Kid Montana \ Biography
KID MONTANA: itinerary of an 80s electropop band
The Kid Montana story starts in 1981, as a one-man project for Jean-Marc Lederman, a former member of cult Belgian post-punk band Digital Dance. After leaving DD early in 1981, Jean-Marc moved from Brussels to London for several months to play live keyboards for Fad Gadget. The first Kid Montana recording, Cabs Ambush, appeared on the cult compilation album B9, released on Sandwich Records in May 1981. Here Jean-Marc was joined by singer Bernard Dradin, with bass from Jeanine Bidlot. Another early track, Amour D'Electrons, produced by Mark Beer, also appeared on the 'international compilation' Fix Planet! via German label Ata Tak.
Later that year, various tracks were compiled to make a 12" EP, Statistics Mean Nothing When You Are On The Wrong Plane. Released as a co-production by Sandwich and New Dance (SR12/ND004), the maxi featured four tracks recorded at several studios with various collaborators. Today was produced by Mark Beer at Mekon Studio in Brixton, and engineered by Rob Doran with Hugh Ashton (later founders of Hard Corps). Brussels track La Passionara (recorded by Marc Francois) featured a host of guests including Phil Wauquaire, Michel Lambot and Bruno Collet, as well as Daniel Bressanutti of soon-to-form Front 242. The other two tracks on the EP were recorded by Erik Kulac, Dany V and Eddie Richards.
JML: 'When I came back from London, I really wanted to put down ideas and sounds on record. Lots of people helped on Statistics, which is very much in the early 80s mood: very experimental, fragile but bold. And sung by me, which makes it even more fragile...'
The Kid Montana project was then put on hold when Jean-Marc returned to London for two years. There he performed with Matt Johnson in The The, and also an early version of Gene Loves Jezebel. In mid 1983, while on a visit to Brussels, he met Dudley Klute, an American singer living in the city, who would bring to the project the strong voice missing from the first Kid Montana recordings. In November 1983 the new band recorded a 12" EP, Revisiting Yalta, released early the following year on prolific Belgian indie label Antler Records (029). It was the first Kid Montana record to properly explore Jean-Marc's ambition of producing intelligent synth pop, with no disregard for commercial hooks.
JML: 'I met Dudley through a mutual friend, Digital Dance drummer Alain Lefebvre, and we immediately clicked, being on the same wavelength on many points, not least the humour we wanted to convey. But the lyrics on Yalta and Fitting the Screen, even though sung by Dudley, were still written in my poor pidgin English. Daniel Miller of Mute Records produced a remix of Armoured Car. On Yalta, drums were played by Michel Zylbersztajn, bass (and stick) by Phil Wauquaire. The session was engineered by Michel Andina.'
On 1 July 1984 the group supported Paul Haig in concert at Plan K, and caught the attention of Les Disques du Crépuscule. The first Kid Montana release on the label was the single Love May Be Blind (TWI 617), released in October 1985. Backed with filmic instrumental History of Rock and Roll (featuring guitar by Patrick Larrieu) and a cover of the jazz standard Willow Weep For Me, the tracks were smoothly produced by Marc Moulin of seminal electro band Telex, and mixed at their Synsound studio. The single was followed in December by the excellent six track mini-album The Las Vegas Gold Rush (TWI 676). Also arranged and produced by Marc Moulin, who also co-wrote Elinor, Nights Like These and No Crocodile Tears, the highly commercial sounding set was mixed by Telex colleague Dan Lacksman.
JML: 'Marc Moulin played a lot of instruments on this record, pre-production was even done in his studio (aptly named Le Stoodio), and we mixed at the famous Synsound. You can hear some Fairlight on No Crocodile Tears. It was great, there were great expectations for that record and working with Marc Moulin, an amazing musician/producer, was a bit of a dream come true. Niki Mono also helped with backing vocals, Eric Mellaerts played some guitar and Gilbert, my brother, recorded the vocals at Katy Studio, near Waterloo.'
DK: 'I was very excited to be working with Marc Moulin, as I was a huge fan of Telex and I loved the first Lio album that he produced with Jacques Duvall & Jay Alanski, with whom I had previously recorded some demos. Marc was great to work with in the studio, very patient and willing to try out new things. I remember at the time I was a huge Prince fan, and as he was always writing and performing under various pseudonyms, I decided I would do the same and created a "character" named Les Moore (in my mind an ersatz Las Vegas lounge lizard), and the credits for vocals and songwriting on the original vinyl release are listed as Les Moore. It doesn't make too much sense to me now, but at the time seemed perfectly logical. It was, after all, 1985.'
At the same time, Jean-Marc began releasing harder electronic dance records as The Weathermen. Here Tuxedomoon visuals designer Bruce Geduldig was the featured vocalist, and the preferred label PIAS. Debut singles Old Friend Sam and Deep Down South appeared in June and November 1985, and were followed in 1986 by Take It Off! and Let Them Come To Berlin. The first Weathermen album, Ten Deadly Kisses, would appear in January 1987.
JML: 'At about the same time, I started another project - The Weathermen - with Bruce Geduldig, so I could dispatch to either one of them moods that would suit better one type of band or the other. But I was very careful not to overlap the two bands material: Kid Montana stayed pop and torch-like, while The Weathermen was darker and oriented more towards beats.'
The Kid Montana album Temperamental was recorded at Studio Katy during 1986, and co-produced by Gilbert Lederman, Jean-Marc's brother and also the producer of earlier singles by Berntholer. Released by Crépuscule (TWI 752) in December 1986, Temperamental featured guest appearances by singer-songwriter Anna Domino (on Love & Trouble and Joey Came Home), Marc Moulin on piano and sampled strings (The Birthday Present), and guitarist Eric Mellaerts. The advanced technical facilities available at Studio Katy allowed them to experiment with new sounds, and add a new dimension to the project. Trailed in October by the radio single Spooky (TWI 805), a cover of the 1967 US hit by Classics IV/Dennis Yost, the album combined electro, dance pop and ballads to great effect, and carried a dedication to 'the four-letter word which makes the world go round.'
JML: 'Temperamental was a great experience. We weren't given a lot of time in that amazing 48 track studio (used by Marvin Gaye for Sexual Healing and Nina Simone for some of Baltimore) but I think we used it very well. The studio had an Emulator II, a brilliant sampler which we used a lot on this album. I cannot stress enough the importance of my brother Gilbert in giving us a sound that still resonates well 20 years later. This album covers most facets of electro really: you have silky ballads, bombastic instrumentals, electrobeat songs, and carefully crafted pop songs. I really had put together most of my vision of what I could achieve with the ingredients of KM: great, witty lyrics, a seductive singer with a beautiful voice, and electronics. I'm very proud of that album, without doubt it's one of the best recordings I've ever done.'
DK: 'Working on Temperamental was exciting but also exhausting. We only used a couple of songs that we'd already written, and even these became radically re-worked in the studio with different lyrics. For the majority of songs, we would start by laying down tracks and blocking out beats and various parts which we would do for as long as we could use the studio. Then, I would go home with a tape of the songs we'd created and then I'd spend hours trying to come up with vocal melody lines and lyrics. Then first thing the next day I'd record the vocal tracks to those songs and then we'd start over again with the next songs. We could only afford to use the studio for two weeks, and we wanted to experiment with as many genres and styles as we could manage, so we worked like crazy. Towards the end I actually passed out from exhaustion as I wasn't eating or sleeping very much. It would have been great if we could have taken a month break and then come back to smooth out the rough edges, musically and lyrically, but Crépuscule wanted the record right away. Sometimes the high pressure pace actually worked in our favor. I remember that during our very last Ω hour of studio time we wrote the music and lyrics and recorded the song Temperamental, which remains one of my favorite songs we ever did.'
The album came housed in a handsome gatefold sleeve designed by Joel Van Audenhaege, and was licensed in Japan and Germany. Reviews were positive, with Melody Maker in the UK praising a 'highly and repeatedly entertaining record - hopelessly lovelorn, at times vividly wistful. Temperamental is a minor masterpiece.'
The album was followed in March 1987 by the single Still Color Waiting b/w Spooky (TWI 812), on which both tracks were extended and remixed. Video clips for both tracks were made with director Serge Bergli, and rotated on Rox Box, a TV show presented by Ray Cokes. There was also a concert at the Halles de Schaerbeek with The Neon Judgment, for which Kid Montana was Michel Zylbersztajn on drums, Phil Wauquaire on bass, Niki Mono on backing vocals, Audrey Englebert on sax, with a Revox for additional backing tapes. This, other live dates and radio airplay gained Kid Montana some visibility on the Belgian scene, but neither the album nor the single gave the band the mainstream hit desired.
JML: 'While the album made some waves, and got a brilliant review in Melody Maker, it wasn't commercially successful. Crépuscule released the remix single, and we assembled a band for some more dates in Belgium, but as it didn't initiate any sales or media frenzy. The label lost interest, but we had all tried to make it happen so there were no bad feelings...'
Indeed the TWI 812 single proved to be the last record under the Kid Montana name. Jean-Marc now found his energies devoted to The Weathermen, who scored an underground dance hit with Poison during the summer of 1987, and would remain a popular (albeit tongue in cheek) draw on the EBM/industrial scene in Europe for much of the next decade.
JML: 'Early in 1987, Dudley and I went into Anything But Studio (owned by Ludo Camberlain and located below the offices of PIAS). We recorded a four-song demo (three tracks are featured here), but PIAS didn't like them much - understandably, as it was miles away from their usual sound. They passed on us, and so Dudley and I decided to call it a day, without animosity or tears. We tried our best to produce intelligent electronic pop, wrote some good songs, played a few gigs and gave people a good time, and that was it. Time to move on. Dudley went back to the USA, where he would later join Stephin Merritt in The Magnetic Fields, and become one-third of the performance collective known as The Three Terrors with Merritt and LD Begthol. He also con-wrote and performed the duet Overnight Sensation with the band The Moth Wranglers, and recorded a cover of The pixies' song Caribou for the Dreamy Records label. As well as The Weathermen I've also recorded as Jules et Jim with Julianne Regan, my old colleague from Gene Loves Jezebel, and done some ambient albums under the name man-Dello. I also had a metal project with DeeJay from La Muerte, called Ether. Currently I'm involved in music for videogames, and The Weathermen continue as an on-off thing.'
DK: 'We had been working on new songs, and were in talks to go and play in Spain, where our record was getting airplay and press, but nothing was really working out the way we wanted. I think we were both exhausted and ready for something new. I wanted to return to America as I had been away for almost ten years, and I was hopeful that things in the USA would get much better as the Reagan era was at an end. I never imagined the nightmare that was coming that would make the Reagan cold war years seem like such good times. Now, as the second Bush era is finally and thankfully coming to an end, these songs seem to take me full circle to a time when all it took to make it through were good friends, good drum machines, some new songs to sing, some kooky outfits and the knowledge that "this, too, shall pass."
And so we reach the end of the story of this Belgian/US emotional electro-pop band. Thanks to LTM for reviving the flame, and placing this gem beneath the spotlight once more.