In today’s spotlight, we present an invigorating discussion with KILL, THE ICON!, a potent, London-based protest punk trio who emerged on the scene in the summer of 2020. With a mission rooted in a vibrant symbiosis of art and activism, they’ve carved a unique niche in the bustling music industry.
Their journey started modestly yet ambitiously as a minimalist proto-punk ensemble. Nevertheless, KILL, THE ICON!’s creative curiosity would not be tethered to a single genre. Demonstrating an impressive musical fluidity, they began weaving synthesizers into their stark punk canvas, culminating in a soundscape that is as dynamic as it is expansive.
Engaging in a spirited conversation with KILL, THE ICON!, we had the opportunity to unpack the complexities of their work, delving into their provocative, and deeply evocative music.
When queried about the message underlying “Deathwish”, lead singer Nishant explained that it is a nuanced portrayal of his personal encounters with racism, especially in East London during the 1990s. The stark realities of this era, marred by events such as Stephen Lawrence’s murder and insidious, lingering racism, became the essence of the song. The band sees “Deathwish” as a prelude to their forthcoming EP, “Your Anger Is Rational”, a collective effort to navigate and rationalise emotions within the backdrop of contemporary British racism.
“Racism felt very visceral and real to me as a young man. And then, it felt to me like less of an issue – people didn’t call me the P-word, I didn’t see skinheads roaming around. I was under the naïve illusion that society had evolved and that it had all disappeared. But over time, I started to ask “Where did the skinheads go?”. They didn’t disappear. They just changed shape.”
Artistically, KILL, THE ICON! initially set out to mirror the audacious minimalism of Death From Above 1979, employing rugged, bass-laden riffs, brusque drums, and vocals. Their soundscape took an unexpected turn when their producer Ian Flynn worked magic with synths, catapulting them towards influences like The Rapture, Depeche Mode, and LCD Soundsystem. This broadened their horizons, enabling them to strike a balance between heavy riffs and dance-inducing rhythms, a distinctive feature of their EP.
“I love the fact that they’re both about racism – traditionally it’s not usually a topic that you endure, rather than enjoy.”
Their innovative video for “Deathwish”, however, did not receive the reception they had hoped for. It was deemed too controversial by Vevo and overlooked by major publications. This unique piece, created through AI, serves as an effective and thought-provoking form of protest, reframing the words and actions of politicians in an intriguing visual narrative or nightmare.
“I’ve been fascinated by the potential for AI, though I’ve been skeptical of its potential in music. I started playing about with Midjourney, and quickly realized that the potential is extraordinary. You can imagine a teary-eyed Theresa May being flanked by gargoyles in front of a burning Grenfell Tower. You can imagine a wine-stained Boris Johnson feasting in medieval times, flanked by 17 blonde, crying children who are having a food fight. All depicted as photos, taken in the style of Dave Lachapelle.”
On stage, the band has faced its own challenges. Recalling an incident at Shacklewell Arms where the lead vocalist’s sunglasses slipped off, they reflected on the discomfort of fitting into a stereotypical box, either for their predominantly white audience or for their family. This moment of vulnerability underscored their determination to break through boundaries.
“My sunglasses fell off during the breakdown, and I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to hide. I realised that I’d been putting up a barrier to make myself more palatable to the white audience, and ultimately I was conning myself. I’ve since spoken to a few other PoC artists who’ve felt a similar way. We just want to fit in.”
Justice is the fulcrum of their music. KILL, THE ICON! aims to create a space for listeners to reflect on their lyrics, scrutinise existing power structures, and participate in unlearning harmful stereotypes and prejudices. The band asserts that it is passionate about instigating critical dialogue through its music.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen a clampdown on protests like Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. We need to desperately keep the public onside, and genteel disruption is easily misrepresented by the British media.”
Looking ahead, they will kick off with their EP release on June 2nd, but an album might also be on the horizon, depending on the support they receive. Among their upcoming songs, “Average White Band”, a satirical number, is expected to turn heads and, quite possibly, ruffle some industry feathers.
Ultimately, for KILL, THE ICON!, music triumphs over politics. The joy and fulfilment derived from their musical endeavours could easily eclipse a world devoid of politicians. This sentiment encapsulates the band’s profound dedication to their craft.
“Music. Every time. I could live a happy life without politicians.”
In terms of their creative process, video concepts come to fruition much later, allowing them to continually explore and experiment with video editing software. Their video for “Heavy Heart” explicitly tackles far-right and alt-right ideologies and posits the Tory Party as modern-day fascists for the bourgeois. The video for “Deathwish” showcases a completely different creative approach, but ultimately one that does justice to the song. It’s a testament to their ever-evolving visual expression and narrative creativity.
“I wanted to make Heavy Heart explicitly about the far-right and alt-right, and how the current Tory Party are fascists for people who shop at Waitrose and drive Land Rovers. It’s a deliberately harsh and chaotic video. For Deathwish I wanted to do something totally different, and luckily we were able to find something that does justice to the song. I’m really happy with it!”
KILL, THE ICON! embodies the fusion of art and activism, painting an authentic picture of the society they observe, complete with its ugliness and beauty, and demanding change in their uniquely unapologetic manner.
Should the curators of the illustrious Glastonbury Music Festival be perusing this piece, they would be well advised to pencil in KILL, THE ICON! for a prime slot on the John Peel stage posthaste. In our current era, the urgency for music imbued with potent political messages has never been more paramount.
KILL, THE ICON! can be found on Bandcamp
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