Armchair Anarchist
Loz Hardy: Kingmaker, Elastica and On Stage Suicide

By Tyler Jacobson

I was 17 when I saw Kingmaker play for the first time in 1992. Their incredible stage presence, pop sense and tight sound hooked me immediately. The next day, I went and bought a copy of Kingmaker's debut, Eat Yourself Whole. The next week I bought a copy of NME featuring Kingmaker as their cover story. There were some great bands around at the time and Kingmaker could hold there own around their peers, but as these other bands began to gain international fame, Kingmaker quietly disappeared off of the radar.

In 1993 the release of Kingmaker's sophomore LP, Sleepwalking, was released. A solid album with 3 incredible singles, "Armchair Anarchist", "Ten Years Asleep" and "Queen Jane." This was the last album released in the US. Unless you'd been reading the British weeklies, it would have been easy to miss their third and final album, In The Best Possible Taste. As quickly as the press and hype and buzz came, it went away for Kingmaker.

In 1998, I was surfing the internet when a Kingmaker song got stuck in my head. Chances are, I was the only person in the world at that moment with a Kingmaker song rattling around in their head. Despite being hailed as the band of the year of the week by English music magazines, Kingmaker never quite had the notoriety of a Suede or an Oasis. "My experience with the press was the pits," says Loz, "Mainly because of the weight of shit published about the band and me personally. It became a kind of challenge where journalists would try and outdo each other in a who-can-write-the-nastiest-thing kinda MO." Despite creating some of the best music of their time, they never received the same adoration or following that a band like the Verve or The Stone Roses received. So, as I went online looking for the lyrics to this song, I found that there was nothing to be found. The next logical step was to create my own Kingmaker site.

By 1999, I had been in touch with many Kingmaker fans around the world. I've found that most of us hold Kingmaker close to our hearts as they are one of the bands that weren't taken away from us by A&R reps, big dollar publicity campaigns, guest spots on Loveline or, most feared, a public with no taste. Sure, Kingmaker was playing rock and roll, but they couldn't be neatly placed in that category. The same goes for Brit-pop, alternative, prog rock, indie rock... these labels have always been just a little too small for what Kingmaker did. Mildly pretentious, presumptuous and forgiving guitar pop, the easiest description that can accurately place who Kingmaker was.

"I think we were a lot more straightforward than we may have come across. I think I started off with really Dylan, Hendrix and a lot of folk/blues in my repertoire and updated it with bands like the Pixies, Eat, the Wonder Stuff and early Ants. We were equated with the Stiffies and Ned's, etc., but we basically just wanted to be a rock band. I think our second album was our most confused and in then different directions at once which did no favours but it was a battle, we knew where we were heading and the record company,in their tunnel vision, just wanted ten other Scrape the Skies. Same old same old...Ho-hum."

1999 was also the year that iCrunch.com began the release of 4 MP3 only Kingmaker albums. While these albums are mainly catered to die-hards, it offers them a presence on the internet beyond a one-off fan site. Meanwhile, a buzz began about Loz's involvement on the new Elastica album and in April 2000, Q magazine printed a "Where Are They Now?" half pager on Kingmaker. Not a bad question when you think about it. They were in the minds of music fans and then just disappeared. Suddenly, we're seeing traces of how important the band was to its fans. "Where are they now?" is a secondary question, what happened to Kingmaker? is a better one.

"The 'what happened to Kingmaker' has two main sides to it," explains Loz, "One is professional the other personal. Professionally I trace it back to the nightmare experience we had with the second album. The first album was on the whole peachy and left us feeling confident and ready to take on the oyster of a world. We recorded album no. 2 and had it all finished and were pretty pleased with it and it felt good releasing Armchair Anarchist (the first single from the second album), bitchin' single with two bitchin' b-sides. Record co were a bit reticent but couldn't say anything coz we hadn't put a foot, nay, a toe wrong up until this point. Then week of release it got to number 49 or 47 or around there and they called an emergency meeting and informed us they were unwilling to release the album without a top forty single preceding it so they insisted we recorded some new songs. They became fuckheads over night and took the opportunity to do some things they had wanted to do from the start, let me explain, from the start we had independent radio promoters and press and they hated it coz it cost them money and they had pluggers and press in house but they were shit so we kept ours on until that incident. It was at times like that we discovered what unmitigated wankers the suits could be and also how they will make your life hell in an instant coz they got the dough. The fragile egos that run these institutions have to be experienced to be believed and their scheming makes Machiavelli look like the Milky Bar kid.

"Anyway, I digress, so we recorded some new songs and decided on Ten Years sleep as the new single when they announced they were gonna format all singles. I dunno if you have that over state-side but it basically means there would be different b-sides on the 12 inch (2), cassette (1), CD 1 and CD 2 (3 on each). So if the album has say 13 songs on it and with three singles that means you're gonna need 40 songs. 40 fucking songs! So the workload is near impossible and plus the fans get ripped left, right and centre to boot. What was also happening was that you did songs for the album and then b-sides but really fucking excellent songs were ending up tucked away third song on CD 2 and no-one heard them. By the time we got to our last album we decided that we wanted to all 40 songs up front and pick the best for the album but this meant we needed to take a long time out to write and record. A year and a half it took us. In that time Brit pop really happened and blew us out of the water.

"By the time we got to releasing In The Best Possible Taste we knew we were well past our sell-by date and I didn't want to keep playing and playing scaling down to smaller and smaller clubs, I found it a depressing notion."

"On a personal level, for the three months leading up to the Best Possible album tour I had elected to co-manage the band as one of our managers had legged it this meant going to all those friggin' meetings and dealing with the suited scum face to face. What was I thinking? It was getting to the point where it was getting to me and I woke up day after day deeply depressed. It didn't go away and in the end I said to myself that if I really was that unhappy then I shouldn't just stick for the money coz we weren't particularly rolling in it and this shit is really needs 110%. So the day after the last tour date I went in and announced to the MD and a few others that I wasn't willing to go on.

"They wanted to keep me on as a solo but I said, 'no, you are hard of hearing, I said I never want to work with you lot ever again, you have systematically killed my deepest love of music that I have been nurturing since the age of six and I hate you for it.' They said, 'ahhhh, you're tired, we'll ring you next week and you can maybe do some demos....' I left the building and relief I experienced was so powerful and emotional I was ready to fly, I tells ya', the thought of never having to deal with those brains-not-fit-for-dog-food was deeply liberating I felt like a space shuttle pilot who'd just passed his driving test.

"For a year after that I went into hiding. I had two grand in my pocket so I hightailed it down to London and just hid until my recording contract had officially expired. I didn't particularly know it but I was having a breakdownus nervosus, deeply depressed and never wanting to touch the guitar again. It took a fair while but then music started to take hold of my life once again. I started hearing music differently and was making low key soundtrack stuff and slowly began building up a sound. It was then Justine offered me a place to live and I moved in and we started writing together and I was doing my own stuff as well. Some music I've found a home for on pornographic film soundtracks under the marvelous name 'Strappadictomy' and other stuff I have kept back for myself and am putting shit together as we speak. I joined a Samba band and have not decided the full shape of things to come but I'll keep it low key for the time being and just try and avoid all the wank that killed it for me before. Wish me luck."

This is Loz Hardy. A 30-year-old man who quit the game in order to keep playing it. At some point, while Loz was depressed, emancipated and then breaking down, I was on the other side of the ocean, listening to his music. His recorded word, mood and sentiment never changed. As a fan, he was the same person he was when he was writing songs about burning down buildings, whereas he may very well have been planning to do just that at the exact same moment. "The break up was hard and it wasn't. Thing is, when you're in a band you just think you're gonna be like the Stones and be going until fifty but the record company and press were being such major fuckers that the fact my boyhood dream was being shot down in flames paled in comparison. Once I was used to that the decision was easy because I'd had three months of bleak mornings and sleepless nights that it became untenable. I know we made some big mistakes but have no regrets and am proud of what I did.

"At nineteen I had signed a record deal and just wanted to make my life exciting and get out of the dreamy little village I lived in and see some things and miss the 9-5 life and institutional life of education and I did that when all around were telling me to keep it real and forget this crazy rainbow chasing. So fuck them."

Fuck them is right. And to the naysayers, fuck them he did. As easy as it would've been to slip away into the "has-been" booth at Spago's, Loz managed to keep his head above water. It wasn't even his choice really. Call it divine intervention, or call it Justine Frischman, Elastica's lead singer and possibly the world's most famous ex-girlfriend, Loz's ass was saved. "Justine and I have been mates since 1992 and when I was wandering about the streets of London, living in shit holes, she took mercy on me and said to move in. She's been an angel. I mean, when the band broke up everybody told me, 'Ah, you'll land on your feet, you're just one of those types' and then promptly the platitudes were flowing freely but she was the only one to actually respond by helping me and not fobbing me off. We ain't dating and never have been, we sister and bro. We both went through some shit, her breaking up with Damon (Albarn, of Blur) and me getting over the band and we helped each other through. And let me tell you, this biz is as fickle as they say, the phone quickly stops ringing." As Loz's girlfriend puts it, "She saved him first, then I saved him.". Loz and Justine's relationship went beyond that of two flatmates. Loz and Justine began writing songs. Loz composed the music to a few new Elastica songs that appear on their new album, "The Menace".

"On the Elastica album I did the music for 'My Sex' and 'Miami Nice' and on the 'Mad Dog' single I did 'Suicide' and 'Bush Baby'. We have also written a few they are playing at the moment, chief amongst them being 'Bitch Don't Work'. I got involved because the band were in turmoil, not speaking to each other and in the midst of a break up and me and Justine started to do some tunes which kinda caught the mood at the time. It was good for me because I wasn't releasing anything; I wasn't ready for that, so it was a good confidence builder and I generally liked the experienced and think the songs are dope...in my humble but correct opinion."

With some renewed interest in Kingmaker, a 4 album release of outtakes and Loz's writing credits on "The Menace", one starts speculating on what the next move may be for Loz and possibly Kingmaker. Many fans have posted in the Guestbook area of my Kingmaker site and held discussion on Richard Harker's Kingmaker mailing list about how great it would be if the band reformed. With Kingmaker's close kin, The Wonder Stuff, reuniting for gigs in December, the notion doesn't seem that unrealistic. From the sounds of it, though, Loz is content to simply do his own thing. "Even though I've not been signed or any fixed musical abode I haven't stopped writing. Some of it went Elastica's way, some of it became porn, but that still leaves a mountain of music waiting for homes. I can't tell you where it's heading because I'm not sure myself, yet.

"I am certainly satisfying a need to write music. I been thinking bout this and y'know everybody absorbs roughly the same kind of experiences and sees the same news and for some reason I siphon this into making sounds and music, that's what I do. I fought against it for a while because I was negative but I've since given in to it because it's deeply embedded in me somewhere and it makes me feel like I'm fulfilling my role in life. It used to be that I was as much interested in being famous as I was in making music but now it's a much simpler and emotive drive to make the music I wanna make. I feel like the music is mine again, like I used to when I was fifteen before I signed it away to a bunch of cloth-eared second-rate businessmen."

I'm really trying to close things here without a "Velvet Goldmine" or "Behind The Music" feel. Is Loz Hardy on a comeback? Who knows? Is he my hero? He's done his bit of influencing me. This man wrote better songs for an album than most people get out in a lifetime. I used to think the score was even, he gave us some great records and we gave him a few years of being a pop star. When I first got this interview back and read it, I wasn't so sure. It kind of seemed like the fans got the better end of the deal. Still, for all the bullshit that it cost the guys in Kingmaker, you can't put a value on what that band meant to it's fans or the memories that flood back whenever we throw on a Kingmaker album. It doesn't seem like any price would be too high to pay for that kind of a return, but then again, I'm not the one who had to pay it.


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