Nikolas (IV)

Kite Flying Robot Reunion Show & Interview

The Interview

The Interview

Kite Flying Robot sprang from the sin¬≠gu¬≠lar vision of Nikolas ‚ÄúKite‚ÄĚ Thompson. The band itself has seen a rotat¬≠ing cast of play¬≠ers over the years based on the exi¬≠gen¬≠cies of a nomadic lifestyle: there‚Äôs the California lineup (Thompson as solo artist), the Oklahoma lineup, and the lineup for South Korea. Thompson cur¬≠rently resides and plays in Seoul.

Thompson returned to Oklahoma for a short time in mid-February for a reunion con¬≠cert at Oklahoma City‚Äôs Blue Note Lounge, fol¬≠lowed by a sec¬≠ond show at Tulsa‚Äôs Soundpony Lounge.

Mercury Photo BureauI under¬≠stand that Kite Flying Robot started out as a one man DIY thing?

Nikolas ‚ÄúKite‚ÄĚ ThompsonI‚Äôve played in rock bands my whole life, and I moved out to the [San Francisco] Bay [Area] after get¬≠ting my B.A. in English. And I knew I wanted to be a writer, so I moved out there and kinda did a ‚Äúhome¬≠less‚ÄĚ thing for a while, and tried to [write]. I was [‚Ķ] pas¬≠sion¬≠ate about both music and writ¬≠ing, but I [‚Ķ] fig¬≠ured writ¬≠ing [as a career] was more portable. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to [make] music again, and I wanted to do some¬≠thing com¬≠pletely dif¬≠fer¬≠ent [than I had been doing]. I started get¬≠ting into elec¬≠tronic music, [so] I got a really bad sequencer and some other equip¬≠ment and I tried to do elec¬≠tronic music with¬≠out really know¬≠ing any¬≠thing about it.

Nikolas (V)
Nikolas (V)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

MPBWhat was your pre¬≠vi¬≠ous musi¬≠cal experience?

Nikolas[I was a] gui¬≠tar player and [singer], and I sort of plateaued out as far as gui¬≠tar skill. I‚Äôd say that even now, I only play slightly bet¬≠ter than back in 2004 or when¬≠ever that was. So I started [mak¬≠ing] music at home, and I decided to do acoustic gui¬≠tar with beats and sequences. I like verses and cho¬≠ruses; I see some bands that just use a loop pedal and kinda do the same thing and build on it and build on it and build on it, and while that‚Äôs cool, I like to change chords from part to part and come up with bridges [‚Ķ].

So I got into sequenc¬≠ing using this [‚Ķ] Korg Triton TR, which is not a ter¬≠ri¬≠ble machine, but for sequenc¬≠ing is a pain in the butt. So I started doing that, but I did it with an acoustic gui¬≠tar, because I knew I was going to be doing it by myself. Even though I still liked rock music and elec¬≠tric gui¬≠tar ‚Ķ I thought it would be cheesy if I was up their by myself with a drum machine and an elec¬≠tric gui¬≠tar. That prob¬≠a¬≠bly stemmed from pre¬≠vi¬≠ous acts I‚Äôd seen, with a guy with an elec¬≠tric gui¬≠tar with heavy dis¬≠tor¬≠tion, and it seemed cheesy, and it was like I was watch¬≠ing some¬≠body in their bed¬≠room like, dick around on their gui¬≠tar. So I did the acoustic thing with some beats.

And I sort of learned my way, and I made my first Kite Flying Robot album, and it was, uh, I don‚Äôt really release it now, because I don‚Äôt think it‚Äôs that great, but I think I learned a lot in the process.

MPBI saw that it was still avail¬≠able on your Bandcamp page.

NikolasIt is. [‚Ķ] I think if some¬≠one really wanted to go through it and find it, I fig¬≠ure, well, what¬≠ever. I don‚Äôt pro¬≠mote it; I took it off iTunes, because it costs yearly money to put it on there. Even though it sold some¬≠times, I just was like, eh. I just don‚Äôt even care, you know, and I‚Äôd rather‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČand I was work¬≠ing on Solid gold, the songs that would become Solid Gold [‚Ķ]‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČand I‚Äôd rather that be [people‚Äôs] first listen [‚Ķ].

MPBI was glad to hear you prac¬≠tic¬≠ing Red Phone Booth dur¬≠ing rehearsal ear¬≠lier. What‚Äôs the lyric about the filthy machine mean? Is it the answer¬≠ing machine?

NikolasI guess that could be any¬≠thing you want, but, uh, have you ever been in a phone booth before?

MPBOh yeah; they‚Äôre not clean.

NikolasWhat‚Äôs funny is, some¬≠time I‚Äôll write lyrics [‚Ķ] and I won‚Äôt really think about things; things‚Äôll just come out; and I never [‚Ķ] meant filthy machine to mean red phone booth. But later on, I thought about it‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthis hap¬≠pens with most of my songs‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI thought about it and I real¬≠ized what it meant to me on some sub¬≠con¬≠scious level [‚Ķ].

Blonde Bomb was like that. I just came up with all these ideas [‚Ķ] and later on [‚Ķ] the lyrics‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČit was basi¬≠cally like a prophetic song; some¬≠thing hap¬≠pened to me that was exactly, uh, exactly those lyrics, but [‚Ķ] after the fact. Specific things, like On the Rhine, [‚Ķ], that had hap¬≠pened before, but some of the other things, like the [‚Ķ] heart¬≠break aspect of Blonde Bomb, hap¬≠pened later.

Tanya (III)
Tanya (III)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

MPBIf you live long enough, that‚Äôs gonna hap¬≠pen. It‚Äôs like cancer.

Nikolas[laughs] Yeah.

MPBIn the song Criminal Supervixen, you drop a few cul¬≠tural ref¬≠er¬≠ences. Just lis¬≠ten¬≠ing to you rehearse it, I caught Jay-Z, Disney, for a minute there I thought you were ref¬≠er¬≠enc¬≠ing [Brian] Eno, but that was ‚Äú801,‚ÄĚ not ‚Äú808,‚ÄĚ so I have no idea what that one is ‚ÄĒ

Nikolas808 is a drum machine;ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was one of the first com¬≠mer¬≠cially avail¬≠able pro¬≠gram¬≠ma¬≠ble drum machines.] 39 Steps is ‚ÄĒ

MPB‚ÄĒ of course, that‚Äôs Hitchcock, so, how do those ref¬≠er¬≠ences fit into your lyri¬≠cal intent?

NikolasI guess I just thought it was funny, but [‚Ķ] it‚Äôs also part of what I enjoy in life; I just sort of like, 101, 808, I mean, I just‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI thought it was funny, and I did used to use 808 sam¬≠ples, and I‚Äôm a huge [Alfred] Hitchcock fan; he‚Äôs prob¬≠a¬≠bly my favorite direc¬≠tor. Not par¬≠tic¬≠u¬≠larly a fan of 101 Dalmations, but I do like some of those older, darker Disney films. They had a huge impact on me when I was grow¬≠ing up. And then Jay-Z is just cool. And I just thought it was funny to ref¬≠er¬≠ence, because the first line is, I got 99 prob¬≠lems, and peo¬≠ple imme¬≠di¬≠ately think, Jay-Z, and then the next line being 101 Dalmations is just funny.

Christi (I)
Christi (I)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

MPBYou say Disney movies were kind of a big influ¬≠ence, so, how old are you and when was your childhood?

NikolasI wouldn‚Äôt say they were a big influ¬≠ence, but [children‚Äôs] movies they make now aren‚Äôt nearly as dark as they were back then. I was born in 1980, so I got to see The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail ‚ÄĒ

MPBMovies where there was a real sense of dan¬≠ger for the child protagonists ‚ÄĒ

Nikolas‚ÄĒ and like that early Disney stuff, like Robin Hood, Lady and the Tramp ‚ÄĒ

MPBDumbo‚Äôs my favorite.

NikolasYeah, Dumbo, Pinocchio, those are dark as hell.

MPBThat pink ele¬≠phant scene, oh man ‚Ķ

NikolasSpeaking of the pink ele¬≠phant scene, this is [funny]; when you get home, take your copy of Solid Gold, put in the song Solid Gold and go to YouTube and look up that pink ele¬≠phant scene and [play them together with the video sound muted]ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: No need to do that, as we‚Äôve com¬≠bined them for you here.] [‚Ķ] It‚Äôs weird how it lines up.

Kite Flying Robot vs. the Pink Elephants (Solid Gold)

MPBKinda got a Dark Side of the Moon thing goin‚Äô on there. How did you fig¬≠ure that out?

NikolasI don‚Äôt know. [pauses to think] I‚Äôm not sure. How did I fig¬≠ure that out? I think I down¬≠loaded Dumbo when I moved to Korea, 10 months ago. ‚Äôcause I had all this time, and I down¬≠loaded all these movies I hadn‚Äôt seen in for¬≠ever, and I was just watch¬≠ing, and I was like, Oh! This is that scene I remem¬≠ber watch¬≠ing as a kid, with all the pink ele¬≠phants! And it had this kind of BOM! Bom! BOM! Bom! tempo to it, that was just spot on [‚Ķ].

BOM! Bom! BOM! Bom!

MPBYou moved to Korea 10 months ago, so what‚Äôs the story on that?

Nikolas[‚Ķ] Sometimes the arrows of life point you through a door, and ‚ÄĒ

MPBThat‚Äôs pretty vague ‚Ķ

NikolasThere are some things that I can‚Äôt artic¬≠u¬≠late, but what I can [say] is there were some debts com¬≠ing to a head; I was hav¬≠ing a hard time sav¬≠ing money in Tulsa‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI had 2 jobs; I worked almost 60‚ÄĮhours a week and I was not happy, because I was not get¬≠ting any time for music. I was work¬≠ing and being exhausted and I wasn‚Äôt able to pay much [of my debt] even though I was work¬≠ing that much [‚Ķ]. I‚Äôve left Oklahoma before, and I just kinda needed to do it again.

Todd
Todd‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

MPBAre you orig¬≠i¬≠nally from Oklahoma?

NikolasYeah.

MPBSo, things are work­ing out for you in Korea? Are you teach­ing ESL?

NikolasYes. I re-signed for a part-time job, ‚Äôcause now my debts are pretty much [‚Ķ] paid off. [‚Ķ] I paid [almost] all that back in 4 months [‚Ķ]. The new [job] is part-time [so I can devote more time to music].

MPBDo you find that, with the extra time, you put the work in on music, or is there a temp¬≠ta¬≠tion to just go, say, sit in the park instead?

NikolasI [‚Ķ] get really depressed if I‚Äôm not [being] pro¬≠lific, so there‚Äôs always a dri¬≠ving force [‚Ķ].

MPBSince you were born in the 80s, you actu¬≠ally missed disco, but I hear a lot of disco vamps in your music. There was a gui¬≠tar riff that Alex [Larrea] played dur¬≠ing rehearsal that sounded like pre-Beegees disco, prob¬≠a¬≠bly by way of James Brown. Have you lis¬≠tened to a lot of disco?

NikolasNo, but the 80s had Italo disco,ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: An early form of elec¬≠tronic dance music asso¬≠ci¬≠ated with the ZYX record label. Drum machines and syn¬≠the¬≠siz¬≠ers were preva¬≠lent in the genre‚Äôs sound, with lyrics usu¬≠ally sung in English. Its most notable prac¬≠ti¬≠tioner may be com¬≠poser Giorgio Moroder.] pio¬≠neered by Giorgio Moroder [‚Ķ]. In the United States, peo¬≠ple were very anti-disco once that, in 1979 ‚ÄĒ

MPBRight; there was that infa¬≠mous record burn¬≠ing at Wrigley Field.

NikolasSo, you lis¬≠ten to even the stuff that Giorgio Moroder pro¬≠duced after that, like Call Me by Blondie, um ‚ÄĒ

Tanya FelterThe last of the disco era [shifted] into the 80s ‚ÄĒ

NikolasBut, I mean, he‚Äôs European, so‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČItalo disco was alive and well at dis¬≠coth√®ques in Europe in the 80s. [Later,] I [‚Ķ] dis¬≠cov¬≠ered it, some¬≠how, and I‚Äôd, like, never heard of it before, and I liked the tim¬≠bres [‚Ķ] of the vin¬≠tage ana¬≠log synths more than‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČas much as I like‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI liked some disco songs [‚Ķ] from the 70s, but, you know, I like some¬≠thing about [Italo disco‚Äôs] synth bass [‚Ķ], and 808 claps; it‚Äôs just [‚Ķ] really cool.

Alex (I)
Alex (I)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

MPBI notice you‚Äôre using a lot of gated per¬≠cus¬≠sion sounds‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČpretty typ¬≠i¬≠cal of 80s production.

NikolasYeah.

MPBTanya, since you‚Äôre here, you wanna tell me how you met this bloke?

TanyaWell I was play¬≠ing in a band called Ghosts of Monkshood. They were together [for] 2‚ÄĮyears before I joined them, and then I was with them for the last [‚Ķ] 4‚ÄĮyears. We were always look¬≠ing for peo¬≠ple to play with, and some¬≠one had men¬≠tioned Kite Flying Robot and that my friend Krista was in it. And I thought, Oh, that‚Äôs cool.

NikolasThe first offi¬≠cial other mem¬≠ber‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČwhen I moved back to Oklahoma, I wanted to expand [Kite Flying Robot]‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČand I met this girl named Krista, and she was really nice, and a great vocal¬≠ist, and we hit it off. And we became best friends, so she joined the band.

More Tambourine
More Tambourine‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

TanyaSo, we were always look¬≠ing for peo¬≠ple to play with [‚Ķ]; I def¬≠i¬≠nitely liked what I heard [from Kite Flying Robot], so we played a show together at the HiLo [Lounge]. And that‚Äôs how we met.

And then, years later, Ghosts of Monkshood was falling apart, and I‚Äôm actu¬≠ally at a CD release party for another band, Brother Gruesome, and Nikolas is there, and there‚Äôs karaoke after¬≠wards. So I got up and sang some Siouxsie and the Banshees and Nikolas is like, Hey, we should sing a song together! So we sang a song by The Human League. And like, 2‚ÄĮdays later, we were like, Hey, do you wanna ‚ÄĒ

NikolasI rememem¬≠ber 2 things hap¬≠pen¬≠ing. There was that time, and the time we were hangin‚Äô out at Cookie‚Äôs. [‚Ķ] We con¬≠nected on both those nights. I remem¬≠ber when were at Cookie‚Äôs; we talked about Blondie that night.

MPBThe band mem¬≠ber¬≠ship is kind of fluid; I think I read some¬≠where that in some iter¬≠a¬≠tions there are as many as 13 people?

Tanya[laughs]

NikolasI haven‚Äôt added it up, but it‚Äôs prob¬≠a¬≠bly‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČoh, you mean at one time? No, it‚Äôs never been more than 5. The most peo¬≠ple on one song‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI have [‚Ķ] a new song com¬≠ing out that has a 30 piece choir on it. Actually, it‚Äôs dou¬≠bled, so 15 piece choir and maybe, 4 other musicians [‚Ķ].

TanyaThere‚Äôve just been a lot of peo¬≠ple in and out.

NikolasFor one rea¬≠son or another [‚Ķ]. I don‚Äôt think I‚Äôve ever really kicked any¬≠one out [‚Ķ].

MPBHave you tried any long dis¬≠tance col¬≠lab¬≠o¬≠ra¬≠tion, as far as try¬≠ing to lay down tracks and such?

NikolasYeah, I have. In Korea, the ver¬≠sion of Airplane Nosebleed was dif¬≠fer¬≠ent than what‚Äôs on the album, so I had Tanya [lay down] some vocals and viola at her friend‚Äôs house. And then, Mike [Rodriguez], who used to play drums for us, lives in L. A. now‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČhe does some pro¬≠duc¬≠ing, so he‚Äôs actu¬≠ally on bass and drums on the song I just men¬≠tioned, with the choir. [‚Ķ]

MPBYou‚Äôre play¬≠ing with¬≠out a bass gui¬≠tar tonight. Do you some¬≠times have a bass on stage?

NikolasNope. Every song has synth bass. Like, a good friend of mine who‚Äôs a really good bass player sort of hinted that he wanted to be in the band, and I was like, Well, if we do that, we‚Äôre not gonna have that [synth] sound. If I was gonna have a bass player [‚Ķ], I‚Äôd totally have you, but it would [‚Ķ] take away from that sound.

MPBI ask pretty much every musi¬≠cian I inter¬≠view to redeem a song; that is, tell us about a song that doesn‚Äôt get much respect, but that you really like, and tell us what‚Äôs so great about it.

Nikolas[‚Ķ] Donna Summer‚Äôs I Feel Love [‚Ķ]. A lot of peo¬≠ple, when you say the ‚ÄúD‚ÄĚ word, they get all freaked out. That‚Äôs another Giorgio Moroder-pro¬≠duced song. That‚Äôs, like, the one that maybe made [his reputation].

I saw in a doc¬≠u¬≠men¬≠tary that when that song came out, peo¬≠ple were just [‚Ķ] blown away; they didn‚Äôt know what to make of the sound. There was this arpeg¬≠giated synth bass underneath ‚ÄĒ

TanyaSynth and angels ‚ÄĒ

Nikolas[laughs] I‚Äôd say I like‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČnot every¬≠thing Moroder‚Äôs done, because he‚Äôs done some cheesy stuff [‚Ķ].

Nikolas (VII)
Nikolas (VII)‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČKite Flying Robot Reunion Show, Blue Note Lounge

MPBWhat are your future plans for Kite Flying Robot?

NikolasI don‚Äôt know, because I ride by the seat of my pants, and I take oppor¬≠tu¬≠ni¬≠ties when I find them. People are ask¬≠ing me how long I‚Äôm gonna stay in Korea, and I‚Äôm like, Well, I dunno. I thought I was gonna go for a year, and here I am going back. [‚Ķ]

I do play as Kite Flying Robot in Korea; I have a gui¬≠tarist [‚Ķ]; he‚Äôs Canadian ‚ÄĒ

MPB‚ÄĒ or does he just say that?

Nikolas[exas¬≠per¬≠ated chuckle] He‚Äôs Canadian. But I mean, uh, like Criminal Supervixen and Fire with Me and some of those songs don‚Äôt really go well with a full band, so I‚Äôm gonna release an EP with some kinda new stuff and all sequenced drums [‚Ķ].

MPBThank you very much, Nikolas Kite. 

Gallery: Rehearsal

Gallery: The Rehearsal

Gallery: The Show

Gallery: The Reunion Show

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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