Jon Langford of The Mekons and Kat Ex of The Ex share a history outside their duo, KatJonBand. Both members of the 70s punk-rock squad, each faced their share of successes and failure in two of the biggest bands to emerge from the scene. Through a series of mishaps and shared friends, Jon and Kat join forces to bring their self-titled release.
Musically and lyrically, KATJONBAND, is a tough album; stripped down, basic and to the point. The Mekons and The Ex have always been explicitly political bands, so it’s no surprise that the Iraq war, globalization, class, greed, patriotism and kinky sex all rear their ugly heads in these bone-bare, blood-boiling anthems. With Kat on drums and Jon on guitar, the duo shares the microphone, summoning Jon’s gruff Welsh pirate howl and Kat’s clear-as-a-bell Swabian soar.
Back in the mists of time, before Kat drummed her way into THE EX and Jon dusted himself off after the disastrous demise of The Mekons mark one, Jon stumbled upon a small, damp studio known as Joke-rent-a-cow studio (or something like that) on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Dolf Planteydt, who ran the studio also worked as the soundman for Holland’s least compromising and most physically demanding punk- rock collective, The Ex. Jon then met Terrie Ex from the band and went on to produce several CDs for them throughout the 80s and 90s, often guesting on drums or banjo when the mood struck him. While The Mekons toured Holland, The Ex let them stay in their squat, leading the two bands to tour together and eventually become label-mates at Chicago’s Touch & Go Records.
Celebrating their 25th anniversary at Amsterdam’s Paradiso in November 2004, The Ex invited Jon to MC the weekend’s events, offering to back him up for a set of his own. When he arrived in Amsterdam they forgot their offer and since nobody else knew any of the songs he wanted to play, they decided that their drummer Kat would back up Jon. She played drums with Jon’s art-rock metal trio, The Three Johns, back in 1985 when their drum machine went on strike, but this promised to be something different: just the two of them with no-set-list, no rehearsal and a packed house! Kat drums like nobody else on the planet and while the gig was seat of the pants in extremis, the crowd went mad and offers of gigs started trickling in. The KatJonBand was born…
A brief tour of festivals in Austria and Germany in 2005 led to plans for recording in Chicago the following year. Writing songs on the spot at Chicago’s North Branch studio, Jon found matches on guitar for the melodies in Kat’s poly-rhythmic improvisations. Fleshing the songs out across the Internet, Kat completed them whenever she could manage to get back to Chicago. KatJonBand played The Hideout Touch & Go Block Party in September 2006, cramming in a day at the studio and another when the Ex came back to play The Empty Bottle later that fall.
Two of the few bands who continue undaunted and unfettered since the heady days of 70s punk-rock, neither The Mekons nor The Ex ever split up, so (obviously) they’ve never reformed for any pathetic punk rock nostalgia tours. Back in the 90s they made a single together; one side included The Ex playing The Mekons’ Keep On Hopping and on the other The Mekons covered The Ex’s Crap Rap. KatJonBand is only the most recent collaboration between these two legendary groups and stays true to the pioneering spirits of both.
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