“R&B, dancehall, electronic and hip-hop are genres that are really pushing the limits,” Jamie Hince, the Kills’ British singer-guitarist, told Rolling Stone recently. “But guitar music isn’t. Most bands are just tributes to the 1970s or the Nineties.” With their new album, Ash & Ice, out June 3rd, the Kills aim to change that. “I feel some allegiance to pushing electric-guitar music into a different realm,” Hince adds, “somewhere that isn’t retrospective.”
For the Kills, the future of guitar music isn’t necessarily all about guitars. On Ash & Ice, Hince and Nashville-based singer Alison Mosshart – also frontwoman for Jack White’s goth-blues band the Dead Weather – polish their edgy sound, built on his caustic riffs and her witchy wail. But the difference on this LP, the band’s fifth, is all in the beats; when asked who or what influenced the shift, Hince cites a rapper. “It’s amazing looking at bass-drum patterns or drum-machine programming from, like, Pusha T,” Hince says of the Jay Z and Kanye West collaborator. “Those are sounds and influences that are new to this record.”
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During a chat with RS, the band – currently wrapping a U.S. tour – discussed shaking up its songwriting process, Hince’s inspirational solo trip on the Trans-Siberian Express and album-delaying hand surgeries, and the duo’s decision to break tradition to record in Los Angeles. “Anything is possible there,” Mosshart says of tracking Ash & Ice in the City of Angels. “If you want to make a different record from the one before it,” adds Hince, “then you start off doing things in the opposite way.”
It’s been five years since the prior Kills album, 2011’s Blood Pressures, which is your longest break between LPs. …
Hince: The bulk of what we do is as a touring band. For Blood Pressures, we toured for two and half years. And the difference between the Kills in the studio and on the road was becoming more and more bipolar. We’ve become a real studio band. There’s a lot of crafting and sonic work. And then we have to figure out how to perform the songs live. There’s always a moment of wondering how we’ll play these studio songs live on stage. It just takes time.
Jamie, you underwent several hand surgeries. What happened?
Hince: My fingers were locking up a bit from playing, so I had cortisone injections in my knuckles, which strengthened my hand. But too many shots will start to weaken your hand. Later, I slammed my finger in a car door and my surgeon gave me more injections. But they went wrong and I got an infection, and ended up losing a tendon from my middle finger to my wrist. I had six surgeries over two years to try transferring the tendon. So now three fingers do all the work. I had to adapt my playing and work out how to carry on as a guitarist. But it’s actually quite easy. It forced me to play differently. I can’t play standard barre chords like everyone else. I’m being forced into a different style.