When guitarist Jamie Hince injured his hand, doctors weren’t sure whether he’d ever play music again. Seeing as he was one half of British rock duo The Kills, this was a pretty big problem. The musician had slammed his finger in a car door, which damaged his tendon. But The Kills are nothing if not resilient. After several operations, he learned to play again – with three fingers.
It’s a lot like the lyrics to their song DNA: “Fate, in a single blow, has custard-pied me ... but we will not be moved by it.”
Speaking to Young Post over the phone while surrounded by builders in his still-under-construction home in Los Angeles, Hince cast his mind back to the band’s early days in London, where he and bandmate Alison Mosshart started jamming. “It was so against the odds,” he says.
“We were living in squats and playing battered guitars. But I have fond memories of that time: it was about getting out of the situation we were in.”
Metallica in Hong Kong: a song-by-song breakdown of a triumphant first appearance by heavy metal kin
After just four gigs in the UK, the pair packed their bags for Mosshart’s native US, and headed out on three-month road tour. Now, as the internationally-acclaimed band celebrates both its 15th anniversary and the release of fifth studio album Ash and Ice, Hince looks upon those early years with pride, remembering what it felt like it was just the two of them against the world.
As the menacing, wild-haired lead singer, Mosshart was the more attention-grabbing of the two ... until Hince married British model Kate Moss in 2011, and found himself thrust into the paparazzi’s spotlight.
Hince’s injury – and his divorce from Moss – made for a cathartic album, into which he poured all his emotions. “On this last record, you can just see the chronology of what I was going through in my private life,” he says. “It’s a really emotional record, so I’m not going to explain it to anybody. It was enough just to make myself that vulnerable to get it out and write it down.”
A long, thoughtful writing process and some high quality vintage gear made for an album that is vibrant, raw and full of fresh focus. The band’s signature stark, blues-rock is now embellished with synths and electronic effects. To anyone who’d been following Hince’s painful recovery, it might look like the enlarged soundscape could be to compensate for those tough days when the guitarist wasn’t able to play at all. At one point, Hince had to face up to the possibility of never playing again, but didn’t want The Kills to be finished.
“It was time for fewer restrictions – because my hand had become my main restriction,” Hince says. “I wanted to let that barrier down a bit, so we could see what we could sound like without being as stripped back. It was kind of nice: I concentrated on writing lyrics or coming up with melodies. Some songs I wrote on the keyboard made it on to the album. It was the first time we’d really experimented with what two people could do.”
This will be The Kills’ first time in Hong Kong, although Hince has visited the city before, and he’s looking forward to returning.
“For me, Hong Kong is all the things I love compressed into this crazy tiny place,” he says. “We took an old boat to my friend’s house outside the city. In half an hour, we were in a completely different environment, it was absolutely beautiful. It was like heaven on earth.”
At the band’s upcoming show, Hince is looking forward to playing songs from Ash and Ice – particularly crowd favourites Doing It To Death, Hard Habit To Break, and Whirling Eye. But that’s about as far as he wants to plan things.
“I’m always fighting for my band not to be too theatrical,” he says, adding that he’s not a fan of rehearsing dance moves. “I like it to be a bit chaotic. My favourite shows are always when we don’t know what’s happening next.”
The Kills will perform at MacPherson Stadium on February 28. See Ticketflap for tickets.
Edited by Sam Gusway