Kill Hannah: Killing time

By • Oct 16th, 2003 • Category: Interviews

John Lennon said a successful recording career was like walking naked through a forest without a mosquito bite.

Chicago’s Kill Hannah has been standing stripped at the threshold since 1995.

In April, KH brought its fusion of glam and industrial pop to NIU in anticipation of its upcoming release, “For Never and Ever.”

Wednesday, the quintet returned to DeKalb just a hop, skip and a toss of an arm-sock away at Otto’s Niteclub, 118 E. Lincoln Highway.

The Weekender interviewed members Mat Devine (MD), Greg Corner (GC) and Dan Weiss (DW) before the show.

WE: Is this interview just another in the gauntlet of the press?
GC: Yeah, but a lot of it is college press and Internet magazines.

WE: One Chicago publication called you legends.
GC: We’ve never thought that.
DW: It makes us seem old. We still consider us a new band.
MD: Yeah, I didn’t really accept that. It was just way too flattering.

WE: Do the expectations of the Chicago faithful put even more pressure on you?
GC: The hype is only coming from Chicago. As far as nationwide, we don’t have a lot of press. We’ve had a little spot on MTV and on Carson Daly.
DW: Our label thinks this should be a slow build. Some (magazines) talk about the next hot thing. But you’ll never hear from them again.
MD: We hold ourselves to higher standards than anyone else. We’ve never tried to answer to anyone.

WE: What about in Chicago?
GC: There is definitely a pressure there. Chicago can be a tough town; people want to see you fail.

WE: You have never really toured, and you built a fan base by playing mostly Chicago dates.
GC: Yeah, we’ve never had a hardcore tour. Before we had played places like Toronto, New York or Los Angeles. But they were just one show at a time.
DW: Touring added a whole new element. It’s nice to get out and get some new experiences.

WE: How’s the response been?
GC: Cleveland is a good example. We played there in May for eight people. We went back and it was 25. Last week we pre-sold 300 tickets. That’s with no radio play there.

WE: And places with airplay?
DW: We’ve seen an increase in fans. We?re playing in Denver this week. We’ve never been anywhere close to Denver, and we’ve already sold a few hundred tickets.

WE: The song “Kennedy” was on the radio before. When you re-recorded it, were you nervous about this version not being as successful as the original?
GC: No, not really. We didn’t think about it until after we had [the new album] tracked. This version is definitely different than the other.
DW: The first one was actually just a demo. We recorded in one day, and we have always had the intent to go back and redo it.

WE: There are some other older songs on this record.
DW: Other versions were demos.
GC: There has never been a good recording of our older stuff. We did those songs ourselves. We did our album “American Jetset” in a week. This album gave us time for pre-production. It was nice.

WE: The fans that have been there since “Jetset,” how are their responses?
DW: I think it’s really good. This did just come out [on Tuesday].
GC: We’re still trying to feel what people like and don’t like.

WE: There are older songs, which are staples of your live shows, that didn’t make it onto this record.
DW: We’re playing stuff in our live set that are older than any of the stuff on this album. This record represents the complete spectrum of the band, from what was like then to what it is like now.

WE: This is technically the first show after the release of “For Never and Ever.” You’re no longer building curiosity for a record, you’re supporting one.
DW: Now that you said something, it seems so.

WE: Most of you are in your late 20s, would you rather sign now, or when you were 21?
DW: I don’t think it would be good for us to have it happen any other way.
MD: I never wanted it to happen this way. I thought I was ready at 18. But for this band, it makes sense. This is the ideal time for us to get signed. You can have more fun when you are younger; I don’t feel like knocking over TV sets. I’m too focused because this is all that has ever mattered to me.

WE: Would you not be making the record you wanted?
GC: All the hard work prepared us for now. I would have liked to been signed, because it would have been fun. We know about the business, which helps a lot.

WE: You have thousands of record sales, a street team in the thousands, television appearances and commercials. Some fans question if you even need a label.
DW: It’s not that easy. We needed the money to make this record. We operated without making a profit for so long. We need a label, that’s for sure. The music has to be available to people so that they can hear it. We can’t mail it all from our apartments.
GC: You can make a career on an indie label, but you still have to [work hard] if you’re on a major.

WE: Major labels aren’t as bad as some believe.
DW: People are always bashing major labels; but a major makes sure the music is available to everybody. We won’t make as much money (per sale) as artists on an indie label, but more people hear our music. I would rather make less money and sell more records.

WE: So the record is exactly how you wanted it?
DW: We wanted more songs.
GC: But you don’t want people to get exhausted by it, either. You want them to put it on repeat.
MD: I’m pleased to actually see it finished.

WE: I remember overhearing you tell someone you were unemployed. Have you finally had to realize that Kill Hannah is a big band?
MD: It is all perception. It’s tacky when bands exaggerate or inflate what they have done. I never wanted to exhibit that behavior myself.

Northern Star, Oct. 16, 2003

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