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  • Tracy Heck

Koffin Kats celebrate 20 years

It's been 20 years since Detroit's own Koffin Kats started the band in their parent's basement and played for beer in local bars.

The psychobilly/punk band has been continuously touring and releasing new music ever since and are currently working on new music.

Over the years, the band has released 10 albums, gone through some member changes and played close to 3,000 live shows with both domestic and international touring.

On Saturday, June 24th, lead vocalist/upright bassist Vic Victor, guitarist Tommy Koffin and drummer Eric "E-Ball" Walls played a twentieth anniversary show in Detroit at the Magic Stick alongside openers Norcos Y Horchata, The Amino Acids and Suburban Delinquents.

After the show, Victor checked in with Rock Life to talk about how it went and to reflect on the last two decades of the band.

Rock Life: How did the 20th anniversary show go?

Vic Victor: We always try to be optimistic about our shows, but we really had no idea what to expect as far as hosting our own show at a larger venue like Magic Stick. We were pleasantly surprised because at the end of the day, there were close to 500 heads in there.

Every band on the show was rock solid. The crowd was great and it was just a good vibe all around. It was probably one of the best Detroit shows we've ever had, if not the best.

The crowd itself was just wild the whole time. It was a stellar night, I definitely have no complaints.

Rock Life: It can be really hard these days to get turnouts for local shows, but it looked like there were a lot of people there early to see the openers.

VV: Yeah! When Norcos hit the stage they already had 3/4 of the room full. It was great!

Rock Life: Do you have any other shows coming up?

VV:Yes, so we are playing in mid-August down in the Cincinnati area. We're doing this thing called Slasherfest, which is made up of a bunch of horror-punk bands. We're headlining that festival.

That's pretty much it for the summertime and then we'll get back into our regular rotation of shows starting in September.

Rock Life: And what can fans expect from the new music you're working on?

VV: Well, so far it's pretty fast and furious with the demos that we've been practicing. We actually intend on going into the studio towards the end of the month and then hopefully have it all wrapped up by the end of August so we can send it off to the presses.

It's going to be a 8-song release kind of mirroring our first release twenty years ago. We're going to do what we always do and kind of cover every style that we like. So far, I'm pretty stoked on the songs that we have.

Rock Life: You've always been a high- energy band and your stage show and videos always support that. Are you already picturing that translation to the stage when you are working on new tracks?

VV:Yeah, so we got fairly smart about how we write our songs and how we record our songs. In the past, it was always that we went in and jammed them live in the studio, but then we realized that maybe we could have recorded that faster because we always play it live faster

What we do now is we do demo tracks and then we practice all those tracks until we feel comfortable. Then I record our practices and I find whatever that tempo is and that's where I know we should record it at. We're trying to avoid that thing where people go, oh I saw them live and they played my favorite song, but it was twice as fast.

The new release is definitely going to be a high energy one and we're really looking forward to getting the new material out there. However, we're also one of those bands who don't want to fill our set with new material. We're fans of bands too and you want to hear the songs that you grew up on. We know our crowd is no different from us.

We try to appeal to what everybody wants to hear. We like to go over our Spotify and ITunes top twenty tracks and put together our setlist from there. That way no matter who comes out to our show, the odds are that we'll play something they will recognize.

Rock Life: When you started this band, did you ever imagine you'd still be here twenty years later?

VV:Not at all! Tommy and I talk about it all the time.

We're so lucky that we got here in one piece, just from how crazy the tours used to be! We still cut loose and everything, but we're not as reckless as we were.We all have families and stuff now, but yeah, it's wild that we're still here at this point.

We look forward to celebrating thirty years and hopefully forty years and we are not looking to slow down at all. We have a great system worked out with having good summertime work in Michigan and then hitting the road in the wintertime.

All three members of our band have a good balance to our lives. We're able to keep the band in our life and keep moving forward and keep everyone in our lives happy.

Rock Life: One of the best things you guys did early on was get out on the road and tour as much as you could. Would you agree that it's the biggest reason you've been so successful?

VV: Yes, that was always the idea of this band. I didn't just want to be another local band who just played around Detroit. I wanted to get out there. I just got lucky enough that a couple of my good friends that I'd known since high school were of the same mindset and agreed that it was do whatever it takes.

Essentially, we were living in a van or shuttle bus for like 4-6 years because we were playing over 250 shows a year. We were pretty much living on the road.

That was how we had to do it because it was a case of if you keep putting yourself out there and keep coming to those towns, people are going to remember you. All that work that we did in those early years has really paid off.

Now we don't get out to every city as much as we used to because we spend less time out on the road. We try to hit as many A and B markets that we can with an occasional C.

Rock Life: And you said fans can expect you back out in the fall/winter?

VV: Yes, we just worked out our proposed routing. One thing that we're doing differently now than in the past few years is that we're working with a booking agency again, a company called Crawl Space Booking who had helped us out a lot in the past with shows. It kind of became a natural progression.

We had been very DIY over the past few releases and tours, but we had been running into situations where certain clubs would only work with you if you're represented by a agency. Now being in the band booking database makes things a lot easier, not to mention that booking a tour is a lot of work.

Our drummer has been our booking agent for the last ten years and has been wanting to move to promoting us through media relations and stuff like that. Each of us has a job within the band: Tommy runs the merchandise online store and I'm in charge of getting all the merch together as well as recording and producing the music. I always tell bands that talent is one thing, but chemistry and having everybody be stoked to be in the band is the hardest part!

Yeah, I mean I see my bandmates everyday. I see them more than my own family sometimes. We all work closely together and have a very close relationship.

Rock Life: And I'm assuming your Detroit fans can expect your annual Thanksgiving Eve show?

VV: Absolutely! Right now we are just in the process of finding direct support. We originally wanted to have The Creepshow from Canada open, but they were having some issues and weren't going to be able to come over at that time. We're trying to find a special band with us as direct support.

Yeah, so it's definitely going to happen again and we even have our outfits picked out! I don't really know how it started because we never dress up for shows, but somehow Thanksgiving Eve has become the costume show for whatever reason.

We have a lot of fun with it! Last year's theme was Under The Sea and you'll just have to come out to see what this year's is going to be.

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