Kiosk: Getting it together

The band have a classic male/female partnership at their heart. Chris Mugan meets the songwriters in question

Now, from north London, comes a more subtle proposition. On paper, Kiosk may be a five-piece, but at their heart lies the songwriting duo of Donald Ross Skinner and Krissie Nicolson. Like The Kills, Skinner and Nicolson came together after a few false starts. Nicolson was part of the band for the Canadian rapper Spek (remember "I'm a Hippie", anyone?), while Skinner's last band, intriguingly, was Fiji, where The Kills' Jamie Hince plied his trade before he hooked up with Alison Mosshart.

Skinner, though, denies that he wants to ape Hince's success with his own female muse. "It was a mutual friend that brought us together. We were both looking for an outlet and Krissie's brother suggested we met. No one knew what we wanted to do at the beginning."

The pair soon realised they had common ground, Nicolson explains. "We both liked Beefheart, but there was so much subconsciously and consciously that influenced us."

While Skinner may not have aimed to follow Hince's approach, I wonder if certain people are better at working with someone from the opposite sex. "It might have some bearing," he responds, "but if people understand each other, then they work well together. You're gonna be able to produce something worthwhile."

Nicolson comes from a highly musical family. Her mother played clarinet and her father, a champagne salesman turned vicar, joined in on piano. Along with two of her five siblings, she formed a group called Hector's House. Her sister Claire, a renowned session singer, has released an album while Tom has set up a label, on which Kiosk put their debut single.

Kiosk are putting the finishing touches to their album ahead of its release early next year, and have been working together for four years. Nicolson was the youngest member of her family band, while Skinner was introduced to the music business by the Teardrop Explodes founder and all-round eccentric Julian Cope.

Skinner grew up in Tamworth, the hometown that Cope returned to after his adventures with the Teardrops in Liverpool. In his autobiography Repossessed, he tells how the teenager turned up at his house one day. Cope was charmed by Skinner, and introducing him to his own tastes added impetus to his own solo career.

"My girlfriend had dumped me and I was playing things that depressed me, one of which was the Teardrop Explodes," Skinner says with customary dry humour. "He only lived down the road, so I went to see him."

After Skinner spent a year hanging out listening to psych and post-punk, Cope invited him to work with him on the 1984 album Fried. Skinner has stuck with him ever since, co-writing for further albums and playing bass in Cope's touring band.

Apart from a project with Cope's younger brother Joss, Kiosk is the first band where Skinner has been involved in writing all the songs. Skinner knew Tom Nicolson through his brother Hugo, the studio assistant on Cope's 1988 album My Nation Underground, and one of the few sound professionals able to deal with Cope's unpredictable behaviour. "The producer was kind of highly strung, so Julian said, 'Why don't you sit back and let Hugo have a go?'"

Skinner briefly joined Hector's House, when Krissie was just 16, but it was in 2001 that Tom suggested they work together. Since then, the pair struggled to put together a line-up they can trust. Nicolson's sister came and went, but Tom was on hand to put an advert in the NME.

A single released in April was Kiosk's calling card. It gained interest on the indie scene and earned them an Xfm session, but failed to gain widespread attention. This was despite it having the longest title of a song since Marc Bolan wrote poetry on record sleeves. "One day I'm going to go STRATOSPHERIC on you and, chances are, you'll thank me for it." You just know Cope would approve. Indeed, "Stratospheric" had an immediacy and simple pop charm that brought to mind his most accessible work: imagine a more intense Cardigans, or a more upbeat Kills.

At the studio, I get a taste of Kiosk's forthcoming album. The band's bluesy feel is even more pronounced as layers of sound have been stripped away to leave more space for Skinner's edgy riffs and Nicolson's pouting vocal style. While their sharp, punky attack may gain them attention, it is Kiosk's quieter numbers that should win them long-term devotion.

This was seen on the "Stratospheric" EP, where among Skinner's own compositions lay the simmering resentment and violent imagery of "Daylight Robbery".

Skinner admits that he is a film buff and that that informs his writing. One title stands out in particular, "Sparrows with Machine Guns". It's a line from the original Batman movie, where the Riddler asks, "What's small, grey and dangerous?"

"I'd been out with Claire for a little while, so it's about dangerous birds," Skinner says.

You could pose the same question about Kiosk themselves. Skinner and Nicolson come across as fragile birds, yet together they form a formidable unit. Get ready, then, to watch them fly.

Kiosk play Buffalo Bar, London N1 tonight

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test