This year is Brit/US garage-blues duo Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart’s 11th as The Kills. To mark the anniversary, we find out more about the elusive guitarist – and Kate Moss’s husband – who used to go by the name of ‘Hotel’.
The first record he ever bought was ‘Eat to the Beat’ by Blondie.
‘My sister and I were living near Newbury in the UK, and we went into the local record shop. I was about 11 and she was a couple of years older than me; she bought a Madness album. All my friends were wearing elasticated jeans then, so I got excited about the older kids wearing Jam shoes and parkas. I knew there was something going on. When I was in the first year at school, I’d see all these kids in the fifth year – punks with “The Damned” or “The Stranglers” on the back of their donkey jackets – and I was really drawn to it. I don’t know why.’
London is his favourite city.
‘There are places where I’ve had the time of my life for a week or two, but London’s the city that’s really got me. It’s the only place I’ve been able to live for decades, but I guess I might be less in love with it if I didn’t spend so much time away. Being away from London kind of makes it more potent.’
He didn’t quite get to see ’70s punk-rock band The Slits.
‘I was in New York about eight years ago when singer Ari Up – who’d made a solo record – was playing a gig. It was in the back of a Chinese restaurant or something and she was about three hours late. Then, when she turned up, she just stood on a chair, played the CD of the album and sang along with it. I really thought it was going to be a Slits reunion, so I was gutted.’
He thinks it’s good to be nervous before you play a gig.
‘I think it’s really important. Nerves are what made David Bowie get on stage dressed like he did and adopt a persona; nerves are what got Gary Numan painting his face white. It does feel a bit like being under the gun, having to force yourself to go on stage. In my normal life, I’m not particularly outgoing like that – I don’t pick up a guitar and play a song for people. I find it excruciating. I like the feeling of life or death on stage, and the fear is part of the process.’
He once played an apocalyptically bad gig in his old band, Scarfo.
‘We played at CMJ in New York and everyone was saying, “There’ll be so many people there, so you’ve really got to impress everybody.” Most of my amps had broken in transit, so I had one tiny, rubbish one and it really wasn’t going very well. So I stood on top of the bass drum and did this spectacular leap off. My shoes came half off mid-flight and I unplugged the guitar as I fell. You could hear a pin drop. Plus the sound of anyone from a record company walking out.’
He secretly records other people’s conversations – loads of them.
‘I’m a fan of what I call “found conversation”, which is basically eavesdropping. I love it when you get the everyman philosophy or politics in bars or cafés or bus stations. I write it down phonetically and I’ve got pages of it. I went to see these psychics in New York and hid a tape recorder under my coat, so I could record what they said about my fate. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.’
If he had to quit rock’n’roll, he fancies being a tracker in Africa.
‘You know where you look at a blade of bent grass and decide that a buffalo went by half an hour ago? I’d quite like to do that. I grew up in Swaziland and South Africa, because my dad was a project manager on construction sites, so the place is really in my blood. I went back for the first time last year with Kate [Moss, his wife] on holiday and I didn’t want to come home. Getting up at 4.30am and going into the bush… it was just fantastic. I was having déjà vu from my childhood every couple of hours.’