Houston Calling

Interview: Kill Hannah

September 8th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Chicago rock band Kill Hannah opens for She Wants Revenge tonight (Tuesday, 9.8.09) at House Of Blues. I recently asked drummer Elias Mallin some questions…

Houston Calling: I caught Kill Hannah live for the first time during SXSW a few years ago (at the Hard Rock Cafe, I believe) with a friend from Chicago and enjoyed the show. Do you enjoy life on the road?

Elias Mallin: Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the show…We love life on the road. It can be grueling at times but there is nothing that compares to getting up on stage and pouring your heart out to the audience. Even when we were recording the last album, Wake Up The Sleepers, we were thinking the whole time, “How would this come across live?” Touring is the life blood of the band and its always on our minds. If we didn’t love it as much as we do we couldn’t be doing this.

HC: What can you tell me about Wake Up The Sleepers? Where did you record it? Are you happy with the result?

EM: Yes we are. It was a very interesting record to make. The result was a very eclectic mix of old and new Kill Hannah. This was the record that the band always wanted to make. Given the timeline we needed to have it done by we ended up recording at so many different studios, one of them being the legendary CRC in Chicago. 90 percent of the recording was done in Chicago, with the exception of some special guest appearances.

Kill Hannah has always been a band that has survived no matter what the climate of the industry is and this record shows we are a true alternative band.

HC: How did the process of recording this album differ than what you have done in the past?

EM: The previous albums had been done by very well established and known producers. We also had a lot more time to record the albums back then. It’s a different time now, budgets for records are not as big as they were in the 80s so these days most bands record within a couple months. This record was no exception to that. However, this was the first time we were able to produce the album ourselves. We had taken everything we learned from Sean Beavan and Jonny K (our previous producers) and applied that to this record. When you hear a song these days your never sure who did what in the studio. Did the band write this chorus? How much influence did the producer have? This record was all us 100 percent of the time. We had some great people working with us but we made all the decisions, which was so nice this time around.

HC: One of the things that has impressed me most about Kill Hannah is the dedication to fans and how the fans really helped get the word out in the band’s early days. Do you think you would have experienced the same success without the kind of “grassroots” fanbase? Have you found that the fans have stuck with you over the years, with changing labels, trends, etc.? How do you think (or do you think) that the “digital revolution” in the music industry has affected the way you make your music?

EM: The band would never be where we’re at or have had the longevity that we have if we didn’t have a grass roots following. In the early years and even now we’ve always had the mentality of building our fan base one fan at a time. I think when you build a fan base like that you have more invested in the fans and they have more invested in you. So when you change labels, or you’re not on the radio anymore they’re still there because you never had that in the beginning. HC: How do you think (or do you think) that the “digital revolution” in the music industry has affected the way you make your music?

EM: I wouldn’t say its affected the way we make or write our music, just the way its marketed and physically presented. We made a full album, but we were thinking about just making an EP or even throwing three songs at a time up iTunes. People are much more song-oriented now, most people don’t listen to albums in their entirety anymore, which I think is sad, but at the same a lot of artist these days don’t make entire albums worth listening to. The technology has enabled us to make our own play lists and skip over the “filler” songs. I look at this album as our Disintegration, and people will listen to the whole thing as a piece.

HC: I am a fan of a lot of bands that came out of the Chicago music scene in the mid-90s, such as yourselves, Fig Dish/Caviar/Ness, LocalH, Hushdrops, TripleFastAction, The Webb Brothers. How do you view that time in Chicago music? Obviously, there’s always been a lot of creativity coming out of the area…

EM: Woah! I’m impressed that you remember that. That was the alternative rush years of Chicago. It seemed like after the success of the Pumpkins and Veruca Salt, every label was coming to Chicago to sign bands. We’re friends with just about every band you mentioned and hearing those names definitely brings back some memories. It was the days of 120 minutes on MTV and seeing most of those bands at Metro. I loved that time when it seemed like every band had a chance at success and there were no rules.

HC: Do you feel it’s important for bands to evolve? Certainly, some fans could take a change in direction as a stab in the back yet a band runs the risk of being pigeonholed into something it’s not or missing the opportunity to grow with its fans and with the times. I sense a bit of a change in the direction on some of the new album–specifically, a bit more of an electronic feel. Do you agree? Also, was this something intentional on the part of the band or did it just happen as you were developing new material?

EM: Well, the two sort of pre-singles on iTunes right now can be deceiving as far as anyone thinking the new album is only electronically driven but really the record is all over the place. There some dance electro songs, some up-tempo rock songs, some industrial influenced song, and then U2-inspired stuff along with classic KH. Kill Hannah is ever-evolving because we feel that we can. We have always thought of ourselves as not having any rules. We never really fit into a specific scene so we made our own, with our own rules haha. Mat (singer) writes the majority of the music and all different styles come out of him. I don’t think he is ever contrived about what he’s writing to just get it on the radio or something. We just try to make the music we wanna hear cause no one else is making it. If anything, the direction of the band is returning to its more experimental days but we have a better sense of how to wrote a cohesive song now.

HC: The new album’s coming out on a different label, correct? Any major label horror stories you care to relate?

EM: Yes. It’s coming out on Original Signal/Universal. The same label as our sister band, The Sounds. The team at Original Signal is unbelievable. They work so hard and are so passionate about their artists–it’s awesome. They give us the freedom to focus on music and the artistic aspect of things. With all the negative attention that labels get right now, Original Signal is really breaking the mold. So, as of right now I have nothing bad to say about labels.

HC: Will you be dedicating “Kennedy” to Teddy?

EM: Hahahah no, he killed too many people.

HC: What are some of the albums/bands you’ve been listening to lately? Anything to recommend? Any up-and-coming Chicago band I need to checkout?

EM: Well, my personal taste differ a bit from the rest of the guys. I pretty much exclusively listen to TOOL, NIN, and Marilyn Manson, and any but as far as new bands everyone needs to listen to INNERPARTYSYSTEM, Mew, Dead Weather, and The Big Pink.

Thanks to Elias Mallin of Kill Hannah for taking the time out to answer these questions. Come check out Kill Hannah tonight (Tuesday, 9.8.09) at Houston’s House of Blues, where the band is opening for She Wants Revenge.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 emiliecashh // Oct 1, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Wake Up The Sleepers was released on 09/29/09 and the proudest album of Kill Hannah’s career. Going back to the way things were when they were doing it themselves,m producing the album themselves and promoting the band after shows themselves, they return to that mentality and give fans what they are really looking for when it comes to their music and what to expect. The title, “Wake Up The Sleepers” is a call to the music industry as is is today, where people are caring less and only looking at the business side and forgetting what its all about; the music. This album is a fantastic mix of dance songs with heavier undertones and darker themes. The lyrics are more in depth and personal and Mat Devine’s vocals are on point all the way. This album is completely worth every penny. You may purchase the album at Killhannah.com, iTunes, and amazon.com.

  • 2 VioletSerraph // Oct 2, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    i just got my copy and i SRONGLY suggest to EVERYONE to pick up a copy where ever they can! i decided i was going to buy this album after hearing only ONE song off of it at one of their shows. (not to say that the other 4 sneek peeks were not enjoyed). i went home that night and got online to pre-order. NO REGRETS! danceable beats, edgey lyrics that also have meaning…. who could ask for more? it holds up all Kill HannaH fans’ expectations while still being fresh and new! They did an EXCELLENT job! i reccommend this album to EVERYONE!

  • 3 EmilyTFT // Oct 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    The new record by the band Kill Hannah, Wake Up the Sleepers, is finally here! There are no words to describe how happy I am with this album! Each song is different, and in a good way – you can see how they draw different influences from different bands. There’s no one else like them; they are my absolute favorite. You can connect with each song; each one is as good as the last. I couldn’t ask the band for anything better. So buy it now!

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