If you are looking for a musical act whose sound could only be described as “gargantuan”, then I think Kowloon Walled City is your best bet. Kowloon Walled City’s most recent effort, Container Ships, came to me at a time when I needed it most. I was on a desperate search for a record that sounded huge and heavy but also have unique characteristics that would keep my attention. Needless to say, Container Ships was that record and it absolutely blew me away. In the midst of a Kowloon Walled City high, I contacted guitarist/vocalist Scott Evans to chat about the band and their new record.
LO: Hello Scott. How are you doing? Could you please introduce yourself to the readers?
SE: My name is Scott Evans. I play guitar and sing in Kowloon Walled City, and when I’m not doing that I make as much time as I can to record other bands.
LO: You have a very interesting sound to say the least. The sludge influence is apparent but I hear some noise rock nuances among other things. How would you describe Kowloon Walled City to someone who has not heard of you before?
SE:These days I just say we play loud music. But I’d point at bands like Unsane, Godflesh, Frodus, maybe Young Widows or KEN Mode or Fight Amp.
LO: There is sludge, noise rock and the other ridiculous subgenres we bloggers love. Do you think some of this subgenre-labeling is misrepresenting the band’s sound? Is there a certain way you would like Kowloon to be categorized if at all?
SE: People are welcome to categorize our band however they like. Those categories are for them, not for us, you know? You make music and you put it out there and people think what they will.
That said, a lot of my favorite bands don’t fit into some neat category. And bands that do fit neatly into an existing genre mold don’t usually interest me personally. So I hope that when we’re hitting it right, we are our own thing and can be listened to on those terms.
LO: What played a key role in crafting Kowloon’s signature sound?
SE: That’s hard to answer—every band is the sum of its parts, more or less. In our band, everybody is really important. Everybody’s playing influences the result a lot, and everybody contributes to songwriting. I bring a lot of songwriting ideas, and I’m the guy who does a lot of the honing into final song form, but along the way everybody provides a lot of input. We also do a shit-ton of editing and rewriting. We’ve probably thrown out three records worth of decent ideas to get to this record. And I have no problem with that. If idea XYZ seems amazing but it just doesn’t fit into the song structure, or the next week we come up with something better, then idea XYZ gets shitcanned or put on the shelf to think about later. I am rarely ever married to ideas or parts.
LO: Kowloon Walled City released the massive Container Ships about a month ago. Could you tell me what went into making that record? Writing, recording, lyrics, etc?
SE: It took us probably two years to write this record. We lost Jason Pace, who is a great guitar player and a great friend, and replaced him with Jon Howell, who is also an amazing guitar player and has become a good friend too. So some amount of time was just getting up to speed with Jon, getting used to playing together and writing together. Writing with Jon has been great and moved at a pretty good clip. Again, there’s all the editing and redoing and slowly working things out, but for the most part we were moving forward the whole time. Anyway, yeah, two years of work.
The recording itself was reasonably fast. I’ve recorded all of our records, and I did this one as well. We’ve all worked together enough that we’re efficient and we get along well in the studio. For this record we were better prepared than we’ve ever been. The recording process was very tight. We did basics at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, over about 3 days, and then I did vocals over the course of the next month or so. Vocals took a while because I’ve been having throat problems and I had to take it easy. And then mixing probably took me 3 days or so, on and off.
LO: Why the name Container Ships? Does the album have a central theme?
SE: The record has a few themes, I guess—getting older, responsibility, work, the weird realities of modern American life. As for a title, Container Ships just felt right. There’s something about that song that embodies the rest of the record. There’s also a distinct San Francisco tie-in, which I like–since the song “Container Ships” was originally inspired by the port of Oakland.
LO: How do you feel this record compares to previous efforts?
SE: Based on talking to other people, I guess it’s a bigger leap than I originally thought. To me, you can draw a line through our two previous records, and the songs on that Lose Lose Lose split, and that line would logically end up at this new record. But maybe this record is a little further along the line than I thought. Anyway, this record is less filthy and overtly pissed off. It sounds cleaner and bigger. The songs are longer, but I think they’re very tightly written. I am proud of these songs.
LO: The title of the closing track, “You Don’t Have Cancer”, aroused my curiosity. Is there a back story behind that title or is it just a random title?
SE: It’s not a random title at all. It’s something a doctor said to me while we were trying to chase down the throat problems that have been plaguing me for years.
LO: How do you guys acquire that solid guitar tone on the record?
SE:It’s a POD preset. No, I’m kidding. We play pretty simple rigs – guitar, one pedal, amp. I don’t know if there’s anything special I can point at about our tones other than we set things so they sound good to us. We’ve never gone way over the top with distortion, and we backed off on it even more for this record. We’ve always been pretty midrange heavy. There’s also a huge bass guitar presence in our band. Ian’s bass tone is always great. I’m pretty sure he could play a Wal Mart bass through a 15w practice amp and it would sound good.
LO: The majority of Kowloon’s material is available on Bandcamp with a “name your own price” option. Why did you choose to make your music available this way?
SE: We used to simply put our records up for free download on our website. The Bandcamp route seemed like a nice compromise—you can still download the record for free if you want, but you can pay if you want as well. That’s worked out great. I know I love it, as somebody who buys music. I’m always glad to kick down $5 or $10 for a record that I love.
LO: Kowloon’s other guitarist, Jonathan, is also in Tigon. Are you involved in any other projects besides Kowloon? If not, what kind of project would you pursue if you had the opportunity?
SE: I don’t play in any other bands. Between KWC and recording other bands, I’m as booked as I can be–I have a family and a day job too. If I had infinite time, I’d love to play bass –and not be the goddamn singer–in a mathy, aggressive band. But I’d choose recording first. That’s my first love.
LO: What’s next for Kowloon Walled City? Any upcoming touring plans?
SE: We’re doing a short east coast tour in April, with Zozobra—we just announced the tour dates today. That should be awesome. We’re doing a couple of west coast shows next month with our friends in Batillus. Besides that, who knows.
LO: Any final words of wisdom?
SE: Always get the kick and snare centered in your overhead mics. That left-right kick-snare thing is terrible.
LO: Thanks for taking the time to do this Scott. Take care.
SE: Thanks Lane!
Go check out Kowloon Walled City on the road with Zozobra in April:
April 6 Brooklyn, NY St Vitus
April 7 Baltimore, MD Club K
April 8 Durham, NC Casbah
April 9 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
April 10 Philadelphia, PA The Barbary
April 11 Pawtucket, RI Machines With Magnets
April 12 Albany, NY Valentines
April 13 Boston, MA Great Scott
Kowloon Walled City on the Net: