The first song I ever heard by Kitty and the Kowalskis, 'Kiss Me' is an impossibly impeccable, perfect pop song. It's rich, it's scrappy and it's catchy and possesses a solid thump I can't readily define well here. It's the sort of song that could easily become one of those songs of the summer, the song you hear coming out of every bar and every passing car, the song you're always going to associate with some boy or girl, or just some moment... Unfortunately, given the vagaries of the industry the Kowalskis operate in, 'Kiss Me' probably won't be heard outside of Jonesy's Jukebox.
In the second part of our interview with Kitty Kowalksi, she discusses the themes that draw her to music and musicians, to songs; the diminutive David Johansen (she's been a New York Dolls fan since forever), her guitar fetishes. She begins by talking about her online writing and opinionated ranting and the sometimes flaming response to that...
Residency seeks to rejuvenate the tired out rocknroll interview format and offer unreleased tracks, exclusive to outsideleft.
Following an initial introduction to the artist, over the next few weeks, we'll offer a portrait of the artist as a sundowner, homeowner, party animal and check book balancer. All of the things someone told you you'd never want to read. It's a real 'what they look like without make-up'.
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The music is an unreleased track, exclusive to outsideleft. It's an essential element to the residency. The artists live to make music and we believe the bands we feature should be paid for doing it. Use the Paypal link below to pay one measly dollar to download the song.
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DOWNLOAD THE MUSIC
click on the Paypal button below to download Kitty and the Kowalski's - Human Being (mp3)
Kitty Kowalski: Well, My therapist says I'm a masochist! No, really, I've never been much of a fence sitter. If I get a bee in my bonnet about something, I'll hash it out. I just try to live by being a participant, and continually questioning whatever goes on around me and lobbing my little barbs in there when I can. I remember my first piece of hate mail from one of my bits of writing. I was crushed and terrified, but after a while, it's just the price you pay for creating something and putting it out there for other people to judge. You have no control over how people will react. You will be misunderstood and misinterpreted - count on it. Every once in a while, I am called out and I'll be wrong or I realize my reaction was a bit rash. But I learn something about myself and other people. I take solace in remembering that when I was a kid the "best" and the "worst" bands lists in the readers' polls in Creem magazine were almost identical. You take a stand, and you'll be polarizing. The more popular become, as many people that like you will hate you, too.
I think part of what's attractive about a musician or performer as much as their music is their personality and point of view. There really is a person here, and though sometimes I get criticism from people who may think I have no feelings, the music may be enhanced by showing who I am and what I stand for. That sword cuts both ways, though.
Q:in your columns you've touched upon some relationships with men. How
does that work for you - now you say you're not looking (or did or maybe we
always are anyway). Just when you stop looking is that when you find things?
Kitty Kowalski: If I go looking, all I find is trouble. My wants and needs just were not in synch. Last year, I was all id - "I want I want I want", so I got what I wanted but it was all instant gratification. Now that it's out of my system, I am much more mellow about it. Hanging out with boys half my age is just not a "relationship", I know, but it was fun for a while.
I've had to accept the fact that it may be really hard for a guy to be with me. Most guys deep down inside want someone to be in the "support" role - they are the big man with a big career and all that. They are the star. If someone is with me, they need to be secure enough to deal with the fact that I may be the star, I have a lot of people I have to deal with in social situations and they may be seen as my boyfriend - "Mr. Kitty Kowalski". That's tough. I want to be equals. That's ideal, and to have someone who understands what I face and has their own thing going on. That's why I get along with other musicians, artists, writers - people who are like public figures. I am not even famous, and my guy has to share me with other people, in a way, and is also under scrutiny - who is he, what does he do, is he good enough for me, etc. Imagine what super-famous people go through.
Q:How old where you when you had your first boyfriend?
Kitty Kowalski: What do you mean by that? I was married when I was five to a kid named Mark Amstutz. I got my first love letter in the fifth grade - that was my first boyfriend, I think - Bill Browner. I first had sex when I was 14. I met the boy I first thought I was going to marry when I was 16. There are boyfriends on so many levels. I have always had a healthy interest in boys and have paid the price for it, believe me.
Q:You don't scare easily. But you are so refreshingly open, which could be at odds with what might appear to be a tough exterior. Punk Guitar Goddess thing. As I see it! Are you tough? You once told me, not to worry about David Johansen, 'cos, 'you'd take him' or something to that effect?
Kitty Kowalski: I am not tough. I'm not afraid of getting hurt, but I'm not a fighter. I used to be in elementary school. It was the only way for me to prove that I was just as good as the boys.
I LOVE David Johansen. Love the Dolls. Buster was even charming. Saw his blues thing. I was just sayin' if he had a problem with us covering "Human Being", I'm bigger than he is. I saw him last summer and he looks like a skinny teenage girl. I'm an amazon compared to him.
Q: What about other artists and bands, who are not the Dolls, what else is there for you?
Kitty Kowalski: I am a big music fan. I am also not afraid to act like a fan. Anyone can see me at any show up front, dancing, taking pictures or singing along. That is totally a part of my "being a participant and not a spectator" philosophy. It makes it more fun for me and more fun for the bands.
It's so hard to list bands and records - there are so many. I have about 40 unopened CDs I have to listen to - from well-known artists and nobodies - from demos to greatest hits.
I just got tickets for Ian Hunter, and I'm going to see The Kills in April. I really like their album Keep On Your Mean Side. I appreciate anyone who is trying to do something different. My favorite album of last year was The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed. I want to see Motorhead - finally! In New York, I like The f-Units, The Volunteers, The Bullys, and Heap. I'll basically go see anybody ONCE.
Q: Rising tide lifts all boats thing. What did the NY profile rise musically do
for you or was it broadly invisible?
Kitty Kowalski: It's really weird because New York gets these little bursts, and usually bands that become darlings of the indie scene fizzle out as the rest of the country cannot relate to what goes on in New York. Bands that get known internationally first do better, like Interpol and the Strokes, and to some extent, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Those bands had broader appeal to begin with. I still think it's hard for rock and roll bands in New York to cut through the noise or have mainstream sensibility. We're just not analogous to the rest of the country.
Q:Did you grow up in New York? Move around, whatever?
Kitty Kowalski: I grew up in a suburb of Manhattan, mostly. We used to hop on the train to run around the city or go to shows or clubs. We started to move around after my parents were divorced when I was 15. We were in So Cal for two years, and Connecticut for one year. I went to three different high schools in four years, so I learned how to make friends and find like-minded kids. Then I moved to Manhattan for school when I was 18. That was it, pretty much.
Q:What do you do for money, you allude to it, do you want to say?
Kitty Kowalski: I work for a design firm - a division of a big New York ad agency. It's something that I've been doing in some capacity for over a decade, and they seem to put up with my crap. As long as I do a good job, I can do whatever I want. Pays for the music. No job, no band, though I'd quit in a second if I ever started making money from music.
Q:Anything bordering on fetishistic with your musical equipment items?
Kitty Kowalski: I do get a little wacky with the guitars. I'd be like most girls are with shoes with guitars, if I could. They are like accessories. I want a Gretsch Sparkle Jet or Glitter Jet in silver. I want a twelve string acoustic for different sounds. I need an acoustic that has pickups and pegs, so I can play it live.
I'm not so picky about amps, but they do have to have tubes. I have a vintage Silvertone that is cool, and a 1971 Marshall JMP 100 watt head. I'll play through anything.
Q: Your guitar it looks powder blue and is beautiful. Are you still using that
one, it's a SG custom of some sort, what is it?
Kitty Kowalski: It is a 1972 Gibson SG Deluxe. It is my favorite guitar. I have a couple of other SGs, and L6-S and a couple of Mosrites. That color was a re-finish. It was originally white, and the person re-did it with car paint. It's a perfect job. It looks stock.
Next week in part three of the Kitty and the Kowalskis residency, Alex V. Cook takes a sneak preview of the new record... Meanwhile: Use the PayPal link above left, to pay $1 to DOWNLOAD Kitty and the Kowalskis cover of the New York Dolls' Human Being. Its worth it, it rocks. Damn! It rocks.