As Kinski mark their 20th anniversary, it's safe to say they've become a Seattle musical institution.
In addition to celebrating two decades of spacious and hard-driving rock for cerebral hedonists, Kinski last month reissued—via Kill Rock Stars—their first proper studio LP, 2001's Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle (it's a double-LP version with two bonus tracks). Be Gentle put these mainstays on the international map and established them as a potent force of heavy psychedelia (check "One Ear in the Sun" and "Newport" for definitive proof) and krautrock, as well as instigators of punky instrumentals that tear through heads in a brutal blur. They've also done mean covers of the Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion" and the Clean's "Point That Thing Somewhere Else."
Kinski guitarist Chris Martin says the band were "pretty green" when they entered the reputedly haunted Robert Lang Studios with producer Kip Beelman to cut Be Gentle. He recalls technical glitches while recording LP opener "Spacelaunch for Frenchie" after midnight.
"We had some huge buzzing problems that we couldn't get rid of, and it was driving everyone crazy. Kip suggested we pull all the amps out of the isolation booths and just set everything up around the drums in the main room. Some of us smoked some pot, which we never really do, and recorded two versions. With all the amps in the same room, the sound started spinning and circling around the walls like a whirling dervish. I'll never forget it. It kind of blew my mind."
Kinski—which also includes bassist Lucy Atkinson, guitarist Matthew Reid Schwartz, and drummer Barrett Wilke—paid for Be Gentle with a family member's loan, but had to record it quickly. "I remember Kip saying, 'I want you guys to have a good time' with the recording process because 'who knows if you'll get to do it again,'" Martin recalls. "I was miffed about that because I figured we were going to make tons of albums for years to come!"
They did, and many of them—including Airs Above Your Station, Alpine Static, and Cosy Moments—are great.
With 17 years' hindsight, how does Martin feel about Be Gentle? Any regrets? "I remember at the time a few people saying that they liked the record, but it didn't capture the power of the band live. So the next few records, we started to get a little obsessed about trying to sound 'live.' But now when I listen to it, I think it sounds really great and totally captures where we were at that point. Kip did a great job. And I still think opening with a 10-minute ambient piece is a really smart thing to do! Ha!"
What does Martin say to people who think Kinski peaked with Be Gentle? "'Fuck you'? But seriously, I get it. The first burst of a band has an innocence that you can't really recapture. But I think we've continued to progress. And we don't want to ever repeat ourselves."