April 2019

Icy Focus

The Killing WordsThe Killing WordsThe Killing WordsThe Killing WordsThe Killing WordsThe Killing WordsText: Mikey Gilles Images: Stevie Dance

The Killing Words is a mysterious entity, to say the least. Their hypnotic, measured ballads gives you the impression they are an itinerant cult, rambling through remote mountain ravines, far away from the trappings of the modern world, leading a wholesome reflective existence and only very occasionally transmitting a profound sonic postcard to the rest of us busy metropolis-locked folk, a signal from a better place. Concise yet fertile, their unpolluted prose somehow dissects the confusion of our fast-paced ant mounds in the way that Neil Young’s sparsely-strummed feedback guides you through William Blake’s purgatory in Jarmusch’s Dead Man. It is deceptively simple, like when illogical phrases make perfect sense in a dream. It is not the sort of music you make in a city. The Killing Words should be recording in an isolated, hand-built log cabin somewhere, like Dick Proenneke, or boxcar travellin’ with Warren Zevon and Townes Van Zandt, only with slightly less whiskey – not recorded next to a spare mattress in HOXTON.

Oops, the cat is now peeping out of the bag – I was trying to retain that air of mystery that pervades any published material about The Killing Words, but now it seems silly to cover up the fact that Sydney’s Broken Stone Records‘ next release was indeed conceived, written and recorded in the dirty, bustling avant-gardening capital of the United Kingdom… by one man. In his spare room. Darn it, there I go again, that cat just keeps wriggling its little paws out of any available crevice… Suffice to say there is one consistent member, with a few guest appearances – Lucy from Magnetic Heads, Kelly Saunders, and a couple of ex-members of Brian Jonestown Massacre (Anton’s band-mates are still dropping like flies evidently). The following conversation is with the band’s mysterious mouthpiece, in a sunny yet chilly English park at the dawn of spring. We got to the bottom of such mysteries as how a highly populated city can mimic the conditions of the wilderness, creatively speaking.

Mikey Gilles: So when and where did The Killing Words begin?

Mysterious Mouthpiece: I guess the ideas began when I was still living in Sydney but travelling around a lot. I wrote a bunch of songs here [in London] and in Hong Kong and most of those became the first album, which we released after I left Sydney.

MG: How long have you lived away from Australia?

MM: Six years now.

MG: Ramblin’ man…

MM: Yeah, um, you miss [Australia], but it’s mainly the people and the beaches that are hard to live without.

MG: What is the difference between making music here in London and in Sydney?

MM: I’ve found certain things tough over here, you know, just having a base of people you know you can collaborate with, like in Sydney, is one thing… building it from scratch kind of sucks.

MG: The difference is the people?

MM: Yeah, but more importantly the difference is the inspiration – you just end up making different music given your environment.

MG: So London is more inspiring?

MM: I think so. You get more productive. You’d think there’d be more distractions but that’s at home as well.

MG: That was something I was going to ask you actually: does London’s general air of business encourage your work ethic or distract you?

MM: It definitely encourages it. You have big periods of the year where it’s dark for, like, 14 hours of the day. It’s freezing cold, you can’t go outside, there’s not a lot to do… and that’s the time you can sit inside and really make a lot of music and get things done.

MG: So it gives you an icy focus.

MM: Yeah. And on the flip side there’s such a hive of cultural activity that there’s always something to see or do that’s the cutting edge compared to anywhere.

MG: I’ve noticed a lot of people can get pretty caught up in that though too.

MM: Yeah, it sounds boring but you have to have personal discipline – finding the time and making the time, really.

MG: Nothing seems to get done easily in London, it can be quite a shitfight.

MM: Well, actually the new album’s been quite good…

MG: In what way?

MM: Well, the background of it is that it is a lot more abstract, not like the last one, which was thematic, all about certain ideas – love. This one’s called Abstractions & Dreams. Half of it is all, like, randomness and the other half is basically dreams that I’ve had in London.

MG: That’s interesting because your music doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the city.

MM: There’s definitely a thematic throwback, maybe to being on farms and stuff back in Australia, but it’s really the dreams – there’s these very vivid dreams I’ve been having while living in my current apartment. I’ve been channeling all sorts of weird shit!

MG: Oh wow, do you mean like a ghost?

MM: There could be. I’m not that sure. There is a graveyard not that far from my house where all these people are buried, like Robert Louis Stevenson and William Blake. That might have something to do with it. Even just the city seems to have ghosts everywhere, given its age. Everything you touch has an air of nostalgia attached to it.

MG: I wonder what other dead poets you’ve touched while you’ve been here?

MM: Well, like before, there’s a lot more time to read over here. I’ve been reading a lot of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, the old modernist poets. They’re a big influence on what I’m trying to do, at least lyrically. Dante…

MG: Dante! Woah, epic. Were you thinking ‘epic’ with this new album?

MM: Not really. Just the way he phrases things, the turning of words…

MG: Well, it’s definitely profound and concise. I really like it. What’s next for The Killing Words?

MM: Putting this album out, then we’ll be working on the next one.

MG: Whereabouts? London?

MM: Yeah. Oh, actually we’re going to try to get to Berlin to record some stuff at a friend’s studio there.

MG: Time for a minimal house tangent like Neil Young maybe?

MM: Haha, maybe – you never know.

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The Killing Words

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