It is December 2004. On a rainy Thursday night a new band called KINO is to play their first ever live gig. The band is scheduled to appear on German TV Rockpalast a week later and decided they wanted to do a try-out gig before doing a TV show. And what better place to play your debut gig than the Tivoli venue in Utrecht.
DPRP is scheduled to do an interview with two of the key members of KINO: John Mitchell, also known from the bands Arena and The Urbane, and Pete Trewavas, of Marillion fame. However, when we are ready to do the interview, Pete is nowhere to be found, so in the end I sit down with John Mitchell alone.
After the John Mitchell interview, when I finally meet Pete, he is kind of shifty and nervous. You can see he's not particularly happy with the low turnout while the fact that about half the attendees seem to be either journalists or friends and relatives is not making things any easier either.
Four months later I finally get a chance to sit down with Pete as well. The KINO album has now been released and the responses have been largely positive. The band has now embarked on their first tour, supporting label mates Spock's Beard.
I take him back to the Utrecht gig, how surprised I was seeing such an experienced musician being nervous about a gig.
Pete Trewavas: Oh god yeah, you do you know, You do get nervous. Because it is a new thing. And it was our show, and it wasn't selling, and I kind of arranged it and I felt responsible and I had a lot of things to organise and I wanted it to be a good experience for John and John. And I realised it wasn't really going the way I wanted it to go. But you take a gamble sometimes. This is a much more relaxed atmosphere. The reason why we did the Utrecht show was because we knew we were going to do the TV gig, and we wanted to prep. Because you can rehearse as much as you like, but it's not the same as being in a concert. And I think the filming and the playing on the live thing for the Rockpalast benefited from that.
John Mitchell: We didn't expect for many people to turn up that night, because it's a new band, the album wasn't out yet... you know, it's a lot to ask really. But, having said that, you can't do a TV show without a warm-up.
But it is quite unusual for a new band, tell me about it! It is just two gigs. The warm-up in Utrecht and then the Rockpalast gig... John Beck said "why don't we just do a little warm-up in a pub in London. And now I'm wondering "yeah, why didn't we do that". This is crazy!
I haven't been on tour this year so it is nice chance to get on the tour bus and let my hair down a little. We had a few beers and some laughs. And Steve Hogarth came out with us as well, so it was a good laugh.
By now everybody knows the origins of KINO: the guitarist from Arena, the bassplayer from Marillion, the keyboardist from It Bites and the drummer from Porcupine Tree, all getting together in a studio and creating an album together. The truth however is that this was not some project that was knocked together quickly. In fact, the formation of the band dates as far back as 2002.
John: About two years ago I guess Thomas Waber of Inside Out approached me and said "would you like to do some sort of Progressive style album". You know he'd heard me playing in Arena and he heard what I did in The Urbane and they're obviously very different things, but he wanted me to do some writing in the same sort of style. He's always trying to come up with a new scheme and get people to work together. It's an interesting way of approaching things. And I said "yeah, I'd be up for it, like writing some stuff". In the meantime Inside Out released the second Urbane album and I started working on this. Initially he said "well who'd you want to be on this album, because you can have anyone you want" and well, the first person I thought of is John Beck, who plays keyboards with It Bites. And I met with John when we did the John Wetton tour in Japan about three years ago. We got on famously and I asked him if he liked to get involved and he said yes. So, you know, time went by and I didn't really follow it up cause I was busy with other things.
Also at that time I wanted Ray Wilson to sing on it. Thomas spoke to Ray and I approached Ray and he initially agreed to do it, and he said he'd like to get involved, but then he changed his mind and said he'd like to concentrate on his solo career instead, which is fine. To a certain degree I think having done Genesis he'd had enough of being in bands.
We actually met up a few times and he was gonna come down to do some writing, but I think he got cold feet. So that's fine you know.
Then the next thing you know Transatlantic is coming to an end or hiatus - I don't know what sort of state Transatlantic is in. And Thomas said to Pete "well what do you want to do next? John Beck's available, and he's working with John Mitchell" And Pete has always wanted to work with John. No one ever really wants to work with me [laughs]
Pete: It started with me joining... what I thought would be John Mitchell and John Beck, but it started off with just myself and John Mitchell writing a few songs. I'd go over to his studio, because he lives near me, I'd go there once a week or so and we try and arrange a song and then we were kind of doing it like arranging a demo-song and you know every time I was there, I asked "when's John joining, when can we really get started on this" And then John finished his tour with Alan Parsons and heard what we were up to and I think then decided that what we were doing was going to be a good album so he joined us.
We had quite a lot of music and he obviously wanted to get more involved in the writing process, and you know, that's what we wanted to do all along anyway, so that suited us perfectly. So we arranged a few of those songs and we wrote a few more songs together and John brought a couple of songs like Swimming In Women.
John: And the three of us were discussing other singers and all sorts of crazy ideas of who should sing on it, like the guy from Mr Mister and all sorts of wacky ideas. Eventually we got fed up with that and John Beck says to me "well, why don't you just sing on it?"
And that's how the decision was made, and in the end what we didn't have was a drummer. And I said "well, who's available" and Pete said "Chris Maitland" and I'd seen him with Porcupine Tree in the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London and was really impressed with him, and we got him down and he played in a song and then he played on another song and before you know it he played on the entire album. Chris wasn't so involved in the writing, he just came along and did the drums, but he did his side of it. He did a lot of very strange exciting drum bits. It's kinda like letting a tiger out of a cage. With Porcupine Tree he was somewhat restrained, to a certain degree, because when you get a drummer of that sort of caliber and you say "do whatever you want" they kind of do. [laughs].
The music just came as it went along really. John wrote a bunch of songs, and I wrote a couple of songs and we all wrote together. Letting Go and People we wrote together. John brought one of his own songs, Pete brought one of his own songs, I brought one of my own songs and, well, there you go: an album!
Pete: And you know at the end of it all when we got Chris Maitland in we had quite a lot of long of musical passages in the middle of songs. Which looking back on them... you know we were reviewing each one to decide how we wanted to arrange the drums, because once we recorded the drums that was gonna be the backbone of the format of the recording of the album. And we decided to cut out a load of that nons... uhm, a lot of that overworked.. uhm... waffle, or whatever we talk about with Marillion. [laughs]
But you know the more musical and not necessarily more interesting passages and try and keep the songs accessible with the strong musical themes and the strong lyrical themes being prominent, really.
And yeah, we were quite serious about it. You know, when you are working with John and John, you want to be free, you want there to be some freedom of expression there, so that's why Losers Day Parade carried on being as it is, and that's why we got a few bits in Letting Go and Holding On where we go through a few little things.
John: And then it came up to naming and we were all trying to think of a name. We would all sit in my front room, looking at dictionaries trying to be clever and come up with names. And everyone's getting nowhere with it and then Pete says "well, what about KINO" and I said "yeah, that's fine, let's call it that" But everyone sort of didn't like it at first, but everybody likes it now. It turns out there was also a Russian band called KINO, who were quite big in Russia years ago. And I think their singer died or something. But we didn't know that, and it's too late now. We might have to change it to KINO UK or something.
It means Cinema in German, but no, there's no special meaning. What I personally liked about the name is that it doesn't suggest anything. It's like a blank canvas, it could be any type of music. It could be like a metal band, or a prog band, or anything. I don't like names that are like... like you know some proggy names, there are all sorts that you can tell instantly by the name what type of music the band plays. You know, I'm not going to mention any, but I think you know what names I am talking about.
Surely he can't be talking about The Arm Band...
John: Haha The Arm Band, that has nothing to do with us, that was somebody we know who came up with that for a joke, because we couldn't think of a name and it stuck for a while. I'm glad we got rid of it actually.
The term supergroup usually comes to mind when people from different bands start a group together. KINO however seems to have been intended as a proper band, rather than one-off project like for example Transatlantic.
Pete: It is a real band. There will definitely be more live shows, and hopefully more albums too.
John: You know I'm always very skeptical when I read in magazines about bands getting back together and they say "this is it now, we're gonna be around for years" and the put all their differences to one side and then six months later they split up because like the singer, they didn't get on and nobody liked him. You can't make promises in this sort of thing. I'd like to be, but I don't want to be tempting fate by saying "this is how it's going to be" or "this band is going to be together for a very long time". I'd like to do that though, because I get along really really well with everyone involved. You know, John's one of my best friends and Pete's a really good friend. I've not known Chris very long, but I know John Beck for a really long time and I spend a lot of social time with John and he hangs out at my house, a drinking buddy and we go out and do stuff.
So yeah, there's a good relationship there, so I would like this to be a real proper band. As long as I don't turn into some lead singer or something [laughs].
For someone like Pete Trewavas, playing gigs with KINO, making more albums. How can he combine this with the busy touring and recording schedule of his full-time band Marillion?
Pete: Well I guess I'll just have a bigger diary. I work longer hours. I don't know. We normally find a way to combine things. You know, everybody else is doing things, Marillion has been going for a very long time. And this is to keep ourselves fresh, it's good to try other things. I think you're always learning, you never stop learning, so you don't need any occupation, or any kind of hobby, because with music you never stop learning and it's good to keep it fresh.
So that's good too. It is for Marillion, because I come back with maybe new ideas or just a fresh look on what it's like to be in Marillion again.
Upon hearing Picture for the first time it surprised me that it doesn't sound anything like Arena or Marillion. More like a bit of The Urbane mixed with It Bites.
Pete: Well, that's perfect! I'm a big fan of both bands. Having John (Beck) and Bob (Dalton, tour-drummer) involved is a blast for me, you know, it's great playing with people that you admire, that you respect, and they're very nice. It's a win-win situation. And we are getting around, the album's selling quite steadily...
John: It got influences from The Police, Jellyfish, Cardiacs, The Urbane, Marillion, It Bites... You know, pretty much what you'd expect. A very varied album, very varied.
John's got very very distinct style of keyboard playing, you can always tell it is John Beck, He's got a very distinctive and humorous way of playing keyboards, so that's the obvious It Bites reference.
John Beck wrote Swimming in Women and he sings that. I get a break which is good because I'm always losing my voice. I'm famous for losing my voice every five seconds because I smoke too much.
With Transatlantic Pete Trewavas took care of some of the lead vocals as well, however, not so with KINO, where he limits his singing to the occassional backing vocal.
Pete: I know my limitations as a singer. I wasn't that particularly impressed with my vocal performances with Transatlantic. You know, I wanted to do it, and I'm glad I did it, but it didn't really set me off in a great light, really. And you know, you may as well play to your strengths. I love singing, I love harmony singing, but I know my limitations. I sing really well with Steve in Marillion. Over the years I've got stronger, but I would never want to be a main vocalist. I wrote Room For Two on the KINO album, but I never have wanted to sing it. And there's other things that I've written for the album. And we've got songs left over that will make the second album, and there's bits that I wrote and some lovely melodies... But when I hear John singing them in the studio I'm like, "oh, a real shame that can't do that", but I know I can't. It'd be foolish and particularly selfish to want to sing something when there's two other guys John Mitchell and John Beck, that just got great voices and I sadly haven't. It's not my loss, because it's nice to be doing what I do and I like it. I actually get more a buzz out of singing harmonies, to be honest.
During the mid-section of Losers Day Parade there is a little piano/vocal ditty which is clearly inspired by The Beatles. Knowing Pete is quite the Beatles fan, I ask him if this is his doing.
Pete: You mean [starts singing] da-da daa-da, that bit, it's Sgt Pepper, yeah. That's great that you recognise my influence in that.
And then there is that little genre called Prog. Marillion spent years trying to get rid of the prog tag, because they felt the term was restricting the band, especially in Britain.
Pete: Well, that's due to fashion really. It's a very unfashionable word and it doesn't go down very well in Britain.
But you played in Transatlantic and now in KINO, is that a way for you to get the prog out of your system?
Pete: It's not that it's in my system, it's just that it's fun to do. I mean if it was jazz, you know, if I hooked up with Jazz musicians instead of these guys... you know, there is a stigma to jazz, as there is to Progressive Rock, but it's just intelligent music, really. I don't like to label music, music is either good or bad, and any kind of music could have interesting things about it. If you read a Radiohead or Tool interview no-one ever mentions Progressive Rock, no one ever says "Oh you guys come from a progressive background and what do you think of all the other progressive bands."
But if you look at their music, these guys really are progressive. There's loads of progressive rock bands. I would even say Keane... You know, Bedshaped is like progressive rock, innit? The end section, with the mellotron and the Moog solo. Where is that coming from?
But the term is just not fashionable in England, you know. That's what's nice about Holland and Germany as well. And France... they're more open to these sort of things. You wouldn't be able to book prog bands in a venue like this in the UK, because it'd have to be modern bands, with the right name and all. Or it would just be disco or a club, it wouldn't be a venue for rock music. You know places in London like the Astoria, they only put rock bands on because... they put the rock bands on early and then you have to get out by 11, you have to be off-stage by half 10 so that they can turn it into the gay disco in the evening, which makes hem more money. We're digressing somewhat, aren't we?
What's nice about KINO is that people see it in different light... What I'm talking about, Marillion people, you know, they go like "ok, so what have you got this time? You've done a new album, but hey, that's not news, you've done loads of albums." At least this is something get excited about.
And the responses were very positive. A lot of people liked it, a lot of people are really excited about it. I think Marillion fans in general are music fans, you know, they find it interesting that the three of us, and Chris from Porcupine Tree on the album, you know it's a great mix of people. And now you can hear exactly what way we wanted it to go.
So it's exciting, it is nice to be doing something.
The first tour KINO did after releasing Picture was a European tour supporting American progsters Spock's Beard. Surely it must have been odd for them being a support band again, after so many years of playing headlining shows with their other bands.
Pete: Yeah, it's a struggle. We've all been there before, we all know what the deal is. And in some ways it's good you know, because there is no pressure on you, it's not your problem because it's not your tour. So you're not under the pressure, all we gotta do is play well and impress people. Well, that's what we do for a living, right? So we should have that base covered.
And obviously, for a support act, we're quite famous I suppose, so that helps a lot. But you know, we're sharing a bus and not necessarily getting everything we want in the dressing room when we arrive, doing a shorter soundcheck. But last night we had a great soundcheck, and Spock's Beard are really nice people. Inside Out is a very good record company.
So we are very lucky to be able to play a venue like this, cause this is beautiful. [De Boerderij in Zoetermeer] A great place and the guy who runs this place is obviously a music fan and he cares about people. Some places you go to they put you into some hell-hole of a room, but this is nice here. And we're achieving something. Let's face it, most bands that have just done their first album on a little record label would give their right arm to be able to play a tour like this, I know they would, I know how hard it is. I've got a friend who was the drummer in Kula Shaker and he's in a new band in Oxford now. And he can't even get a gig in London, they send their demo to a venue and they go like "oh, have you got a record deal? How are we going to sell tickets if you don't have a record deal, if you're not known." That's frustrating. And he phones me up and asks if there's anything I can do, if there are any supports he could do. They can't even get a gig in Oxford. I mean I can phone up the Zodiac in Oxford, which is a little club, and I can get gigs there, but he can't because they've got nothing going for them. So for us with KINO, as a new band we are in a great situation really. We're very proud of the album and it's been supported well. But that's the main thing, we have a record company that care. Inside Out care a lot about their bands, but it costs money and hey records don't sell as well as they used to. Particularly in Holland at the moment, and we all know why, of course, I also do it myself... people download stuff, people share...
But yeah, it is great to get this opportunity and hopefully we can come back and do a headlining show later this year.
Since the Spock's Beard tour KINO has played two headlining shows in the UK and appeared at the Rites Of Spring Festival in the USA. The band will be undertaking their first headlining tour across Europe in December 2005 for which dates in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK have been confirmed.
After that, no-one knows, although recording another KINO album is definitely high on everyone's priority list.
John: John Beck said that next time when we do an album it would be nice to get everyone in a rehearsal room and write together. Because it is a nice thing to do that, but then again, that is something you do when you're sixteen isn't it?
You know, you're in your first band and you get all your mates in and you play... and I like that, but it is difficult when you got so many other commitments. You kind of find a different way of doing things and it is an unusual way of doing things and it takes a lot longer. But hey, we've got an album! Roll on the next!
KINO Official Website
Inside Out Records Website
DPRP Roundtable Review of Picture - 2005