Full steam and sexy brawls: an interview with Jack Kansas of Damn Vandals

Jack Kansa photos by Julian Simmons

Jack Kansa photos by Julian Simmons

In every decade there is a band which flouts the rules, kicks up sonic dust, and sets new templates for the following young protagonists of rock to set their inventions by. Right now it is hard to look past UK psyche rockers Damn Vandals as one of those inspirational rioters, especially taking their new album Rocket Out Of London as evidence. Their second album is a mentally twisting maelstrom of psychotic goodness from the London based quartet, a scintillating brawl of garage punk, psyche, and raw rock ‘n’ roll which brings addiction, dementia, and vigorous pleasure into a feverish union. Greedy to find out more and celebrate our competition to win a copy of their brilliant album, we accosted frontman Jack Kansas who, with the rest of the and breathing down his neck, talked about origins, killer riffs, the turn of a vicar’s ankle, and Star Wars analogies…

Hello and welcome to the site. Thanks for taking time out to chat with us.

Great to be here, the pleasure is all ours …

First up can be get some background to Damn Vandals and its members, their personal histories and how you all linked up?

Damn Vandals are a pan-European sludge (part Swiss, part Sheffield, part Northern Irish, and part London) that evolved and crawled on to land just over three years ago. We’ve now mutated in to a rock monster sustained purely by a love of rehearsing alongside a blue plastic bag full of beer.

What was the spark with brought the band to life; any specific intent?

Foremost, we just try to entertain ourselves. If you’re going to spend the day lugging amps around and dodging over-zealous traffic wardens, then it’s best to ensure you’re getting your fun come show time.

What about the band name…an admission of a misspent youth? 😉

Hell yeah. Here at Damn Vandals HQ we strongly advocate misspending as much time as possible. Benefits include better song titles and a higher quality of pool playing.

It is fair to say that your debut album Done For Desire was eagerly devoured by fans and the underground press upwards, but it looks like the release of your new incitement Rocket Out Of London is poised to stir up a bigger hornet’s nest. Did you have any feeling in its making as to how it would impact on people and so swiftly?

We recorded the album in about ten days so there wasn’t really much time to think. I remember a lot of shouting and a lot of noise. Being in the studio can be a narcissistic process, but I can’t recall much of that sort of thing. If anything, it was like running naked through a hall of mirrors whilst bashing yourself on the head repeatedly with a hammer. Great fun if you like that sort of thing. Glad people are picking up on the urgency in the music.

Both albums have that Damn Vandals distinctive sound but the new release feels like it explores deeper depths and shadows within your songwriting as it brews a stronger almost intrusive virulence to its imagination. How do you see the difference and evolution between the two?

Yeah, Done For Desire is a bit bonkers, but Rocket Out Of London is full-on bonkers … this time we just plonked a bag of bricks on the accelerator and fastened our seat belts really.

The new release draws on the rich essences of everything from punk to noise rock, psychobilly to garage rock in its own form of rapacious DV coverrock ‘n’ roll. Have you taken any deliberate directions with Rocket Out Of London or has it emerged predominantly organically?

Adam the bassist has been yelling for the songs to be faster, shorter and harder for quite some time now. Basically he’s worn us down. He’s the Frankenstein. Personally I put it down to the soft abrasion of his Northern Irish accent – so trustworthy, yet so compelling. I love that man.

The album, as the first, seems to find inspiration and themes either lyrically or musically from the darkest seductions available. Where do you find your strongest sparks and inspiration seem to brew from?

You only have to turn on the internet to realise that the world is ablaze with billions of screaming voices, each with a bunch of weird stories. I guess we tap in to that and form a playground in the darkness. It might scare some, but hey Star Wars would be the dullest movie on earth without Darth Vader. You’ve got to a least entertain the dark side a bit, shake the tree and see what fun can be had with it – else there’s no sense of wonder when you finally blow the death star to smithereens and speed off in a blaze of glory screaming yee-haa. If in doubt, a highly complex Star Wars analogy answers most difficult questions – that’s what I usually say ….

How does the songwriting generally emerge within Damn Vandals?

All good rock songs should just start out as a killer riff – I learnt that by watching a BBC documentary on Black Sabbath, I think it’s the only thing TV has ever taught me. The riff works better if there’s a punchy hook. After that we smash the idea around the rehearsal room and see what joy we can have with it.

Does it run smoothly for the main or is there a tendency for vivacious debate when it comes to creating songs initially?

You can’t polish a turd. We learnt that early on. If an idea isn’t getting all four of us excited then it’s best to bin it as soon as possible and move on. That’s the ideal. We’ll probably have a blazing row now tonight …

I believe you were going to call the new album This Music Blows My Tiny Mind, also the title of one of the tracks on the release. What triggered the change to Rocket Out Of London?

It just sounded cooler. TMBMTM was a great working title that reminded us to keep the music on the edge of crazy. It just had too many words in it. ROOL just seemed to exactly fit the 10 songs.

The band and albums have been graced with comparisons to plenty of bands even with your uniquely flavoured sound and we have been no different though we seem to differ in finding a healthy flavour of Irish eighties rock band Fatima Mansions and now additionally Rocket From The Crypt in the new release also. What are your strongest inspirations personally and upon the band which have added a breath to your music?

At the end of the day, all we want to be is Led Zeppelin in their prime. That’s all any guitar boy really wants. Only a few of us are man enough to admit that.

 Marcus Maschwitz Photography 2012

Marcus Maschwitz Photography 2012

Is there a particular moment within Rocket Out Of London which gives you a naughty tingle of satisfaction, an essence where you feel the band has found the sweet spot?

One moment that hits the tingle button for sure is in Too Lazy To Die, Too Stoned To Live (Adam the bass player gets the credit for that song title, he said it down the pub once). Tingle time comes at about half way, as the tempo gears up and Frank flings himself in to one of his demonic trademark solos. Watching Frank lay down guitar tracks in the studio blows my mind. I love that guy.

You recorded the album as you did the first with producer Julian Simmons, what does he bring to the recordings which sparks the band’s creativity further in the studio?

Julian Simmons is the most aerodynamic man I know. He is also a genius and a man of considerable wit. Like most super heroes, however, he does have a weakness – his being a soft spot for hot female vicars. It’s his Kryptonite. Just the thought of a toned lady’s ankle swathed in the trim of a swaying cassock turns him to jelly. Other than that, he’s a dream to work with. He brings light, warmth, happiness, but most of all discipline in to the studio. Love that kid.

Did you change anything around or to the recording of the album which differed or evolved dramatically from the creation of Done For Desire?

There was just way more sweat this time around. I remember Chris the drummer emerging from the live room after takes looking as if he’d just sprinted at full tilt down to the Cost Cutter and back. He really shredded those skins to bits, relentlessly for days. Great drummer…Got to love that dude.

The first single from Rocket Out Of London certainly raised extra appetite for the album and makes a contagious opener for the album. Can you give some background to Twist Up And Tangle and its breeding?

Twist Up was the most recently written of the ten songs. It came together quickly in the rehearsal room and just made the recording session by a whisker. Frank’s guitar sounds as if it’s going to tear your ears off at the beginning – just seemed like a lovely way to start an album …

You have a big reputation for your feisty and fiery live performances too; we can expect plenty of shows in support of the album across the rest of 2014?

We’ll be playing as much as we can. First up, this May bank holiday we’ve got a couple of back-to-back festivals – Off The Tracks in Castle Donington on the Friday and Lechlade on the Saturday. They’re two great festivals – looking forward to those … of course there will be others too …

Are there any other plans for the year from Damn Vandals you can give us a sneak preview of?

Let me just open the pad lock on the DV’s box of top secrets … ah, I see wonderful things … some plans for a video involving 20 dancing girls, a Pooh bear suit and a giant pot of honey – not sure where we’re going with that one … oops, Frank’s coming – better shut the box …

We cannot let you leave without hearing about the wonderful story behind a song from the first album, The Revenge Of Spider Toothy.

No one believes me when I say that song was written by a three-year-old child. But once again I’ll scream it’s true … It’s based on a conversation I had with this kid. He had an imaginary anti-super hero friend called Spider Toothy who was out to seriously f-up human kind. I just nicked all the crazy things he did and all the creepy places in which he hid then made the odd bit rhyme. Bingo…Instant rock ’n’ roll. The kid’s got another track on the new album called I Hate School. Nobody believes he wrote that one either.

Once again our big thanks for sharing time with us. Have you any last thoughts to leave us pondering?

The pumps don’t work ‘cos the vandals took the handles. Bob Dylan said that. Thanks for having us Ringmaster, love Jack and all the DVs xxxx


Check out the Rocket Out Of London review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/damn-vandals-rocket-out-of-london/

And win yourself a cd of the new album @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/win-a-copy-of-damn-vandals-spanking-new-album-rocket-out-of-london/ but hurry as closing date is Saturday May 17th

Pete Ringmaster
The Ringmaster Review 09/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Categories: Interviews, Music

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