To Kill A King – Interview 2018

Produced by Gethin Pearson and the band’s keyboard player Ben Jackson, The Spiritual Dark Age is the London five-piece’s third album and the follow-up to their self-titled album of 2015. Following spells with Virgin, Communion and Xtra Mile, here’s yet another band in a growing line of DIY bands interested in crowdfunding their work. To Kill A King employed the services of Patreon to tap into their substantial fanbase to help fund the new album. It’s a work that took nearly three years to make, hence the remarkable eclecticism of sound; from glam and epic stompers, to raw acoustica, while the lyrics revolve around issues of compassion within what frontman Ralph Perrymounter believes is a spiritual dark age. Here he takes time out from their UK tour to have a chat with Brightonsfinest.

Where are you?
We’ve just arrived in Hull, and we found this amazing little vintage place. I just got two leather jackets, for £60 in total. One of them has ‘Deadwings’ on the back, fighter pilot ones. It’s good!

We’re playing at Fruit tonight. It’s the second date of the tour. Last night we played Sheffield, which was great.

This is a big day for you guys!
The album is out today. Yes, big day! And it’s the second day of our tour, so we’re still feeling relatively fresh. Brighton feels like a long, long way away, but we’ll try and pace ourselves.

Where are you from?
I’m from Doncaster originally, and then brought up in Leeds. We’ve got some Essex boys, and one of the lads is from Somerset. We formed in Leeds and then moved to London to seek our fortune.

Tell me about Patreon, and how it works?
We signed up to Patreon. And we self-funded the album via our fans. We give them four bits of content every month if we can, like acoustic tracks, or demos, or we do our own podcast. And they give us five dollars a month. It’s an independent release this time. We’ve been moving this way. We’re a DIY band, really. We were first on Virgin, then we moved to independents, and now we’re fully independent. It’s just a great way of doing it. We’re communicating with the fans all the time, and they are really involved, and it means we have the freedom to do exactly what we want.

Record labels do need to justify what they’re doing, because you can do it this way. It’s not an exclusive club any more. If you can find an audience and engage with them then you can make it work.

Tell me about the theme that underlies The Dark Spiritual Age…
It goes from various different gods and fictional characters. I think the main message is summarised by a song called ‘Compassion Is A German Word’, which talks about how compassion is the thing we really need to work on. Compassion in a darker world. It’s talking about some kind of religious debate. I got very angry over some stuff we were doing in this country, involving immigration and things. I was looking across at what Merkel was doing, and I felt a bit ashamed. They were doing things much better than us, and that’s where the song started taking shape.

I get annoyed when people start attacking other people’s beliefs. I just think people should be wary about doing that. I think that’s the main message. Most of the other tracks are examining what’s happening when you have a lack of that (compassion).

The album is an eclectic work…
I suppose it’s because we’ve been working on it for so long. We’ve had some reviews though and that is definitely the thing that people are saying, sometimes in a negative light. I don’t see it that way. I see it more as just trying to express many, many different things, and that’s the way we are doing things musically. Not sticking to one sound. But it is definitely eclectic.

You’re the main songwriter. How do To Kill A King songs take shape?
We’ve got the process down quite well now. It will start with me in a room with a guitar and piano. I’ll demo it to a poor standard, and we’ll all meet up and jam through it, and arrange it together. Then we’ll do a good demo. We’re very fortunate. Ben Jackson has produced half the record, and he’s the keyboard player. We’ve got a guy who can do all those bits I can’t do. We’ll then book into a real studio. Because we can’t afford to be in a studio that long it means we know exactly what will happen when we get there. And, quite often, we fall in love with the scratchy bits on the demo, which we’ve recorded in our rooms. They appear here and there on the final album.

Is that a theremin I can hear on ‘And Yet…’?
It is! I’ve got to say that’s my personal favourite off the album. We’re finishing off the live sets with it, and it’s so much fun. The end section we decided was something we couldn’t do on stage, so we’re doing something different. We’ve only done it once, last night, and the crowd really liked it. It would be a spoiler if I said what it is.

Brighton is part of your tour plans. Do you know it well?
We’ve done a fair few gigs in Brighton, including Concorde 2. And Sticky Pete’s…

It’s Sticky Mike’s!
That’s it! We’ve played Brighton about seven or eight times. We love it there.

Look forward to seeing you and your leather jackets…
The reason I ended up with two is because the one with ‘Deadwings’ on it has also got one of those old bomber girl things on the back. I couldn’t let it go. But, I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to wear it out in public.

Jeff Hemmings