Interview: Kill Me Tomorrow

interview by eric huntington

While they’re both languages of sort, math is the hyperactive, genius uncle of poor, ‘ol retarded English. Math is to English like Kill Me Tomorrow is to your average rock band. Kill Me Tomorrow has grown, no, evolved over the years to what feels like a self-supporting entity. Whether they admit it or not, Zack, K8 and Dan have corralled music, art and literature to something that resembles a biogenetic circus of every new wave cyber punk band you can think of… and some Sonic Youth. The CD art resembles the music, the lyrics are now short stories of the book, while the art in the book reflects to both the contents and what Zack sings about in the band. It’s something that’s only supposed to happen in labs, with scientists hovering over microscopes, looking at slides and piecharts and getting yelled at by the occasional Army general, who wants to use the band for evil military purposes. All the art, on everything Kill Me Tomorrow-related, is hand drawn and created, for the most part, by K8, bass player and backup vocalist. Every vinyl, album, flier, leaflet… it’s all K8.
K8: Well, I do all the artwork. Zack does the lettering on the posters.

And it’s all quite good, which was probably a bit relieving to Zack. See, K8 and Zack are married. Zack, an Oregon native, created Kill me Tomorrow with her, first playing guitar and then bouncing from instrument to instrument before landing a spot as vocalist, drummer and effects guy… and sometimes keyboardist. Effects guy is what I call him, at least. See, when Kill Me Tomorrow (to be further known as KMT) plays live, he’s always jamming his fingers on this tiny pad, which is the size of the screen on your local ATM.
Zack: It’s called a Chaos Pad. It has a touch screen of sorts… you can run a finger across the screen and change pitches and tones on the fly… it’s crazy.

More on that later. Going back to Zack (the guy with the sorta dreadlock hair), he and K8 got married a few years ago, and… I guess I found that a bit unusual. How many bands do you know with members married to each other? In all honesty, I’ve didn’t really get anything interesting about it. Oh well.
Dan: I joined the group right before (their first album) Happy First, a few weeks before we recorded it.

That, my friends, is Dan Wise, who pretty much was the remaining guitar/keyboard piece in the pop-industrial KMT world domination puzzle. Domination’s a bit of a strong word, but Dan plays some pretty tight guitar for a band that’s all over the place, and the sound runs thru so many different affects that it sounds, at times, almost completely alien. He also happens to work at Off the Record, one of the few record stores left in San Diego, and the one most frequented by myself.

They all live in San Diego, which is handy, since I also live in the area. Are you guys excited? Are interviews exciting? Lame first question!
K8: (laughs) I hate interviews! I can have a hard time expressing myself sometimes.
Z: (pauses) it depends. I like interviews… with over-the-phone and email, the in-person interviews are the best but also the least frequent. I guess it’s just not as convenient. We’re good at them, I think

Have you had a bad interview?
Z: Not really. We’ve had interviews that felt like… like they weren’t really informed on us as a band. A lot of the Xerox type zines will have that attitude, you know. Just kinda fucking off.

Is it important that those zines exist?
Z: Oh yeah, just on the idea that some of those people may develop bigger idea’s in the future, like magazines, labels… things that involve the music world, and are more thought out. I don’t know how many peoples zines affect other then the people that make them and their friends, but sometimes that’s enough.

What are you thinking of when you say that?
Z: Well, my Hotmail (free email site right now is totally messed up. It has so many popups attached to it, every time I open a different window, I have to close ten… it’s like playing Missile Command or something. At first, I saw webzines and I was like, “okay whatever” but some people really put some time and effort into it.

Not really technological are you, Zack?
Z: (laughs) No, not really.

Do you have a TV?
Z: We just got one this Christmas, and a DVD player. The TV doesn’t really pick up any stations at all… it’s just a monitor for the DVD player, essentially.

How was KMT formed?
K8: We went thru a lot of different lineup changes. At first I was singing, then I played keyboards and now I play bass.
Z: She was going to school, I was going to school… It was pretty open ended, a hobby for a long time. Essentially, before we moved down here, it wasn’t a serious band. We really didn’t tour or anything like that ’till we moved down here. It took a while until we narrowed it down and figured out how we wanted to do things. That was when we got Dan in 2000, maybe early 2001. That was when we became a real band.
Dan: (laughs) I just play guitar and keyboard.

What instrument did you all start playing? Was this your first band?
Z: Um… well, back in high school, I sang for a straight edge hardcore band, a really bad straight edge hardcore band. We just played in garages mostly. The guitarist’s dad was a collector, a guitar collector, and he had piles and piles of equipment. He sold me this piece of shit bass guitar for fifty bucks, and I start to play bass. I started taking lessons from a bass guy, a local guy who was a real Cliff Burton metal head type of bass player. That was during the time when slapping the bass was getting popular, so I learned that.

Oh, you mean, that ‘rock funk’ like Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Primus?
Z: Yeah, but there was a thing that Portland in particular got into… the popular band was Sweaty Nipples. They got big for a little while. Everybody was doing the slap bass. This was before metal blew up. I played with a lot of older musicians. A guy I knew could had a drum kit but could play guitar, but didn’t have one, so I sold a bunch of stuff and bought a piece of shit, $99 guitar and traded it, straight up, for his drum kit. So eventually, I taught myself to play. At this point, I was all over the place; I just kinda played whatever. I still do that. (laughs)
D: Guitar [was my first instrument]. Keyboards, I wouldn’t really say I know how to play. I can figure out little stuff… but I can play the guitar and bass pretty well. I won’t be tickling the ivory anytime soon. (laughs)
K8: At first, I sang… which I didn’t like doing. I thought I had a horrible voice, and I had terrible stage fright. I didn’t scream… I tried to have melody (laughs) it gave me a lot more confidence. I played keyboards for a while, which I still do in Tender Buttons, but it’s mostly bass. Bass is the best instrument. I like playing the drums but I don’t think I have enough rhythm. Put me in a room with a bunch of pots and pans and ill make music with them.
D: I can fake a beat [on the drums], but that’s about it.

Zack, you met K8 in Oregon?
Z: Yeah. She moved up from California. Her older brother lived up there, and he was good friends with a guy that I knew. We started dating and hanging out, and making music as a hobby… I started listening to electronic music around then, a little. We called ourselves Kill Me Tomorrow in 1997. A label from San Diego offered to put us on a 7 inch. We played a lot of shows around Oregon but never toured because of school or jobs. We got sick of that and the weather in Oregon, and moved down in October of 1999.
K8: Oregon is pretty, it’s mellow and it rains a shitload. He suffers from seasonal depression… we all do, so when it rains 9 months out of the year, you know. When I first moved there, I was excited to be in the weather, but after a year I got tired of it. It starts raining in October and doesn’t stop till April or may. And Oregon, especially Portland, it gets a little redneck. There are definitely liberal’s in Oregon, but twenty minutes out of town, you can see it. Gun racks in cars kinda stuff. It’s so different in southern California, especially in San Diego. People don’t even care down here. (She later told me about some Oregon rednecks that chased Zack down and broke his knee with a baseball bat, all because he was a punk – Zack didn’t really feel like talking about it)

And you didn’t have Dan till you moved down here.
Z: No… we figured the quickest way to meet people was to put a sign out that said ‘Drummer available’ (laughs) so we walked down to Off The Record (record store) because we heard that was ‘the’ record store, and put up a sign; by the time we walked back to our place there was a message on the answering machine from Dan, who works at Off The Record.

Did you get any more calls?
Z: No, because he tore the sign down! (laughs)

What’s the deal between you and K8? Married? Is it hard, being that she’s one third of the band? Ever have marital fights that get carried into the band’s playing field?
Z: Yeah we’re married. We bicker, but not more then other band members would. Dan is married as well, so he’s mellow… we’re all really mellow so it never gets to be a problem.

Dan, doesn’t your wife actually work with K8?
D: Yeah. They were [just] in LA… fabric shopping. They work together for Blood and Guts clothing. K8 prints the fabric and Kathleen (Dan’s wife – see, I told you it was an intertwined KMT circle) does the fabric design and sewing of the clothes. I’m moral support.
K8: I print on the fabrics she makes. Jackets, pants, t-shirts… it’s all hand made stuff. I wish I had more time to get it out there, but that just takes so much time. And I get bored and distracted easily. Zack, that must be a little rough, having a wife in the band. I mean, I’m sure you’ve played your share of seedy bars, and to try and be protective…
Z: Eh, K8 fields it pretty well. All that is pretty easy…

You bear the brunt of the burden?
Z: (laughs) Oh yeah, of course! But really, K8 is definitely the most popular. She gets hit on by more girls then guys it seems like. She gets mobs of that. Women flock to her.

Does she get mistaken for the singer?
Z: (laughs) Only when she goes into Guitar Center or something. [Mimics a male clerk] “Ohhh, you are the singer?” (laughs)

What was missing before Dan?
Z: A lot of what was missing actually. Dan added a whole new layer of song writing. The way we’re making songs now, it’s nothing like writing at home or something. It’s completely collaborative and organic. Built out of sounds, not chords. He’s got such a bizarre guitar setup, nobody can even sound like him. It’s mixed thru a keyboard, thru his guitar amp… he has all these pedals. It would be tough to duplicate.

Which seems to be missing off older songs… like, “King of Beers” (song off of their first album, an album that was good on it’s own, but now plays like a teenage KMT)
Z: Oh man, that’s an old one. That was before it was just me, K8 and Dan. We had another guy in the band playing drums who wanted us to be an indie rock band, which sucked. I don’t even want to name names. He’s crazy. (laughs) It was horrible. After that point, we were like, “no more drummers” and that was our last drummer.
K8: Um, I don’t think it’s anything I want to put into an interview (laughs). It happened a long time ago.

I’m not looking for shit talking.
K8: (laughs) For us, it was a good break. We worked with a bunch of people over the years just because of people’s jobs and lives. Right now, we’re all on the same page.

What was the breaking point?
Z: Dealing with his shit. It was just a perpetual… (trails off)
K8: So much effort! We used to pick the guy up and feed him Twinkies and burritos just to keep him happy.

C’mon, what was the last straw?
Z: When he didn’t show up for the last show. He was a compulsive liar. A lot to put up with for a drummer. (laughs) He used to be in town, but moved back to wherever he came from. Probably strung out on drugs. When he was with us in Kill Me Tomorrow, we had two guitars, a bass and a singer. It was hard, he had a really big personality, and we’re all just pretty kick back. Big guy, huge personality, fun to hang around with, but he was a pain in the ass to deal with sometimes. Now, me and K8 and Dan get along a lot easier. Ideas come to the surface or get worked out without being pushy or having a big ego about it.

Is that why you freed the beast and really soared away from the early sound? Left the Mudhoney meets Stooges sound in your old apartment?
K8: If you played me Mudhoney, I couldn’t even tell you it was Mudhoney. I think the first EP, the yellow… oh you mean the first album, the red one. Ohh… back then, we made a concession to play like that, to have a rock sound. He was the best drummer we had played with in a year. When we found him, we were willing to play whatever, just so we can play. That album is not something I’m particularly proud of. It’s fine musically, but I don’t really care about it. Every once in a while we get someone who tells me how great that album is or something. The only thing I liked about it was the (laughs) artwork. And the recording on that album sucked. I don’t even consider that Kill Me Tomorrow. That was a record we put out with a different band as far as I’m concerned.
D: Yeah that had a lot to do with it. It’s like, building… something, and you really don’t know what you are
building yet, but you have a lot of material. I guess that’s how we were.

So you sound like you liked the first album?
D: It’s fine. It’s indie rock. If it had stayed like that, we probably would have gotten a lot more fans a lot faster. It’s really… indie rock sounding. It was a shitty period of the band, and it was so long ago. It’s not that I hate it, that’s just where we were at that time.

Alrighty. What is the name Kill Me Tomorrow about, or imply?
Z: We needed a name for the seven inch, we hadn’t really settled on one at that point, and I had a big collection of old novel covers, detective books from the ’50s and 60’s and we just dug thru those pulling out names. Kill Me Tomorrow was one of them, one that K8 liked the best. It’s cheeky. The name has lost any meaning since we’re constantly reinventing ourselves, but… [trails off]

Man, Zack is weird.
K8: (laughs) Zack is really fuckin weird!

Tender Buttons!
K8: It’s more Zack’s brainchild. I’m sure he could give you more info about it.
Z: Tender Buttons.

So talk to me, tell me about Tender Buttons.
Z: Well, since we’ve been writing so much for Kill Me Tomorrow, I just had all these other things that I had spent so much time writing, programs that I sequenced, that I didn’t want to throw away. It’s just K8 and I… we just played a few shows. We’ve put out a few Tender Buttons EP’s as well.
K8: Basically songs for Kill Me Tomorrow that now won’t go to waste. We talked to so many bands, and they all wanted us to play with them, and we didn’t want to keep playing in San Diego as Kill Me Tomorrow over and over. There are also things that Zack does in Tender Buttons that he wont do in Kill Me Tomorrow.

Your latest seven-inch, off Pacific Rock, has a cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”.
Z: Yeah. Not really worried about getting into trouble [with Van Halen]. Hell, if we sold several thousand of that, then maybe they’d be surprised. Tender Buttons is a side project for sure. We just recorded in Los Angeles and filmed a video as well. Definitely a full length in the future.

Who did the art for the Tender Buttons album?
K8: Zack. He does the art for Tender Buttons; I do the art for Kill Me Tomorrow.

Artwork for the albums/cds is all done by K8, right?
Z: She’s done pretty much everything. I’ll participate here and there. On the new album cover, I did the garbage can. (laughs)

Art school?
Z: Not really… she never wanted to be an artist. It seems like the people who make bad art WANT to be artists.
K8: He literally pushed me into music AND into art as well. He sat me down with a bunch of paper, inks, brushes… a toothbrush even, and said “Here, you have a lot of shit to get out” a few hours later, he came back and was like, “Holy shit, I knew you had a lot to get out but…” because the floor was covered with crazy, psychotic drawings… crazy, psychotic, crazy, crazy… My drawings now, they use different techniques that I’ve come up with. That’s why I love art. You don’t have to limit yourself.

You used to have a drum machine right?
D: We tried, after the Happy First era, you know, the CD’s we’re saving for eBay… we tried to play with a drum program. It sounded cool, but when we play live, there was no energy to it. And when you have a drum machine, you have to stay in time… can’t stray off the path. Even on the yellow record, we toured for that, and when we were trying to play along to some of the drum tracks, it was a sometimes a total nightmare.

Worse or better then older drum members?
K8: I don’t know, that’s something with Zack and I… we formed the core of the group. Everyone was always involved, which eventually made it difficult for us. We knew, after all these years playing together, how we wanted the music to sound. When your other members are constantly changing, and forcing you to make concessions on what you want to do, it’s hard. We all like different music, but we also like to do the same type of music.

How would you describe KMT?
Z: We’re essentially just a bass, guitar and drums. The drums, it’s a cocktail set. Essentially, it’s one big elongated floor tom and the bottom of it acts as a bass drum and the top a floor tom. It has a snare on top and a rack tom on the side.
D: I get asked that frequently. If I know they haven’t heard something, they won’t get my references at all. My big question to someone is: do you know Sonic Youth? And if they’re like “Yeah, I’ve heard of that band.” then I say we’re kinda like that. But if they know a little more about music, I can get a little more technical. We sort of sound like The Fall… kinda.

Got the rock influence happening, eh? You all seem to have been into music while growing up
K8: I’ve always been really really into music. I grew up going to shows really young. My sister and I used to go shopping for music and to shows a lot. I was intimidated by making music, I didn’t really think about it, because I didn’t think I had the talent.
D: I just remember listening to my Beatles records and loving it. In high school, I didn’t really listen to punk at all. More like Neil Young, Grateful Dead. I got really into that. Jam bands from the 60’s were my thing.

And you were in a straight edge band? (he stops drinking his beer)
Z: (laughs) We lived in a really really backwards redneck town. The only way to escape was to get fucked up all the time and be total fuck ups. I was a freak, but I was a freak because I wore dresses and had my whole face pierced. But at least I showed up to class on time. I went on and did acid when I went to college. It was the first [drug] I ever did. I had built it up to be something different then it was, but it was still interesting. I’m not into it anymore; beer is pretty much my thing. I’d drink it if it came out of the fucking sink.

So are you a straight edge sellout?
Z: Yeah, I guess, but I was never really into straight edge like everyone. I was into some of the music, but I wasn’t that into it. I didn’t go to every Youth of Today concert or anything.

Is this new album the mature KMT?
D: Yes, I’d like to think so. After a year of recording this album, I’m finally ‘feeling’ each song. It’s taken me a year of playing the songs over and over to really feel them as a song.

And there is a book coming out under the same name?
K8: I’m doing the illustrations for the book. I’ve read the book, I don’t want to give that much away, but I do think it will help explain the album more.
Z: It’s a novel. The lyrics in “The Garbageman and the Prostitute” are short stories, of the novel of the same name. It will be published by a small press called Chiamus. Hopefully, the book will be out by November. The book world moves much much much much slower than the music world. We’ll have a new album by the time it comes out.

Was the book written before the album?
K8: Zack wrote it, I didn’t have any direct input on the book, it’s Zack’s. He’s been writing longer than I’ve known him.
Z: The album comes from a lyrical standpoint of where I come from, short stories, not really traditional song lyrics. Some of the songs on the album, the spoken word type songs, are verbatim of actual parts of chapters. I’ve actually written a few books before, My dad is a writer, so I grew up around that. He’s specialized with very peculiar interests, so I grew up in a very library-type atmosphere. It was fun, but my dad definitely did contribute to my world of reading. I read all over the place when I was young. Ray Bradbury, Tolkien, 1984, Brave New World, Clockwork Orange, things like that. From then I went to Charles Bukowski. My book is dark and disjointed, but there’s humor in it. It’s not in chronological order. The book will probably take more then one reading to fully get it.

Is a song worth .99?
Z: No idea.

A new study was released today that after two years of hard studying, they determined that how much CD sales are actually hurt: one CD per 5,000 mp3 files downloaded. Not as evil as it was meant to be?
Z: I think at some point, it hurts bands, but it’s also inevitable. People will always want the artwork that comes with albums, CD’s or vinyls. It’s all about giving the person who buys the album something worthy. That’s why we have, you know, the fold out poster, a lot of custom artwork and a DVD. I think CD’s will last a lot longer, as a format, then anything else, just because you can take a CD and stick it into your car, or your computer, or a videogame machine… anywhere. Actually, we looked into a place that makes double sided discs: one side a DVD, the other CD.
K8: I know that we’ve always been interested in working in all different mediums to express ourselves. We just want to do as many things as we possibly can. The DVD seems like a good idea and came out fantastic.
D: I just don’t do it at all. I’m a vinyl guy, I love records. And my computer is really shitty, so I couldn’t do it anyways. I’m glad that there are mp3’s, but it’s also annoying. People will come in the record store and say, “Oh, it’s on vinyl! I’ll just go home and download it” (laughs) I don’t know, it’s just; a lot of people are like that. I think that it does affect the bands, the smaller bands, but the guys that get in the media talking about it, those guys will hardly lose anything. Metallica, and all them. The only thing that’s sad for me is that when I first started working there [at Off The Record] in 1999… our sales now are 60% of what they used to be then.

Bush, Kerry, Nader? Everyone voting?
Z: Oh yeah, I’m voting. I really think the situation is
really dire. As much as I think it would be a great option, I’m really bummed Nader is running again. Kerry has a much better chance of getting Bush ousted. It’s a two party system that is open to a third party, but right now, anything is better then Bush. No matter who it is, in the Democratic Party. I like Nader. He’s great by comparison, but it’s just not going to happen.
K8: I’m definitely not voting for George Bush. I will vote for the person who has the best chance to beat Bush. I voted Nader last time. I don’t know if that handed Bush the presidency, but I do not want to see George Bush winning the next election. I’m not up enough on all the issues to know that much, but it’s hard to educate yourself on candidates. Getting informed can be difficult. If all else fails, I just vote for the woman! (laughs)
D: Oh, I don’t know. I might vote for Nader again. I’m not sure. I thought it was lame that he came in so late. He was supporting Democrats like [Dennis] Kucinich and stuff, and then at the last minute, he starts on in. I like Kucinich, I saw him make a speech that just hit the nail on the head. Everything made sense, but nobody really listened. They were all waiting for Dean to come on stage after him. They just waited patiently being polite, but not listening to anything he was saying. Dean was okay, but he was a Christian. I don’t like when people mix religion and politics. This country does it enough as it is. And Kerry, this guys running around saying how bad the war is, but he voted for it. I hate the argument (laughs) [in Zack’s voice] “How can you want to vote Nader now?” or “You let Bush win last time!” First of all, Bush didn’t win last time. Second of all, I didn’t vote for Gore because HE lost my vote. That’s nobody’s fault but Gore’s. We’re trying to progress, to make things better, the lesser of two evils doesn’t make it that much better.

Can we end on a funny tour story? Didn’t you get pulled over and busted?
K8: That’s our funny tour story. We had left Minneapolis from a show, and were driving through South Dakota to head to a show that was at a fish hatchery, which was strange enough. We got pulled over by a highway patrol suburban, which a k9 unit. Apparently we got pulled over because we had something on the rear view mirror, but they just took one look at the van and us and pulled us over. He basically just threatened us. We had pot in the car, that wasn’t even ours actually. Some kid at the last show had given it to us and I completely forgot about it until right then. He basically said he was going to turn the dog loose on the car, so I told him about it, and he took the pot and the pipe, and gave me a ticket, since I was driving. I’m ALWAYS driving, and that was it. I’m sure he pocketed the weed for his monthly party or whatever. He had also asked us if we had coke or other drugs.

That must be some police party. Do yourself a favor and check this band out, either live or at You can sneak a peak at lovely K8’s artwork online at Zack, as per expected, remains somewhat reclusive and only seems to venture out among the world to play a show, eat Mexican food or share a beer at the Casbah in downtown San Diego. And Dan, well, Dan’s probably listening to vinyl behind the counter at Off The Record in San Diego. They’re in Hillcrest, on 3849 5th Ave. Stop by and give him a hug for me.