Hardy: Kingmaker, Elastica and On Stage Suicide
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
'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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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."
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".
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."
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
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.
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."
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.