THE DEAD STARS ON HOLLYWOOD
Kneel Cohn is the vegan frontman of The Dead Stars On Hollywood, a four-piece glittery glam rock band located in New York City. They've supported Placebo, worked with British producer Fran Ashcroft (Blur, Lords Of Acid) and have been described as 'the 21st century T-Rex meets Love And Rockets. If you like a bit of futuristic sparkly glam pop, then The Dead Stars On Hollywood are for you.
Shari Black Velvet: ‘Prozac Smile’’s intro screams Sigue Sigue Sputnik while the main body of it is almost a glittery glam rock Marilyn Manson. Do you agree with that description and do you think the world is ready for a combination of the two?
Kneel Cohn: ‘Prozac Smile’’s intro was most definitely intended as a nod to Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Around that time I had been corresponding with Tony James about playing keyboards/guitar in Sigue Sigue for a reunion tour of theirs. I was pretty excited at the thought of it because I had always felt that conceptually Sigue Sigue were way ahead of their time. Nothing became of our conversations but just even having the exchange was quite flattering. If Marilyn Manson approached me about joining his band, at that point the world may be a step closer to a nice mesh of the two styles.
SBV: The band has been around for quite a while in one form or another. You used to be based in LA/Portland before relocating to New York? How have you found the changes in the music scene during your time in the business and how come you haven’t taken over the world already?
KC: I discovered a huge difference between the music scenes in Portland and New York City and an enormous change in the way the music industry does business over the last ten years. When the band formed originally in Portland I had certain aspirations that may have included taking over the world. Over time and living through many different experiences, I realized by watching some of my friends in the music industry that I’d much prefer taking over only the better aspects of the world. Distinguishing the good parts takes time. Unfortunately a few of the people I’ve seen attempt to take over the world have wound up dead.
SBV: Your four track EP ‘Anthems For The Friendly-Fire Generation’ has four tracks - ‘Prozac Smile’, ‘Flaunt It Like This’, ‘Bang Bang Love’ and ‘Planet Girl’. Which do you think is the strongest song and can you tell me about the subject matter of each?
KC: The strongest song would be the one that moves me most at that time, changing from moment to moment. I’ve been sexual with all of the songs and find myself attracted to each of them for different reasons. I feel that the best way to enjoy them is to leave the interpretation of their meanings to each person individually, that’s art.
SBV: If you lived on a planet with only girls, how much would you love life? What would be the worst thing about living on a planet with only girls?
KC: About three weeks of the month would be pretty interesting but the other week or so would be confusing and mentally exhausting as the entire planet explodes into complete emotional upheaval. I’d be shipped off in a body bag right away but I’m sure there’s a lovely song in there somewhere.
SBV: Some of those songs have been around a while. ‘Prozac Smile’ appeared in the motion picture ‘Blast’ back in 2000. Have you got much new material written and can you tell me about any of that?
KC: 'Prozac Smile' getting on a movie soundtrack right out of the box was such a lucky fluke and really unexpected so early on. We’ve probably got about three solid albums worth of new material since then and have been writing and performing live over the last few years. Some of our favourites will be on our next release 'Sexy TV Trash' which we’re recording here in New York City and comes out this fall. At that time we’ll be looking for new label distribution and planning a US tour.
SBV: ‘I can have everything I want’ you sing in ‘Flaunt It Like This’. What do you most want right now?
KC: Actually when I sang the line 'I can have anything I want' it was written and sung as another person’s perspective, a real celebrity dirtbag of a person because I could never justify buying a $100,000 car. I haven’t really given much thought about what I’d want if I could have anything but I have a feeling that emotional stability and an amazing girlfriend would be at the top of that list. A little spending money wouldn’t hurt either.
SBV: What are some of the highlights you’ve had in the live setting? Stand out shows you’ve played?
KC: I love playing live and I like the notion that each show is going to feel a little different. I’ve had some nice times drenched in sweat spacing out into the lights and crowd. Some of the high marks have been purely from the energy of the band on stage as well as getting to meet some of the musicians I’ve admired over the years. A few that stick out right now would be playing with Pete from the Dandy Warhols on 'Planet Girl', supporting Placebo on their tour, playing the Rated X Panty Party here in New York City and the live studio taping for Fearless Music are all memorable ones.
SBV: If you went on a six month tour of the world, what food would you demand were a part of your rider?
KC: Not that I’d get it but I think I’d demand General Tso Tofu, vegetables and rice!
SBV: That obviously leads me nicely onto the vegan questions! What’s it like being a vegan in New York?
KC: New York City is one of the greatest cities to be vegan in. There are so many choices of world class all-vegetarian/vegan restaurants here serving every imaginable cuisine. The grocery and health food stores here are also great which makes food shopping easy and there's plenty of veggie activist and networking events. It certainly has spoiled me for other cities.
SBV: You’ve set up Vegetable Slut, a vegan T-shirt and button/badge company. How’s that going?
KC: Vegetable Slut officially launched in April 2009 and since I’ve had a great reception from people. The very first one I designed 'Vegan As Fuck' was actually a few years ago and I really just did it for myself. The overwhelming response from people who saw it was “you should sell those”! Then I decided to start making them and giving them away to friends and now the Vegetable Slut line is being sold in stores around the US. I’ve gotten online orders from as far away as Denmark and one of the coolest things about expanding is connecting with other people around the world who embrace & promote the same cause.
SBV: A personal fave is the TO/FU Let There Be Soy design – based on AC/DC’s 'Let There Be Rock'. Which of your buttons do you most often wear? Or do you wear them all?
KC: Yes, I have a lot of respect for AC/DC! Right now I’m partial to both the Tofu Mafia and TO/FU t-shirts and buttons. That will of course change with my moods and until the next new designs come out.
SBV: Do you ever think the planet will be 100% vegan?
KC: Although it would be a much more peaceful planet that way, according to the Hubble Constant the universe is estimated to be expanding at a rate of over 70km per second so it looks like the idea of veganism will never be able to catch up on this planet or any other.
SBV: You describe yourself on your MySpace page as ‘a beautiful loser, a wandering star, an existential detective’. Why, why and why?
KC: Hehe. I didn’t realize people are actually reading the stuff I had posted on my myspace page! I always seek out and drench myself in the most symbolic moments I find in life and have the uncanny ability to appreciate some of the simplest things as well. I think embracing both my successes and dismal failures make me a much stronger person. Knowing this I consider myself a beautiful loser because when I fail… I do it magnificently!
You can check out the Dead Stars On Hollywood at: http://www.myspace.com/deadstarsonhollywood