With scant time until their performance at New York’s Webster Hall, Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart of The Kills pay BlackBook a visit to wreak creative havoc on our office walls. Photography by Victoria Will.
This is like art school, when you have five minutes to do some massive project,” says the Kills’ Alison “VV” Mosshart, sitting cross-legged on the floor, considering the murder of black-and-white skull prints by her side. When invited to cover a wall inside the BlackBook office using any materials they wanted, she and bandmate Jamie “Hotel” Hince had very specific requirements — white construction paper, string, black paint — but this came as a surprise: “We need photocopies of various skulls — maybe 25-50 — scientific looking, not cartoonish, and some shit wigs: blond, black, brown long-haired wigs.”
“I had no idea what we were going to do with all of this stuff,” confesses Mosshart, the lead vocalist for lo-fi rock’s answer to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, whose love for painting and photography was passed down from her art-teacher mother. “Skulls represent rock,” says Hince, the mock-snarl on his face summoning a young Alice Cooper. “It’s so cliché but true. When you go to a bar in a different country, just go to the one with the skulls on it.” The wigs, which are chopped up and carefully pasted on top of painted skulls as intricate up ’dos and side-ponies, weren’t, however, chosen without reason: Mosshart keeps most of her own hair, tying locks together and placing them in frames. “Next time you see Jamie,” she says, laughing through the cigarette angled between her lips, “he’s going to have hair like this one with the awful mohawk.” His hair pulled back, Hince adds, “We might actually come back to get one of these for a record cover.”
Both musicians consider themselves collectors, but Mosshart clarifies: “I collect for the money.” Her showcase piece is a painting by Don Van Vliet, more widely known to music fans by his pseudonym, Captain Beefheart. At his home, Hince covets a print by Peter Blake, the British pop artist who designed the album cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “He gave me an amazing screen-print of Chuck Berry for my birthday,” says Hince. “I nearly fell over.”
Though he attended Goldsmiths, University of London — a highly regarded arts institute — Hince studied playwriting. “But I’ve always done painting and photomontage,” he says. “The way you do art really changes, though, when you’re in a band and touring.” Life has certainly kept busy for the two of them since the release of 2008’s garage-noir sensation, Midnight Boom; in addition to the Kills, Mosshart now fronts the Dead Weather alongside Jack White (see page 32), while Hince has his hands full shielding girlfriend Kate Moss from the flashing bulbs of feverish paparazzi. “There are people sitting outside of my house when Jamie’s not even there,” says Mosshart. “It’s horrible because it’s horrible for him. He’s sad. People make him look like a clown all the time, and that’s not who he is.”
Two hours, 13 painted, bewigged skulls and more than a few cigarettes later, Mosshart and Hince hang their last framed piece on our previously white office wall. Packing his bag, Hince says, “The great thing is that they’re not real skulls anymore. But the skulls are still there, underneath… just like real life.” They sign and date the wall in bright red paint before heading to the elevator. With a quick glance at their work before stepping out onto the frenzied sidewalks of New York, Hince says, smiling, “Pencils down!”
The Kills recently released the EP Black Balloon, and will soon reissue their 2003 debut album Keep on Your Mean Side.
Art supplies courtesy Pearl Paint, 308 Canal St, New York, NY (212) 431-7932.