UK, preferably near my house?
DK – No plans as of yet, but we would certainly like to. Where do you live? Wales? Scotland? N. Ireland? England? I’m an anglophile and still haven’t been to England, and I’m hoping to change that soon.
Well guys, for your information I live in Southend, in England, and if you are anglophiles then you need to come over and sample the local fish and chips and a pint of the Trooper ale at my local venue!