Working on a Memoir, Kid Congo Powers Continues to be a Free Spirit, Creating his own path with The Pink Monkey Birds
Kid Congo Powers is aware of his environment. He is more aware than most. It could be his gypsy-like existence, moving from one city to another, one scene to another, and one stage after another.
“For me, it’s a lifestyle and a way to shake things up and enjoy reinvention. I love reinvention. I don’t like things to get stagnant. I like the inspiration of location, different music and different things. Going to the Southwest is a different thing than New England.”
Powers recently moved from the frenetic lifestyle of the East Coast to Tucson with his husband. The act of moving, he calls “unappealing” and “gross.” But the change in environment has always given him a fresh perspective. Family was the main reason for the move, but he also admits to being attracted to the big skies and beautiful sunsets. “The environment is the muse. Different cultures have always been a great source of inspiration and wonder. Somehow it creeps into your music. I’m not exactly sure how it happens.”
Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds – Spider Baby
Powers has lived a transient lifestyle for 35 years from Los Angeles to New York. During his time with The Gun Club, the band moved to London in the ‘80s as a protest of Reagan. They were already popular in Europe and wanted to see how this change affected their work. This led to one of their most adventurous works, The Las Vegas Story. While he was in Europe, he moved to Berlin to continue a changing perspective on life.
“Me and Jeffrey Lee Pierce had a big interest in different cultures. We bonded early when we first met. He was a music journalist for Slash Magazine, and he wrote the reggae reviews, traveling to Jamaica. He was in New York to start a band. I had been in New York to be a part of CBGBs scene as a handful of L.A. punks could not stand to be left out. We jumped on a Greyhound bus and took the five-day journey. We saw what there was to see and hang out. Traveling for music has always been a lifestyle of sorts. Then I became a musician and a live musician. It’s a very gypsy-like existence with the amount of touring being in a different city or country every day. I tend to reflect what my environment is. That happened with the Gun Club moving to London and recording Mother Juno in Berlin.”
Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds – La Araña
New York was an eye opener for Powers and launched his musical career that started from the resonance of a guitar to the outer realms of planet weird. It was Pierce who taught Powers how to play with open tuning, and it was CBGB’s who turned him on to The Cramps. “I was jaw dropped first time I saw them at CBGB. It sounds like it is from heaven and outer space and beyond and it’s three-chord guitars. It’s not avant garde music, it’s not anything. It’s so otherworldly and incredible and I realized it’s just them. It’s them being themselves to the millionth degree. I am really proud of Psychedelic Jungle. I still can’t believe I play on it. Kind of astonished that even happened.”
While living in Berlin, Powers joined up with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as their guitarist. He ended up working with the band on the Tender Play and The Good Son albums. Those years working with Nick Cave helped solidify a primeval edge in rock and roll. His experience fueled a danger that presents itself in this kind of landscape. But as much as he embraced it, after the Bad Seeds, he tried to get away from it.
Powers worked on some some projects post Bad Seeds and pre Pink Monkey Birds, including Congo Norvell and a solo adventure, along with joining on Barry Adamson’s album Moss Side Story and Mark Eitzel’s Caught in a Trap and I Can’t Back Out Because I Love You Too Much, Baby. This was a stark transitional period, going from being a part of an identity to self identification.
“When it came time to have my own vision, I was a little confused on what my vision was. So I went through a lot of learning and up and down, this and that road. But I was willing to go to the distance to wait for it to happen. Who was I? I was the guitarist. No one wants to hear the guitar player sing. You really want a Bill Wyman solo album (he laughs)? I had to be something that stood on my own. And I knew I had to learn it. It was not going to happen right away. I was spending so much time getting away from who I was. What I needed to do was come back to this very simple equation which is be yourself and let it fly and all will be good. There was a lot of work that went into it. Trial and error with styles Once we hit the Dracula Boots era, we don’t know what it is but we are going to keep doing it. Been able to refine things and let things go weirder or crazier and being free. Isn’t it great?”
Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds – Haunted Head
When the band (Kiki Solis on bass, Ron Miller on drums, and Jesse Roberts on guitar and keyboards) recorded Dracula Boots, Powers called it the most freeing experience of his career. It was what he needed to reinvent that identity while solidify everything from the past. That formula has been with the band for over 10 years now. Coming off a recent tour with Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, it was not just a celebration for the band, it was exuberant as Powers’ goal is to make people feel the way he does about the music. It’s what keeps them going with new music in the future.
As he loves to spin yarns of invaluable memories about punk history and a life immersed within, Powers’ memoir, due out next year on In The Red Records, will chronicle a collection of unforgettable stories, photographs, and ideas wrapped up in an eclectic and brilliant mind.