Kino – Back in the Prog Business

Wednesday, 28th March 2018

When you assemble a group of people that are as busy as those in Kino, there’s bound to be some gaps in time between albums. After a critically successful debut back in 2005, Kino had all but disappeared. But its membership has certainly stayed busy, with vocalist/guitarist John Mitchell involved with It Bites, Lonely Robot, Arena, and Frost* where bassist Pete Trewavas is also playing in Marillion, Transatlantic, and Edison’s Children. But eventually, all good things are worth revisiting.

Here in 2018, Kino have finally returned with a second album in the form of Radio Voltaire. A collection of prog tunes that have a bit of experimentation in them, as well as some enjoyable pop sensibilities to give it a more immediate flavor. We spoke to Pete Trewavas prior to the album’s release to get a grasp on what brought Kino back for a second helping, remixes, and what else is going on with Marillion and Transatlantic.

Dead Rhetoric: What brought Kino back around after a 13-year absence?

Pete Trewavas: John [Mitchell] and I have stayed in contact over the years, and he does a lot of work for me with other things. But I’m not entirely certain. John came to me and said he would like to do another album, so I said, “Yeah, sure!” It’s always good to get involved with something, particularly Kino, and I really enjoy working with John. We went to Thomas at Inside Out and they saw a timing that they could put an album out. So we had about 3 months to get it put together. I was busy with Marillion at the time, so I was hoping we would have more time – like maybe six months to do it. So most of the time, John was putting the album together, and I was on tour with Marillion or doing other things.

But we did spend some time together. We co-wrote a couple of songs, and I brought three songs to the album. We spent about two weeks in total, going through the process of putting demos into album form, making sure that we had good parts and sounds. To be honest, John did most of the work because I didn’t have the time. It was a bit sad. I’m hoping that when we do the next album, we’ll have more time to allow things to progress naturally and do some writing together in a relaxed atmosphere. This album was very much John’s songs and my songs due to timing. Being creative people, we are both constantly writing anyway. Funny enough, “I Don’t Know Why” was a song I had leftover from the last Kino writing sessions, when John and I had thought we were doing an another album together. But that didn’t happen, and so I brought that one to the table with a few other songs.

One of the songs I came up with…this is how quick it was time-wise. I was thinking that I needed to bring some more music to put into this and a melody popped into my head, and I already head some chords and bits and pieces I was working on. I was driving to John’s one morning, which is about an hour’s drive, and I was mentally constructing this song in my head. I got to John’s and I played it for him, and he said, “Throw some piano down, throw some guitar down” and it got written the day of, which was pretty cool.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you chalk that up to the sheer number of years’ experience you have in writing, that you can do something like that?

Trewavas: I guess. I’ve always been very lucky as a musician. Right from being a small boy, if I listened to music I understood what was going on. I don’t really get why or how, but I’m very lucky in that respect. I understand music very well, so I’m able to think of music in my head without having a piano or a guitar there. With this process of wanting to bring another song together and having a few bits and pieces at my disposal, I could quite easily evaluate what was going on and how I would go about demoing it and bringing it into a form that someone could listen to.

I’ve always been creative, it’s just that over the years – particularly when I started to work with Transatlantic, I’ve become more capable of putting my ideas across. I don’t like being forceful. I’m not the sort of person that insists my music gets on an album. It’s either good and someone will get it, or it’s not and you are barking up the wrong tree and you are the only one who doesn’t see it. So I play stuff to people, and if they like it, it’s great, and if they are not really sure that is fine. I can always use it, or recycle it. Or maybe it was bad, and I can then change it and I’ll turn it completely on its head so that it becomes better one day.

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to constructing songs and learning what things are good, musically, and what can work together. I always have a back catalog of ideas anyway. I have a little studio up on my phone and iPod, and I use them to sing melodies in or roughly play acoustic guitar and put a bit of melody or vocal over them. That will do – as long as I have an idea in my head and I can put it somewhere that I can remember it, it allows me the freedom to think of the next thing. It also means that I can go back to it and faithfully remember what it was. So I use those tools to kind of help.

Dead Rhetoric: So you stayed in contact, and you’ve obviously been involved with a lot of other things during the period away from the band – did you find that there were any challenges of bringing Kino or was it more just finding time and opportunity?

Trewavas: The challenge really was managing and finding the time. I had a very busy schedule, so I had to find some time to work with John on this. We had to do some of it remotely, but it’s much more fun to bounce ideas off of each other than to send something and have someone say, “I don’t really like that.” It’s very easy to get offended over remote transfer of ideas and thoughts. It’s much much nicer and quicker to have two people in a room. If someone says, “I don’t really get that,” you just move on to the next thing. Instead of pondering and letting someone’s negative contact kind of fester, which can very easily happen.

Face to face is so much better. So it was difficult to find the time to work on it. I really enjoy working with John, he’s a great guy. It’s always fun to just mess about, and he’s a hoarder as well, so he as really cool stuff in his house! He’ll have amazing Star Wars stuff or some crazy thing that he remembers from his youth that he bought on eBay. There’s always something mad going on in the background [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: You recently re-released the Picture album. How do you feel it has aged with time?

Trewavas: I think of it very fondly. I think it was a very much a ‘first album.’ For me, it’s got a similar thing to it as the first McCartney album, which I know is quite a comparison to make. But when he made his first album, he came up with ideas and made songs out of them. They were quite cool and quirky. The first Kino album was a bit like that. There were no real expectations. Between myself, John, and John Beck, we had various types and styles of songs, and we made them all fit onto an album without sounding too bonkers. For me, it’s aged quite well. It’s of its time; most albums are. But I look back on it quite fondly, and it’s nice to listen.

It’s nice for it to be on vinyl. It does it justice really. Putting something onto vinyl is a good accolade for it; if it’s worthy of spending all the time and effort into making it into vinyl. Vinyl is expensive to store and expensive to ship. People have to store it in their house and get it out of the cover and put the needle on the record to play it. There’s a lot of effort going into vinyl [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: Definitely – compared to just playing it on the phone…

Trewavas: Exactly, just instantly going to something. So it’s nice that it’s up there in the vinyl vaults of time. People want to take the effort to listen to it on vinyl, which is cool. You can’t download vinyl either, which is a bit of a plus for us poor musicians who actually need money [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: Going from Picture to Radio Voltaire, did you think about it [Picture] much when you were writing? I know you mentioned the time constraint – or was it more a matter of pushing everyone’s ideas together again?

Trewavas: This was very much an album of people bringing songs. John had a few, I had a few. As I said, I wrote one of them driving to John’s in the car. “I Don’t Know Why,” which was left over from the first Kino album, has been sitting on the shelf waiting for a while – I had done some various demos over the years but it has never sounded as good, so it was great that John and I could knock it into shape. John had songs that he was working on. He played me basically what became the rest of the album. We wrote a couple of songs together – I put a bit of a bass solo on one of his tracks. I did some backing vocals too, though I’m not sure if I’m credited with them, or howling as my wife likes to call it, bless her [laughs]. I wrote three or four songs – it was done in a very different way, which was quite refreshing. Much of it was done remotely, which made it impossible to co-write. I mean, you can, but that takes longer than being in the same room.

Dead Rhetoric: I noticed there were a few remix tracks – what do you feel they add? It used to be something done more often but not so much anymore.

Trewavas: I think remix tracks have to work. I think these work really well. I’ve got another project called Edison’s Children, and we’ve used various different mixes of songs. Sometimes two different people mixing a song will have a very different approach. With this case, you have two conflicting ideas on how a song should be. Sometimes you don’t know which should be which. Funny enough, it just occurred to me yesterday as I was chatting to a good friend of mine, and the first band to really do anything like that was probably The Beatles, with “Revolution” and “Revolution #9.” It would seem to me that “Revolution” was really written as much more of a working protest song, and “Revolution #9” being slower, is much more of that. The record company wanted a single, so it got speeded up and became a nice, shiny pop song. If you sing “Revolution” fast enough, people don’t understand what you are singing about I guess [laughs].

I think that remixes work. When Marillion was on EMI in the ‘80s, and Trevor Horton was doing all those crazy remixes of “Slave to the Rhythm,” there was a lot of that stuff going on. Of course, the club stuff – there were always a lot of remixes in the ‘90s of club and house tunes with various DJs doing stuff. I think it’s all cool. I don’t think that a particular piece of music has to be tied down to one version. I think if it’s a good piece of music, and it’s a good remix, why not?

Dead Rhetoric: That’s a good way to look at it. If it’s a quality song, you should be able to take it and alter it with the meaning intact and still have it be a good song.

Trewavas: Absolutely. Sometimes there are certain things that the song is trying to say that would benefit from a slightly different approach.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel your approach differs with each band that you are in?

Trewavas: I don’t consciously try and do that, but I think it probably does happen. I wouldn’t say I have rules, but there are certain things that I can definitely get away with in a band like Transatlantic, where I would be less inclined to be quite so frantic or upfront with a band like Marillion. Sometimes the seriousness of a subject or the music requires you to be in the background, or a specific type of thing. But having said that, I do a lot of crazy stuff in Marillion as well. People don’t really realize what it is [laughs]. I’m thinking about something there’s a bit in “Gaza,” where I do some crazy bass stuff in it. A few other songs as well.

It’s really down to what the music requires. I think of myself as part of a musical arrangement team, rather than a bass player who has to shine. I don’t have to shine. I’m not the person to force my style or technique onto a public platform. I’m just trying to play cool stuff. If I’m playing bass, that’s great, and if I’m doing something else – I don’t care if I’m hitting a tambourine, and it’s in the right place in the right part of the song, then that’s really what’s required.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that in the mainstream culture, the bass gets underappreciated?

Trewavas: I don’t think so. The thing with bass – musicians get it. Some other people aren’t quite sure what it is but it’s there. I wouldn’t say that it’s underappreciated. I think it’s a really cool instrument. I’ve always loved [it]. I started learning guitar growing up, because I was too young and impatient for piano, then I went onto bass to simply stay in the band I was playing in at the time. I fell in love with it instantly. I was always a McCartney fan when I was young. I used to listen to The Beatles all the time, as did everyone who grew up in the ‘60s in England, of course. So I took to bass. It occurred to me that you can really turn music on its head, if you know what you are doing. You can play stuff across the rhythm, you can make the timing seem different, or you can completely change the chord structure you are doing by changing a few bass notes here and there.

The other thing I like, constructing melodies. I like looking at the bass as part of an arrangement, like I was saying earlier. I like a good melodic structure, which is why I’ve never played a 5-string. All of my favorite bass lines were written on 4-strings. It forces you to move around the neck in a very different way. You can’t just do arpeggios. There’s lots of cool stuff that you can do on 5-and-6 string basses, but it becomes a different instrument.

Dead Rhetoric: Are there any updates for Transatlantic and Marillion at this point?

Trewavas: Marillion is still in the middle of touring. We just agreed to do some more dates in Japan, which will be nice. We’ll be spending a lot of time this year playing throughout Europe. While we are doing that, we are going to be writing as well. We are going to set aside a few hours a day when we are rehearsing to get into a bit of a writing session. At some point over the next 2-3 years, maybe 3-4 years, we would like to do another album.

As far as Transatlantic is concerned, we want to do another album together. I was on Cruise to the Edge with Marillion, and Mike [Portney] and Neal [Morse] were there as well. We had a good old chat, and while we were hanging out back stage we got to thinking about what we could do with Transatlantic. So it’s being talked about.

Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have following the album coming out for Kino?

Trewavas: That’s one of those things that’s very frustrating when you do a side project. I’m not sure how much we support we can give this album, sadly. This album, for those who haven’t heard much of it, it’s much more modern and it’s got some great music on it. Craig Blundell replaced Chris Maitland on drums, and unfortunately he’s in big demand at the moment. I, unfortunately, don’t see us having a lot of time to play live but I’d love to get the new band on tour and do some stuff. Maybe festivals. If we could do a festival in America and in Europe, I’d love to do that. But we’ll have to wait and see.

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