|KINA - Los Angels, CA
"Not bad for a girl from the gutter like me..."
by Pat Ferris
A couple of months ago, I first saw KINA opening for Honey Tongue (Formerly Fedora) at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. Not knowing who she was, or where the band was from, I didn't pay much mind to it until my friend Steve Fornier (also a pro-drummer) pointed out that the drummer for KINA was Herman Matthews, a drummer with many endorsements, as well as the former drummer for Tower of Power.
My question of why such a famous drummer was with a band I had never heard of was answered as soon as the band started playing! The sound, the feel, the energy, was that of a professional act...one with seasoned musicians and years of experience. The tightness, sound and presence was a head and shoulders above 95% of the bands you see in the local club circuit, so after the show, I took a few minutes to find out who they were and where they were from.
Breaking with HotBands.com tradition of 'live' ICQ interviews, this one had to be done on the fly because KINA was on tour, which I found out was the first of two pre-tours to promote the release of her first album in May of 2000, and that the REAL tour was going to start at that time. I was able to see a second show in early April at The Showbox in Seattle, where I was able to corner some of the band members and get some input on where this band was heading.
First of all, commentary on the show(s). The Crocodile Cafe show was by far, the better of the two shows I saw. The room was smaller, with a capacity of around 400, and there was standing room only and a line to get in. Seattle was the beginning of their pre-tour as well as the end. At their finale show at the Showbox, you could see that the energy of the band was different. The Showbox also holds in upwards of 1000 people, and KINA played a very early and very short set to a room that was still filtering in for the show by the time they had already finished.
Fortunately, because the show got out so early, it gave me the ability to meet with KINA and her band on their tour-bus and find out how this amazing group of musicians found each other.
I caught up with lead guitarist Trace Ritter, as he was putting his six road-guitars and a stack of equipment, and continued on with the interview with several of the band members until I was able to speak with Kina.
<HotBands> Hi Trace. Tell me a little about the band from your perspective. How long you've been with them, on tour, and where you see the band going.
<Trace> Well, this is the 2nd Tour. We started our first tour the first time I met you...at the Crocodile a couple of months ago. We've been back and forth across the country with a short break, but this has all been more of a pre-tour for our album that is to be out this summer.
<HotBands> Two tours? It seems like you were just here a little while ago.
<Trace> As I said, these have been promo tours for our upcoming album. Our 3rd tour starts May 14th either in Seattle or New York.
<HotBands> Are your intentions to pursue recording, live events, or...??
<Trace> Right now, we're pursuing theatres, big arenas, and live shows. We have excellent managment and we're all looking forward to an exciting summer tour.
<HotBands> Hi Herman, I guess you're the one in the band that got my attention. I've seen Tower of Power several times, and I'm really curious how you found out about Kina.
<Herman> There was a "cattle-call" for the band. Kina had a band prior to this one, but her managment changed last October, and the new management said "change the band". A guitarist friend who wanted to audition, asked me to come along. It was kind of like my name helped get him the audition. As it turned out, he didn't get the gig, and I did.
<HotBands> You were famous already with Tower of Power. Why did you leave them?
<Herman> I left Tower of Power three years ago. I'm very fortunate to have been in T.O.P. They were the greatest band I've ever played with, and I'm really happy to be a part of their history, but it was... well, it was just time to move on.
<HotBands> How long have you been with Kina? I mean, you were a signed artist and you have endorsements and all...were you treated any differently than the rest of the band?
<Herman> I've been with Kina since December, 1999. Right now, we're "starting a buzz" in the music underground. Trace was in a band called Chalk-FarM which was signed by Columbia Records...in fact, everybody in the band has been signed at one time or another. The thing that makes me the happiest is that they are all Pros. I'm kind of the meat & potatoes R&B drummer. Trace and Brent are both rockers, Rob the bassist, the back-up singers Adam and Melody...everybody is here because of the great marriage of minds and talents. Even our management is all there. Benny Medina, managed Jennifer Lopez, WIll Smith, and Puff Daddy...they wanted us to do stadium size arenas right away. We're currently signed with Dreamworks Records who has really gone out of their way to take care of us.
(After about an hour, I was able to meet with Kina on their tour bus).
<HotBands> Hi Kina! That was another awesome show, and I wanted to get some of your words for our readers. How long have you been at this, and were do you see yourself taking this?
<Kina> Thank you! Well...if you mean when I started singing, I started as a child. I grew up in Detroit, and moved to L.A. 9 years ago to pursue music.
<HotBands> So you came to L.A. and knew that music was going to be your bread and butter? A lot of musicians might find that a littl hard to do. Crossing the line to do music full time can be pretty scary. Didn't you pursue any school as a back-up?
<Kina> I fell into music because I got kicked out of college for not doing my homework! I was a really confused kid...I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't decide to sing...it just sort of happened. I got into a band called Brownstone that got signed with Michael Jackson's MJJ/Epic label. We had a number-one hit single on the R&B charts, and we were nominated for a grammy.
<HotBands> So you were "found" through the connections you made when you were with Brownstone?
<Kina> Again, it wasn't exactly how it happened. I was working on a recording, and Lenny Walker from Dreamworks sent a consultant who heard what I was doing, and they called two days later.
<Jonathon Cohen> (Manager) - Benny Medina and I are the management team for Handprint. The way it happened, is Benny ran into Mo Ostin (Warner Bros.) who then got in touch with Jheryl Busby, who signed Kina to Dreamworks. We've been their managment team since November.
<HotBands> So who in the band was with you originally?
<Kina> I've been working with Brent Hoffort (guitar) and Adam Jackson (backing vocals) for a couple of years now. They were with me since the beginning, but the current line-up was put together last fall when I changed Management.
<HotBands> What do you think about pursuing on-line music? Is it going to be your focus, or are you pursuing more traditional routes for distribution?
<Kina> The internet is the way things are going, so we have to be involved! We do have a website, but I'm not sure what direction we are pursuing with that. A lot will depend upon what Dreamworks and Handprint Managment want to do. It's all pretty new to me, but I see it as a way that we can be seen and heard all over the world.
<HotBands> The internet is definitaly changing the way music is being distributed. Lots of well known artists worried about unauthorized piracy on a large scale through sites like Napster's and MP3.com. I'm kind of waiting to see how the dust settles, but I'm willing to bet that for the first time in music history, the public demand will come out on top of the RIAA.
<Kina> For now, we're just pulling things together for us. We have our official launch in 1 month (May 14th), and should have a completly full tour schedule for the Summer. I'm sure that our managment will do what is best for us...they've been very supportive.
<HotBands> I can see that! This bus has got to be the biggest motor-home I've ever seen! I saw it up on 2nd Avenue on the way to the show, and figured it must yours. They supplied the bus, the trailer, how much of the equipment?
<Kina> I'm not sure about all of the equipment. I know that some of the members got their instruments as part of an endorsement deal with the manufacturers.
<HotBands> Well, you're winding down the end of your pre-tour. I am excited for you and your band! I think you guys have a tremendous amount of potential, and expect to see you doing a lot with this project. One of the things I always ask the featured bands is how you made it and what was your main driving inspiration. Do you have any words of advice you want to share with beginning artists?
<Kina> I guess I would just say go with your gut. Believe what you believe and don't change.
<HotBands> That's pretty basic. You have to understand that a lot of these musicians don't know how hard it is to make it to your level of success. Isn't there something you think that you did differently that may be able to apply in their lives?
<Kina> Honestly, what I said is what I meant. Do what you feel. I did. I wasn't shopping for a record deal. They happened to hear it by chance, and liked what they heard. It boils down to the product. Focus your time on putting out something that is really well produced over making a CD just for the sake of making a CD.
<HotBands> Anything else as a final word to the readers?
<Kina> I hope all of you like this project! You can stop by my website at http://www.4kina.com and view our tour schedule as well as print off a virtual ticket, so if we are in your area, you can see us for free! Thanks Pat for taking the time to speak with me, and I'm glad you've taken an interest in our project!
And as Kina drove off to the hotel with some friends, I hung for a while longer talking further with the manager and band members. One of the nicest things about the band was that they were all real people, and not all into themselves...especially considering that they are all accomplished and signed musicians. They passed me a beer, we had some good laughs, and when it was time for them to leave (they had a gig in San Francisco the next day), we parted as friends.
This is definitaly a band worth catching if you like powerful female vocals, thumping dance music and a lot of energy! Great band guys, and thanks to all of you for taking the time to speak with us!