Here's an excerpt from an interview Conrad did with the Belgian arts journal, ReMue. To see the entire interview, go HERE
How did the idea of Kicksville arise? It seems that it began with yourself and Mike Stehr somewhere near Washington DC. How did it evolve into a virtual municipality, with citizens from all around the world? Kicksville started as a studio project by me and Mike Stehr. It was primarily intended as a creative outlet outside our regular gigs as hired musicians and stage technicians. We had no agenda, and didn't care what kind of music came out. Another motivation behind building this project was the reality of being in a traditional band situation and our desire to avoid the usual personality conflicts that can develop.
Pretty soon, we started asking other musicians we knew to come into the studio and play around with us. Because there was no long-term obligation involved and the creative atmosphere was so open, some musicians came in and played one song while others put more and more time into writing and recording with us. Over the course of a couple of years, the whole idea took on a life of its own and grew far beyond what Mike and I had expected. Even the terms "citizen" and "City Council" and the rest of our mythology evolved on their own - it was very organic, and definitely framed by a large dose of silliness.
Kicksville’s main concern is music. What makes Kicksville’s music unique? How would you define it in a few words?
I've been asked this many times before, and I still can't define
Kicksville's music. I think the keys to its uniqueness are the lack of
a stylistic agenda and the fact almost every song has a drastically
different group of writers and performers. We rarely know where a song
is going to end up when we start - that's a big part of the fun!
The studio is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Are some of Kicksville
citizens (I understand the performers are the council members?)
actually living on the spot or do they gather periodically when a
concert is on its way?
Yes, the City Council is what we call the members who make up the live
version of Kicksville. A few of us live in Madison, but most live
elsewhere (New York, DC, LA, etc.). When we have shows booked, we do a
week or so of production rehearsals beforehand to refresh ourselves.
Since the City Council is primarily made up of the people who have been
the biggest part of Kicksville's writing process, we also get together
regularly in smaller groups when folks become available to keep working
on new material.
Are all citizens musicians or are there also artists in other fields (e.g. illustrators)? Kicksville includes visual artists, poets, writers, music industry insiders, stage technicians, photographers, and more.
Tell us more about the Singles?
The "Singles" series were born out of the reality that traditional
approaches to selling and distributing music have to be re-thought. Our
idea was simple: With a TV series, you can watch all the episodes for
free. After a given season is over, you can purchase a DVD collection
with all the episodes, out-takes, and other goodies. With our "Singles"
series, we release a single per week for 10 to 12 weeks and make them
downloadable for free. At the end of the "season," we put together a
Collector's Edition CD with all the songs (plus a bonus track or two)
and include a shiny booklet with artwork, liner notes, and recording
information. FYI, The Collector's Edition for the upcoming Season 4
will actually be a DVD and will include all of the above plus a bunch
of video content.
How did the Kicksivlle mythology come about?
Pretty much all the mythology grew on its own. A lot of it started
off by goofing around (like calling Mike the Mayor or me the
Commissioner) that just kind of settled in.
One example is Tone Deaf's
area on stage, called "Krackytown." It was a joke about how his road
cases looked like they'd been rescued from a ghetto dumpster, but it
stuck. That led to further joking about everyone's respective space,
eventually leading to the creation of the Map of Kicksville, which now
includes Krackytown, The Mayor's Mansion, Hobo Village, The Princess
Palace, Commissioner's Way, and Gentrification Heights. All of this
came about without any artifice or planning, so the longer we keep
goofing around, the more the mythology grows into its own space.
characters in our songs have also developed organically, both by
reappearing in other songs or in Tone Deaf's poetry. Bob, Candy, and
Johnny have an epic tale far beyond their initial appearance in "Evil
Demon Weed," while Piggy and Luna (initially a metaphor for our
struggle with the music industry) are becoming two of the most
important characters in our stage show. Some day we'll have to put all
this together into a Silmarillion for Kicksville so other people can
figure out what the hell we're talking about ;-)
What are the requirements to become a citizen of Kicksville? To be called a Citizen, you have to contribute creatively in some significant way, for example by playing on a recording, or creating artwork for an album cover, or writing an agitprop piece for a new song. There are even folks who have gotten their Citizenship by being a consistent source of music industry advice or given us access to very expensive lighting equipment for our live show. As far as finding new Citizens, the way it usually works is when one of us comes across a musician/artist/writer/whatever that seems both uniquely creative and a comfortable personality fit, we'll ask and see if the person is interested in coming to Kicksville. Once in a while someone contacts us first, but that's the exception.