KUHN FU’s third album Chain the Snake is released by BERTHOLD records on March 22nd. Christian Kühn who also composed the music sees “stylistic changes since our last record. The band today is a paranoid – prog – punk – jazz performance,” he explains. Working on the previous album Kuhnspiracy, Kühn had suffered from a “post romantic jazz/rock disorder”, a condition unknown to reputable psychiatry. “The romantic stood for an unfulfilled craving, still there, but the punk who doesn’t care is winning at the moment” he explains.
His band KUHN FU has been described as zany, mad and scary. The band’s line up: Christian Kühn from Germany on guitar, Esat Ekincioglu from Turkey on bass, Ziv Taubenfeld from Israel on clarinet and George Hadow from England on drums.
The energy and craziness of KUHN FU’s oeuvre cannot be wished away. “The theme of the conman and villain is a recurring topic in the tracks on this CD,” says the composer. Kuhn once worked for a wealthy man, doing a job he regarded as ridiculous. “I had to move things from one room to another. Someone had done the same in reverse a couple of weeks before,” he remembers. “Sisyphus work. It led to the track Marco Messy Millionaire which I wrote as a punk meets classical piece.
His explanation of the other tracks:
“Gargamel is the evil cartoonish misanthrope who hates everybody. This is a tango inspired by Messiaen mode.
Gustav Grinch is a blonde, white narcissist. An insidious character. Someone who thinks the world belongs to them. Maybe I was thinking of Donald Trump. Ziv came up with the riff for this one.
Sonic Manah has no topic. It’s like a Chinese tattoo, the one who wears it might have no idea what it means. It’s a contrapuntal piece but the harmony is static.
Oswaldo’s Waltz is about a lovely but weird guy from South America who dances very slowly. I was thinking of film noir.
Traktus is my longest song, with a lullaby motif. It came to me walking back from working a hotel night-shift. It tells a story that takes the listener on a journey through an absurd world.
Wolf’s Muckenkogel is a carnival polka to be sung by 80 000 people in Wembley, clapping and dancing, but we usually play in front of 40 pensioners in South Germany. It’s also dedicated to people trying to walk up a mountain in heavy snow with summer clothes.”
But why Chain the Snake as the album title? Kühn explains: “while on our Spain tour last year a Spanish technician told me in a sound-check to ‘change the snakes’, he meant the cables. Since I’m a bit deaf, I understood ‘chain the snake’. I thought, that’s a brilliant name. But can you chain a snake? It’s like catching something you can’t grab. Then my friend looked it up and said, actually Christian, you can. But we used the name anyway. It’s a bit sexual, a bit stupid.”
Kuhn is known for sometimes going over the top on stage. He tells the story of playing a gig in a strip-club with an audience of three young women plus an Asian couple. “We finished a song… silence, then clap…..clap…..clap…..There was a little stage in front and I thought – why not strip off. People told me afterwards that was the most awkward thing they’d seen in a long time. I looked just like an old demented guy with a guitar. I do a lot of out-of-place things but even my band members thought that was weird.”
The composer has been told by them that he celebrates mad prophecies, sees only the negative and that everything is bound soon to die. Nonetheless, the band is now going into its seventh year and Kuhn views that as a major achievement.
KUHN FU still astonishes enthusiastic audiences. In 2018 the band played 55 gigs in 17 countries all over Europe, from the Balkans to the south of Spain, notably at: Jazz Club Unterfahrt in Munich, Opus Jazz Club in Budapest, Control Club in Bucharest, Zelenkovac Jazz Festival 2018 in Bosnia, Saalfelden Jazz Festival 2018 in Austria, Perelik Jazz Festival 2018 in Bulgaria, So What’s Next Festival 2018 and Rock-it Festival 2018 in the Netherlands. “Audiences are getting more open minded,” thinks Kühn “and can deal better with our big musical contrasts, which are perhaps less pronounced on this album. Our music can still be accurately described as “a hairy fish with legs that can climb a tree.”
Ian Bild January 2019