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Kong - Biography

This band's profile is 'invisible', meaning that it's much less prominent on the site - either because it's incomplete, or maybe doesn't entirely fit MS format.


Kong started out in 1988 as a side project for Amsterdam-based musicians Dirk De Vries (guitar, samples), Mark Drillich (bass), Rob Smits (drums), soon joined by Aldo Sprenger (guitar).

Being pure instrumentalists they never felt the need to add vocals (let alone lyrics) to the music and also musical direction or style never was an issue. As a result Kong began to develop a unique style that was very hard to pigeonhole. It has, none the less, been described as "an unscrupulous musical collage melding elements of heavy metal, progressive rock, electronica, and the avant-garde, all of it backed up by extensive sampling and quirky sound effects".

Kong's music has remained 99 percent instrumental (even when played backwards!), and live performances are played in a quadraphonical live set-up, an idea that came from one of Kong's very first gigs. On the opening-night of an art exhibition in a squatted Amsterdam bathhouse there was too little space for the band to play together, so each band member took his/her own independent stage and P.A.-stack by his/her side to one corner of the club. It proved an interesting set-up for the band and created a strange experience for the audience. They followed the same approach for their next gig at the Melkweg in Amsterdam and since then hardly ever played together on one stage again. In this set-up the soundengineer (Frits Veenstra, later followed by Hans Bijleveld) plays an important role spreading the sound over the four P.A. stacks and creating a 'three-dimensional' and 'moving' soundscape. Also the lightengineers (Claes Meijer and Frits Zwaanswijk) contribute significantly to the atmosphere by lighting the individual musicians (and thus the whole space) and following and emphasizing the twists and turns of the music.

In summer of 1988 Kong recorded a demotape in their rehearsal room; a bunker-like space underneath a bridge in the Amsterdam Vondelpark which was the club where Pink Floyd made their Dutch debut in the 60's. At the time that Kong started working there it was still an official atomic-bomb shelter. An installation of eight bikes stood at the ready to provide electricity in the event that the Russians finally came…

This demo ended up at Peaceville Records, an English (mostly death-) metal label which was in the process of setting up a sublabel for 'alternative, not purely metal' bands. Kong became the first signing on the new Dreamtime label and debuted with 'Mute Poet Vocalizer' in 1990. Even before the release of 'Mute Poet Vocalizer' Kong toured regularly across Europe, drawing widespread praise from "in-the-know" critics and building a selective but dedicated fan base capable of grasping the group's bizarrely sonic architecture.

The 1992 'Phlegm' recording carried on in much the same way, that is to say - honouring the principle that anything and everything is permitted and possible in rockmusic. Phlegm remained firmly rooted in heavy guitars and pounding drums but influences from (electronic) dance music also slowly crept in. Critics praised Kong's liberal, abstract approach to rockmusic, generously cultivating the idea that these guys must have been under a constant influence of several mind expanding weeds, which was not the case (at least not when making music).

In 1994 Kong started working on their next album 'Push Comes To Shove' which was the first to be recorded and produced outside of their own rehearsal room/studio. Tom Holkenborg, with whom Kong members had been in contact since their former lives in various 80's bands, and who later became well known as Junkie XL, recorded and produced the album in the Telesound Studio In Leeuwarden (NL). His production contributed significantly to the over-all sound of the music, making it heavier on one hand and more danceable on the other.

While working closely for almost seven years , completing several European tours and enjoying steady sales in many countries, Kong nearly ceased to exist when drummer Rob Smits and guitarist Aldo Sprenger left the band after realizing that their inspiration and motivation had dried up after recording 'Push Comes To Shove'. They were replaced by drummer Rob Snijders and guitarist Marieke Verdonk (formerly Morzelpronk) with whom Kong embarked on a new tour.

In the meantime the Peaceville/Dreamtime Records label was taken over by Music For Nations, a major record company. Neither Kong nor MFN felt their relationship was going to be a fruitful one so a new record company had to be found. Enter Roadrunner Records (NL) who had also just signed Tom Holkenborg's Junkie XL.

Kong started working on a new album and entered a new era. Relinquishing some of the excessively over-bearing elements of their sound, they sought to pursue a more fluid, even lighthearted approach which resulted in the1997 Earmined. This album was once again recorded in their Vondelpark rehearsal room (bunker) and mixed by Tom Holkenborg.

In 1998, after another tour, Rob Snijders departed (going on to join stoned rockers Celestial Season) while Marieke decided she wanted to have less to do with the process of songwriting.

This gave Dirk and Mark the chance to experiment with a new approach. Up to that point the music had been conceived by all four members sitting and jamming together in the rehearsal room. But now, instead of playing and composing as a group, Dirk and Mark worked individually on ideas, mostly on the computer after which the other musicians added their parts. Former colleague Rob Smits was asked to play drums on a couple of songs and also new recruit Klaas Broekema (formerly Silkscreen) delivered several rhythm tracks. This resulted in the album 'Freakcontrol' which was recorded and mixed in the Vondelpark and produced by Dirk and Mark with a helping hand of Tom Holkenborg as co-producer.

After finishing their European tour Kong decided it was time for a break. Especially Dirk and Mark felt that 12 years of writing songs, recording albums and doing so many gigs had been enough for a while.

Kong decided to embark on an open-ended sabbatical so that its members could explore other interests and activities.

In 2001 Dreamtime/Peaceville took advantage of this period of silence to release self-explanatory '88•95' a compliation of the first three albums with a couple of previously unreleased bonustracks.

In 1999 Kong decided it was time for a break, the last concert was in January 2000 and it was unclear whether the band would continue at some point or simply cease to exist. All members got involved in different musical projects untill after almost seven years bassist Mark D. felt a desire to check if there was any life left in the old monster. It soon became clear that none of the former musicians were available so he decided to find new fellow souls to revive the band.

Guitarist Tijs Keverkamp was the first to join, followed a few months later by drummer Mandy Hopman. Together they started working on new material and recorded a 3 song demo which was presented on MySpace beginning of 2008.

A few months later guitarist David Kox completed the new line-up.

Recordings for a new album started in August 2008 in the Kong studio in Amsterdam and were engineered and mixed by former guitarist Dirk de Vries.

In March 2009 the new album entitled "What It Seems Is What You Get" was released on Kong's own Kongenial Records and got pretty much attention and good reviews in the european press. Right after the release Kong started touring again with a 3/4 new line-up and 3/4 new repertoire. And again with their original 'old' quadraphonical set-up.