The Khe Sanh Approach
e-mail interview November 2005

In a world of nice boys strummin nice guitars in Shamble-Monkeys wannabe bands, the Khe Sanh Approach instantly stand out. The sound is a swirling maelstrom of feedback leashed in by keyboards and drum machine, and the live performance is confrontational and thought provoking. Big Black, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Fall have all been mentioned as comparisons, but as Matt Abysmal makes clear below, The Khe Sanh Approach are really one of a type.

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

The Khe Sanh Approach: Who, what and why?

Who: Matt Abysmal (Caterwauling/Synthesizers/Drum Machines); Tom Warsaw (Noise Guitar/Singing/Preoccupation With Horses); Matt Yalson (Electric Bass Guitar/Sunglasses/Logistics) and Richard Invincible III (Loud Guitar/Appeal/Chastity/Manners)

What: War Disco: an amalgamation of the music we like and the stuff that we believe to be songworthy. Alternatively, an amalgamation of war and disco.

Why: Because nobody else is doing it. Because the locale is staid and complacent. Because we live in difficult times. Because we have something to say. Because content is too frequently being overlooked in favour of presentation. Because we have ideas. Because our ideas are better than theirs. Because our dayjobs are crap.

Describe your sound to a brain-dead, deaf, Burberry-wearing alien.


Who are your heroes, musical and political?

It seems disingenuous to answer on behalf of the others, so I will. Yalson's love's range from the sublime (The Clash, The Auteurs, Nick Cave) to the ridiculous (Donna Summer) via the clichéd choice of the drag queen (Madonna). Invincible's list would probably include Les Savy Fav, Pavement, Art Brut, McClusky and - curiously - Weezer and Ben Folds. Warsaw is rather partial to a soupcon of Squarepusher, The Fiery Furnaces, The Teardrop Explodes, Can, Aphex Twin, The Icarus Line and Neu! I'm fond of Clinic, Earl Brutus, The Tindersticks, Stereolab, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, dEUS, Prolapse, Nation of Ulysses. I think consensus is reached with things like The Fall (of whom Warsaw is something of an obsessive admirer), Suicide, The Bad Seeds, Big Black, Wire, Magazine, LCD Soundsystem, the Dead Kennedys and Haines' imperious 'Baader Meinhof' record (probably my own personal favourite album ever). It's probably these things that inform our stuff most. We sure as hell don't sound like Donna Summer. Or Ben Folds. Or the Tindersticks. Or Squarepusher - but we're working on it.

I don't really have any political heroes, and - if only for the sake of convenience - we'll say that the other 3 don't either. The only people who do have political heroes are - in my experience - tedious Communists, Tory dullards and people who think Hitler was right. We're always being accused of being an overtly political band, which we're not, really. We use satire a lot, and lyrically we're interested in international relations, protest culture, history, religion, brutality, oppression and the like, but political heroes are a bit Manic Street Preachers for us. We don't wear leopardprint either, before you ask. Nor do we stencil anything on anything, ever.

Our non-musician heroes (and indeed our musician heroes) may well have political inkling. Consensus with these things is more difficult, but I'm sure we'd all agree on John Peel, Guy Debord, Hunter S. Thompson and Dave Challinor, at least.

Is there still a place for CDs or is downloading the future?

There's clearly still a place for CDs. And tapes. Tapes haven't been imbued with the same sense of purist kudos as vinyl, which disappoints me. Tape hiss should be the new vinyl crackle. I'd love to release something on cassette only, if only because I don't have a CD player in my bedroom - and I don't have an MP3 player at all. This isn't to say that the interweb isn't a wonderful thing, because it clearly is. It's a wrecking ball through the windows of the ivory towers of the music business behemoths, and it democratises the critical process, the A and R process, and the business of actually putting songs out. But you can't give an MP3 as a Xmas pressie, can you? What would you wrap it in?

What can people expect from your gigs?

Commitment. I get sick to the back teeth of bands sauntering complacently onstage and asking the audience for validation and a quick ego massage whilst they proceed to glibly play at being provincial popstars. I can promise that you will not see the Khe Sanh Approach and go home wondering why we don't stay inside and wank ourselves off in the mirror. We always give as much as we can to an audience, both in terms of what we're trying to communicate and how that comes across in song form. This may mean we come across as confrontational, and some people see that as arrogance, but to me it's more humble to exhaust yourself trying to get your ideas into people's heads than to magnanimously and politely ask the audience to tell you how fucking great you are and shroud it in being 'crowd-pleasing'. Commitment, volume, a deceptively large arsenal of tunes and a plethora of squally noises.
What was the last thing that you heard that you had to copy and give to someone else straight away?

'Welcome Home Ayatollah'/'The New Plymouth Sound (or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb)' by the Khe Sanh Approach. Mainly because we needed somebody to give us gigs. If this question was meant to encourage recommendations of new and unsigned stuff, I'd speedily direct you to The Resistance (, Korova (, D.Ash ( and Cortez (, just because they're the first 4 I can think of whose website's I know off the top of my head.

What do you listen to whilst Hoovering?

Not applicable. Were I to Hoover, I would listen to a Hoover whilst Hoovering.

How can readers get hold of your music? And why should they bother?

Two spangly new recordings are available at www.ubiquitousunsignedbandsplugthemselvestoemokidspace/thekhesanhapproach. Alternatively, contact us via the website ( or (preferably) come and see us at one of our gigs. To me, the record is just a documentary thing, a representation of what we do live, but the others would doubtless administer a beating were they to know I said this, on the grounds that I was talking bollocks.

It is not for me to say why they should bother. But they should.

What are you reading?

I'm hopping merrily between 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey, 'The Master and Margarita' by Some Russian Guy Whose Name I've forgotten (but I'm only ten pages in) and 'Kraftwerk: I Was A Robot' by Wolfgang Fluer. The latter, in particular, is highly recommended.

What's best, chips or cream buns?

Ostensibly, the chip would be the superior projectile as it is naturally streamlined, whereas the cream bun suffers somewhat from air resistance. However, the chip's inferior weight means it is considerably harder to get the requisite distance when it's used for missilic purposes, as often it pitches forward, plummeting vertically. A javelin would be a more suitable implement of a similar shape. The chip does, when combined with ketchup, mayonnaise or similar condiments, have advantages if it hits its target, however, in an effect known as 'splattering' in military circles. For a cluster-bomb effect, a chip cone could also be deployed with devastating consequences, although the likelihood of collateral damage and expense of the chip cone makes it an unlikely weapon, especially in less-developed nations. The torpedo-shaped cream bun would probably be a better solution in most cases, therefore - although I'd strenuously advocate the use of diplomacy before considering such drastic measures.

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wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, but usually with our music I can only hear the bits that have gone wrong rather
than anything that went right. When you reflect back on something it's very difficult to give an objective opinion, and I don't believe in objectivity anyway, I think everything's subjective. I just throw a deck of cards and
wherever they land, that's where she finds herself. I'm not really the one to explain my part in it, you must do that as the observer really, and of course that will reflect your part in the grand scheme of things.

Lucy: Do you enjoy playing live more than the creative process in the studio?
KJG: (Laughs) I don't enjoy any of it. It comes and it goes, ok? There's nothing like when you're writing and you manage to catch something by its
tail; when you're looking for those things underground that are skittering out of sight just when you're about to catch them. And when you catch them it is worth it, but it's a momentary pleasure. I've got so much noise upstairs, and I can hear things in my head that to me are absolutely devastatingly beautiful. I'm always trying to download them and get them
here, but they never get here in the right state, they're always very disabled and they don't even begin to imitate what I can hear in my head.
It's a frustrating process in the main.

Lucy: Your lyrics are simultaneously emotionally expressive and cryptic. Are you looking to be understood by your audience?
KJG: I'm always trying to understand myself, but it's like there's a point in the centre of the room, and there's a hundred windows to look at the same point from. All I can do is give you different angles on the same thing. God, you know, if I could find one conclusive thing in anything I would probably have something to put an anchor down on. But I cant, and I haven't met anyone that can. You can pick out anything you like in my lyrics, I don't seek to be cryptic. I love words for the sake of words, for me they're kind of free standing, and they don't really need to be explained. I think every word has its own character and colour and picture and the result you get with lyrics just depends how you put them together. You could just do it in a William Burroughs esque way, or throw the deck of cards, and you'd probably still find something that our tiny little minds would latch on to in order to gain some kind of emotional understanding. I don't think there's a constant, the only constant that there is for me is that there is no constant. I use myself as my canvas, I gut myself and fillet myself the whole fucking time, I'm always hooking myself out of the water, I'm always cutting my own head off and disembowelling myself, and as you can probably tell I'm quite angry about it at the moment. I'm very tired of it all, of my
process and how I find life, because it always seems to be about living and dying all in one breath. I'm getting pretty fucking tired of that.

Lucy: Do you think drugs stimulate or hinder creativity?
KJG: Well that depends on the drug, because I think most things arrive in the form of a drug really. I know in myself that if anything I am, much to my greater expense, an adrenalin junkie. My synapses don't work well enough to put pills in my mouth, I can't do that, despite popular opinion. I don't need any help breaking down, put it that way. There's not much holding it
together. If there was a drug that could put aline between two polar opposites and make them in to one thing I'm sure I would have it
intravenous, but I haven't found it. I think drugscan be a bit of a lazy way for creativity anyway, you're better off in the cold light of day in the mirror.

Lucy: As a band, you are distinguished by the extreme physicality of your live performances. Do you consciously make an effort to put on a show or do your performances just naturally come to you, and whatever happens, happens?
KJG: It's a bit of both, because you see, I think taking the stage is one of the most unnatural things anyone can do. In a way, just walking on stage actually creates an altered state - its not right, no one's meant to do that, unless you're a priest or a magician, or something like that. To put somebody who's very incapable in many ways in to that position creates a combustion reaction inside me. I know that, and I take the stage knowing that. Obviously there's all the usual things that affect my performance; if I'm on my 45th day of a tour I'm probably gonna be pretty fucking tired, so I'll be dictated by that. If I'm doing new material like tonight I don't
know what's going to happen, because we haven't built the train tracks yet. The beauty of playing live is when my drummer goes in to 5th gear or in to 10th gear, and for some reason there's something that hits me in the base of the spine and I'm gone, and that's Halleluiah for me. During the last few months a lot of strange things have been happening onstage, I think the process is changing. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, I've been having quite a tough time on stage, I feel like something's pulling me under, as if something's got me.

Lucy: So does the crowd influence your performances on stage?
KJG: Yes they do. I'm unkind enough to be pretty impersonal about how I do it, so I use them for me to kick against in effect, or to surf on, (I don't
mean physically surf). If you're in an empty roomand there's a couple of people at the back, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a bad show -
they might get the show of their lives. And then again when something's really heaving and going off, I get quite a distorted view of it, because I
can feel quite overwhelmed lose my sense of place in the situation. I lose control of myself. I don't know, I probably wasn't meant to do this, I
wasn't built for this. It wasn't a career option, I didn't start there and go there, I didn't pick up the things on the way. I've sort of gone round
and round.

Lucy: As the lead singer of the band, most media interest is focused on you. Do you feel pressurised by your position or do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
KJG: I've been here on this wheel long enough,(and I say this with a little bit of trepidation because I think you have to be really careful with this kind of thing, because the motivation to do it in itself I think is usually pretty corrupt) I'm not doing it for anyone else, I need a cheque through the door like anybody else does, you have to keep eating, you have to keep living. I'm looking for some sense of going home on my own terms, and people's critique of me is not relevant, whether it's positive of negative.
I do need a cheque through the door though, otherwise I'll have to go and be a butcher or something.

Lucy: What is the religious meaning behind the song "For I am the way"?
KJG: If you use the word religion in its truest sense, all it means is communion, it hasn't got any of the attachments to any written word. My
understanding of the word communion is loss of the sense. Another way of looking at it is you've got to get in to get out, and the only thing that I
know to be true is me, is this tiny little dot in the centre of the universe. It's the only thing that I know feels pain; I can see other people's pain and I can feel it in an emotional way, but not in a physical way. I find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling like I am the
centre of the universe and that everything is a projection, made by me - i.e. you two don't exist, you're something that I created. I don't wish that
sense upon anybody because it's not a good one. Through 'For I am the way' I'm saying that you've got to get in, because the only thing one knows to be true is oneself. And on a good day, if you stand on top of a mountain or go to the desert or stand in the ocean, and become completely inconsequential, linear time stops and you become everything and nothing. That for me is
communion, that's how I define religion. I thinkthere's a line in there which goes "Today the only bridge I have I burn" which sums it up really, because it is about cutting all lines of communication in order to really truly commune.

Lucy: Do you think that in the future your creativity will move from the sphere of music in to literature for example?
KJG: It's real hard to say. In a way, that sounds like a much easier life. But for all I know I'm deluding myself. I'm looking for someone to help me frame something at the moment, and someone is actually, someone's being really good to me. I would love to write, but I don't know if I'm good
enough to do it.