January 30, 2011
Monster Island Studios,
TP: So, when was the first time you’d ever heard about Kansas House?
JK: Do you mean like quote unquote Kansas House or the first time I encountered it?
JK: I had friends who actually lived across the street, in like 1992. It was like a group house of people, similar to Kansas. There were four people living there, one person probably in a less than ideal room situation, then, like, three regular bedrooms. Pretty much the same layout. And I hung out there a bit, and I remember looking across the street in summer one time and the porch was just full of people. There were girls over there, there was a big party or whatever. And they were like, yeah, they kinda have a lot of parties over there, and I was like, cool. And then nothing for a while and then I think around 1996, 97, I went to a show there and I don’t remember who played, but I think Derek was living there at the time and I was just hanging out with Jay Marinelli on the porch and the folks from Juniper, who changed their name a million times and moved to Philly. But Juniper, from DC. So yeah, that was like ’96 ’97.
TP: And how did you find out about it? How did you end up living there?
JK: I think it might have been Derek, actually. It was either Derek… I don’t even remember if I knew Bob that well. But I was actually going to move into Joanna Virello’s house. I’d paid a deposit, and was all set to move into this beautiful, lower… they called it the Flats. That area.
TP: Where were they, like 15th and T?
JK: Yeah. Something like that. I mean, it was amazing. And then I think I was just about to go on tour with Trans Am for the first time. Everything was like, super transitional, and I just jumped ship on Joanna’s. I said, keep the deposit, I’m gonna bail. You know, like, I know this is lame, but there was something about the opportunity to still kick it around Arlington. I don’t think I was quite ready to make the jump to DC. And there was that basement, which was raw. It was like, whatever you want to do.
TP: And so that was like, mid-90s.
JK: That was ’97 I think.
TP: And before that, you were still living in Arlington, yeah?
JK: Yeah, I lived on South 13th Street in South Arlington. And that house was actually awesome. But it was kind of like, we thought we were real misfits because we smoked a lot of cigarettes inside and drank gin and that’s when Les Trois Malheurs kind of formed up in Nikhil’s place, which was Ann’s place before.
TP: The place above the Galaxy Hut?
JK: Yeah, we started the band there. But we practiced over… I think we practiced over at my house on South 13th and we hung the Jolly Roger out front. So, coming from South Arlington and an unlucky street name, moving to Kansas Street, it was like… Kansas. Actually, it might have even been Micky Menard who told me about Kansas. That’s like a really convoluted memory.
TP: And so, when you moved in there, what were you doing in the world?
JK: I was in Les Trois Malheurs. Which was probably not a big focus. I was doing stuff for Trans Am. I had literally just started touring with them. And then, which basically became my entire focus from that point for the next few years. I was recording bands in the basement which I had started doing at South 13th Street. And I was doing like freelance audio stuff, like corporate audio here and there. So basically, the rent was so incredibly cheap, which was another reason I didn’t move in with Jo, because I think I paid $287.50, I think. It might have been cheaper. Which at the time I was making in a day, doing freelance jobs. So I was just like, I wanna hang out here. I want to hang out on the porch. Dunkin’ Donuts… all the way!
TP: So who did you live there with?
JK: This is a little foggy because there was like a quick blast, but I think it was me, Rico, Bob, and I think Mary Chen and I moved in right about the same time. I think maybe I might have moved in first. I can’t remember… did she replace Rico?
TP: I think she replaced Derek.
TP: So which room was yours?
JK: I lived on the porch.
TP: And you lived there the whole time you were there, yeah?
JK: On the porch, yeah.
TP: Do you know who you replaced on the porch?
JK: I thought it was like Yukiko or someone like that.
TP: So you didn’t live there at the same time as Yukiko?
JK: No. The last line up that I was there with, I think Ann was just about to cruise, so it was like me, Chen, Ann, Bob and then I think Ann got a subletter who had a boyfriend that drove a tow truck. It’s really funny…
TP: You and Bob both brought that guy up.
JK: Totally. Because he parked it, like, on the lawn or something, you know? I barely remember her, but yeah.
TP: I think maybe… either Chris Richards or Hamacher moved into that porch room after you and I can’t remember which.
JK: My hats off to anybody who lived in that room.
TP: Yeah, we may have figured out the trajectory. So yeah, talk about that room a little bit.
JK: Oh man… I, in hearing about you doing this project, a big part of it is that I have to shelve my negative feelings about that room because…
TP: You don’t have to shelve any negative feelings about that room!
JK: It literally was a porch. And it took, what did I live there, for like two and a half years, maybe? It took me a year or so to figure out that there was a gap between the house and the porch that was about this wide. But it was down by the floor board, right where my bed had been. And I moved in when it was warm, so I never really understood why I would wake up in the morning and the toilet was always frozen over, despite the fact that I had a space heater was because I was actually outside. Like, really outside. It was uninsulated. And because there was a halal meat market behind my place, or my space, there were a lot of cab drivers who would hang out there and drink tea or whatever, but they would leave their cars idling. And in the winter, like, I seriously think I lost like three years of my life living in that room because I got gassed. And I got sick and all this stuff and eventually I found where the gap was and I filled it up with spray foam. But yeah, it was intense, and it was very small, and it was… this is about 7 feet wide… it was probably about the same width. It was probably about the same size if you include the bathroom. But, it was, I had my own bathroom, and if you count the shower in the basement which I used, I kinda just had my own apartment.
TP: So you used the shower in the basement?
TP: So talk about that… because that would come up. Well, we should talk about the basement but talk about that bathroom.
JK: My bathroom or the basement?
TP: The basement thing.
JK: It was just a shower. Just a shower.
TP: It was like that when you moved in, with all the weird colors and tiles?
JK: Yeah, I mean it was kind of like, and I’m sure if I saw it now I’d be kind of horrified. And just… but yeah, flip flops, just kind of scurry down there. It was like, mine. No one else was gonna go down there.
TP: So talk about… I feel like you kind of set the precdent in a way for making that a recording area, in the basement.
JK: I guess, I mean, have people done it since then?
TP: I think so.
JK: It sounded really good down there. So, that helped.
TP: How did you set that all up?
JK: Well, I already had all the stuff, you know. And I basically had it in my mind that I owned a studio, it just happened to be something I could fit in my car. And so, like I said, that was a big appeal in moving in there. Like, okay, there’s a little corner where I could put gear, and bands had been practicing down there, so there was even another storage space. There were two weird storage spaces off of either side. And so I just kind of tucked into the corner, kind of behind where the shower was, and I was just going to set up shop there. There was no organization to it or whatever. It just sort of… I sit here, and bands kind of go there and drums kind of fit here and you kind of take all the amps and push them towards the field or whatever– towards the vacant lot, and everything kind of worked out.
TP: Who did you record there?
JK: I recorded my band, Les Trois Malheurs. I recorded myself quite a bit, which, no one will probably ever hear that stuff. Engine Down, Calibos, the Make*Up. I did some stuff for Frodus down there but I don’t know if I actually recorded them there, I think I just mixed them there. I recorded Impossible Five there a couple times, who became Dead Meadow (or members of became Dead Meadow). What else… I think that might actually be it. I did a lot of stuff with Calibos there, and otherwise it was just kind of me practicing, just kind of making projects for myself that no one ever heard.
TP: That’s still kind of like, the fact that you did that in your house… was that weird?
JK: It seemed like the way, but I also spent most of high school in my parents basement doing the same shit. It was just sort of like, today I want to record something and I want it to sound like the Jesus Lizard, so I’m going to reverse engineer what I’m listening to. Basically, I just practiced. It was like, I practiced an instrument, and I could make a lot of noise there and nobody gave a shit, so it was just like, it was cool, you know? It just seemed like what we did. It was very DC, or at least what we thought was very DC. Like, no one’s going to tell us that we need a studio. Or, no one’s gonna tell us that we have to do anything in any way. It was something to record music on, there are people who want to be recorded, and I’m gonna try to make it affordable. There was no real reason to charge people an insane amount of money in a place where you’re gonna smack your head a million times. Recording the Make*Up there was kind of a big deal for me because at the time they were going to South America and seeing themselves on massive billboards and things like that, but at the same time, in their minds, they were just still the Make*Up. Knowing them, years later, or still being in contact with them, I don’t think they ever got seriously huge in their minds. So to them, hanging out and recording in the basement was just fine, it’s just that Michelle kept bumping her head, and I felt bad.
TP: Somebody wrote, in the pictures that I’ve seen, in the stuff that Cynthia took, somebody wrote “Watch your fool head” on that thing…
JK: I wouldn’t be surprised if that was there before I got there.
TP: I know… well, it looks like, I couldn’t tell if it was before you got there or if it was, like you or Ryan that wrote it.
JK: Yeah, it sounds like something Ryan would write. It sounds like something he would say. But who knows. I’d be happy to attribute it to him.
TP: So, talk about what the neighborhood was like when you lived there.
JK: I remember pretty well because I actually was the audio engineer for a cable access TV show, when George Mason Law School had Arlington cable access, which was down the road, blocks away. There was the vacant lot. The vacant lot was vast, and there was Mario’s Pizza. Dunkin’ Donuts was ubiquitous in my life. I used to stare at the Highlander Motel from the porch all the time. Like, that would be my morning ritual. And there was always some random stuff going on in the house across the street. Didn’t the Pietasters move in there or something? Yeah. And then there was the gas station that always did a shitty job, the halal place behind, and a really chill version of Clarendon. You know, it was pretty chill. I don’t remember, was Go! still around?
TP: Maybe… I can’t remember the transition between Go! and Now Music and Fashion.
JK: Oh yeah, right. Yeah…
TP: They didn’t really overlap but one sort of seemlessly ran into the other one.
JK: Yeah… I mean, the weird thing for me is that I had so much free time, I just kind of bopped around from place to place where my friends were working and just do stuff, and go on tour and then come home. I think the biggest thing for me was within a week of moving in there, they broke ground for that first Virginia Square condo. And I remember very vividly standing on the porch staring at the sunset through the vacant lot being like, man, this is awesome. I’m really glad that I filled the gap between my last group house and this one because I was back at my parents’ house for a minute and things were up in the air. And I was just like, man, this is gonna be awesome. And then I was like, aw man, what are they building over there. And so, over the course of a couple years, that thing obliterated the sun, you know? And that… you could really feel the change happening as that thing sort of took flight into the sky. It was like, the Yuppification of it. It really felt like it was going away.
TP: So, talk about, in the house, of the dynamics of the folks that you lived with. Like what you guys did in the house together?
JK: Um, it was a funny world. There was a lot of time spent on that porch. And I feel like in this weird way that Bob, Joe Gross and I had some weird bromance going on, Because I remember we would just get into it. It was like this weird sexual activity of dudes talking about rock. Like we would just get like: raaa! Just so hyped up talking about bands or whatever and analyzing stuff and it was always really comical. I mean, any time you’re hanging out with Bob was really fun. You know? And then there was also, Chen was around… Chen was the first version, you know like if you have people in your life who are like, “The Internet.” Chen was the first version of the Internet… like, she knew about this shit. And she was super fun, but I also feel like she and I butted heads a bunch of times, just kind of like, group house dynamics. And Ann was Ann, Ann’s like, you know, one of the most intense people I’ve ever known in my life…
TP: Were you guys playing in Les Trois Malheurs when you were living in the same house?
JK: Yeah, yeah yeah. We broke up like right around the time that I moved out. And we were practicing there with Craig Gates for a little while, and then Stevie was in the band. I don’t remember practicing there with Stevie a whole lot. I like, really wonder… I think I was smoking a lot of pot, because it just starts to get… well, I definitely was. But it’s getting really murky around then how all that stuff happens. Ann was like, my best friend, and being in a band with her, and living with her, I definitely remember lightening bolts in my brain when I recall those memories. And then there was A. Thomas Crawley.
TP: Yeah, I guess you guys overlapped a little bit.
JK: Yeah! For sure!
TP: A lot!
JK: I don’t remember how long it was but there was definitely some time. I mean, that was a cool combo. And also weird because he was heavy into food combining. So, like, it’s kind of funny because now in Williamsburg, you know, kale is popping up everywhere. For some reason kale is the vegetable. It was the vegetable of 2010, kale chips. I remember he would cook kale all the time and the kitchen was right next to my space, and it was like, what the fuck is that!? Intense bitter vegetable smell! And you know, I came to really hate that fast, but you know…
TP: He was ahead of his time.
JK: Yeah! Now I know some people who are heavy into food combining. But that said, no one ever did dishes. It was like, that… you want to talk about classic punk house dynamic or classic group house dynamic or shared living situation? That was kind of one of those things where it was just like, god, I want to use the kitchen, I just want to make a veggie burger. And I mean, I guess that’s typical. I can’t say that my loft situation now, well now it’s alright, but for a while, it was like, this is just life.
TP: No one ever does the dishes! One of the things that comes up a lot, too, is the fact that it was a house. And you sort of mentioned this by talking about Joe Gross, like people would just show up.
JK: Yeah, kind of. It wasn’t like the door was locked. Or I think we might have had to lock it to keep it from flying open. But otherwise, Joe would come through a lot, the Nelsons would come through a lot. It was a very, very social situation, even if a lot of times it was really quiet, honestly. But I don’t think it was ever not a little bit of a community center. It definitely had that vibe.
TP: What made you move out of there?
JK: A couple things. The Virginia Square condos had just gotten finished. And I remember the week before it finished there were a bunch of cables, flying off the crane, you know, like banging because it was windy or something. And then it all stopped and it was done and I was like, it’s done. The constructions done, it’s quiet. And then the pile driver started on the other side of Monroe Street, closer to our place, to break ground at Monroe and what’s the street right next to us?
TP: The L Street? Lincoln maybe?
JK: Oh, no… the intersection where Kansas was,–was that Washington?
TP: No, that’s Wilson.
JK: Wilson. That’s right, see it’s been a while. Yeah, Wilson and Monroe broke ground right about then. I’m kinda done with this and at the time, Marguerite was kind of like, okay I’ve sold it, you know? She was basically like, somebody’s gonna take it over, a business is gonna take it over. She didn’t sell it. She had a business who was going to double the rent and take care of all the upkeep because at the time she had like, some random dude who kind of repaired stuff, which was typical. She was really pretty hands off in general, but at that point, I think it was around February, she was like, yeah so you guys all have to move out. And I think I was like, fuck this, I’m moving out. And I think I had just kind of like, gotten a little tired of that back room and hearing another condo being built was really, like, right a block and a half from my uninsulated space, I was like, alright, I need to get out of here. And then she changed her mind, and I was like, no fuck this, I’m out. So yeah, I was gone a lot anyway, I was just about to go to Australia and really start the part of my life where I’m at right now, like touring heavily. So I was just like, I gotta go.
TP: So mention what you do now.
JK: A pretty upgraded version of what I was doing then minus being in a functioning band. I just started a band but basically, that’s inconsequential. I work for a band called the Rapture who are from New York and travel internationally quite a bit, and so I do live sound for them and I just recorded their last record, or next record, depending on where you are with this…
TP: Depending on who you’re talking to…
JK: Their soon to be released record, and this is 2011, so… and I’m still producing records here and there, although pretty much in a DIY capacity. It’s basically the same vibe as back then. I was doing some stuff in studios for a while. Like, it’s a lot more fun and interesting to me to catch bands at the point where they can barely function but they’re interesting, and I’m sort of into documenting that and make it easy for them to be recorded at the same time. Before somebody snatches them up and you know, wants to edit the shit out of them. Just get them while it’s interesting. And I’m working on my own music in addition to that. I put out a record last year on the Rapture’s label under the name AKAJK. And I put out three records in the last two years on Shelby Cinca’s label, Swedish Columbia, under my own name. And that’s sort of weird soundtracky electronic dance music. And I also work for a band in Australia called the Presets, who are huge in Australia, and indie underground dance music in the rest of the world. So, basically, I spend most of my year traveling internationally and the rest of the time I’m here doing remixes and mixing records and producing records and stuff, and hanging out and drinking coffee!
TP: Alright! So, let’s talk about, let’s go back a little bit and talk about… so you guys played shows at Kansas.
JK: Yeah, I think, well I can definitely remember two Les Trois Malheurs shows there, and an impromptu reunion show there, on I think it was my 25th birthday. But yeah, there were shows there. There were definitely shows there!
TP: What was it like having shows at your house?
JK: It was… it wasn’t like, it wasn’t weird, you know what I mean? It seemed appropriate. It was like, we have the space, we really should do something. And Derek, I know Derek had been doing shows there before, so it wasn’t unprecedented. I think it was really exciting to have that opportunity to bring people in, and at the time, I thought… you know it kind of felt like church shows and shows in alternative spaces were kind of on the wane, so people were spending a lot of time at the Black cat and just hanging out. When I was in high school, and before the Black cat opened, people didn’t hang out in bars, we just kind of did shit, you know? Maybe it was because we were younger. But we went to shows and we just kind of hung out. There was a lot of hanging out. And then the Black cat opened, and it became this really social thing, so there was the alternative to just doing stuff at a house. Or, on the occasion that Positive Force would do like a show, or at least do a show that I was interested in, I’m sure they were doing shows a lot, they were probably still doing stuff. But you know, people had house shows. And Kansas already had a legacy when I moved in there, especially having Ann around. Ann would be like, we gotta fucking have shows here! So, we did. And the cool thing was because we really liked bands, we all did. And so of course we thought it was really cool to have shows even though it was a pain in the ass too. I was only bummed out once when no one told me there was a show, and I think I had been out working for like two days or something, in like a hotel, doing a corporate thing and I came home at like 8 o’clock and I’d been on the site since like three in the morning and was like, fuck!!!
TP: Do you remember what band it was?
JK: No. Um, I want to say, I would like to say it was the This Bike is a Pipe Bomb show, because it was rad. But I don’t think it was. Because that show was just epic. I felt really good about that show. They made more money, not that that matters, but it does matter because they were all traveling together. They made way more money at Kansas than they would have playing anywhere in DC. They passed the hat, they made a lot of money in the hat and they sold a lot of merch. And it’s not like they were a hardcore band with a billion t-shirts. That really worked out. That’s why I want to say, I wish it was that show that I was really bummed out at that ultimately became really cool, and plus Spot was there, who still, denied recording Black Flag, which I thought was funny.
TP: So this is a question I ask everybody, and it sort of elicits a thought moment. And you can define it however you want to define it, as a continuum of things. But what do you think your most significant moment at Kansas was.
JK: Hunh. Yeah, well I’ll have to think about that. It’s definitely hard to narrow it down to one single defining moment, you know what I mean? Especially just like that. I’m also trying to weigh in, what about negative things and what about positive things. But I don’t know if I can remember a specific one but it would probably either be watching the Make*Up read the Unabomber’s manifesto in the Washington Post, because that came out while we were doing that record, and there was something about them and some of the weird sort of murky, prescient things that were in that. Like, you know, that apply to now, that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the house but that whole situation. There’s like a vortex that kind of goes into that. Into them being there, and the timing of it all. My memory always goes back to that porch, you know? And probably hanging out and being social with Bob or Joe or whatever, with anybody. Just hanging out and talking about stuff. But yeah, there’s no one moment, there’s so many little things, like Transmegetti playing there. Or when Nutts Deep played there and there were 200 people… I think we had passed out 200 name tags that night.
TP: That was a party, wasn’t it?
JK: Yeah, that may have been the first or second Aquarian party. It was massive. There was no room in there, you know, and a whole bunch of people were doing coke in my bedroom and I was like “was that cocaine? Ahhhhh!” You know, like, I’d never seen it before, like seriously… “Who is doing coke in my room!” You know? And that was really fun. And there’s that picture with me and A. Thomas Crawley in the corner. That was a really really really fun night.
TP: That was the party when we all had to write our DJ names on a nametag.
JK: Yeah! So we passed out all these name tags for everyone and I know that we had 200 of them, and I know that everyone got one. And that’s why I was like, man, this is nuts, it was totally nuts. It was an Aquarius Party and we had a really rickety DJ set up. I think Ryan played, it was just two shitty turntables, and a lot of wires, which was typical in Kansas, just speaker wire. We had these stupid speakers in the living room, and that shit… it was crazy. And also just bringing the Trans Am, Mount Pleasant world into sort of the Silver Spring/Arlington world. That was just a really interesting time. It’s kind of funny, but Silver Spring and Arlington had a beef with Mount Pleasant. You know, straight up. And Trans Am was kind of like the Lamda Lamda Lamda, these nerd rockers from Bethesda kind of brought everyone together. And they did it in Silver Spring, Arlington, and Mount Pleasant. I feel like they were sort of the nexus of a lot of people getting along that sort of were looking askance at each other because of their fashion or whatever. You know, these guys in Mount Pleasant think that they’re cool because they listen to the Contortions and we’re all into heavy brutal music that is also sensitive and wear gas station jackets or whatever. Seeing John Wall and Ian Svenonious hanging out together is like a big thing, you know? Like, that was an important moment for me because there was a time when people were like, oh, Kerosene 454 can’t play with the Make*Up. It was just stupid! But that was what was cool about houses versus clubs. In clubs you could tend to segregate yourself a little more. In group houses, you would find yourself in the kitchen, you know…
TP: Next to Ian Svenonious.
JK: Yeah, or whomever. Just like, and it happened a lot. And it seemed like people migrated a lot from house party to house party anyway. Like Trans Am would have one, was it at your place that I… is that where I met Craig.
JK: I don’t know… we were all jamming together in a basement.
TP: It wasn’t my house.
JK: Okay so you were there and I think you introduced us.
JK: Yeah, everyone was jamming and everyone was wasted.
TP: Maybe that’s why…
JK: Yeah… I mean, there was a lot of that going on. I can’t say that it was straight edge times for a lot of people. There were enough people kind of keeping it together, but the rest of us were just like young and partying. Which was fun. Yeah.
TP: Can you think of anything else?
JK: I mean, there were so many things about that, that are, it comes up in my head a lot, especially since you said that you were doing this, there are like 100 people from our music scene, at least, who had something to do with, or pass through that house, who now live up here.
TP: Wait, where is here?
JK: Oh, Williamsburg. Specifically Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. But you know they all live within two miles from here. Like, a lot of people. And what’s going on here is so similar to what happened then to sort of change Clarendon. It’s not like Clarendon was the most alternative, bohemian place in the world, but it was kind of a place where you could have the Indie Rock Flea Market. Or, you could have, I don’t know, you could have house shows, and that goes on here, which is cool. It goes on here at Monster Island, Secret Project Robot. This whole building has a couple different configurations where they do that stuff. Down the street is Death By Audio, Glasslands, and I’m not sure how DIY it is these days. But Williamsburg and Bushwick and Brooklyn kind of have a lot of those things that we were involved in back then. And that’s kind of changing. You know, people are getting pushed further and further away and I think that people are wondering how long they’re going to be able to stay, or how long they’re gonna want to stay. So it’s kind of like a very similar situation. It’s like, I’ve been here before. I’ve watched cranes go up and come down. Now here there are just a lot of them. And when the, and when the economy tanked, a lot of the vacant lots stayed vacant for a while, or like, half built things and it was just like oh yeah. Here we go again. II can see this stuff. But, it’s kind of cool in the way that for every condo loft that goes up, it seems like there’s another DIY space here. And I kind of feel like, hearing a lot of people moaning, not to sound judgmental or whatever, but like, I wasn’t sad to hear that Kansas was going away because I feel like things have life spans, and Kansas was very much a living thing in my mind, you know what I mean? It’s not just a building. So buildings that are inhabited by people are like living… there’s life there. And when life goes away, the building goes away. And that’s just kind of a sad way to look at it. And it will come up somewhere else, you know? If people don’t want that stuff, well then fuck it. Eventually I’m not going to be around, so I don’t have to worry about people having an alternative space. So, it’s fine, you know? I think it’s cool. Sometimes you have to experience loss in order for something to happen. So that’s good. I think it’s a good thing.