I caught up with Joel from King Goon to talk about the band, their album and the Swansea music scene
First of all, I was in Brecon Jazz over the weekend. Who wrote ‘King Goon’ on the wall outside the ‘Muse’?
Heh. I’m going to plead the fifth on this one, buddy, just like Crazy Donny T, the corrupt and corpulent pig that he is.
Where did the name come from?
As I was putting the band together, me and a few of the boys were going through a phase of calling each “goons” and “nurks”. No idea why. Drink, probably. Anyway, one night my mate Kirk called me King Of The Goons, and I just liked the sound of it. Also, it would fit on your knuckles as a tattoo, if you’re into that kind of thing. Later on, we decided it meant the last of the minions/guards left alive after the hero has swedged his way through them; you know, like the only stormtrooper who survives the attack, who then becomes the poor fucker who has to go and tell Darth Vader that everyone else has been chopped into mince. Another thing about the name is that it sounds good in different regional accents. Try it in Begbie from Trainspotting’s voice…like it? Now try old man Steptoe’s voice. Good, eh?
And the new album name? “Admit Nothing! Deny Everything! Lie! Lie! Lie” Which side of the Atlantic is that based on?
Both, mate. We’re fucked. Post-truth, they say. It was a joke at first, but it’s not so funny anymore. I could go into my theories on it: the collapse of the post-war social contract; the slavish, dewy-eyed worship of wealth above all things; what the internet accidentally did to the idea of an objective truth; the rise of the cult of the individual, etc…but, basically, it boils down the idea there’s just no expectation anymore that anyone in public life should/will tell the truth. It’s expected that they lie, as I suppose it always has been, but the difference now is that they don’t seem to give a fuck if they get caught doing it. They just double down on the lies, and people admire them for doing so. It’s astounding to me.
I know that you are a words man. How would you describe the album?
It’s 42 minutes of carefully calculated viciousness, masquerading as an upbeat (mostly) rock/ska/punk album. Ha ha. How long was it in the planning? Years, mate. Years and years. Christ, some of the songs on there were written 10 years ago! “Pretty Words” is probably the oldest one, thinking about it. But, from the first time we decided on the tracklisting, to actually getting to hear it – that was probably 4 years, but there was some kind of plague in the middle of the process, which – I’ll be honest – didn’t help. Another thing that didn’t help was replacing the lead singer AFTER we’d finished the damn thing and were working on the final mixes. I ended up re-recording the lead vocals myself, over two throat-ripping evenings. Great fun.
Where and how was it recorded?
Over many, many late-night sessions in what was called Creature Studios, off High Street in Swansea. It’s closed now, sadly, along with the venue that was above it. The fella who recorded/co-produced it was Allen Chambers (Mister Creature) who is a musical polymath/master of psychology and harmony, who also has quite magnificent hair.
What is it like releasing an album? A part of you must be thinking that you are going to go viral, number one in every country in the world?
Well, maybe I just lack ambition, but all I really wanted out of it was to sell a couple of hundred copies of the vinyl and the CD, raise our profile enough that we’d get offered some banging gigs, and then sell enough of our merchandise and albums at those gigs to be able to fund making another album! And, well…that’s exactly what we did, so champagne all round! I’m not just saying this, but I really enjoy the album.
I’m always wary of telling musicians that they ‘sound like so and so’ but I hear similarities with Arcade Fire Funeral album. (Which I really like btw! Hope that’s OK….) If you were to choose an album to compare it with, which one would you choose?
I can’t do much better than that, really! Thank you. I love that Arcade Fire album. What would I compare our album to to though, really? No idea, bud! I think I’ll leave it to others to tell me what THEY think it’s like. That’s a hard question. I’ve not seen you live as a band yet. I will soon!
What is a King Goon gig like?
Madness. We go in hard. No messing. Pin the ears back, pop the clutch and set the controls for the heart of the sun. I wouldn’t call us family-friendly. There’s a fair bit of profanity…but it’s not gratuitous…I think very carefully about every fuckin’ fuck. We like to have a laugh with the audience, too – so there’s usually lots of back and forth. The other week, up in Kidwelly, I was handing out tequila shots from the stage. At some point half the band will be in the audience. That always happens. It’ll also be hot and sweaty and I’ll probably end up arguing with a heckler. I love our gigs. They’re certainly never dull! I’ve been shit at paying any attention to new music for a couple of decades now. Both in the charts nationally and locally. But I’ve been to a couple of festivals this summer and music is still good! It didn’t stop in at the end of the 90s.
What’s the Swansea circuit like for original music?
Banging. Much better than it’s been in my lifetime. Obviously, there’ll be those out there who’ll disagree with me, but I’m afraid they’re just wrong! There’s live original music 7 nights a week if you’re looking for it. The Bunkhouse, Hangar 18, The Garage, The Elysium, Sin City – there’s something for everyone. You can play an open mic 7 days a week if you really like. And that’s a good sign. Personally, I’m really looking forward to the Albert Hall development being finished, cos that’s another piece of the puzzle (the slightly bigger than small sized medium venue, heh).
Do you think some of the pubs with bands playing covers could try an original act now and then? Is there a market for new original music?
Certainly is, butt – otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to make enough money this year to pay to stay in a residential studio next year and make another King Goon album! As for the pubs, they know what their punters like, so it’s up to them really, but I’d always say take a punt on an original act. I’m sure people are sick of “Dakota” and “Mr. Brightside” now, surely to God?!
My advice to bands looking to get gigs in places where they normally do covers is: Be professional. Rehearse like mad bastards until you’re tighter than a mainsail in a hurricane…because if the music you make isn’t to someone’s taste, then that’s fair enough – but you shouldn’t give them any other excuses to dismiss you – such as not knowing how your own songs go, or turning up with equipment that you don’t know how to use. Also, know what you’re worth and ask for it. If you’re worth 300 quid a night, then bloody say so. Find out what they want for the money and then make sure you deliver it.
What is next for King Goon?
Well, we’ve a single coming out on 2nd September…it’s not a song from the album though…it’s actually two tracks from a live session we did in the BBC Hall in Swansea Studios at the beginning of the year. A great day. The songs are called “Pour Some Green On Me” and “Fuck ‘em All”, and they’ll bothbe available to download from kinggoon.bandcamp.com as well as on the rip-off streaming service bastards things. After that it’s the gig of the year in the Patti Pavilion on 10th September, which is a charity night in memory of Kat Bombroffe, raising money for Maggies, headlined by Disco Panther and featuring Suns of Thunder, Buffalo Summer, Pearler, Fallen Temples and us. Tickets from Derricks Records, if this comes out before then! And then we’re taking a break to do some writing for the next album, which will probably be the best album ever made by anyone ever. And then…the world!