The Kills’ Jamie Hince

jamie-hinceA boy, a girl, a mildy curious crowd: just over a decade ago, on Valentine’s Day 2002, Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart played together live for the first time in the ramshackle backroom at the 12 Bar Club on London’s Denmark Street. Hampsire-born Hince was 33, ten years older than his American bandmate, and had spent most of the preceding years in the band he’d formed at school, Scarfo, which wasn’t heading anywhere in particular. After they split he lived in a flat in Gipsy Hill where Mosshart, on tour with a pop-punk band called Discount, introduced herself after overhearing him playing guitar. “She was quite a blank canvas back then,” Hince remembers with a laugh, “That was part of the appeal! I could be a patriarch and brainwash her with the music I was into!”  We caught up with him to find out how a Fugazi fan from a country town ended up being photographed on the front row of fashion shows, why he isn’t as miserable as he looks in the papers and the reason he brought his favourite Parisian bartender over for his marriage to Kate Moss. When did you become interested in fashion?
Jamie Hince: When I was a kid growing up I lived in a little rural village called Woolton Hill and the nearest town was Newbury. No bands played anywhere near us, so as much as I wanted to be on the grid and in the loop I never was. I’d hitchhike into town and spend all day at the record shop. I didn’t even know what the bands sounded like, so I’d buy records on the strength of the artwork. That’s when I realised that music and fashion were pretty closely linked. I remember buying the Cramps and the Buzzcocks and little obscure bands like Skeletal Family. I’d come back with a record or two with crazy-looking artwork or amazing looking bands. I think that’s why fashion is in my psyche, although obviously Fashion Week is a far cry from that. We were at New York Fashion Week because we happened to be in New York and we were invited to play at a Marc Jacobs party. A party’s a party, isn’t it? And I like Marc Jacobs. He came to my wedding.

Well it would be rude not to then, wouldn’t it?
You can tell I’m a bit awkward about it. I feel a bit uncomfortable about where the whole fashion and music thing came from, really. Sometimes I feel like: “What am I doing here?”

“This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!”
Exactly! What am I doing sitting on the front row of a Stella McCartney show? [Laughs] She is my friend, and her dad was in the Beatles.

What’s your key style rule?
Never wear a hat and sunglasses at the same time, because it looks like you’re wearing a disguise. Also, change your scarf regularly.

Which lyric are you proudest of writing?
“Baby Says” on our last record [Blood Pressures] is one of my favourites. Having said that, at the 10th anniversary show we played this really old song called “At The Back Of The Shell”, and it sort of transported me back to a time when I found it easier to write lyrics. I find it really difficult now. It gets harder because the more songs you write the more you write about personal things. To do that well you have to really put yourself on the line and be vulnerable and personal. As I get older I find that hard. People are already writing about that stuff enough.

What’s the biggest media misconception about you?
When I see my picture in the papers I imagine that people think I’m a lot more serious than I am. They probably think I’m pretty miserable. It’s a funny thing though, because when I walk out into the street and there’s all those f***ing idiots with cameras barging into me it just makes me look miserable. People don’t see the bank of photographers because it’s easy to cut them out. Do you remember that picture of Lady Diana in front of the Taj Mahal? It’s supposed to be one of the loneliest pictures of all time, but if you see it from another angle there’s 500,000 photographers standing there! It’s just a pose, with nothing to do with loneliness.

How different is a Kills show now from a Kills show 10 years ago?
Well, we’ve got drummers now. The first tour we ever did was just me and Alison in a car driving around America with our amps and guitars in the back. Right from the start everyone commented on the fact that we used a drum machine and at first we held fast to it, but now we’ve got four drummers, gospel singers and lights. That makes a big difference.

Did you always have grand ambitions?
No, we were quite firmly from that mould of Fugazi and Sonic Youth and we didn’t think too much about commercial success. It was never on our agenda to climb the rungs of the ladder. It’s a little sad to break it down to such a cliché, but we just wanted to be the sort of band who can do exactly what we want. I was just reading about Lucian Freud and he said that selfishness can be a really honest and carefully considered thing – I think if you’re [creating] any sort of art you have to consider that.

What’s the most important item on your rider?
Red wine is important. Vodka and red bull is disgusting, but it’s like a medicine we drink before we go onstage. I can’t imagine playing without that being in the dressing room, even though it tastes horrible. We also have cigarettes on the rider. All the things I’m addicted to.

Where would you be if you’d never met Alison?
I thought my luck had run out until I met her. It’s weird to talk about it, but I’ve read other bands like Led Zeppelin saying that when they started playing they never spoke of it but they all looked at each other and there was a unanimous recognition that each one of them were one in a million and that the combination of them was the greatest thing that could have ever happened. That’s the most precious thing to me, that for some reason when I play with her there’s some sort of electricity that is bigger than the two of us.

What music did you introduce her to?
She was from a little town in Florida and singing in a skateboarding pop-punk band, so the bands she knew were so limited. I played her the Velvet Underground for the first time and people like PJ Harvey and Gavin Bryars. All sorts of weird and wonderful things.

Can you recommend a good book?
The Tin Drum by Günter Grass is my favourite book of all time, and Jean Stein’s Edie Sedgwick book [Edie: American Girl] became quite a big influence on the Kills. Different books suit different occasions, though. I used to take Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac on tour all the time. I don’t really love Kerouac but that book you could just open at any page and find something incredible for that day.

Are you a better songwriter than you were 10 years ago?
I bloody hope so! In the pre-Kills day I didn’t really understand what “a song” is as I was listening to noise bands all the time. I remember really struggling with the idea of it. When I look at Keep On Your Mean Side, our first album, there’s definitely a naivety to it that has something brilliant about it and you’ll never get that back. You write songs that last six minutes and have no chorus, or a song with four verses and six choruses, or a song that lasts 58 seconds, but somehow they all work.

What was the best record in your parents’ collection?
[With deep sarcasm] That’s a massive choice of about 15 records. I’d say Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. The rest of it was stuff like Abba’s Arrival, Neil Diamond, the Seekers and then the New Seekers. I try to find pleasure in any kind of music, but out of those I’d have to say Simon and Garfunkel.

What’s your hangover cure?
Dive in a swimming pool. That’s pretty much the only one.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I wouldn’t worry as much. You worry that everything you do could have a drastic effect on everything else but that’s actually quite a myopic way to be. I think the thing that I disliked most about myself before we started was that I worried so much about how we’d be perceived. I don’t care anymore.

How do you make your favourite drink?
I don’t have to make it, it comes in a bottle. It’s a red wine called Chateaux Margaux. I also like a French ’76 to perk me up a bit – it’s champagne and vodka. There’s a bar in Paris called the Hemingway that does the most amazing French ’76s which is where I developed a love for it. I got the barman to come over for our wedding, that’s how much I love them.

What’s the best thing you can cook?
Cheese on toast. Does that count as cooking? I’m only saying it because I do a really good one. It’s famous. Well, not famous obviously, but it’s quite well known in my circle of my friends. I use a cheddar, preferably not a mild one because I like a bit of a bite to it. I let people do condiments themselves. It’s presented on a tray with hot sauce, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and it’s up to them what they do then. My work is done when it comes out of the oven. That’s as far as I can tell you, the rest of it is instinct. It’s just something in me that I’ve got that other people don’t have. I couldn’t teach it.

You should try Keith Richards’ bangers and mash recipe fromLife.
Have you tried it?

It was the first thing I did when I finished the book.
That is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever heard. Finish Keith’s book and then make bangers and mash. I’m going to dig that out straight away and make it tonight.

Originally published by GQ.