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Let me let someone else tell you about …
By Bob Bahr
Kinghorse is not your usual "local boys done good" story.
Yes, they are local boys, based in the Highlands, and, yes, they have done well, but you can just forget the usual part. The quartet's emotional, crunching brand of hard rock creates a unique atmosphere of release, anguish and ecstasy among its fervent following. A Kinghorse show is a sight to behold.
The power of their guitar-driven music and their rousing, angry lyrics have packed mid-sized halls and auditoriums throughout the region, and the band is currently looking down the barrel of a lucrative East Coast tour. The three-year-old band has created a bona fide buzz in the hard rock/metal/punk scene, fueled by their 1990 Caroline Records self-titled release and their unforgettable live show.
And strangely, what they seem most known for in some circles is what lead singer and lyricist Sean Garrison calls "a lot of bad vibes floating around." lt doesn't take long to figure out what Garrison is talking about. Every member of the band drips with it, every song puts it right in your face.
But at the risk of deflating a young myth, the truth must be told. The bad vibes are basically a rock 'n' roll attitude, albeit a dark, punk rock one.
The ruckus may come from those who worry that the band advocates violence, or that they may lead astray our precious youth. I recently interviewed Garrison to plumb these depths, to let Kinghorse give their story. Ask one question, and Garrison lets loose with a diatribe that spans a dozen subjects. His discourses end with either a shout, or with a calm, rather smug Rule of the Sean Garrison Universe. Garrison's friends call him Rat. He never invited me to call him Rat, so I didn't, although he remained cordial always. His language is spiked with profanity for emphasis. That's a warning to sensitive ears and eyes. To cut to the chase...
"The message of the band is...there are so many," begins Garrison. "I think the first and foremost one is, for a lot of people, art is the only thing that can save them. And whether or not that is only a section of your life or all of it, you should acknowledge it. That's the first message. I mean, so many of the people who are into the band don't do anything. They don't have any creative outlet. As far as we are concerned, if you don't have any creative outlet, you have no voice. Just because somebody can remember endless dates, names and rock trivia garbage, that doesn't pull any weight in the real world if they don't have any creative force. They are fodder; they are victims.
"What we are saying to everybody, especially the young kids that come to see us, is that you can turn whatever forces you sometimes think are going to destroy you, you can turn them completely around. And you should face it, and fight it, or use it to your advantage or whatever you want to do. Just get in synch with it, and be able to move it around instead of it moving you around, and you're invincible. It's no longer a bad thing to be twisted. lt can be a good thing to be twisted. Or at least it's something that doesn't make you ashamed of yourself or your life. Because there are a lot of people who are warped or twisted or just screwed up or just ugly. And we are the voice of those people. We will accept anything that people want to do. If people want to eat meat, that's fine. If people want to shoot smack, that's fine. If they want to make it with goats, that's fine. If they want to worship Satan or Jesus, that's incidental. None of that makes any difference. I'm not going to base how I deal with my fans on any of that, " Garrison said.
Garrison is more than the voice for those people, he is a veteran of their wars. Garrison has seen the other side of insanity during his troubled youth. He is currently on medication to help stabilize his emotions. Again and again, Garrison talked about channeling the anger and bad feelings that are inevitable for a thinking human being in this often punishing world. He talked about using that anger and energy to paint, to write, to sing, to play music. And to lash out at the perceived threats in our lives.
Lashing out can mean committing a violent act. Garrison will not budge on his stance on violence. He believes it is sometimes necessary, and his comments and his lyrics say so. Garrison is an A&R man's nightmare.
While Garrison does not directly incite violence at Kinghorse shows, bad things often go down. Two years ago, the band had some problems at a downtown bar called the Cafe Dog. My questions regarding this incident sparked the following.
"There's been problems at 80% of our shows, people being taken out in ambulances, problems with the cops, tempers flare with bouncers. It happens at every show," stated Garrison.
"And why do you think that is?"
"We won't kiss a-s," he said.
"You think it comes from the band."
"Oh I think that's the big problem," he agreed. "The big problem is, most of the people who are in the music scene here have the same damn attitude that we have. I don't know if we're making them worse or they're make us worse or everybody's making each other worse. There's no rock star trips. but we're not going to be treated like crap, either."
"Is it an authority thing or is it a dignity thing?"
"I think it's just anti-bullsh-t," he said angrily. "I mean, maybe I could put it better, but it's as simple as it gets. There's lots of places where cops will come out at the beginning of the show and say 'Hey, how's everybody doin?' and we'd say 'There ain't no problems tonight, guys,' and they'd be like, 'Later,' and the cops would leave. And then there'd be other times when I'd be in screaming matches with them or with bouncers and there's stuff being thrown and all kinds of crazy crap. That time we played that teen club out in Fairdale and seven cops came with bats and shields."
"It doesn't happen at most shows," I said. "Why do you think it happens at Kinghorse shows?"
"As deeply rooted as we are in conspiracy theories, and obsessions with conspiracy theories, and we are very paranoid, very, very paranoid, but that's just BS. We know that it's BS. We know that when something weird happens, police get nervous because they don't understand what's going on, because they've never seen anything like it before. Yeah. They feel threatened because they are like, 'Now am I dealing with lunatics? Are these kids crazy? Are they just nice kids with funny hair? Who's on drugs? Who isn't on drugs?' They don't know. It's like when you see cops. It's like, 'Is this guy a psychopath or isn't he?' So they feel the same way.
"But when that kind of crap happens at our shows, all the kids and the bands are like, 'Why don't you relax?' Like 'Aw, c'mon,' that whole attitude. You know, 'Go away! Nothing weird is happening here.' So tempers flare."
"So do you think things will get better, do you think things will change?"
"No. I think it's going to get worse. Sure.
"I mean, the [Louisville] Gardens last time was an experience," Garrison went on. "Oh my God, a yelling match to end all yelling matches. And I got into it with this huge bouncer. I came up to the retaining wall which is made of steel and plywood, and something awful happened so I kicked it twice, halfheartedly, with my foot. And this bouncer came over to me and said, 'If you kick that wall again, you're out of here.' And I said, 'Sir I don't want to damage it, being that there will be about 1,000 people trying to tear it down in 15 minutes. But no, I certainly wouldn't want to damage it with my little old self and my little old foot.' And of course, everyone around started pointing at him and laughing, going 'you fathead.'
"But the fact that none of us will buckle under to that silly authority...I mean, when I try to get bossy with people, and start acting like the leader of the band and being full of sh-t, people just laugh in my face. You know, they don't take any of that crap. None of them. Nobody. Even our fans, I'll just be like a smart ass to one of them and they'll be like, 'Oh, take your lithium.' They'll just make some smart-ass comment. The resistance to bullsh-t authority is incredible. It's so ingrained. So we'll see. Tempers will probably flare tomorrow."
But the next night's Kinghorse show at Louisville Gardens was relatively tame. The mix of people outside the Gardens before the show was an amusing culture clash. Male High School's graduation was being held in the larger area of Louisville Gardens downstairs. A surprisingly small crowd made their way through the graduation to see the band. A floor above the suits, ties, graduation gowns and dresses, fans ranging from 13 to around 24 years old mingled quietly before the Kinghorse show, the last of three hardcore acts. Perhaps they were saving their energy.
Two songs into their set, the crowd wasn't yet won over by Kinghorse. But with one scream from Garrison, the dam burst and a 20-foot moshing pit emerged, arms flailing and bodies slamming. Most of the slam-dancing was done by young males with looks of startled ecstasy on their faces, like they were experiencing their first orgasm. They had found a release for their anger. Whirling and banging into one another, the moshers engaged in some very effective therapy. It resembled a grown-up version of Kill the Man with the Ball, except everybody here had the imaginary ball.
Onstage, Garrison was eating it up. He spat into the crowd. He turned away, faced the drummer, his face contorted in rage, his body heaving with emotion. Back around he wheeled suddenly, and out came the verse of the song with every ounce of energy he could muster. Now and again his boyish face peeked out from his thrashing, quasi-dreadlocked curtain of hair.
Throughout the show, and sometimes within songs, Garrison would ad lib. "I can feel the ice rage," he'd say. "Accept yourself," he'd scream. The vocalist's rapport with the audience is tight. He is a very interactive performer, and the fans close to the stage reach up to him like worshippers. At one point, Garrison allowed a group of fans to sing the chorus to a song. After their excellent sub work, Garrison said, "See. Anybody can do this sh-t. You just fake it."
Garrison says he believes it's easy to be a rock singer, and he always has thought so.
"I remember I had this big chair in my room, at my mother's house," Garrison said. "It used to be down in the basement, so we brought it upstairs and put it in the corner. I'd hide back there and listen to the radio all the time. I remember hearing all those awful '70s bands like Boston and Kiss. I remember when "News of the World" by Queen came out. I started buying records and I guess I bought records heavily until I was 14. Then I changed tastes...but when I was 11 I was like, "Any idiot can do this." I mean even with the people who were supposed to be really, really great you just listen to them real close and watch them on film and on stage, and you feel like, 'Wait a minute. This is all a big lie.'"
"Do you still feel like it's a big lie?" I asked.
"Oh sure. It's a scam," he said. "It's the biggest scam in the world. It's the biggest scam ever perpetuated in the world. Ever."
"Is there anyone who stands out as genuine?"
"Well there's a lot of people who are genuine," said Garrison. Sure. I'd say the majority of people are genuine. I just think there's this underlying thing, like [whispers] 'We know how it really is.' You don't want the fans and you don't want the people to know what the business is like. Until you get in there and sleep with the enemy, and talk with the enemy, and play cards with the enemy, until you do all that stuff and come face to face with them, it makes you think like there's some religious intervention to get you on a record. And it's the biggest crock of sh-t ever. And all these people perpetuate it."
"What's it take to get on a record?"
"Money. All you got to do is have enough money to record your songs, press your songs, press a cover, and then you just put it in stores."
Garrison makes it sound easy, but it wasn't always easy for Kinghorse. For a stretch, there wasn't a bar in Louisville that would book them. Now there are six clubs that sponsor Kinghorse shows.
"Clubs have to deal with us now," said Garrison. "The crowds are so big, and the potential for making money is so outrageously big, they can't wait to get us in there, even if the place gets destroyed. So we beat them at their own game," he said as he chewed on some raisins with relish.
The bad initial reception of Kinghorse and its type of music reminded me of the way rap music struggled, then forced its way into the big time. This analogy did not go over well with Garrison.
"Rap? I hate it so much that I'm not going to talk about it at all, because I will say things that are so terrible that it will get me in a lot of trouble," Garrison said.
"The reason I ask is because there are a lot of the same problems at rap concerts, and for the same reasons," I asserted.
"No, for different reasons."
"How do you perceive the difference?"
"I'm not going to say on tape. But there's definitely a different reason."
I had been warned by Rat himself not to push him on certain questions, because he doesn't know what he'll do. I let the rap question drop. Switching over to the subject of his lyrics, I asked if I could read some of his songs, if he had them handy.
"I can quote them," he replied. "I think they run the whole gamut of emotions, like songs should. I think I have a few central themes. But I don't know if I'm dealing with that much. The last song that we've done is called 'Crimson Hands.' And the lyrics are:
Shades of rust are melted down
By lust accompanied by sound
Isolation is lost, then found
My world deserves its melting down.
Suspicion leads me sinking down
With hate accompanied by sound
Reality is lost and found
Your world deserves its melting down.
And the chorus is:
My thought defies my feeling
My heart knows where I stand
I must prepare to strike out
I will fight however I can
I am the one who slings the arrows
I am the one who makes the plans
I am the one born to kick it over
I am the boy with crimson hands.
Without prompting, Garrison explained his verses.
"I think that what I was thinking of, was 'Shades of rust are melted down,' I was thinking about how I would like to take every record that was ever made and just burn it. In a big pile. 'Because of lust accompanied by sound.' I am so sick of lust accompanied by sound about what people want. At the time I was so sick of hearing about what people want, and all these things that they claim they need. Need, need. Want, want. Oh gimme, gimme. Got to have it. You know?
"'Isolation lost and found,' is just that at one time, I didn't feel like I was isolated from the music community, and now I feel it more than ever. And that world deserves its melting down. The people as much as the records, I would burn in a big pile. Easy. I mean I would. It's just what I want to do. It's what I wanted to do at that time. It was kind of like a funeral pyre. I couldn't decide if it was the records or the people that needed to be burned."
"Very personal lyrics," I said.
"All of them are," said Garrison.
"Are they angry as a rule?"
"I think they are worse than angry, they're psychotic. How far can you push angry? Psychotic is not the right word, but I don't know what to say. It's way beyond anger, it's way beyond rage. It's cold. It's cold rage on paper. It doesn't come to life until I'm up on stage."
"And when you say 'crimson hands,' do you mean bloody hands?"
"I don't think blood as in human blood, or violence against people. Just psychic. How much I hate all that and what it's all about. I could easily handle having that on my head, or on my hands, as it were. I just feel a need to get rid of it, or to at least keep fighting it on every level that I can fight it."
"And would that song that you just quoted to me, would that be indicative of what you are telling people, about fighting something in any way necessary?"
"If that's what they have to do," answered Garrison. "I just know that at the time, if I didn't write that down, it would have eaten me alive. If I didn't write that down, I would have had even worse problems. Most of the songs are just cold until we get up there [on stage]. I can't put it passionately, or bring it to life, until I'm up there. That's stuff that I can't deal with when I'm walking around, or I'd do something stupid. I'm too old to do what I'd do when I was 15, 16, or 17. I would snap at the drop of a hat."
"You said that you think your music gives people the chance to save themselves through art, but it's easy for people to say that these guys advocate violence...."
"I do advocate violence."
"You think violence is the answer?"
"I don't think it's the answer. I think it can be part of the answer. It may be an answer for some people, it may not be an answer for others."
"When is violence needed?"
"I think there are a lot of people who take too much sh-t and they need to just knock something down."
"You mean the poor, or blacks, or..."
I had transgressed upon the subject forbidden me just moments ago, and now I was going to pay the price. Garrison launched on a raised-voice discussion of real and perceived prejudice and the black man.
"Man, I'm talking about individuals," said Garrison. "Groups hold no interest to me. Like you asked about rap earlier. I couldn't care less about the plight of the black man. I just don't care. I could give a f--k about the plight of the white man, or anybody's plight except my plight, and people who are like me. I'm a gang member just like anybody else. I care about my people. I can't help it. I don't want the black man to be in a worse situation. I would like them to work out their problems on their own. I mean, what am I doing to perpetuate myths or to add fuel to a fire that is hurting, burning me? I'm talking about a personal level. Am I helping myself, am I hurting myself?
"It's got to all start with you. You've got to help yourself. A lot of people get grouped into big messes. You have to decide how much of the mess is yours and how much isn't.
"You were asking me about the rap shows earlier. The reasons those things are such a mess is because those people think they are supposed to act that way. Because they are supposed to be angry young blacks. I mean that's the biggest crock. That's bullsh-t. I mean, a lot of those people aren't angry. About what? They got more money than me or you, son. They've got better shoes than you. [Pulls at a hole in my shoe.] What the f--k do they have to be pi--ed off about? Of course they get sh-t from certain people and from certain levels, but so do we. So does everybody. Of course, in the big picture, they've got big problems. But I'm not concerned with the big picture. I have a hard time dealing with my own little picture.
"I advocate violence against those things that are trying to destroy you and your soul. On a personal basis. I'm not going to fight for other people. Unless they can't speak for themselves. If they can talk, they're going to do it. I'm not going to do it for them. By example, I can show them that they can stick up for themselves much better than I can for them. I try to do it a lot. I mean, I slip up and try to help people out and speak for people when I shouldn't be doing it. And if they resent me for it, that's a good thing. Females have lot more problems than anybody else. Black people got a lot of problems. I'm not going to do what the rest of white establishment has done and say, "Well, I'm going to speak for them." I'm just not going to make an album about their problems. I won't be a problem for them, and I don't want them to be a problem for me. I think anybody in my band would say the same thing. In fact, I know they would," he concluded.
We drifted off into conversation about the Manson family, and their violent efforts to change the world. Garrison again reiterated the need for action for those who feel threatened. He expressed a certain amount of sympathy with the Manson family's methods, but agreed that society's final verdict on their actions was just. He again asserted that violence is a possibility for some people, but that turning that action around into something positive is the best answer. But above all, if somebody messes with you, then you mess with them right back.
"Violence is a possibility, sure. But I would much rather it not be," he said. "If there is violence in your mind, or violence in you, it's gonna come out. Whether you are a painter, or whatever. I mean, look at the Pro-lifers, man. Those people are psychotic. They are dangerous people. They have a need to do that. I think there are lot of people out there who are going to go mad, or are going to kill themselves if they don't do something stupid like throw a rock at a cop car. Even something that dumb, insane and childish, will at least get them some help maybe.
"But that person is going to go to jail," I said. "Do you think that it's wrong for that person to go to jail?"
"Oh f--k no. They threw a rock at a car. It's stupid. But maybe they had to do it. I don't say go out and snuff people that you pick up on the road. There are limits. I don't think that's right at all. Right and wrong don't have anything to do with it. I just think there are a lot of people out there who have been turned into something, and the only way that they can beat it, that they can get healthy again is to attack something. Is to attack the things that did that to them."
"And again, to attack doesn't necessarily mean physically violent.
"Oh f--k no," said Garrison, "It can be on any level. I mean, you can think about it, you can write about it, you can paint about it, you can sculpt. You can go to school and study and learn how to really do it. The smart ones go and imitate and infiltrate. But some idiot kid on a skateboard, who gets s--t from school and his parents just because he says strange things and does strange things and threatens people, he needs to do something. Whether or not it's light his parent's bed on fire or start a magazine or start a band or take school seriously. Just not let his brain go krrr! in a ball like mine has before at various times.
"We can sit here and talk about it, and I can understand that you don't mean for kids to light their parents on fire...."
"Uh-uh. Most people's parents are probably very nice people. But kids like that catch a lot of flak. They're just screwed up. Kids like that say, 'Oh, I hate my parents.' That's not necessarily the case. They're not bad people. I'm just saying that you have to do something. Because I didn't do anything for so long and tried to be a normal human being. I mean, for a year and a half, I didn't know whether Jesus or Satan was following me. I was so completely insane. I couldn't even be spoken to. I sat in a room for seven months, until my skin turned grey and didn't see the sun. I was a sick kid back then. Until I got up and decided that I was going to do something. I took all my money from my legitimate job and did some really interesting, creative things with it. And that helped me. And then I eventually decided that I wanted to do music again. I mean I'd be in a fu-king nuthouse, or I'd be dead, or somebody else would be dead."
"But do you feel responsible for someone misinterpreting something on your records?"
"No. I misinterpreted lots of things from records before," he said.
"So it's buyer beware, listener beware?" I asked.
"It's got an advisory sticker on it, don't it? I told them to put a sticker on it saying 'This record contains content that is questionable.' It's all in the head, man. I mean, a lot of the things that I think are attacking me, aren't. I deal with it as best as I can. But I can't drop my guard."
"And what is your advice to people who feel the same way that you do?"
"Oooh. You have to stabilize however you can. Whatever it takes, you have to stabilize. Or you will be friendless, and life will have no value. You have to realize that probably half of what you are thinking is complete crap," he said, arms crossed.
Garrison is the first to call himself crazy. But the idea behind Kinghorse is that he's not alone in his craziness. The other members of the band -- Mike Bucayu on bass, Kevin Brownstein on drums, Mark Abromavage on guitar -- hold similarly unconventional and volatile views. And the band is propelled by a swelling mass of youthful fans who question authority and the world. "It's like a magnet," Bucayu said of the band. "We just seem to draw those kinds of people."
The question is, how much sicker is somebody who recognizes their anger and confronts it than someone who goes through life avoiding it or burying it? Kinghorse's music flies in the face of pop music that accentuates the positive and provides an escape from the dark side of love and life. Their music is not so much a celebration, probably because the members of Kinghorse don't usually feel much like celebrating.
As guitarist Mark Abromavage put it, "Very seldom do I go through the day wanting to skip down the block. More days than not I just feel like I'm just making it through the day, kind of plodding," he said.
And the fans that are whirling about, the teen-agers that thrill to the sound of Rat singing, "she dug her own grave and she makes the grave her own"? A glance around a Kinghorse show is noteworthy for its violent dancing. But on the periphery, you'll see a sight familiar to any event where young people come together. Girls talking about boys. Girls flirting. Guys trying to act cool. Just what is the difference between a 17-year-old scratching and writhing at the edge of Kinghorse's stage and a girl dancing neat and pretty at a more proper kind of dance? Which girl is more real? Which girl is more honest?
The music of Kinghorse is about alienation. It's about the rage some people feel at a world where they don't easily fit in. Kinghorse and their music create a place where no one is an outcast because of who they are and what they believe. That is a binding force that is very powerful, for people of all ages. The lyrics of Kinghorse are extreme to show that no amount of twisted thought makes you excluded from this acceptance. The more staid members of today's society may not understand that the violent images and calls to action are mostly bluster. That is fortunate, because if the establishment understood and embraced this outlet for rage, the music would no longer be rebellious.
Kinghorse is a guitar band. The big guitar sound is the uniting passion of the musicians. And as Garrison tells it, the guitar is what comes first when a song is created.
"Usually Mark will have all the guitar work ready," explained Garrison. "Then Mike and Kevin decide what they are going to play, usually takes Kevin a great deal of time to decide what he wants to play to it. And then I take the tape home and put words to it. Or I write while they are working on it."
"So Kevin's kind of a perfectionist?"
"To the point where I would like to pull his fingers off with a pair of pliers, sure," he said evenly. "But he's a great drummer. It makes me sick."
"So when you write songs, what happens?" I asked.
"I have no idea what the he-l goes on. I don't remember usually. I just kind of black out and the pen moves. I just listen to them and listen to the tape and it just goes right out," answered Garrison.
"Do you think that the guitars are primarily..."
"By far," he said. "It's a guitar-driven band. The guitar is actually one of three entities. There's the guitar, the rhythm section and myself. The rhythm section is playing together, Mark is playing by himself and I am singing by myself, and somehow we mesh. But we are all addicted to that guitar sound, so that's why it works, because we are all driven by that guitar sound."
"That guitar sound" is a loud, not quite hardcore wall of guitar executed with skill by the veteran Abromavage. The oldest member of Kinghorse at 30, Abromavage was a part of the seminal Louisville punk group Malignant Growth. The guitar parts he writes for Kinghorse are undeniably heavy, with a hint of the blues.
"I've been accused of being blues-based," Abromavage said. "All the music I grew up with was from the '70's, early '70s. All my origins are from Steppenwolf, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa," he said.
The 1970s rock element is evident in their music, and Garrison agrees that the best way to describe Kinghorse's music is "as a cross between the first Sabbath album, the first Damned album and the first Minor Threat single, like, you put that in a blender."
And out of that blender tumbles music that is loud, in your face, and, to use Rat's favorite term, relentless. An hour of playing their music leaves most of the musicians bushed. Brownstein's drumming is like a non-stop solo, creating a big enough sound for two drummers, tight as paper on a wall. To prepare for a gig, Brownstein rubs Icy-Hot all over his arms, shoulders and back. The day after the gig, Brownstein promises that he'll be completely wiped out, exhausted.
Garrison admits that his shows wear him out also.
"The only problem I have after a show is my stomach is f--ked," he said. "And my neck is sore from contorting. Or sometimes I grit my teeth so hard that my f--king head hurts. The muscles in my head hurt."
"If I know a show is isolated, if I know there won't be a show near after it, usually I have a tendency to really overdo it on the stage and hurt myself. And if I'm out of shape, if I haven't been going to the gym or singing with the band, sometimes it takes me a day and a half to recover," Garrison said.
Abromavage has less of a problem, but he still finds an hour of playing music "somewhat" physically taxing, "but then again my work's hard," Abromavage said. "I drive a garbage truck or tip garbage. So playing music up here for an hour is like a walk in the park compared to work."
The music and the attitude is contagious, not only among fans, but among aspiring musicians too.
"I think we've inspired a lot of other bands," said Garrison. "I think there are at least five or six bands in this city who started strictly because they saw how relentless we were. They said, 'I want to do this, and if they can do it, I can do it.'"
I asked, "If one of these bands that your band inspired made it big, would you be jealous?"
"If they made it really big, I mean BIG big? I think I would feel sorry for them," Garrison responded. "Because of what would happen to them. And how upset they would feel to give so much of their time and energy to someone else."
"So you don't want Kinghorse to make it big big?"
"I think that there would be some serious problems. First of all, I don't think it's possible for us."
"What` about the Sex Pistols? Oh, but they really didn't become big till after they broke up."
"Exactly." he said. "They never did sh-t. I mean we're playing gigs that are bigger than every one of their shows except Winterland. You see what I'm saying. But they proved the point that you can get big on personality, attitude, and basic hard rock instead of a pretty face, which is what it's all about now. There's not enough of the handsome element in Kinghorse."
"If your goal isn't to get big big, what is it?"
"Well, we're going to go as far as we can and get as big as we can. But I don't know what that would be like. Basically it just seems like I'd be doing more of what I'm doing right now. I'd be dealing with the media more, playing more shows, and the only difference would be in how much money we would make," the vocalist mused.
"Would you want to stay in Louisville?"
"We'll never leave Louisville. Never."
A simple question can turn down the darkest paths when one interviews Sean Garrison. The lively, entertaining singer will take you down roads where libel and slander keep their residence. The following conversation broke away like a runaway horse when I asked, "Where do you want to be in two years?"
"That's a good question. I was hoping you'd ask that question. That's the kind of question that anybody fears who is in a band."
"That's the kind of question that everybody fears, " I said.
"Well, I think it's a lot harder for somebody who is into music, to be asked that. It's easier for a college student or somebody in medical school, because everybody allows them some screw-off time. But being involved in a rock 'n' roll band can be such a precarious situation. I mean not only financial, but the way people look at you like, "You buffoon. You mean you're still doin' that?" In another two years, if we stick it out, there is no way that we can't just keep getting more and more popular. But how long do we want to do this? How long can we do this?"
"Financially or emotionally?"
"Oh, in every way," he said. "You have to put off every other reality you've ever known. Either kill it, eliminate it, act like it was never there or put it off and procrastinate while you're devoted to it. We've been having a lot of problems strictly because we have wanted to devote a percentage of our energy to our real lives and we don't have time to give 110% percent to Kinghorse. That makes things happen more slowly and then the tension starts, and we want to cut people's throats and blow up buildings. I think in two years, I want to be able to isolate our audience easier. I want to be able to target our audience better. Because there's been a lot of trouble with targeting.
"You mean people showing up who didn't enjoy your music?"
"Exactly. The way things have been promoted, the way the media has been handled, the way interviews have been handled. Because there are certain days when I'll be so unstable that I won't make any sense, I'll talk for an hour and you won't understand a thing I'm saying. Or I may just go crack in the middle of an interview and walk out of the room, or kick the tape recorder. And the way the media's been handled...They'll get some airheaded metal guy on the phone, and they'll say, 'Okay, you can call Sean at such and such and so and so time, and they won't say, Don't ask him about the big three questions that they always ask.' But they don't say that, and they f--king ask me that, and and I just f--king throw the phone, or hang up, or whatever. And then they turn around and they say these guys are too punk."
"But rock 'n' roll has always had an attitude," I said.
"Rock 'n' roll has less of an attitude than it ever has," he countered. "I mean, disco was never as bad as it now is. It's sickening at all levels. It's more prepackaged. Because any little bit of brilliance that anyone has, it's turned into some g-d-mn movement, and it's self-defeating. The magazines are the biggest problems. Not you all. I mean you guys are kind of weird. You're like, 'You want to read this?' That's how it should be. But the magazines that are shooting for a certain kind of audience, like Spin and the alternative press, it's sickening the way they twist everything to fit their purpose, and mold everything to suit their taste. And if it doesn't suit their taste, there you go. You get slammed in the media for the rest of your career. You're a laughing stock that they can mention in the middle of an article somewhere to make themselves look clever.
"That's the first problem. The second problem is the record labels. I feel terrible for anyone that has been signed in the last six months. Because of the recession, they've got big problems. If they don't come through, as far as being marketable, easily categorized, they are doomed. If they don't conform, they're f--ked. They will be dropped.
"The third problem is radio. Radio people...you have to stroke them. You must kiss their a--. Usually if you get interviewed on the radio and you're in a band, if you are the least bit weird, if you're not sweet, they won't do a thing for you. You have to be nice to these people all the time. Say something bad has happened to you and you say, 'Look man, just give me 15 minutes to get my head together.' They immediately adopt this attitude and say, 'Snob. Rock star. Rock star.' And that's it.
"The fourth problem is the bands. A percentage of them just go along with it. Well, hell, that could be applied to any of them. The radio people that go along with that," he said.
"Do you think it happens because bands just get tired of slugging it out?" I asked.
"Yes. That is it. And they'll do anything. They just lose it. We get worse, we almost self-destruct sometimes because we hate it so much. We attack it, physically and otherwise. We are going to attack it. Because we know it doesn't have to be like that. There have been periods in rock history when it wasn't this way. Plus disco has triumphed. There's more disco on the air than there ever was before. There's more electronic music on the air than there ever was before. So disco won. I mean the whole arty death disco movement. I wish they had one collective neck so I could get my hands on it, because it's disgusting."
Kinghorse is set to perform at a hard rock showcase at the Bank Building in New York City July 16. Their CD and cassette is available at ear X-tacy records. Look for local club dates in the daily newspaper.