Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Kula Shaker

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: frontman Crispian Mills takes the ultimate test

1
Which band codenamed their seventh album “Kula Shaker demos” to prevent it from leaking?

“The Arsewipes?”

WRONG. It was Radiohead. According to bassist Colin Greenwood, to stop their 2007 record ‘In Rainbows’ being stolen, on the master they’d “write a name which probably nobody would listen to if we lost it; ‘Eagles: Greatest Hits’, ‘Kula Shaker demos’, ‘Phil Collins hip-hop covers”…

“Radiohead are the most overrated band in the universe. I think those guys believe their own myth, and that’s why their albums are so dull and self-important. That’s not me being offended – I genuinely think they’re boring.”

Did you cross paths much with Radiohead?

“We would never cross paths with the gods – we’re just mere mortals! [Laughs] They played opposite us when we played Glastonbury [in 1997], so all The Guardian readers were at Radiohead and then everyone else was at our gig, so it felt a bit more real. But my answer was right: it was The Arsewipes!”

2
You wrote and directed the 2018 comedy horror film Slaughterhouse Rulez. What is the school’s motto in the film?

Per Caedes Ad Astra – Through Slaughter to Immortality.”

CORRECT.

“The movie if…. was a massive influence on Slaughterhouse Rulez and that was filmed at Charterhouse, a posh public school in the 1960s. A famous Indian saint said around that time that all formal education was like an abattoir for the mind, and you were sending your children to the slaughterhouse because there was no spiritual knowledge in schools. It was a powerful statement that stayed with me all those years until we came to pick the name for the public school.”

You hail from a filmmaking dynasty – you’re the son of actor Hayley Mills and director John Boulting. Were you ever starstruck by any big names as a child?

“The first time I met Harrison Ford he was dressed as Indiana Jones. My mum had worked with Steven Spielberg and was friends with his first wife Amy Irving, and surprised me by taking me to the set of The Last Crusade. I was frozen – all I could do was stare at his boots!”

3
In 2018, whose psychedelic-influenced album did Liam Gallagher brand as “shit Kula Shaker”?

“No idea. Who was it?”

WRONG. He said of his brother Noel’s High Flying Birds record, ‘Who Built the Moon?’: “It sounds like a shit Kula Shaker.”

“[Laughs] That’s very funny!”

Noel Gallagher used to champion Kula Shaker in the 1990s and you even played Oasis’ blockbuster 1996 Knebworth gigs…

“Being part of Knebworth was like being part of an event rather than a great concert. You can’t see anybody, but you get to say I was there. We didn’t really hang out with Oasis. There was definitely a sense of competition, and they saw us coming and Noel’s approach was probably: ‘Keep your enemies close’. We were rivals and they were at the top. They had the crown and were measuring themselves against the people making waves.”

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4
In 2016, a reformed Kula Shaker made a return to playing live in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, under which pseudonym?

“Was it The Garcons?”

CORRECT.

“On the blackboard outside the pub, it said: ‘Live tonight – Kula Shaker. All the pizza you can eat!’ [Laughs] It was a very auspicious return! But it was great because we gave up trying to play the game, nobody in the industry gave a shit when we reformed, and we spent years making records and building it up again ourselves. It was a total reset that had to be done for our spiritual core.”

5
What time does the watch on the single cover of Kula Shaker’s ‘Govinda’ say?

“It’s 10 to 10.”

CORRECT.

“One of the greatest experiences of being in Kula Shaker is singing ‘Govinda’ because it’s a magical chant that exists outside of space and time. It’s a sacred mantra. When you see our audience – a mass of humanity – engaged in transcendental congregational chanting, it’s overwhelming. That’s why I’d much rather be in Kula Shaker than The Arsewipes [Laughs].”

6
Two artists have name-checked Kula Shaker in their BRIT Awards presenting and acceptance speeches in the 2000s. Name either.

“I know Poo Fighters were one of them, but I can’t remember the other.”

Er… CORRECT. Accepting the Best International Award accolade at the 2008 BRITs for Foo Fighters’ ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’, frontman Dave Grohl said: “It really is an honour to be recognised alongside the likes of Huey Lewis and the News, Culture Club, MC Hammer and Kula Shaker. These are all people who have won BRIT Awards. I’m glad to see we’ve graduated to such lofty ranks.”

Two years later at the 2010 BRITs, while presenting a gong, Geri ‘Ginger’ Horner referenced the fact that Kula Shaker beat the Spice Girls to the British Breakthrough Act award in 1997 by asking: ‘Kula Shaker – whatever happened to them, eh?’

“People just get drunk and end up saying daft things! When we went to the BRITs to receive the British Breakthrough Act award, it was like a chimpanzee’s tea party. If you want to lose all faith in humanity, go to the BRITs and witness how bad it can get. [Laughs] It was a deeply upsetting experience. You leave feeling dirty because it’s all about money, and the villains in suits. It’s hundreds of people on coke with sweat pouring off everybody’s lips, and the stuff of nightmares. Did I find Dave Grohl’s speech funny? Not particularly!”

7
Who introduced Kula Shaker on their first ever Top of the Pops appearance in 1996?

“It was the guy who did ‘Return of the Mack’….  Mark Morrison?”

CORRECT.

“I remember it because he pronounced our name correctly! Top of the Pops became a cultural moment if you did something a bit different. We went on and performed ‘Tattva’ and chanted in Sanskrit, and kids talked about it the next day at school. Which meant that we had old Grateful Dead-heads and kids who read Smash Hits watching us when we toured our first album, ‘K’, and it was an exciting period. I remember Lars Ulrich coming up behind me in a hotel foyer and saying ‘Guess whose album I’m listening to right now in my ear? Yours!’, and I thought he was a stalker before I realised it was the drummer from Metallica, who’s one of my heroes.”

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8
Who did Kula Shaker perform ‘Mystical Machine Gun’ live with on TFI Friday in 1999?

“The Amazing Arthur Brown.”

CORRECT. The God of Hellfire himself.

“I didn’t feel comfortable saying the end bit of ‘Mystical Machine Gun’: ‘Everybody stay calm / Don’t panic / It’s just the end of the world / We’ll be alright if we just keep chanting.’ Somebody suggested Arthur Brown should do it and he turned up and said he wanted to address the nation with his head on fire. When we did the camera rehearsal, it was a very unimpressive headful of fire, and I was disappointed. I said: ‘Is that it?’ and he gave me a wink. He didn’t want to alert health and safety, and when we did it live, the flames flourished!”

He isn’t the only legend you worked with. One of your first jobs was in the late Poly Styrene’s band…

“My first professional gig was playing for her at Brixton Academy. She was ahead of her time. I’d met her at the Hare Krishna Temple and she looked at my bowl haircut and told me: ‘You’re the reincarnation of Brian Jones – come join my band’. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how cool she was. She walked offstage for 10 minutes to do a costume change during the gig and didn’t tell the band. I’ve never come up so many riffs – I was levitating with fear!”

9
Kula Shaker played V festival in 1999 as a last-minute replacement for which band?

Placebo.”

CORRECT.

“I remember that because there was a goth with black nail varnish just flipping the bird with both hands – the double bird! – at Alonza [Bevan, former Kula Shaker bassist] throughout the entire set screaming ‘Fuck you!’. She was so offended that it wasn’t Placebo’s Brian Molko standing in front of her!”

10
Which pop star included you in his jokey 2013 list of ‘quarter-decent three chord knobheads [who] could and did get a deal in the ‘90s’?

“Go on – tell me. I’ve failed!”

WRONG. It was Robbie Williams. He posted the blog in response to a Brett Anderson quote about ‘crap boybands in the ‘90s’. Among many others, the list included Shed Seven, Menswear, Sleeper, Ride, Kula Shaker, The Bluetones (Apart from that one song), Ocean Colour Scene (Apart from that one song…Hang on nah not even that song), Salad and Geneva (Sub-Suede -Can you imagine?)’.’

“Robbie! Tsk! God bless him!”

Didn’t you support Robbie on tour as a solo artist during Kula Shaker’s break-up?

“In Withnail and I, they talk about going on holiday by accident. Well, I went on tour with Robbie Williams by accident! I was rehearsing a solo project and didn’t know what I was doing in my life. I was at sea and Robbie asked me to go on tour with him. He was at the height of his fame and success, and it was astonishing to see this guy who was actually really insecure –  Elton John-level insecure – on these massive dates. Most of the audience didn’t know who I was.”

Tell us about Kula Shaker’s new double, concept album ‘1st Congregational Church of Love And Free Hugs’…

“We played around with the idea of a vicar – Reverend Smallwood, who’s based on a character that Peter Sellers played in a film that my dad made in 1963 called Heavens Above! The way the world is now, it feels like there’s this epic storm and we’re all huddled together, and I think a great album should always be a place of comfort and where you can go to feel connection. So our characters are gathered together as a congregation in this little church with a leaky roof and this Reverend is trying to conduct an evening service while Armageddon rages ahead and mobile phones are pinging in the pews. We really went for it.”

The verdict: 7/10

“I thought I was going to do better than that but those were hard questions! Can you give me a bonus question? [Laughs]”

We’ll see how your score compares to The Arsewipes when they take this quiz in the future…

“It wouldn’t be a ‘90s-influenced interview if you didn’t slag off other bands, so I thought I’d go in with both feet!”

Kula Shaker headline Little Orchard Festival at Healeys Cyder Farm in Penhallow, Truro, 9 – 11 September. Their brand new album ‘1st Congregational Church of Eternal Love and Free Hugs’ is available now on Strangefolk Record

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