We talk to Kill Hannah one member at a time.
Guitarist Jonathan Radtke
When did the band get together?
Jonathan: About three years ago. I was the last member to join the band. At the time I was a college student and when I met them it was a perfect fit.
Your dad was the drummer with Miles Davis?
The bio is wrong, it says he played with Miles Davis but he never sat in with him. He is a well known drummer, but that is wrong. He did a lot of work as a studio drummer.
Why didn’t you play drums?
I grew up in a musical family and both my parents are respected musicians. I grew up in the industry and had the courage to pick up something. I knew I wanted to be involved in music and the guitar was the one instrument I wanted to learn and master. I’m no where near where I would love to be at. The guitar fit me well.
Did being in a band seem more realistic to you that it could be a full time job?
Just being around it, it felt like I did have some experience. I’m extremely excited to get signed and my parents were too.
How fully formed where the songs when you joined?
A lot of the stuff. When I joined, they were doing already, but I brought my own influence. We all got along so well and it made for a really pleasant work environment.
Who did you aspire to be and pretend to be in your room when you played?
Nine Inch Nails and industrial rock. I was into the Cure. My sister was a big part in getting me into the music that I listen to.
Its funny how many guys are influenced by an older sister and can admit it.
I wouldn’t know half the shit I know if it weren’t for my older sister. She got me into the coolest music like punk rock and stuff like My Bloody Valentine.
Guitarist Dan Wiese
What are the surprises?
Dan: Not too many surprises, but everything has been taken up a notch and we have to squeeze a lot in the day. You have to be conservative with your time.
What got you started and interested in being in a band?
When I was young my mom wanted me to take piano lessons and at the time I didn’t respect the discipline of it. I loved to play but not sitting and learning the scales and slapping my hands with a ruler. When I was in sixth grade I got in the school band and played drums and then when I went to college I couldn’t bring drums so I learned guitar.
Everyone wants to be in a band growing up. When you started did you think getting signed was too far from reality? Or did you even care about getting signed?
When we were younger you did it for self-gratification. It was rewarding to do it and you didn’t have to answer to anyone. When you get older the competition gets stiffer if you want to play in clubs and you really have to start to work harder. At that point you are so deeply invested in it.
Were you putting out indie records to get signed or for yourselves?
Both. The first time you record you do it because if you don’t you can’t play anywhere. Then we weren’t interested in a cd we could sell but to have something that we did, but then you put one out because you want a label to pick up where you left off.
Has the band always sounded similar?
It has progressed. It’s not exactly the same. Matt started the band seven years ago and the earliest stuff was him recording on a 4-track at home. That is the sound the band is based on.
Drummer Garrett Hammond
What got you into playing and kept you going instead of giving up?
Garrett: I try to do as much as possible. I got into high school and my sports career ended and I didn’t go through puberty until like my senior year so I was really small. I was into art and it was really decided for me because I couldn’t do sports. As far as not giving up I know I’ll do this until I can’t do it anymore.
It takes some tenacity to continue doing it. Everyone could be good at playing, but many of us give up.
I was in grad school and I quit because I got in a band called Prick that was on Interscope so I did have mini-success right away. It was ten years straight of me doing clubs in Chicago.
How much did the previous experience help the other band members?
When I joined Prick, the reason I knew about the band was because my roommate was the guitar player, I was working in a recording studio. I had nothing to do with Prick getting signed. I joined after the deal. They had an original drummer and opened for Nine Inch Nails and the shows would crash and burned so I joined. This thing with Atlantic is totally new for me. This whole process is new to me just like the rest of them. I don’t think I brought any experience except maybe live experience.
So the process has been exciting?
Exciting and frustrating at the same time. The idea that the record is coming out in a few weeks will be a great moment.
How much of the album was done before getting signed?
All but one was recorded. I have a house with a studio in it and we signed a demo deal for Lava of three songs so all the songs were recorded except a demo Matt had. So a week before going into the studio we were finishing that song up. Everything else we recorded and others were from the original EP.
Is it weird to think people will see you guys as a new band and you have a decade of experience.
Yeah, but we are used to that now. We played a college tour before we went into the studio and no one knew us. So we are like an overnight sensation. It’s okay.
Bassist Greg Corner
This has to be fun.
Greg: We’re not complaining at all. It beats working a regular job.
What got you into bass?
I don’t see myself as a very good bass player. It’s crazy to thin of myself as a professional.
When did you start?
I started playing guitar in the eighth grade and I sucked. I always wanted to be in a band but I knew I wasn’t good enough. So at about seventeen all my friends needed bass players for their bands because there was a bigger need for bass players. Within a week I was in a band. And from there I got a lot better. I never took lessons, but not I’d be interested in taking lessons to take it to another level.
It’s funny that most bass players become bass players because no one else wants to be one or someone else is better at guitar.
The funny thing is now I couldn’t see myself playing another instrument.
If you can’t sing you only have a couple more choices.
(Laughs) I know.
And you have to wonder how good John Lennon and George Harrison were because Paul McCartney got relegated to bass.
And he is an amazing bass player. I don’t know how he sings and plays bass at the same time. That amazes me. We had to do this tribute for the Grammy Awards and Billy Corgan was getting an award and we were going to do a Pumpkins song, but he told us not to because George Harrison just died and he wanted us to do one of his songs. So we were like ‘okay’ and we did “Something”. I had to learn the bass line in a day and I was like ‘holy shit’. But it was a great experience.
Have you been getting better as a group and as individuals?
As a group, but I don’t know individually. We do add our own personality to it, but I think I’ve become a worse player. Better playing live, but I think I have regressed. That is why I think if I had time I’d take lessons.
What was the music you were listening to when you joined the band?
I was really over rock music at that point between ’93 and ’97 so I got into the rave scene but still liked playing rock but couldn’t find anything that fused it all together. So I went and saw Kill Hannah and they blew me away. A week later I was working at this club and Matt and I ended up talking and he said ‘are you a bass player’ and I said ‘yeah, how did you know?’ and he said ‘because you look like one’ then he asked me to come try out for the band. So I met with him and we totally clicked. We loved the same movies and music and we totally clicked. They wanted me without even hearing me play.
So where did the strip on the face come from? Nikki Sixx influence?
(Laughs) Matt knew about Nikki Sixx but that’s not where we got it from.
There is that feel of the group, that Shout At The Devil era Motley Crue.
Too Fast For Love was a great album.
It was awesome, but the look was terrible. No one looked cooler than Motley Crue during Shout At The Devil.
Singer Matt Devine
We were just talking about Nikki Sixx and the strip and how no one admits to listening to heavy metal.
Matt: I love Motley Crue. I started listening to Dr. Feelgood like five years ago. The songs are so fucking good. Everyone was making fun of me.
They were into the makeup and glam.
Def Leppard was my favorite band in grade school.
What inspires you to write?
Obviously there has to be some inspiration but I never know where it’s coming from. I have a bunch of crappy instruments in my apartment and a notepad with me for lyrics for when they pop into my head. It depends how I’m feeling at the time and what matters to me and the stuff that happens.
A lot of people want to be in a band but they give up to go after a regular life, what kept you motivated?
It’s really just an awareness of the alternative and that is I can’t do anything else. I would definitely kill myself. When you have nothing to lose you can take a lot of risks where a lot of people might be afraid to. The drive comes from having no choice.
There are probably tens of thousands of bands who want to get big and signed and tour the world. When did it start for you?
Probably when I was seventeen or eighteen because I’m totally impatient. You go through the days where you feel like it’s a sure thing and wonder when everyone who will come around and then you think you are probably the only one in the world for who it matters.
There is so much rock that sounds exactly the same, where did the sound come from for Kill Hannah. You seem to sing with a different voice than the trend.
Their music can’t matter to them. Who are they trying to trick? You can’t fool yourself. Maybe they weren’t honest with themselves from the beginning. I just hope the songs we put out matter to fans.
A lot of people can put their mind into it, but maybe not their soul. Do you think there isn’t much soul in music today?
I think people are too aware of the formulas and are going to change the world with a real basic song. That means anyone who picks up an instrument and learns the song in five minutes thinks they might be capable of writing it. I guess soul isn’t in the equation for people like that.
What do you want fans to get out of the songs?
I want the songs to matter. I want it to be the soundtrack to parts of people’s lives that matter. I can think of songs or albums and relate them to girlfriends that I hate and times in my life.
You’ve been impatiently waiting for this since you were eighteen and now you are signed, so what is the dream now?
I think it’s just to preserve everything I did when I was eighteen. We want to make a difference and it’s hard. Maybe it’ll take another ten years of restlessness until we achieve it.
+ Charlie Craine