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This article is from Issue 51: May/June 2011

The Kills

The famously detached rock band finally takes a hard look at relationships, beauty and beliefs after a decade of touring.

The Kills are holed up inside in the middle of a slushy, wintry New York day, and Alison Mosshart is chewing gum by the pack. She’s cut her signature dark hair, and her bangs don’t totally obscure her face as they have onstage for a number of concerts. Bandmate Jamie Hince rifles through magazines and fiddles with a camera, seem- ing restless. Sitting side by side, they seem simultaneously very close and knowing, and endearingly cranky with each other—the hallmark of a duo that’s been working and recording together for almost a decade.

In person, Mosshart and Hince’s bond seems genuine, warm and hon- est—the kind forged by years of creative and relational communion. They bicker over things like who’s more of a morning person (Hince: “Me. Or maybe I just stay up really late.”) and more of a neat freak (Mosshart: “Probably me. I’m not OCD, I just like things tidy.”). They went vegan together for a while, but now they’ve both turned omnivore again. Just witness their strong (and differing) views of the “free music” nature of the industry that has saturated the new millennium:

“It’s not debatable at this point that people downloading music illegally has hurt the industry. Bands don’t sell records,” Mosshart says. “There’s this mentality that music should be free and people now think that’s how it should be. There’s this guitar tech who I was backstage with, and of course his entire profession is based on making money off of bands. One day he told me, ‘I think music should be free.’ And I was like: ‘Are you serious? You realize you wouldn’t have a job if that were the case?’ No one could afford to make records or be in this industry if people didn’t pay for music and live shows.”

Hince makes it clear he doesn’t totally agree, but he’s careful to explain. “I think it’s complicated,” he hedges. “Music is not Kmart or Walmart, but it’s difficult because the spirit of free music has been around for a long time. The ideals of freedom and music and of avant-garde have been around for ages. Punk was about bringing music to the people. Everything that’s been anti-establishment in music has given itself away for free. The problem now is that the world isn’t like that. Why should musicians suffer more than anyone else? Artists sell a painting for $5,000; they sell to rich people and make money off that. Musicians are expected to go around giving their music to people for free and not get anything from it.”

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