What is your connection to KTP?
I met them in 1980 when most of them were still students at the royal college of music in London. George was homeless and sleeping on the floor of the bedsit of a couple of friends when I met him. He moved in with me, and through him I met the other 3 members of the prototype of KTP, all still at music college. It gradually grew and coalesced into the full band of Barney, Sylvia, Big Stevie, Jon, Nick, George, and Josephine. This all began in the autumn of 1980. We all lived together in a big house in north London until 1986. During my years with KTP we made lots of music together and with other friends-- when everyone you know is a musician all you do is make music or get drunk!
Atmosphere in 'the house in north London'?
My wife and I laughed out loud at this one. The answer is yes! You could cut it with a knife. The 5 years I lived with them were probably the most intense period of my life. Very creative, lots of affairs and scapegoating and shit, huge art installations constructed inside and out. Intense relationships between everyone. And the equipment set up in the living room was extraordinary. It was like a magnet for so many other musicians who would come round and add their talents to the ongoing projects.
Why was KTP exploring electronics in the early 80's?
Jon was at the royal school of organists, George was doing piano at the RCM, so there were two keyboard players, it's true. However, there was also a violin player, saxophonist, drummer and 2 guitarists. I think Jon just had the most talent and so the keyboards came to the fore. The RCM also had a small studio with a moog in it that they used to play around on, and thanks to the psychoactive substances mentioned above, strange noises were always attractive.
Did they have musical influences or heroes? Lyrical influences?
We used to listen to young marble giants, robert wyatt, mikey dread, talking heads' remain in light, eno, bowie's berlin albums, madonna, durutti column, nick nicely (more about him another time), human league, a certain ratio, the contortions, kraftwerk...this list can go on for ever.
What was their main mode for songwriting? Improv/group/solo/live?
Mostly solo. At music college, I think one of the compulsory subjects you take is compostion, so they all knew at least the rudiments of putting a song (or a symphony) together. Jon and Nick wrote most of the material. George is an excellent songwriter too, and too few of his songs ended up on the albums.
How successful were they? Money? Fame? Press?
They were a cult band (i.e. many people knew their music, few actually bought the records) they had about half a dozen singles in the UK that made it into or close to the top 40-- Last Film was their biggest single in the UK. One Step was the biggest selling single in Italy for 1985. Oh how we laffed about that one! They were pretty successful over most of Europe-- except in England. Germany seems to be where they have the most fans these days. There's still a strong synthpop thing going on in Europe.
Like I said, I think the press hated them. Too weird and anarchic and rude. Any money they made they ploughed back into the band, buying expensive equipment in search of the best sounds, so they rarely had any spending money for clothes and toys. They were very hi-tech! During the summer of 1986 the band took on a second string percussionist-- the drummer's console / flight deck was so complicated it took a co-pilot to get the drums off the ground! The band was preparing for a tour of the US to promote ctal, and the percussion tracks were so complex that they decide to use a real live person instead of a little black box to do the additional rhythms.
Where did the name 'Kissing the Pink' come from?
2 versions-- take your pick. It's either an allusion to cunnilingus OR it was a phrase they heard a sports commentator use on the television one evening to describe a very soft shot in a game of billiards. I suspect the latter came first, and the double entendre sealed it for them.
Why did they change their name to KTP?
Kissing the Pink's behaviour must have pissed off many people in the music business - - the A&R folk at Magnet, journalists, managers, etc-- because their name seemed to become shit on the industry's shoes for a long time. I think this was as much a reason for their name change as any aesthetic reasons.
What led to the drastically different sound of the "Certain
Things Are Likely" LP?
I'm guessing to the record company, CTAL was a typical make-or-break third album - - Magnet wanted a hit or KTP would be dumped. KTP recorded the tracks on their own, using various engineers and producers they liked, but Magnet remixed pretty much everything. You can tell from the demos for the album how different the bands vision was from the record labels. I've still got a few awful publicity shots from CTAL. I think the record label must have sent them off to get haircuts and buy clothes that would hopefully turn them into another Kajagoogoo.
What's the story behind the 'naked' artwork/sleeve?
Tim Barnett was an old friend of Jon's from when he was growing up on the wee isle of Jersey. Tim also did the artwork for the love lasts forever single, 12 inch, and picture disc, plus various other bits of commercial art for KTP. (or I should say, they raided his portfolio-- I'm not sure if the images were actually done especially for KTP.)
In retrospect I wonder if for a while he was considered the band's official artist? Then things changed, and the label started using other people's artwork with brighter poppier images. Tim, and a couple of other artist friends from Jon's schooldays (his girlfriend Katherine, and Jamie Cabot) were very much into 'scientific' images-- grotesque images from textbooks on deformities etc. Not what a record label would think suitable to sell pippy poppy songs about love...
What access do you have to unreleased KTP material?
What I have is gazillions of tapes, many with just one or two tracks on them --the demos actually can be crammed onto a numerically modest seventeen 90 minute tapes. The members were also horribly irresponsible with the tapes of their various musical endeavours, so it is only because thankfully I am an anal retentive that any of their demos exist to this day. (Despite my best efforts only about 10% has survived-- the rest was taped over, given away, or left behind somewhere...)
I have all their albums and singles and most of the EPs. I also have a tape of a concert they did (just before Naked was released i think), plus acetates of an unreleased version of the what noise LP (different mixes of some of the tracks), and a 'white label' of Naked with a slightly different playlist.
What are these unreleased tracks like?
The demo's from this period (what noise) are in my estimation the best they ever did, so i think you'll end up liking these the best. The demo's from CTAL are amazing too-- nothing like the dance tracks on the album. CTAL is definitely my least favourite. I love the grooves on Sugarland, I love the synthpop of Naked and I love the richness and inventiveness of the What Noise period. But really I far prefer the demos of their music-- they came to fruition in the relaxed atmosphere of the studio we had set up at home. By the time they got into AIR or Olympic or whatever real recording studio they were in that day, the songs became overblown and sterile.
What is the current status of KTP?
The band is now Jon, Nick and George. The rest of the band is scattered far and wide and no one is talking to anyone else to this day - - I think that this is as much because everyone has lost everyone elses addresses as any other reason.
As I said, KTP are still going strong-- they do a lot of producing these days-- I remember about three years ago they told me that in one particular week they were responsible for the production of 4 of the top ten singles in England-- I don't know if they are still that popular! They also like to find new singers and write material for them. A couple of years ago George and another peripheral KTP person wrote and produced England's entry for the eurovision song contest, which is to the music industry what miss universe is to professional modelling.
They have a new album coming out very soon, released as the Jon Hall quartet. George and Nick are also working on something they described as a 90s version of "switched on Bach"-- classical trance music i think they said.