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The Koffin Kats are a high energy, psychobilly trio from Detroit, Michigan with a reputation for being one of the hardest touring bands out there. The band were formed in 2003 by good friends Vic Victor on lead vocals and upright bass and Tommy Koffin on guitar, to sing tales of “drug use, self-loathing, and all things evil”. Tommy relinquished Koffin Kat status last year to be replaced by Ez Ian. The current line up sees them joined by E-Ball Walls on drums. With five albums behind them, the latest ‘Forever for Hire’ released last year on Stomp Records, these guys show no signs of slacking as I witnessed at two of their recent London shows (whilst keeping a safe distance from the wreckin’ pit!).  I caught up with the guys before the second show, at Kingston’s Fighting Cocks. 

LORRAINE: You’ve been here for over a month now. So how’s it all been going?

VIC VICTOR: Memorable! 
EZ IAN: Memorable! (Laughs) The most would probably be the car accident in Romania.
VIC VICTOR: But there have been many good times too.
EZ IAN:  Oh, lots of great ones.
VIC VICTOR: All the shows’ been really good and, this being our third time over, it’s cool to see an increase. We have great shows here in London, and the surrounding area. Actually, all these shows this time around, comparing to our past tours are actually looking up and up for us over here, so it’s been very cool.
EZ IAN: It’s my first one so I can’t really compare it at all, but England… it’s been hard to decide because at first Eastern Europe was my favourite, then Spain became my favourite country, that part of the tour….

LORRAINE: Wherever you went became your favourite? (Laughs).

EZ IAN: We got on everywhere for sure. It was whoever could, like, actually make me throw up, that’s a feat and a half.

LORRAINE: How does the scene here compare to the scene in the States?

VIC VICTOR: Well…the roots of psycho are stronger it seems in Europe. Where there were bands in the US getting it going back in the day there were far more here. In the US now you see a much younger crowd getting into it, which I think is great. It’s a very mixed group of people that listen to all kinds of genres that dig this style of music in the US, where as in Europe it’s a bit more militant about if you like this then that’s all you should like. It’s much larger and more passionate here I think.

LORRAINE: You’re a pretty energetic band, I’ve seen you before, and the audience is pretty energetic as well, you must have had some very wild experiences. Have you ever felt scared or, well, that it’s all a bit too much?

VIC VICTOR: I think last year when we played the Mighty Sounds Fest, I’d never been in a crowd or played in front of a crowd so huge that you don’t see where the back of the crowd ends. But I was also really drunk. So if I would have been nervous at a show that would have been the show but… I think the only time we ever get really nervous on stage is when we gotta dodge the microphones but, hey, at least they’re having a good time.
EZ IAN: There was a time when we got pulled off the stage in Romania, though.  That was awesome. We literally stepped to the front to play guitar, and they just grabbed us, and stole us, and took us halfway across the club and then brought us back to the stage. That was fun! 

LORRAINE:  You’re very prolific, not just in terms of touring, but when you’re recording as well.  Where do you find the main inspiration? Is it mainly when you’re touring or when you’re just doing your regular jobs that you get ideas?

VIC VICTOR:  I would say with the later albums that definitely a lot of it came from being on the road, and just that time between driving between cities, and ideas pop into your head from the night before. The last couple of albums, a lot of it came from just spare time on the road. You get really inspired when you’re out on tour and see the crowds and everything and it kind of puts a… “I can’t wait to put the next CD out”!

LORRAINE: And I guess when you’re meeting people and they’re telling you their stories…

VIC VICTOR: You pick up a lot from them, too.

LORRAINE: You have said that you work best under pressure. Is that outside pressure, or do you put a lot of pressure on yourself?

VIC VICTOR: I work best when I put a lot of pressure on myself through procrastination (Laughs)
EZ IAN: And ego.
VIC VICTOR: And ego! (Laughs).  But, no, when it comes time to record, we’ll have the music all down, but when it comes to time to, like, get the lyrics out, I usually don’t have lyrics until the day before I actually have the sing them.

LORRAINE: But you are the main songwriter?

VIC VICTOR: Yes, yes.

LORRAINE: Is it true that you originally formed the band as a joke?

VIC VICTOR: Yes. When me and Tommy first started the band it was like going to be a great way to get into the bars and get some drink discounts and everything, and lo and behold that took a couple of years before we were actually getting drink discounts. It wasn’t that easy. So we had to stick with it, and then it became a serious thing.

LORRAINE: And who were you listening to, back then? Who inspired you?

VIC VICTOR: At that point in time I was listening to a lot of Mad Sin, Nekromantix, Demented Are Go, you know the usual punk stuff like Bad Religion and Pennywise.

LORRAINE: I read that you were part of the ‘Motor City Punk Scene’, what was that, what was going on?

VIC VICTOR: Well after ’98 nothing was going on. It’s still kind of like that. I mean, like every big city it’s got a little bit of a scene going on, but nothing major, it’s not Detroit Rock City like it used to be. It’s very, very tame.

LORRAINE: Is it correct that Tommy left for health reasons?

VIC VICTOR:  Well, Tommy never took care of himself on the road and when you spend eight months out of the year on tour it can do a number on your body if you don’t take care of yourself and he was starting to feel it towards the end of the last tour. So before anything serious happened he wanted to bow out. But this kind of life is hard and it wears some people down and he was getting kind of ground down by it so he wanted to stop before it wasn’t fun anymore.
E-BALL WALLS: There’s no middle line with it at all. He had other things going on in his life too.
VIC VICTOR:  Yeah, it’s hard too because you’re gone so much and you have some sort of a real life back home it’s hard to balance the two out. Fortunately, we have nothing! (Laughs).

LORRAINE: What would you say were the best and worst points of touring as much as you do?

VIC VICTOR: The best is that I don’t have to punch in at a time clock 6 days a week like I do when I’m not on tour! Being able to wake up in a different city and seeing the world thanks to Rock and Roll is just amazing to me. The worst is having to wear week old underwear and socks sometimes. The smell…’s something you never get used to. Hangovers can be a bad part of tour, though it’s something that can be avoided…I’ll never turn down a drink offered from some-one at our show!

LORRAINE:  You’re obviously still enjoying it. For you EZ, to settle into the band, you had already known the guys for along time?

EZ IAN:  Yeah, I have. We’ve toured together and stuff before and had plenty of our own party experiences already, so I knew what I was getting myself into.
VIC VICTOR:  He wasn’t out first choice. (Laughs). It was when we first sat down and had the discussion about Tommy leaving, he was the first person that popped into our head who would be able to do this and be able to hang out with us and wouldn’t annoy the hell out of us.

LORRAINE: When you’re on tour, I’ve seen some of the videos you’ve posted and there’s a lot of high jinx, you obviously all get on as friends, how important is that?

VIC VICTOR: You can’t function right as a group if you don’t have that chemistry amongst each other. You can tell when a band doesn’t have that chemistry at all. If there’s any type of hostility amongst members it will eventually tear the band apart, so if there’s ever an argument or a disagreement, or you know, if some body has an idea and we don’t agree or something like that, we sit down and we talk about it and get it squashed immediately or we figure it out. We make our business decisions as a whole. It’s not just one person saying we’re going to do this, this and this. Everything we do is as a team.

LORRAINE: I have to ask E-Ball Walls, where did the name come from?

E-BALL WALLS: You want the truth or…….?

LORRAINE: Yeah, the truth.

E-BALL WALLS:  When I was younger, I had a medical condition called ‘torsion’. It’s when your balls twist. Well the Dr was supposed to remove one of my testicles and then I meet HIM a couple of years later in high school and I decide it’s a good idea to tell my good friend Mr Victor here. “Hey, one time I was supposed to have one of my nuts cut off”. He goes around telling everybody that I got one nut, so it turned into E-Ball.
VIC VICTOR: We say he has one giant ball!
E-BALL WALLS:  And my last name’s Wall, so obviously…   And then, the story turned into other things.

LORRAINE:  You have an EP due out later this year, can you tell us a bit about it?

VIC VICTOR:  Yeah, in August we’re going to be recording. It’s six songs. It’s a split with 12 Step Rebels. We’re gonna do six and they’re gonna do six, five of which will be original then we’re going to cover a 12 Step song and they’re gonna cover a Koffin Kats song. It should be interesting.

LORRAINE: If you could work with absolutely anybody of your choosing, who would it be?

VIC VICTOR: It’s a toss up between Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. Both musical geniuses and both where I’m from.

LORRAINE:  I wanted to ask about your tattoos, who mainly does your work?

VIC VICTOR:  My main guy back home is Sam Wolf at Wholeshot Tattoos, but I get various work done from random artists that we meet on the road. Fortunately, playing this type of music you have a lot of friends that are tattoo artists. Believe me, if I didn’t have friends that were doing this I probably wouldn’t have a quarter of what I have.

LORRAINE: What was your first tattoo and do you have a favourite that has a particular meaning to you?

VIC VICTOR: My first was a little skeleton playing an upright bass. I have a microphone with a banner that says “On the road”. It was the first tattoo I ever got..well…on the road haha. It was at that time though that I was really gearing myself up to do whatever possible to keep this band a constant touring band.

LORRAINE: You are back on the road in September; will you be back in the UK?

VIC VICTOR: Not on this run. We’ll be back in May though!

LORRAINE: Ok, so finally, how would you sum up the Koffin Kats experience?

VIC VICTOR: Party Time!
E-BALL WALLS: Party Time!!
EZ IAN:  Disappointment Time (Laughs). Siesta Time!! We were in Spain and he gets up on stage, he’d had a two day bender going on and he gets up and he means to say “FIESTA TIME” like going crazy and he says “SIESTA TIME”!. Everyone was like.. ‘What?’ (Laughs).

LORRAINE:  Do you guys usually wait ‘til after a gig to get drunk?

VIC VICTOR: We like to pre party.
EZ IAN: People chase us with shots on stage. It feels weird playing sober on stage.
VIC VICTOR: It’s just weird. You’re at the mercy of the audience most of the time. They’ll take care of you. They wanna see drunk Koffin Kats.
EZ IAN:  For me it gives us a little bit of an edge. Maybe jumping off the drum and running across the monitors wasn’t a good idea when you’re sober but when you’re drunk it’s a great idea. We have a lot of great ideas, especially when we’re drunk. (Laughs).
VIC VICTOR:  Have you seen the video of him with the drum pedal yet?

LORRAINE: I don’t think so.

E-BALL WALLS: That was Plymouth.
VIC VICTOR: That was a sober night.
E-BALL WALLS: That wasn’t a sober idea. And I still didn’t get my ice cream!
EZ IAN: He’s got a double kick pedal, so it’s got two pedals and you know….
E-BALL WALLS: And I had to sit on my knees in front of them while they each took one..
VIC VICTOR: We told him we’d buy him an ice cream.
E-BALL WALLS: And nobody bought me an ice cream, I’m kinda pissed off….
VIC VICTOR:  Well we’ll go and get one now…

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Interview by Lorraine 26/06/10
Photos by Gemma (Librasnake photography)