Interview: Chip Kinman

Chip Kinman, along with his brother Tony who passed away in 2018, has had a rather colorful musical journey. Their band The Dils was a notable late-70’s punk rock band whose songs included “I Hate the Rich” and “Class War”. This was followed by Rank and File, a roots rock band which is heralded as one of the pioneers of the cowpunk genre. The Kinman brothers changed direction again for Blackbird, a drum machine-driven noise rock band. Then came their old-school Western music project, Cowboy Nation.

Which brings us to Ford Madox Ford, whose debut album This American Blues came out in 2018, and was produced by Tony. When I saw Ford Madox Ford at the Troubadour in April 2018, Chip kicked off the proceedings by saying, “We’re going to do something that’s never been done. We’re going to play some punk rock. We’re going to play some blues. And we’re going to do it at the same time.” They then launched into a cousin of the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray”, followed by a punk-infused bluesy stomp.

This interview was for a preview article for for the Ford Madox Ford performance at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 10/4/19, as one of the opening bands for the Dead Kennedys. It was done by email, with answers received 9/18/19. (“Taco” John Norman photo)

Jeff Moehlis: For the uninitiated, how would you describe the music of Ford Madox Ford?

Chip Kinman: Well, we started out as a blues band but with an edge. Naturally, when we made our LP we sounded like a glitter rock band! It’s all punk rock, actually…

JM: why did you choose that name for the band?

CK: I read about him in Hemingway’s book “A Moveable Feast”. Love the rhythm and sound of his name.

JM: You’re on the bill with the Dead Kennedys. Did you have any notable interactions with them back in the day?

CK: Of course! They opened for The Dils once or twice, and we were on the same circuit so our paths crossed often.

JM: The Dils had a footprint in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. First, what was the good, bad, and ugly about the San Francisco punk rock scene?

CK: Mostly good… The S.F. punks were really committed to punk rock revolution. The scene was vibrant with just enough art damage to make it interesting. S.F. was a terrific place to be in the 70’s.

JM: Same question for L.A. What was the good, bad, and ugly about the Los Angeles punk rock scene?

CK: Again, mostly good, great bands and plenty of places to play. Too many drugs however. It took a toll.

JM: It’s cool that The Dils opened for The Clash in Santa Monica. How did you get that gig, and what was that experience like?

CK: We were pals of Joe Strummer so I imagine he put us on the bill. We met when they were in S.F. recording their second LP. The show itself was a bit of a bust… We kind of sucked that night… hahahahaha!!!!!!… But no one really noticed.

JM: How did The Dils end up in the Cheech and Chong movie “Up In Smoke”?

CK: We heard about it on the radio and drove up from Carlsbad and bum rushed the filming. I was surprised that we made the final cut.

JM: Your next band Rank and File played what we now call “roots rock”. What inspired that change of direction?

CK: We figured we were done playing punk rock and wanted to do something that was just as revolutionary.

JM: The first two Rank and File albums came out on Slash Records. What was your experience with them like?

CK: It was as good as any relationship with a record company. We had our priorities and they had theirs. Sometimes they would be the same… sometimes not.

JM: Your song “Amanda Ruth” was covered by the Everly Brothers, which must’ve been cool! Were they an influence on you?

CK: Only in the sense that we loved their records. Stylistically no, our harmonies were of the high/low variety while theirs were close.

JM: Your other bands – Blackbird, Cowboy Nation, and Ford Madox Ford – also went in different directions from your prior bands. Why the “musical restlessness”?

CK: What else is there to do? We were never careerists.

JM: I’m very sorry that your brother Tony passed away. What are some of your favorite musical memories with him?

CK: Recording the three Cowboy Nation albums without a doubt is the highlight. He was always inspirational, and I miss him terribly.

JM: What’s in the works, either with Ford Madox Ford or otherwise?

CK: Regarding Ford Madox Ford, we’ll probably record a few more records and play a few more shows. I’m also recording a solo LP for In the Red Records, an electronic record that is sure to blow more than a few minds. What can go wrong, right?


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