Kino
Radio Voltaire
23/03/2018
Special Edition CD Digipak, Gatefold black 2LP+CD, Digital album
It's been 13 years since Kino released their debut album 'Picture'. But at last they are back with a second album, 'Radio Voltaire', which in every sense sees a partial return to what we already know and love about them. But also a spread in fresh directions.

“I was originally planning on doing a third Lonely Robot album,” says John Mitchell. “But it was suggested this might be too soon. And then InsideOut suggested the idea of doing this new Kino album. So, I got together with Pete Trewavas when Marillion played the Royal Albert Hall in London, talked about the idea of doing this – and then we went for it.”

This has certainly not been a lengthy project spun out over several years. Rather, it has been something of a concerted effort in a short space of time.

“We actually began the writing process in late August. Pete had a few tunes and so did I, and we went from there.”

Now, Mitchell and Trewavas were both a crucial part of the original band more than a decade ago, with the former providing lead vocals and guitar parts, while the latter played his trademark bass lines and also contributed backing vocals. Keyboard player John Beck, who is also a bandmate of Mitchell's in It Bites, has been brought back. But while he was fully involved on the debut album, this time his role is that of a guest musician.

“Yes, I am delighted to say we've gone John on board. His keyboard playing is splattered throughout the album, I've also done the odd keyboard part myself.”

However, drummer Chris Maitland is not featured this time around, with this task falling to Craig Blundell.

“Chris had actually already left the band before we had finished 'Picture', because he was committed to the Queen musical 'We Will Rock You', which was fair enough. So, this time around Craig was the obvious choice to be the drummer, as far as I was concerned. I have worked with him so much that there was nobody else in the frame.”

The recording sessions were done over a two month period at the end of 2017, with Mitchell producing, co-ordinating, and organising everything.

“It wasn't a case of doing the sessions in blocks. We just put our heads down and went for it, with people coming in to do their bits, as and when they were able. John got his contribution done before going off on tour with Fish, for instance.

“Pete came down with ideas for three songs already sketched out, and we just completed these ready to record. I have worked so much with him over the years that it was a very smooth process.”
It might surprise many, but there's even a bass solo on one number here.

“Yes, he does this on the song 'Out Of Time', which is also the longest one on the album, coming in at about 10 minutes in duration. There are 11 tracks in all, and most of these are actually quite short. There are also no instrumental pieces, either.”
The song of which Mitchell is most enthusiastic is the one that ends the album.

“That is titled 'The Silent Fighter Pilot', and I am very proud of what we did there. But throughout the record I wanted to do things which were a bit weird. I was keen to try out different things, which maybe you would not expect to hear on a progressive album. It helps to keep things fresh, and gives a new slant on the way we view things.

“There's no overall concept here. Nor was there any pressure to ensure the music had a particular sound or style. That certainly gave us extra freedom. We could just go out and do what we wanted, without having to fit things into a definite pattern. However, I would also say it's come out as not being so different from what we did on the first record. All of us knew, though, that if we felt like going down any musical road, then we were able to do it. The burden of expectation was lifted and that was a massive relief. We could be true to ourselves and what we believed was right for the music.”

The album itself also represents the band's determination to reach across any barriers and to challenge some of society's norms.

“The title sounds very cool and obviously there's a connection with the band Cabaret Voltaire. But Voltaire himself (the 18th century French philosopher) had a fascination with death, which appealed to me. He also stood for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. On top of that, I love the idea of a radio station that would reflect his views on life and cut through the bullshit which seems to be all over politics. Now, that is the type of radio station I think would reflect what a lot of us want to hear.”

The album cover has been designed by Paul Tippett, who is one of the most in demand artists of the modern era.

“I like what he's done with this sleeve. It reminds me of Moulin Rouge meets 'Live And Let Die'. It is very striking, and I am sure everyone will have their own interpretation of what it reminds them of.”

Right now, there are no plans for Kino to tour on the back of this album. However, as Mitchell points out, doing live dates was never a factor in the decision to make 'Radio Voltaire'.

“We wanted to make this album purely for the music, and not because of anything else which might or might not happen. This is about the songs you'll hear – that is the sole emphasis.”

And how would Mitchell describe what fans might expect to hear from Kino is 2018?

“It is a collection of pop songs. But ones we have messed around with. But there are a lot of happy tracks here, although towards the end we do get miserable!”

If you want to know just how Mitchell et al have deconstructed their pop sensibilities and taken the tracks in fresh directions... well, you'll have to listen!

Malcolm Dome
London, January 2018