Hi Guys, first of all, my apologies for losing you out of sight after your most promising demo 'Snakeskin', but you reintroduced yourselves quite well with your second album 'Mastosaurus'. What do you think of the new album yourselves, are you satisfied and what are your expectations?
We put our heart and soul into this album. Our debut album ‘Sadlands’ (2014) was a bit of a rush-job to make so we wanted to take our time for ‘Mastosaurus’. We decided to take our time and didn’t play any shows for ten months. All we did was rehearse and write. We finished fourteen songs and selected nine to appear on the album. ‘Mastosaurus’ is a concept album, kind of a Greek tragedy that ends with the death of the protagonist. Not a feel-good album at all, unlike our previous record. We got raving reviews and plan to play as much as possible to promote the album, we’re a household name in Belgium but we want to broaden our horizons with touring and playing all over Europe.
Although this is your second album, you will not be that well known to most of our readers. Can you tell us the story of King Hiss so far?
King Hiss was formed after my old band Mans Ruin fell apart and I got a call from Jason Bernard (drummer) who also played his final show with Gootch. We started jamming in the summer of 2011. The line-up was: Jason (drums), Vision (bass) and me on guitar doing vocals as well. Suddenly a singer (Jan Coudron) approached me through MySpace(!) asking if we still needed a singer. This was October 2011, after one rehearsal, it was clear this was the right voice for the band. We played our first shows early 2012 and recorded a three-song demo soon afterwards. In 2013 we put our first MCD called ‘Snakeskin’ and that really got the ball rolling. We played support for Red Fang which got the attention of the organisation behind Graspop and we were asked to open Graspop 2013. In 2014 we released our first album ‘Sadlands’ which got superb reviews all over the world and lots of festivals, support slots and sold-out shows later, we entered the studio for the follow up ‘Mastosaurus’ which is out now.
Belgium is not particularly know for bands in the stoner genre, although you guys quite fit in the corner of impressive instrumental skills by the way (dEUS and Triggerfinger became famous with it). Is there a foundation in musical education available in the band?
Well, there’s plenty of great stoner bands in Belgium: Cowboys and Aliens were the first band who really put stoner on the map. Lately there’s plenty of great stoner bands around: Tangled Horns, Your Highness, Fire down Below, Motsus… We all have our musical background from previous bands. I was into metal and HC in the ‘90s with bands like Congress and Liar. Jan did Fendango (stoner) and is recently also singer for Carneia. Jason used to drum for Gootch (rock’n’roll) and Vision did Empathy (metalcore) and One fine Cast (punkrock) I guess it’s safe to say that our musical background formed the sound of King Hiss.
Is there a special story behind the band name?
Vision and myself are avid toy-collectors. We used to play with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe figures as kids and started collecting around 2010. King Hiss is the king of the snakepeople, an enemy of He-Man (besides Skeletor) We thought it was a cool name, it didn’t exist already and we took the snake-image into our first records and merch also. It’s also a wink to Red Fang (one of our influences) who are named after a GI Joe figure.
Which band(s) may be considered your main influences, and which band(s) do you truly admire and would love to share a stage with?
Lots of stoner bands like Goatsnake, Orange Goblin, Kyuss, Church of Misery, the Obsessed, COC… but also lots of metal like Mastodon, Gojira, High on Fire, Kvelertak, old thrash metal. We played with most of our heroes already but Red Fang remain the coolest band to share the stage with.
Right after the release of 'Snakeskin' you were invited to play the Graspop festival. Quite a jump-start! How was that gig so soon in your career and which other gig(s) was/were the most memorable and why? And is there a preference towards playing festivals or club shows?
We got lucky to play that edition of Graspop, we got lots of attention after our set and had a very busy schedule after that. We love playing festivals but we also love playing small venues. In clubs, people know your band whereas on festivals, people don’t care as much and you really have to persuade them. whatever the stage, we LOVE playing! My favourite fests were Graspop, Pukkelpop, Roadburn, Roadkill and opening for the Sword, Clutch, Kvelertak, Red Fang and Therapy!
Being such a true live band, is something you guys seem to want to let everybody know; the shows are pretty expressive from what I've seen on the web (unfortunately I've not seen you guys live in real yet). Especially club shows must give opportunity to expand or alter some songs to add even more expression of that particular moment. Is that something you often use on stage, or do you want to stay to the original songs as close as possible?
Our old songs were very good for live-sets, stretching breaks, letting the crowd participate and so on. Newer material is darker and heavier, not every song suits the live-experience. We are currently working of finding a balance between the old and new material to offer the best live-experience possible. Not an easy task but we’re getting there!
How is the song material written actually; anyone in particular responsible for the writing or is it a band process, maybe even involving some jamming?
Vision and myself come up with most musical ideas, riffs, song writing and puzzling with different parts. I often come up with singing lines as well but will always listen to what Jan has to offer. If his singing lines work better than mine, he wins! I’m a sucker for catchy lines that fit with groovy riffing.
Any interesting quotes from the recording days of 'Mastosaurus'?
By the end of 2015, we were fed up with our rehearsal room. When we wanted to jam, we had to build up our drum set and amps and had to break everything down after rehearsal. We were looking for a location where we could leave our equipment set up for jamming without breaking down after each gig. Friends of our bass player had a duplex house that they would rebuild early summer so the one house was empty. We could leave our equipment there and show up for rehearsals whenever we wanted. This was a major breakthrough in the writing process. For three months we could jam all we wanted until the owner finally had to break down some walls and started the reconstruction. Imagine jamming while sledgehammers and drills where all around. Later on, when the house was one big building they had dinner while we were jamming the songs and even treated us with grilled cheese sandwiches and quality beers. Big ups to Lucy and Dieter for keeping up with us!
You release your albums on vinyl (great work!), is that because it's your personal preference, or because it's pretty popular in this genre?
We love vinyl and the artwork is perfect for a gatefold sleeve. Also, more and more people appreciate vinyl and prefer vinyl over CD format. It’s a trend but a trend I approve of.
The release on vinyl does certainly give more credit to the art work, as you said. What can you tell us about the art work and its maker?
We approached Robin Clarijs to draw our cover art. He did the sleeve for the Wolfff’s album and he was very into the idea of the cover and also into our music. He sketched a rough draft after one day and we were immediately convinced. Props to Robin for this one!!!!
Thanks for your time. As a final question: I didn't see any tour dates in our neighbourhood, but will you guys come over for some live shows, and what are the further plans for the future?
We have a couple of cool gigs coming up the next months and there’s bookings coming on a weekly basis so keep an eye out for new gigs in the future. Holland is getting to know us but we want to do more shows there, some cool festivals have also contacted us but that’s for next summer. We plan to tour in may also so there’s no more excuse to miss out on King Hiss. Mastosaurus on the road in 2017! Rock on!