This Mike Krol article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup Contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster. Photo by Fran Calabuig Miralles
The musical aspect of Krol is one that “cuts out all the fat and just keeping it real, to the bone, letting the songs have the attitude”. To some, this is something that they aren’t ordinarily used to, and to others it’s simply not enough. Of course, as with most aspects in life, we’re never content. Speaking about the reaction to his album, which has been fantastically positive, he says “the biggest criticism I’ve been getting on this album is just that it’s short, and I’m like, that was the point, I want it to be short”. The idea behind the albums is that they should be easily digested, appearing almost as one long song without any filler, so you don’t have time to get bored – an art form in itself in an age where people want things yesterday and haven’t got time for anything.
When you first take glance at the artwork for his new record ‘Turkey’, you’ll see Krol in full cop uniform, real moustache included, on a harsh red background surrounded by a border of flowers. Something that was, as we’ve already discovered with Krol, perfectly designed and executed for maximum effectiveness. “The thinking behind the whole thing was just do whatever everyone else isn’t doing…if anything people might just come to it and be like what is this?”. It’s this kind of thinking that proves Krol is one step ahead of the crowd, and it’s something that is slowly working for him; “I was just trying to make myself laugh…I actually got an album called ‘Turkey’ on a respectable label, distributed everywhere, with me wearing a cop outfit…I’m more excited to think about in like 15 to 20 years when the record shows up in used in a shop and some kid has no idea…”.
In terms of the cop imagery, its main influence was in fact the T-1000 from Terminator 2 – a film that “you’d beg your parents to see”. This also ties in well with Krol’s move to LA (the film is set there), and the mid-80’s/early-90’s LA punk scene, with acts such as Black Flag, who were also an influence, and coincidentally feature heavy cop imagery. It’s a seemingly perfect, ordained system that led to this moment. The band currently play live using homemade cop outfits, with help from the bassist Phil’s roommate, who also happens to be a seamstress, though the stage setup could potentially get even more in-depth. When playing shows in the US they’ve been using fake barbwire, police lights and a smoke machine, though for this tour ideally the band would’ve had a different police uniform dependant on country, for us in England it would’ve been the Royal Guards, but expense unfortunately put a stop to that.
For someone who has a background in graphic design as well as music, I wanted to find out who he considers as his major non-musical influences, “Barney Bubbles, he was the art director for Stiff records…he was an artist more than graphic designer…everything had its own touch”. In reference to the promotional Elvis Costello poster that was printed in several printed publications in 1977 to be cut out and pieced together, I suggested Krol do this for his next release, “I’ve actually thought I want to do some 7”’s, that’s really what I want to do next”, a series of 7” singles would suit his output perfectly, keeping to the short and DIY aesthetic he’s both influenced by and recreating himself. The entirety of the new record was done on the cheap, meaning that instead of the CD and record costing the usual prices, he can sell them at a lower price (£10 for a record is a rare sight in the current climate). While over in the UK he’s been making the most of the ability to immerse himself in the musical history, as well as taking home some artefacts not easily picked up in the US, “when I got into town today I got a load of 45’s from Piccadilly Records…I’ve just been buying UK 7”’s that I can’t normally get…you know like Sex Pistols, they always look cool”. He also mentions Jamie Reid, the anarchist artist that designed the sleeves for Sex Pistols, including the infamous sleeve for ‘Never Mind the Bollocks…’
Mike Krol is certainly a rare breed. You seldom hear or feel the passion for both music and design, two worlds that often marry in spirit. Warhol and The Velvet Underground fueled the fire in the 60’s, and in the modern age it’s lost its way. Krol is re-building it from the ground up with his ideology and ethos, cutting the bullshit and keeping it alive. Who says a twenty minute album can’t change the world?