released April 19, 2014
The Free Kicks, Summer 2000
The Free Kicks was an attempt to write the kind of 80s pop songs I remembered from my childhood, when my family used to go on car trips in Germany and my dad made mix tapes of Top 40 hits for the occasion. Listening back, 14 years on, it's a vivid reminder of a summer wasting; of being twenty years old with a part-time job, a car at my disposal, my parents away on holiday, and most importantly, the good fortune to have a group of friends in much the same advantageous situation.
In the 90s in Hong Kong it was impossible to buy a record player, and even if you already had one, there weren't any shops that sold vinyl anyway. Hong Kong was so future-looking; it was all CDs, then Mini Discs, nothing retro. When I moved to England in 1999, I found not only that I could afford a very cheap, secondhand record player, but
that there were tons of shops that sold 7 inch singles for 50p and albums for as little as £1. Fashion and entertainment are cyclical, of
course, and many of the records I bought on a two year buying spree are now very popular again and sell for much more. But in the late 90s and early 2000s, the tail end of Britpop, many of the millions of records sold by Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna and many others had made their way back to charity shops and secondhand record stores. Supply outweighed demand, and I was able to load up on dog-eared copies of classic albums at commodity prices. It was a moment in time.
I had no idea how to write a song that sounded like Madonna, or Whitney, or Springsteen, or MJ. Crudely, I knew that the guitars had to be either nonexistent or very clean-sounding, and that we had to use keyboards. My mum managed to borrow a keyboard from South Island School, but the problem was I didn't have any friends who could play keys. Mark and I had been in a band called Tokyo Sex Wale when we were at school, and we went to the same university. Anything I couldn't do I always assumed Mark could do, and would ask for his help. It therefore made sense that he should play keyboards, even though I knew he'd never played them before in his life. But he'd never been taught how to cut hair, and he cut my hair for five years, so why not keys? As it goes, whatever you may think of the Free Kicks, I don't think you can deny it's pretty amazing keyboard playing for a total beginner.
Pranjal was also in Tokyo Sex Wale. He played drums in both TSW and the Free Kicks, but he also wrote the keyboard line to 'Jeffrey Dharma' and 'The Pirate Song'. Before Mark really got going on the keys, Pranjal and I arranged 'Jeffrey Dharma', and I thought 'this is going to work'. I still love the main keyboard riff in that song. Hans
was the last person to join. I didn't know him as well as the other two, but I did know that he liked to party. The last to finish at night, the last to start in the morning. Maybe a bit flaky. But he wanted to play bass and I liked hanging out with him, so Hans joined and ended up naming the band.
The Free Kicks lasted six weeks in total. In that time, we wrote, arranged and recorded the seven songs you hear here. We also played two or three shows, at the Wanch and Smugglers Inn, and maybe one at the Warehouse. We only came up with a name when we knew we were going to play the shows. At the time, David Beckham was a rising star. Rather sadly, I wanted to name the band after him! Hans said 'why don't we just call it 'the Free Kicks' - a sensible, diplomatic choice!
A lot of other people were involved too. A guy called Alex An recorded the music onto DAT and then to Mini Disc at the Warehouse. Vocals, keyboards, overdubs and the songs 'Plan for Girl Domination' and 'The Pirate Song' were recorded by Alexis Figueras at his parents' flat in Repulse Bay. Alexis' brother, Matias did the guitar solo on 'No Names, Honey' and Chrissy Carter played her piano part on 'Plan for Girl Domination' in one take. It was a great summer.
Warrick Harniess - London, April 2014
The summer of 2000 goes down as one of my best summer sojourns back in HK. Warrick was falling in and out of love, I was working hard on what would become my alcoholism with cheap beers and nights at 7-11. Warrick wrote some amazing songs, we curbed our drinking long enough to play several shows and record some great tracks. As far as I am concerned the best holiday in HK ever. Mark learnt to play keys I tackled the bass and Pranjal rocked it out. Always so impressed that we managed to record and play several shows, all the while drinking and talking shit! I always loved playing with those guys. Warrick is an amazing songwriter.
Hans Schlaikier - Hong Kong, April 2014
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