Kid Congo Powers

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Kid Congo Powers
Background information
Birth name Brian Tristan
Born (1959-03-27) March 27, 1959 (age 62)
La Puente, California, US
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Instruments Guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals
Years active 1979–present
Associated acts The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Cramps, the Divine Horsemen, Congo Norvell, Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Squier guitar[1]

Kid Congo Powers is the stage name of Brian Tristan (born March 27, 1959),[2] an American rock guitarist and singer, best known as a member of The Gun Club, the Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He has also played with the Divine Horsemen, the Angels of Light and Die Haut.[3]

As of January 2015, Powers' primary musical project is the band The Pink Monkey Birds.[4]

Early life

Born in La Puente, California, Powers is a second generation Mexican American. His earliest childhood influences were the Southern California Chicano rock band Thee Midniters. In 1976, he was president of The Ramones fan club, then ran a fanzine for The Screamers.[5]


1979–1987: The Gun Club and The Cramps

After traveling to London and New York City he returned to L.A. and in 1979 met Jeffrey Lee Pierce.[6] Pierce taught him to play guitar using open tuning, and they formed The Creeping Ritual, which became The Gun Club.[2] Powers left that group before their recording debut, instead joining New York-based band The Cramps in December 1980.[2][7]

Powers rejoined the Gun Club briefly in 1983,[8] touring with Pierce's band in Australia the following year,[9] and then again between 1985 and 1988.[10]

1988–1996: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Powers joined Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Berlin, Germany, around 1988 for several albums and corresponding tours.[2] Powers recorded the Tender Prey and The Good Son albums with Cave and his band, and he said in early 2015 that he "loved" the "primaeval element of rock'n'roll" that they had a firm grasp of.[9]

1997–2009: JLP tribute albums, The Pink Monkey Birds and Dracula Boots

For his next project, The Pink Monkey Birds, Powers initially collaborated with New York City guitarist Jack Martin,[4] who he has also collaborated with for the Congo Norvell and Knoxville Girls projects.[11][12] Then, in 2009, Powers recruited Kiki Solis on bass, Ron Miller on drums, and Jesse Roberts on guitar and keyboards. The band moved to In The Red Records and released the much acclaimed debut studio album, Dracula Boots,[13] which was called a "return to form."[14]

Dracula Boots was co-produced by Jason Ward and recorded in a former high school gymnasium in Harveyville, Kansas, which is now an artists' retreat called "The Harveyville Project." Dracula Boots consists of numerous genres, including southern soul, 60s Chicano rock, and psychedelic imagery. British magazine N.M.E. wrote: "In short, on Dracula Boots Kid Congo Powers has once again found the juicy jugular of soul-fired, funked-up rock’n’roll. You’d be foolish not to take a bite."[citation needed]

Involvement with Mark Eitzel

Powers played guitar on "Goodbye", "If I Had A Gun" and "Cold Light Of Day" from Mark Eitzel's 1998 album Caught In A Trap And I Can't Back Out 'Cause I Love You Too Much, Baby.

Additionally, Eitzel sang on Powers' band Congo Norvell's 1998 album Abnormals Anonymous.

2010–present: Gorilla Rose

In 2011, Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds released their sophomore album, Gorilla Rose, which was also on the In The Red Records label. Eamon Carr of The Dublin Evening Herald said of Gorilla Rose, "Having a working band is paying off. Gorilla Rose elevates seedy go-go weirdness to the level of high art."[citation needed]

Powers returned to Australia for the first time in 25 years—when he toured with Cave's Bad Seeds project—at the end of January 2015. The band played at Melbourne's "Summersalt Festival" and the Sydney Festival.[9] In a promotional interview for the Australian shows, Powers spoke in regard to his new band:

I think the Pink Monkey Birds conjures up all the best aspects of primal rock'n'roll ... Lyrically, I'm speaking in images, and from a very skewed viewpoint, whatever the subject may be. I still have the passion and the incentive to make music that's different, but still within the confines of a punk rock language people will know and understand.[9]

The Pink Monkey Birds, whose name Kid credits to inspiration from David Bowie,[15] has been an evolving unit since their earliest albums, and as of 2016 the touring members are bassist Kiki Solis, drummer Ron Miller, and guitarist Mark Cisneros.

Kid Congo Powers was profiled by Vogue in late April 2016 while promoting their fourth album,[16] where he was noted for his iconic sense of punk style. In his Vogue interview, he mentions the aesthetic importance of tying the look of the band to match the music.

“For me, the whole art of being a band—and I do think it’s an art—is to create a whole world, a whole language, that is every aspect. The Gun Club, we kind of made it up as we went along, but what I learned from The Cramps and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is that they created a whole uncompromising world, and it’s all kind of sprung out of that. You want to communicate with people, and I think through all aesthetics—artwork, the look, and music—you get to keep your world, and you get to let people enter your world and live in your world with you.”

Personal life

Kid Congo Powers is openly gay and is married.[5] During the 1980s, he was involved with the ACT UP advocacy group.[5]


  1. "Kid Congo Powers: GEAR". 2006-01-15. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 25, 41, 359
  3. ""Music to Remember Him By" Solo, Die Haut, and Congo Norvell and the emergence of Kid Congo Powers as a singer and songwriter (1988 - 1998)". KID CONGO POWERS PT 2 ORAL HISTORY. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Marszalek, Julian (2009) "Kid Congo Powers Pays Tribute to Mentors", Spinner, 30 November 2009, retrieved 2010-01-30
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Remezcla. Punk Was Always Gay: Kid Congo Powers on the Genre’s Queer Beginnings. June 30, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  6. ""Rock And Roll High School": Kid Grows Up (1960 – 1979)". KID CONGO POWERS ORAL HISTORY Pt 1. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  7. "The Gun Club, Pt 1: "Preachin' the Blues" Creeping Ritual and the Genesis of The Gun Club (1979 – 1980)". KID CONGO POWERS ORAL HISTORY PT. 1. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  8. "The Gun Club Pt 2 "Walkin' With the Beast The Las Vegas Story (1984)". KID CONGO POWERS ORAL HISTORY PT. 5. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Patrick Emery (1 January 2015). "Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds perform in Australia in late January". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  10. ""City of Refuge" Berlin and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1986 – 1990)". KID CONGO POWERS PT 2 ORAL HISTORY. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  11. ""Black Bag" Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds (2001 - Present)". KID CONGO POWERS PT 2 ORAL HISTORY. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  12. ""NYC Briefcase Blues" Knoxville Girls (1998 - 2001)". KID CONGO POWERS PT 2 ORAL HISTORY. New York Night Train. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  13. Thom Jurek. "Dracula Boots". All music. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  14. Todd Killings (5 June 2009). "BREAKING SOUNDS: Kid Congo Dracula Boots LP" (Article). Victim of Time. Victim of Time. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  15. "Kid Stuff: The Pink Monkey Birds would not be so named without you David Bowie! R.I.P". 2016-01-19. Retrieved 2016-05-26. 
  16. Kristin Anderson (2016-04-25). "Punk Legend Kid Congo Powers on His Style Throughout the Years". Vogue. Retrieved 2016-05-26. 

External links