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Kowloon Walled City Interview

A Conversation with Vocalist/Guitarist Scott Evans


Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon Walled City

Brutal Panda Records
The San Francisco sludge metal band Kowloon Walled City recently released their sophomore album Container Ships. It was their first record with guitarist Jon Howell. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Evans fills us in on the latest KWC happenings.

Chad Bowar: What led to guitarist Jason Pace's departure, and how did you decide on Jon Howell as his replacement?
Scott Evans: About two years ago, Pace told us he had one more record in him. He was burnt on playing in bands. We kept writing, but his heart wasn't really in it and it was slow going. I think the rest of us started to wonder if we were done.

I had recorded this great band called Tigon, and Jon's their guitar player. And I realized that Jon might be a good fit in our band -- both his personality and his playing. We mentioned the idea to Jon and he was super into it, and that was pretty much that. It was all on good terms. I love Pace and he's still one of my best friends.

We always said that this band was defined by the four original guys -- if somebody left, we'd split. Turns out we were wrong. But that said, Jon is the only guy we considered. If he had said no, I don't know where we'd be. Anyway, he's been amazing. He's a great guy and a weird, rad guitarist. He's contributed a ton to the songs.

How did your songwriting and recording process for Container Ships compare to your previous work?
We had to get up to speed working with Jon. Beyond that, songwriting was pretty much the same -- slow. Probably slower than before. We throw away so many ideas. And the ones we keep, we tweak and tweak until they work just so. That's my fault mostly.

Recording was a little different. I did the recording as usual, but for this record we decided to work at an actual recording studio, instead of our sh--ty practice space. That meant a great-sounding drum room, and isolation for the guitars, and no grindcore bands playing right next door for the whole session.

The actual tracking and mixing processes weren't any different than other records -- by now we know what works for us. We get in and work fast and we're not real delicate about anything. But the sounds we got are definitely different and I'm really happy with them.

I understand you were dealing with some throat issues during the process.
Yeah. I've actually had throat problems on and off for years, but they've been worse over the last year. I've been going to doctors and speech therapists and trying to get on top of it. The throat stuff made it hard to play many shows this year, and I was worried it would really screw up recording. Fortunately vocal recording went pretty well. I'm still surprised about that. Hopefully I'll be okay going forward. I don't want to be a crybaby, but my throat kind of ruined this year for me.

How has the band's sound evolved/progressed from your last full-length to this one?
You could draw a pretty straight line through our records, splits included, and that line would land on this record. I think we're getting better at being this band. This record has more space. It's less blown out. The guitars sound a little different, the drums sound more like drums in a room. It's obviously the same band but there are a bunch of small differences.

What are the pros and cons of producing the album yourself?
It's not for every band for sure. But for us, there are so many good reasons to do it the way we do. The whole time we're writing, somewhere in the back of my head I'm thinking "How will I record this? How will this come across?" When we're tweaking guitar tones or choosing gear, same thing. It's not some big up-front thing but it's processing in the background. Once in a while we talk about recording ideas at practice. So a plan kind of makes itself over time.

Then during tracking, it's just us. It's like a long band practice, you know? There's no extra person in the room who we have to get comfortable with. That's great. We know each other really well and we get along.

For some bands, having one guy split time between playing and recording would be really bad, but it works fine for us. The only con I can think of is that it's more stress for me. But I love recording more than pretty much anything, so it's worth the stress.

How did you decide on the album title?
"Container Ships" is one of the songs on the record, and there's something about that song, and its title, and its lyrics that sums everything up about this record. It just felt right.

How did you decide to sign with Brutal Panda for this album?
We got to know Mike and Bob a couple of years ago, when they released the "Lose Lose Lose" 3-way split that we did with Fight Amp and Ladder Devils. They are great guys who care a lot about doing good work, and they've been releasing some great records. We talked to a few labels, but Brutal Panda was an easy choice.

What are your upcoming live show/tour plans?
We're playing a few shows in December, and next year we'll see what happens. We can't tour much because of day jobs and families, but we'll do as many shows as we can fit in. We may be able to get out for a few weeks.

What has been your most memorable Kowloon Walled City live show?
We've played a lot of rad shows, and a lot of sh--ty shows, and they're all memorable for one reason or another. Here's one of the good ones -- a few months ago, we played three shows with Sleep. The third one was at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The Fox is this enormous, beautiful historic theater. It's just incredible. It's also about fifty times bigger than the venues we usually play. Jon's usually very reserved and midwestern, and he totally broke character and high-fived me backstage. That show was really something.

What's currently in heavy rotation on your MP3 player?
Cellos are an awesome Canadian band. They just put out a new LP. Tons of Barkmarket's L Ron. I love the last St. Vincent record. What else... Young Widows, Bone Dance, Sandrider, Future of the Left, Northless, Dog Shredder, El-P, Omotai, Kittens, Death Grips, Sore Saints, Hot Lunch, Pins of Light. And a lot of old Genesis, for some reason.

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