Q&A: Mat Devine of Kill Hannah Talks to Knockdown Alley

Posted on Thursday November 12th in

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It has been 20 years since music was first released under the name Kill Hannah. Since then, the band have had an unbelievable adventure, and the rockers couldn’t imagine leaving without saying goodbye, which is why they’ve announced one final show at the Bowl.

Ahead of their farewell show, frontman Mat Devine talked to Brooklyn Bowl about the band’s musical journey and his love for London.

You’re winding down your final UK tour — and your band’s career. After 20 years, do you feel like you can’t wait for this to end so you can get on with the next thing? Or do you wish you could put on the breaks and slow it all down? Both. We wanted to make a strong choice — to end it honorably — but I know the second we get on stage in the U.K. we’ll have a hard time coming to terms with the reality that it’s the last run.

And speaking of the next thing, do the guys in the band already have other projects lined up or are you just letting Kill Hannah conclude before considering something else? I put out a solo record, Gold Blooded, under the name Wrongchilde (featuring a duet with Gerard Way) — I have a song with Rain Man coming out soon, and I just released a dark children’s book called 101 Ways to Kill a Goldfish. Jonny has a solo project called Polar Moon and started playing guitar for some dates with Krewella. Greg is DJing all over, and hosting/producing a national music TV show in Chicago. And Dan’s new project is a son. Holy hell KH is procreating! I always had a post–Kill Hannah parachute fantasy of moving into a tiny fisherman’s hut on a remote island in Sweden … reading by candlelight and catching mackerel or whatever. But now that it’s within sight, it doesn’t feel as sexy. Besides I have no fucking idea how I’d get candles, or wine for that matter, delivered to my island. And that’s kind of a nonstarter.

Does playing the U.K. — London, specifically — have any special significance to your band? Or is the road pretty much the same wherever you go? London kills. We’ve been major anglophiles forever. All our favorite bands are English. I even used to fake an accent in the earliest days. Playing London for us the first time was a major milestone and has since always been unforgettable. In particular I remember playing the Astoria days before it was demolished.

What can we expect at your final U.K. show, at Brooklyn Bowl London on 6 December? Gonna play a best-of set list, expect KH in top form. Lots of sweat, but the good kind of sweat — not like a dude with hypertension in line at McDonalds.

Which bands that you listened to growing up do you still listen to? The Cure, the Smiths, Love and Rockets, Jane’s Addiction, Pixies, Catherine Wheel, Ride, Siouxsie, Depeche Mode, NIN, Psychedelic Furs

Which London musician — past or present — would you most like to play with? Holy shit! This is a dream question: Bowie. Runner up: Rob Dickinson from Catherine Wheel.

What’s the best part of playing London? And what’s the worst part? Best part of playing in London is not being in Wyoming. Also I fucking love the 24-hour Tesco in Earls Court. The worst part is nearly getting killed by the buses whenever I cross the street.

Where do you like to hang out in London? And do you ever think you could live here? We all tend to end up at Crobar, but I also venture out alone to odd hotel bars or old school restaurants like J Sheekey. I always thought it’d be romantic to live there, for real. If anyone knows of any earls or dukes with a spare wing of a manor or any ivy-covered coach houses going uninhabited let me know. I’ll move in and haunt it for you.

What music or song always makes you dance? “How Soon Is Now,” by the Smiths. Also if that’s playing in a store, I stay and buy something on principle.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song — are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much? Yeah, for sure. Lyrically, I tend to lean on darker subjects and grand vision stuff. I can go crazy fluff when I write for other people (you wouldn’t even believe it), but I do have a crutch of trusting familiar heavier themes with KH. In terms of style, I like to align with bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead, or the Cure, who set early precedents that they won’t allow themselves to be narrowly categorized. Our fans have come to be very open to our twists and turns. Whatever habits I feel I’m starting to form in songwriting (assuming there must be a big chorus, for example), I try to be self-aware and to challenge them if they aren’t pushing me forward.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you? Flies are fucking gross. There’s one on the window at this cafe right now. Should I hate it so much? It didn’t ask to be born as a gross fly I suppose…. Sorry, yeah, certainly there are tons of exceptions to this rule, but generally lyrics that draw from real experiences tend to land harder and age better.

At your after-party there’s an endless jukebox, which three songs are your first choice? “Heartbeats,” the Knife, “Public Service Announcement,” Jay Z, and “Diamonds n the Dark,” Dark Waves

Last call has come and gone. What’s your next move? Inevitably we end up kicking it underneath the 24-hour Tesco in Earls Court in the bus. I swear to God it’s one of my favorite places on earth. Run out of wine or bread … or pants at 4 a.m.? There’s a store literally above you.
—R.Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

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