Before King Adora’s gig at the Islington Academy 2 back in November, Clive Drew caught up with frontman Maxi Browne.
In the smallest, airless dressing room imaginable sits Maxi Browne, lead singer and principal songwriter of the UK’s leading purveyors of glam, King Adora. Despite it being late afternoon, Maxi is bedecked in a leopardskin jacket, a skinny-fit t-shirt so small it exposes his midriff and a pair of flared jeans complete with metal bell-like decorations on either side. His eyes display a smattering of black eyeliner. Browne fiddles nervously with his packet of Marlboro Reds as he prepares to spill the beans on KA’s new musical direction, band split rumours and those Manics comparisons.
DiS: Your new single 'Drag' has just been released. What’s the song about?
MB: 'Drag' is kind of a modern day version of what The Kinks did with 'Lola'; that whole one person by day, another by night has always fascinated me. I just developed it into a disturbing love story and a celebration of glamour.
DiS: The single has a more back-to-basics, stripped down sound than previously heard on KA material. Is that intentional?
MB: Yeah, we wanted it to sound like that, and we wanted something musically that would fit the song’s lyrics. It has a very glammy, T-Rex style element to it, so in that respect it was definitely intentional.
DiS: Do you feel that you’ve progressed as a songwriter?
MB: Well I hope so, yeah! Obviously, we had a lot of trouble getting the album out after all the stuff that happened to us, but it’ll be better once it comes out, because everyone will know the songs. People are always going to go a bit more mental for the older songs, but we’re just going to have to live with that.
DiS: A lot of the fans have downloaded new material from the internet. How do you feel about this?
MB: I haven’t got a problem with it to be honest. With my experience of major record companies, if they’re getting f*cked because of it, then good!
DiS: With the benefit of hindsight, would you have done things with 'Vibrate You' differently?
MB: Certain things, yeah. I probably would have used different recording techniques, possibly included a couple of different songs, some songs I didn’t feel were that strong... and the artwork I absolutely loathed. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing.
DiS: What songs didn’t you feel were as strong from that album?
MB: Maybe songs like 'Whether' and 'Aftertime' could have been brought out better. They’re both good songs, but I feel they could have been made a lot heavier. I don’t feel the guy who produced it really got to grips with those songs.
DiS: How did the band form originally?
MB: Just through various dodgy, sleazy backstreet clubs across Birmingham and the Midlands. There’s not very many places to go if you want to get dressed up and have a good time without getting killed, so we just kind of bumped into each other in these little places. We just very quickly connected together.
DiS: What were your early influences?
MB: It’s funny as it’s the big thing now, but stuff like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Motley Crüe, Alice Cooper, a bit of T-Rex, Bowie, Blondie. Anyone who had something a bit exciting about them and who were a bit different to the rest of the crowd.
DiS: Do you get pissed off with the constant Manics comparisons?
MB: It’s kind of alright in one way as I presume people are comparing us to the early Manics, which was when they looked good and sounded good. It’s just the fact that they had a similar dossier when they started as we do now. When they started, they just wanted to be different and stand out from the crowd, and then along came Mansun, who wanted to do that as well, and then it’s us carrying it on.
DiS: What do you think about Mansun splitting?
MB: I think it’s very sad, but at the same time you can’t force these things, you’re only as strong as the game that you’re in. I saw them twice on their last tour, and they just didn’t look comfortable and if you feel like that there’s no point carrying on. It sounds horrible but with Suede splitting as well it’s much better for us!
DiS: There’s a whole load of new glam bands at the moment like Miss Black America and The Glitterati. What do you make of them?
MB: Well The Glitterati are great and we’re really pleased to have them on the tour, but at the same time you’ve got to have substance as well as an image, otherwise you just make yourself look like a comedy routine.
DiS: You’ve finished recording your second album (due for release in February), how’s it differ from your debut?
MB: The only way I can describe it is that it’s not just where we were with 'Vibrate You', but where we are now. It’s basically a natural progression.
DiS: You’ve mentioned that 2002 was a very bad year for the band, how close did you come to splitting?
MB: I think the question is more how each of us personally came to hitting walls. I don’t think the band was ever in question as it’s what really pulled each of us individually out of it. A lot of bad things happened, and we all tried to deal with it on our own, but eventually we found ourselves to be more resilient than we thought, and it kind of made us stronger.
DiS: Do you have favourite King Adora songs?
MB: Obviously, I prefer playing new songs like 'Drag' and stuff we’ve just written like 'Asleep', which we’re playing tonight, but I still love playing stuff like 'Smoulder' as well. We’ve replaced Born To Lose' with 'Kamikaze' for this tour as we’re trying to balance out the new songs with the old songs.
DiS: What do you think of the influx of NME-friendly bands such as the Strokes and the Libertines?
MB: I suppose Melody Maker used to hype us to a certain extent, but the NME’s a bit of a laugh mag really and no one really takes it seriously anymore. The Strokes had to really come back and make a better record than the White Stripes, which they didn’t, so they’re in a wee bit of trouble now, but they still sell records because of the hype. It just annoys me the way the music press can make or break a band.
DiS: This time three years ago you were in a way the darlings of the music press; why do you think their perception has changed?
MB: Well because you get dropped, and it’s probably a bit political as well. I mean because we did so much for Melody Maker, I think when it went under, the NME just thought “F*ck all you lot”. If we went to Number 2 in the charts they’re going to be our best mates again, it’s just very plastic and very fake. At the end of the day, it’s just people who go to gigs and that’s how you build a fanbase and that’s how you do well. Other than that, if we get some good write-ups and get to meet some good journalists then good, but it’s just a bonus.
DiS: You’ve been involved in an anti-racism campaign in conjunction with R*E*P*E*A*T fanzine. Tell us about it.
MB: Caffy, our press officer, got us involved in it, and although we’re a band who aren’t forthrightly political, there are still causes that we know are very important. Certainly the subject of racism is something I don’t think this country’s moved forward on, and I feel it’s hidden back which makes it worse in a way. It’s just something we wanted to get involved with and help fund. Looking the way we do we get a lot of crap anyway, so any kind of bigotry annoys us, but obviously racism’s the number one issue.