DATE OF INTERVIEW:
13th October 2011
METAL DISCOVERY: Firstly, I love the Kunz tracks on the split Coilguns/Kunz EP. There’s a very raw, experimental, improvised vibe in the tracks - do you ever go through a structured songwriting process or is your music born more from jamming?
LOUIS: Well, I started playing with Luc in a jazz trio, 8 years ago. The challenge was then to jam with odd beats, see how free we can be with unusual time signatures. That's a rhythm section thing I guess, as most of the other instrument players never got it. Anyway, after all these years and all the different projects we've been involved with, we still play the same way and we love to test our limits. All the tracks were recorded live, without any sort of click track or overdubs. So yes, part of it is improvised, but we're not a jam band. Kunz has always been about the songs, even though we play them very freely. Let's say we play our own standard tunes as if they were coming from a noise-rock "real book".
(Louis Jucker on Kunz' experimental live performances)
"We could only see each other through lo-fi TV screens. The audience didn't really know how to behave and where to look as the sound was coming from all around the pavillion. They were moving back and forth from Luc's stage to mine, trying to put the pieces back together as if this show was some kind of a sonic enigma they were supposed to solve."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Kunz Website:
Split EP with Coilguns (2011)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Kunz are a new name on the scene but the two musicians that comprise the minimalist noise rock duo, bassist/vocalist Louis Jucker and drummer Luc Hess, will be known to many as the rhythm section from The Ocean. Recently releasing four tracks on a split EP with Coilguns (another band in which both are involved), it's but a mere tantalising taster of the innovative music both have created under the Kunz moniker. With a series of select live shows under their belts, Kunz' performances are as iconoclastic as their songs, exercising their art in experimental contexts that have included performing in cages and on moving platforms. Metal Discovery posed a series of questions to Louis to find out more about this most intriguing of acts...
Kunz - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2010 [uncredited]
MD: On a surface level the music’s very minimalist and stripped down what with you being just a two-piece, but I think there’s a lot of depth to the tracks as well due to their innovative nature – do you aim to flesh out the music’s inherent minimalism with its experimentation or do you still regard it as minimalist despite the experimentation?
LOUIS: We don't want to be associated too much with today's "artsy two-piece math rock" trend. Even though we're using the same set-up as band like Lightning Bolt or Planets, our approach is different. Most of these bands sound to me like they're trying to be as fast and as weird as possible. Their music is abstract and talks mainly to musicians. I reckon they're using baroque songwriting to compensate the minimalism of their line up, and this makes me feel like doing the exact opposite. We generally only have two riffs per track, few lines of lyrics. We don't claim to be experimental, we play the songs we like and we want them to be able to touch anybody (even girls).
MD: In my review of the EP, I described your music as: “Imagine Motörhead on LSD (if that would even affect Lemmy) having a late night jam to exorcise any repressed angst in their unconscious and that's sort of what Kunz sound like.” Would you say that’s a fair description?
LOUIS: I liked the review quite a lot. This quote is pretty cool indeed, even though probably only accurate for a track like ‘What Makes Me Sleep". ‘Flow’ is a very peaceful song for example. Strangely, many people put the tag "doom" on it, but they're wrong; it is an extremely positive song and always a relief to play.
MD: I gather you’ve experimented with your live set-ups as much as you experiment with your music where you’ve performed in cages, on moving platforms etc . Would you say that breaking away from the convention of performing on a stage has provided environments that have encouraged you to be more innovative with the actual music?
LOUIS: We only play when we're invited to and each show is unique. All the ideas behind our experimentations come usually from what our hosts want us to do. We don't need any habits as we like to try new things and see how the songs react to their environment. We just played, for example, an acoustic show in Chengdu during The Ocean's latest China tour. Guitar, percussions and candles, as the concept of the bar owner was not to use any electricity at all. Such constraints really force you to deal with any situation, to appreciate and use all the mistakes you're doing. It makes the song evolve, it makes it stronger and surely adds depth to it. Just like yourself, somehow, travelling makes one grow up, don't you agree?
MD: What’s the most surreal/bizarre setting in which you’ve performed?
LOUIS: This show in Geneva we just put online (www.k-u-n-z.ch) is by far the most fucked-up thing we've done. We were playing on both sides of NOLAND, a pavilion curated by Swiss artist Giona Bierens De Haan. We could only see each other through lo-fi TV screens. The audience didn't really know how to behave and where to look as the sound was coming from all around the pavillion. They were moving back and forth from Luc's stage to mine, trying to put the pieces back together as if this show was some kind of a sonic enigma they were supposed to solve.
MD: You’re both involved in various projects with the biggest being The Ocean, of course, but do you feel the need to have all these different musical ventures to channel various sides to your creativity where you can be innovative in different ways?
LOUIS: You get it right. Even though Kunz is our main and most personal project, playing with/for other artists is something we'll always like to do. Let's say we experiment things on our own and then try to implant them in other bands.
MD: Do you regard each of your projects as discrete entities or would you say they feed off each other in terms of inspiration for all the different music you write and perform?
LOUIS: I started writing Kunz' first tracks during Ocean tours so, yes, I guess each band influences the others. The music you listen to, the people you're touring with, the landscape maybe, who knows where your inspiration comes from. What is sure is that playing in a "big" band like The Ocean makes us do something different with Kunz. We don't want it to be another normal band or try to make a carrier out of it as we already have one. This is probably where all this freedom comes from.
MD: How have press and public reactions been so far to Kunz?
LOUIS: Good! Kunz is more polarizing than Coilguns, and that's important to us. Some webzines totally hated it. We don't give a fuck. The first shows we played were mad, never had such an intense reaction from the crowd. This is what matters. Each show we play is a journey and we cherish each song we record as a new born child. The entire thing with this band is way too intimate for us to care seriously about how journalists may judge it.
MD: I gather you sold quite a few copies of the split EP during The Ocean’s last tour in the US, UK and mainland Europe - how have fans of The Ocean taken to Kunz?
LOUIS: The hand-made version has sold extremely well and fast. We had a lot of positive reactions from fans. People like to compare the two bands (Coilguns vs Kunz) but never really seem to favour one to the other. That's really a chance for us to be able to publish new material and have such a big amount of dedicated fans listening to it. I think they liked the fact that 3 musicians can have two different bands, next to another big one they're involved in. That's a proof to me that Ocean fans are open-minded and like to be challenged.
MD: Are we talking a random band name with Kunz or is this supposed to represent anything specific in relation to your music and experimental attitude?
LOUIS: No. It came somehow from the fact that everyone in our hometown has a French first name and a German surname. So we chose an usual German name that sounded like a bass and a kick drum hit together. It expresses the minimalism of the lineup, and is familiar to everyone. Kunz could be one of your neighbours.
MD: Can we expect a full-length release at any point in the near future?
LOUIS: Yes. We recorded more than 50 minutes of music between June 2009 and February 2010. The split songs are only a small part of it. The rest is... different. Don't wanna say much more about it. We also gathered a lot of video material.
MD: Finally, what would you like to say that might encourage people to go and check out Kunz?
LOUIS: Pretty easy; check out our video blog: www.k-u-n-z.ch . That's the most accurate description of what we really are. If you know the EP tracks, listen to the live takes. If you like the videos, get the EP. And please stay tuned. There's a lot more to come.
MD: Cheers very much for your time, and best of luck with this band and all the others!
LOUIS: Thank you Mark for these very interesting questions.