Way back in the old-timey days (aka early 2000s), I was a rock radio DJ and Incubus was churning out hit after hit. I don’t think any shift went by without an Incubus song because there were just so many fantastic tracks: “Drive,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Nice to Know You,” “Pardon Me,” “Stellar,” “Warning,” “Aqueous Transmission,” and my personal fave, “The Warmth.”
The Southern California band has continued to make incredible music over the decades – on their terms and in their own timeline. Brandon Boyd (vocals), Mike Einziger (guitar), Ben Kenney (bass), José Pasillas (drums), and Chris Kilmore (turntables) will bring their tour home to Hollywood Bowl in October, after kicking things off in Oregon this Friday.
Despite a recent European run and the US tour about to launch, DJ, turntablist, keyboardist, scratchologist (did I make that up, or is that a real word?), Chris Kilmore – better known as Kil – took time out to chat with us about all the things.
Traci: I did some snooping before our chat, so first things, first. Happy anniversary to you and your gorgeous wife!
Kil: Thank you!
Traci: Now, a very important question right off the bat: How is Blossom? (Kil’s dog)
Kil: (laughing) Oh, Blossom is incredible. I had to lock her out of the room I’m in right now because she just wants to jump on me and play, and she’s barking. My routine when I get up in the morning is I make some tea, then I go outside, and I just play ball with her. Every day, she’s waking me up. “I’m ready to play ball!”
Traci: “Dad! Get up!” I want to make sure the internet did not lie to me. I know you do turntables, piano, keyboards, but do you really play the theremin?
Traci: I think that’s so badass. I love that.
Kil: I got a theremin early on in my career, and I used to take it on tour with us. I’ve used it on a couple of records, actually, and I used to run it through my mixer and run it through effects and things like that. But the old school theremins, they’re really sensitive to heat. I don’t know if you understand how they work, but there’s basically an invisible electromagnetic field around a rod that sticks up, and the closer you get to the rod, the higher the pitch it makes; that’s how you can control the notes and everything. But as it heats up, that field gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. So we’d be onstage, and all of a sudden I would just hear this low tone, and it would slowly get louder and louder and louder. It was just because it was warming up, and I couldn’t control how big that sound field was. It was just something you couldn’t take on tour. Now they have newer ones that you can control them better.
Traci: When you do play, you need to wear a cape and a wizard hat, because those are just such an amazing instrument.
Kil: And that’s right down my alley! If these guys asked me to wear a cape and get some test tubes and some beakers out, I’d be all for it.
Traci: The US tour kicks off Friday in Oregon, and I’m going to be seeing you in Nashville. You’re playing at a rock quarry and it’s absolutely gorgeous, but it’s going to be the middle of August. It is going to be hot as balls, and I am so, so sorry.
Kil: (laughing) We were just in Europe and it was crazy hot. Certain places we felt like we were just in a heat wave the whole time.
Traci: I’ve read in past interviews that when you guys tour, that’s when you have the chance to jam during your sound check and make new music. Did you get to do that much in Europe?
Kil: No, actually, we didn’t. Europe was “on the go” pretty much the whole time. Then part of the tour, Brandon lost his voice; he just got a little laryngitis or something like that and lost his voice. So we canceled some shows, and when the whole tour is relying on the logistics, and we cancel and go this way instead, you get separated from the gear and you show up late to things. We didn’t get a chance to do that, but on a normal basis, we do a sound check and we let the VIPs come in and watch us. [Check out Incubus’ VIP packages if you want to experience this for yourself!] Sometimes we’ll just be working out new riffs. Sometimes we’ll just be sound checking and playing old songs or new songs or just telling jokes. It’s kind of a cool experience. But that’s our time when we’re on tour to actually just be with our instruments and together onstage with no agenda.
Traci: With you doing keyboards and synthesizers, it’s absolutely fascinating to me that you can make music because you have unlimited sounds. To just go, “I’m going to make this noise out of nothingness!”
Kil: Yeah. The thing is, when it’s just me making my own music, then it’s fine. I can go any direction I want. When there’s the four other guys and I start going through sounds, everybody’s like, “Well, can you try another one,” or “Can you do another one?” I’m like, “I got endless possibilities here.”
Traci: “A little guidance, guys?”
Kil: Yeah. Let’s go in a direction. I learned early on with this band not to take things too personal because, especially with the turntables, we’d be writing music and I’d go home and spend all night coming up with different scratch parts, and I’d get the perfect part and I’d be like, “This is perfect. Nobody’s doing this! It’s musical. It sounds great. This is perfect.” And I’d bring it into rehearsal the next day and they’d be like, “Can you do something else? We’re not really feeling that.” (laughing)
Traci: You’re thinking, “But I like this!”
Kil: At first, yeah, I’d be like, “No, you don’t understand. There’s no DJs doing this. This is perfect.” My feelings would get hurt, and I’d be like, “Oh, I worked on it so long, and I just got to trash it.” But then you just realize you know how to do that. I learned something new, and now let’s move on and figure something else out, and not take it too personal.
Traci: You’ve been with the band since 1998, so you were there when things really hit. Do you remember hearing the first song that you were involved with on the radio?
Kil: During the touring behind “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” we would go into some different college radio stations and they would play “A Certain Shade of Green” or “Redefine” or “Nebula,” some songs off that. But the first time I actually was out and heard us on the radio was for “Make Yourself.” Our first single off of that record was “Pardon Me.” We were all in LA and we knew KROQ was going to play it at a certain time. So we all got together, and we were all sitting in the parking lot with all of our cars. We had the doors open and we were listening to KROQ, and we were like, “Yes! We made it! We made it!” (laughing)
Traci: As you head off on a tour, is there something that you have with you – a specific food or random item?
Kil: There’s two things I have. A little portable turntable. It’s a little Numark scratch turntable I can take everywhere and just scratch. It’s either that or a little mini keyboard, and sometimes I take both. (laughing) Because I always have to… Well… Also with that comes a speaker. I always travel with a speaker, a little portable Bluetooth speaker because I’m always listening to music. I’m going to switch my answer! I’m going to say a speaker or headphones.
Traci: You have a fill in for bassist Ben Kenney as he had a brain tumor removed. How is he doing?
Kil: He’s doing well. He had surgery back in November, I think it was, and it was to remove a tumor from behind his ear. It’s going to take him a while to recover, but he’s doing well. I have a couple of friends that actually had that same surgery, and they all have different recovery times, so I think Ben’s kind of in the middle of that process.
Traci: There are so many incredible summer tours going on – Taylor, Beyonce. How many costume changes and choreographed dances should I expect on the Incubus tour?
Kil: If you count Brandon taking his shirt off as a costume change, I’d say one, maybe two. Since Ben’s recovering, we have fill-in bass player Nicole Row. She’s from Panic! at the Disco, and that’s kind of her background. She came over to us and she just fit in with us perfectly, which is really great. Because of that, Mikey is really loving moving around onstage, which he doesn’t normally do, so there might be a choreographed dance by the end of this tour.
Traci: I’ve seen the clips of you swinging your hair around, so I’m ready for that.
Kil: Oh, yeah. I like to rock out. I get lost. I have the in-ears in, and I try to keep the sound of what I’m listening to as close to the record. I don’t really hear the audience too well, and I’m just in my own world rocking out. I could see them, but I can’t hear them.
Traci: Are you ready to hit the road again?
Kil: We’re just excited to be out and touring. Usually we’re doing all the “A” markets, all the big cities and things like that. This tour is kind of, just on the outskirts of all those cities, and places we haven’t gone to in a really long time, so we’re super stoked about that.
Traci: Sweet! I am looking forward to it! Now, please go give Blossom an extra treat.
Kil: I’ll do that today, just for you.
Thank you so much to Kil for the update and OC Music News will report on the Nashville show next month.
Incubus will hit more than 30 cities this summer, including Eugene, Indianapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Niagara Falls, and Atlantic City, before playing the historic Hollywood Bowl on October 6th. Incubus will be joined by Badflower and Paris Jackson on most dates, but the Los Angeles show features Action Bronson and Paris Jackson.