banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

A Dirty Dozen with PAUL KOTT from HIGH TONE SON OF A BITCH – February 2020

| 18 February 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “High Tone Son of a Bitch (HTSOB) was originally formed by brothers Paul and Andrew Kott from the ashes of Oakland prog/doom sludge masters Cruevo. The band preceded Paul’s work in the Matt Pike-fronted Bay Area metal band Kalas, which the press dubbed an underground “supergroup”. This retrospective includes the newly recorded and previously unreleased EP Wicked Threads along with remastered versions of all 3 previously released EPs – 4 EPs on 2 discs with a total playtime of nearly 90 minutes  The work as a whole simultaneously speaks to the fragility and resilience of the human experience – as it spans the years covering the formation of HTSOB, it’s musical growth, the death of Andrew Kott (one of 2 co-founding brothers), and the path to a rebirth and new life in music and beyond.” We get Paul to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

The Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB double album is a collection of 3 remastered EPs and one newly recorded EP release as 2 albums. The first album is titled Life, and it’s all stuff that was recorded by my brother and I in the earlier incarnations of High Tone Son of a Bitch. My brother died in 2007 after we recorded the 2nd EP. The 2nd EP was never released until 2019. The 2nd album is called Afterlife, and it is all material HTSOB have recorded since my brother’s step-son convinced me to reform the band. Each of these EPs is a marker of a moment in time for the band, and the newest EP, Wicked Threads is a concept album in its own right. Still, there is a running theme through all 4 EPs on this double album, a theme that covers the dualities of the human experience… estrangement and love, failure and triumph, loss and redemption. As for hidden gems, they are in there! Listen carefully, loudly, and under the influence, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

My parents started my on piano lessons when I was 5. My mom’s family were all professional musicians… my grandmother was a piano teacher and church organist, my grandpa was choir director and opera teacher, my “uncle” Fred Marshall on my grandma’s side of the family was a famous jazz bass player. His son plays sax, actually. I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t part of my life or how I see the world. It was just always there. With that said, as a kid I can’t say I really understood the intricacies of classical music, which is the form I was being taught, mostly. I played classical piano, but I liked pop music. The first time I ever heard music I completely identified with was when I was 9, going through my parents’ records. My mom had a Rolling Stones compilation of 60s stuff that came out on Decca Records in the UK, called “High Tide, Green Grass”. I still remember the first time I heard the song “Paint It Black”. We moved around a lot, and I was too weird, read too much, I just just never fit in anywhere. I didn’t know what I was feeling was called, but I was fucking depressed, lonely, and isolated. That song sounded like it was talking to me. It made me realize I wasn’t completely alone, that there were others like me. That was the moment I fell in love with rock and roll. Maybe 2 years later I was visiting my uncle in Indiana. I was staying in a guest bedroom, which had a color TV in it. I was restricted to an hour a day of TV at home, so I was excited about that. I remember vividly turning on the TV, and whatever channel it was on just started broadcasting Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. I mean, really, I turned the TV on and the movie started. I watched the whole thing, just completely fucking blown away. It was saying so many things I felt, and was communicating the complex concepts in visceral, emotional ways. I had already started down the rabbit hole with rock and roll and was listening to metal and hard rock bands, but watching “The Wall” was the moment I knew I wanted to play in a rock band. Hearing punk rock at 13 made me realize I could actually do it, that it mattered more what I felt than how accomplished a player I was. I kept playing piano for a couple more years, but I started singing in my first punk band when I was 13. For me being in a band has always been rooted in pulling what’s in your heart out however you can. Having something to say and just doing shit, just making stuff, is far more important to me than virtuosity.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There are tons of answers to this question, but I guess the show that really impacted me the most was Fugazi in Portland, Maine on March 15, 1991, on the Repeater tour. That show was absolutely bonkers. The electric energy between the band and the crowd almost broke the boundary between one and the other. Fugazi proved to me that you didn’t need to be a virtuoso to reach people… in fact you needed people to reach yourself. This was the band that ignited a fierce spirit of DIY in me that I still carry today.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

5? Shit. That’s hard. Fuck it, here goes: Black Sabbath, Neurosis, Captain Beyond, Can, Judas Priest. Soundgarden, six, fuck your five band limit. Haha.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I love collaborating with other musicians. I’ve had the good fortune to play with some of my favorite players out there, and many have been on HTSOB records. That said, if I had to pick one player it’d probably be Kim Thaiyl. I’d just love to jam with that dude.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Stylistically, High Tone Son of a Bitch was always a guitar driven band that leans heavily on a beastly rhythm section and powerful vocals. I think people often hear more obvious influences like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, or Thin Lizzy in the music, or comparisons of our guitar tones with Kyuss. There are also quite a few unusual time signatures and stuff that folks have noticed for their Soundgarden influence. The truth is that there is a lot rolled into what we’re doing, with not just doom but  more experimental prog stuff like early Can records, more obscure 70s rock bands, psychedelic rock, post-punk, death punk and goth, and 90s crust and hardcore all popping up in one way or another. One of the more complimentary perspectives I heard recently was someone saying we sounded like a natural evolution of the Oakland sound from Neurosis, to Sleep, to what we are doing. That was an incredible compliment. Oakland and the greater Bay Area’s musical history is definitely deep in this band’s DNA. It’s funny to me when reviewers have used the term “desert rock” to describe us. Oakland isn’t in a desert. That’s just weird. HTSOB is an underground band of the old school, we have always set out to break rules, make our own thing musically. We don’t neatly fit into a specific genre, we’re not a band who set out to sound like anyone else or fit into a scene in a stylistic sense. Being original makes you harder to market. So as a result, people have thrown various labels at us, depending on what the buzzword genre is at the time. Whatever. I don’t really care that much.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

So the thing for me is that music is the best way I have to pull the shit that’s in my heart out and look at it, or sometimes leave it behind me in that form. So there’s the therapeutic aspect to it, but if I’m honest that’s not the main reason I do this publicly. The reason I have spent so many years performing, touring, and recording, and the ultimate cause to come back to that life is probably knowing that what I’m getting out is landing somewhere and having the same kind of impact on someone out there as music has on me. It matters deeply to me that the music my brother made with me before he died that is on our current release is out there touching other people’s hearts. That’s what immortality is. Music is a direct line to the human psyche, a form of communication  that transcends language, and its influence can’t die.

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

I love to cook, so does Pamela. I don’t know, we all know how to party. We are professionals. As far as cracking out acoustic guitars, I think we all do that to some degree. Eric is probably most likely to start in with that, or me maybe.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

This might not sound legit, but it’s the truth: I don’t really get star struck. I never really have, maybe it’s the punk rock “no idols” roots or something. I will say this, it was weird as a kid from a smaller town in Maine when I first moved out to the Bay Area and started meeting these iconic musicians. I have some weird stories about the first time I met various people, like Jello Biafra. I have heard a lot of first time I met Jello stories from other musicians in the Bay Area too. I wouldn’t say star struck, but some of those moments have been weird. I have some funny stories about the first time I met Mike Dirnt from Green Day at a punk house in Oakland, stuff like that. Celebrity is fucking weird.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

I also own a dog care company, that’s pretty fun. It’s hard to manage the business from the road, and I have to really trust my workers, but I do so that’s lucky. I’m sure at some level I will keep building that business. I like writing, and have been chipping away at a book idea. I just don’t have enough time. I used to own a record label, and may start one again. I hate doing mail-order though.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Nah, man. Live life, fuck up, be human. Sometimes you just have to go through shit. That’s life. But as long as you’re able, do what you feel. We get one time around, use it. That’s my take.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Probably the Roky Erickson and the Animals record The Evil One/I Think of Demons. Look up the story of the production of that album by Stu Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s absolutely insane. Literally! To me that album is the ultimate story of impossible odds, of loss, redemption, and losing again, and a testament to the fact that it’s OK to get some help now and then. You should never stop doing what you, no matter the obstacles.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad