Last year there was a period where every couple of weeks a really weird video would pop up on Facebook of two nattily dressed men in suits, recreating a Dylanesque one-take video, complete with nonsense lyrics on throwaway cue-cards. The track, Boom Babba Do Ba Dabba, was by an obscure Danish band called POWERSOLO.
Except that they were now an obscure Danish band with 200,000 hits on Youtube. Oh, and 300,000 plays on Spotify for their contribution to the American Horror Story soundtrack. And their song being used to sell Coke in South America, which has 500,000 views online. Apart from that, just your average, obscure, Danish, garage/punk band. Who are these two weirdos and what are they up to? We called up Kim Kix, one half of the self-styled Railthin Brothers, to find out.
So how does the band work? There’s just the two of you? And making music is all you do? You’ve been working together for nearly 20 years now.
Well, it’s my job to kick it off. Every couple of years I call my partner and say it’s time, and I force myself to come up with as many ideas as possible on a tape recorder, and then we go to a really small studio we have and record as simply as possible. We have an old digital hard disc recorder. I guess it’s not the same as a vintage tape recorder, but it has the same effect in that it is quite limited. It’s from about 2001, so you still have to really concentrate and work within its limitations, and then we burn each track onto one disc and take all these discs to a bigger studio with better stuff to mix it and make the record. As far as possible we mess around with it as little as possible, so it’s live and raw and sounds like rock and roll. Every mic in the room picked up every instrument, there’s nothing to hide. That’s why it’s titled the Real Sound, you know? It’s the real sound of Powersolo. There’s just me and Atomic Child writing the songs and then we tour with a full band.
The video for Boom… looks really spontaneous, was that a one take deal too?
The video was based on the Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues clip, obviously, with the throwaway signs. We wanted it to be one take and get it right, not edit it together. So we ended up doing 5 takes and used the last one. It was important for us to get a VHS effect, so we used an old camera for that too, to get that feel for it. But sometimes we don’t have so much say. There’s a video with puppets in it that was quite expensive to make, but the puppet guys really wanted to work with us, they’re from Lars Von Trier’s studio, so they did it as a favour. That purple hippo is really popular on TV now, actually, as a separate character. He’s a really aggressive purple hippo with a baseball bat.
So this is all you do? Just make music, that’s pretty good, it’s quite hard to do these days without a major label or anything.
Well that was a decision we made about 15 years ago, and it was a hard decision. We’re definitely more travellers and musicians than we are businessmen, but we need to do all that grown-up family and bills stuff too. So that’s where publishing and everything comes in…we’re lucky we seem to sell a lot of our stuff to soundtracks and some adverts and a video game too. So in that way it’s very pure because it means you can be your own boss and make the music you want. But is it cool to sell a song to Coke? To the poor kids of South America? I don’t know…is that terrible?
Well, I drink a lot of Coke, even though it’s an evil corporation and everything. Sure? Why not? Andy Warhol loved Coke, you’re in good company! Is this stuff you’re writing to order, or tracks that they are picking up?
Both! American Horror Story, they picked up a track called You Ain’t Looking Right and used it on the first episode, and that was really popular. There’s been some Danish movies, some European movies, an English movie, but I forget the name, it had Carmen Electra and somebody from The Office in it [I Want Candy starring Mackenzie Crook] Sometimes someone will get in touch and say ‘We need something that sounds like Powersolo’. That’s what happened with the Coke ad. Mostly though, they pick it up. Apart from the whole movie we soundtracked, Himmerland, that was really good fun to write specifically for a movie.
So, you’ve played the UK hardly at all. How big are you in Denmark? Can you walk down the street?
Well, we always have a full house when we play in Denmark and we’re on TV sometimes and on the radio…but Denmark is quite a small place. So yeah, we can walk down the street. We’re known but we’re not mainstream at all. There’s a small rock ‘n’ roll scene, purists scene, in Denmark but we need to appeal to people outside of that. All kinds of people dig Powersolo and we love all kinds of people.
A kind of obvious question: Both your videos from this last album you look absolutely crazy. Really energetic, really almost deranged. Is that what the live show is like? I saw some footage of you playing in a wrestling mask and pants….
Well, our one purpose with every live show is to work the crowd from start to finish. So that even if the crowd isn’t that into it at the start, by the end, the whole crowd is going crazy for it. Sometimes people just don’t get it…but that can be interesting, watching people come round to you. I mean some of our albums are quite diverse, there’s 50s rock N Roll, there’s 60s and 70s pysch and garage on there, some more pop stuff, some more punk stuff. It can be confusing for people….
True. There’s some country folk, some blues punk, stuff that sounds like the Black Keys area, and there’s a couple of tracks that sound like Beck or Beastie Boys or something. Reminds me of 90s MTV.
Yeah, recently we had a whole album remixed by hip hop producers (The Unreal Sound remix album) so we can play some of that stuff on it too, or versions of it.
Last question, what’s the connection with Jon Spencer’s Heavy Trash project? You’re on the same label in Denmark, and you’ve toured with them.
Well, I used to live in New York and when I met him in 2003 he told me he loved rockabilly music and I told him about my first band, Godless Creeps, who were a pure psychobilly band. So I joined Heavy Trash on bass, back in the van, starting from scratch. Because Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were quite well known, but this was a new thing, starting again and playing small places.
So, just 6 UK dates on this tour. Will you be coming back?
It depends if people like us! I hope so, really looking forward to the Liverpool date. People told me that Liverpool audiences are really good, I’d like to believe that.
Powersolo play Howl at the Moon Vol 14, Friday 3rd March at The Legion of Lost Souls, Hardman St. Tickets in Probe records, Dig Vinyl and online.