The first time I try to call The Kills' Jamie Hince, he doesn't answer his phone. All kinds of possible rock star scenarios run through my head - I picture him passed out in a flophouse somewhere like a dissolute French poet, or maybe held up by customs agents. Half an hour's worth of worried calls to managers and record label people later, I manage to get hold of him, and the truth of his whereabouts turns out to be a little less debauched than I'd imagined. "I'm in a record shop in Portland, Oregon," he admits, somewhat sheepishly. "I was so into looking at all the old 45s that I forgot I had an interview!"
Did he at least manage to find some good bargains? "Well actually, I've just bought a jukebox, so right now I'm buying 7" singles for it. My plan is to make it the greatest jukebox in the world. So far today, I've picked up Althea & Donna's Uptown Top Ranking, The Wailers' Road-Runner, a bit of Sonics, a bit of Small Faces, some Toots & The Maytals, some Yardbirds and a Led Zeppelin single!" This one is the pride of his purchases so far. "I never knew they released a 7", but I managed to find one of Whole Lotta Love, which I'm very happy about."
Jamie Hince and his Kills partner Alison Mosshart have been making music together for nearly ten years now, but unlike a lot of bands at this point in their careers, they've lost none of what made them so vital in the beginning. The same dead-eyed cool, the same sense of menace that hummed through their earliest records and live shows remains today. For want of a better way to put the question, I just flat-out ask Hince - what is it that's stopped The Kills from slacking off and getting shit like so many other bands of their era?
He laughs heartily. "I don't know," he says. "I think we want to be strong, which sounds like a stupid thing to say, but I've thought about it a lot. We've been through quite a lot and we're still great, great friends and creative partners. I think that's because we want to be - we want to be the one creative being, and we want to be going strong. You have to want it and I don't know, for some reason I'm still really hungry when it comes to writing songs. It's a life or death thing for me."
It also helps that he and Mosshart are kindred spirits, complementary souls. "We rarely clash when it comes to writing songs," he says. "I think she's a good antidote to me, and I'm a good antidote to her, and we fit together like that. She comes up with a lot of ideas very quickly but can't always finish the songs musically, which is what I love to do. On the other hand, I'm very slow when it comes to song writing, so her persistence with me helps add a bit of spontaneity. When she presents her songs to me, she's always happy for me to tinker with them, to change the arrangements around, sometimes change them beyond recognition." One such song is 'The Last Goodbye', the heartbreaking waltz that forms the centrepiece of the latest Kills album, Blood Pressures. "When Alison first wrote that, it sounded kind of like a Velvet Underground ballad," he says. "I loved it, but it occurred to me that we have one of those slow, ballad-y songs on every record - 'Gypsy Death And You', 'Ticket Man' and 'Goodnight Bad Morning'. Whenever we do one of those beautiful, slow songs we make them lo-fi and scratchy, so I just thought it was time to try something a bit different, and I turned the song into a waltz. I tried to take it out of my comfort zone, if you like."
Mosshart has taken time out of The Kills in recent years to play with The Dead Weather, the scuzzed-out,Nashville-based rock band whose lineup also includes one Jack White. As Hince tells it, the tricks she picked up there were tremendously influential in shaping Blood Pressures. "The Dead Weather are a nothing-spared, balls-out heavy rock band," he says, "and Alison had to sing over that every night, so her voice got really strong. There's much more of a confidence about her voice now, an American rock swagger to it now. When we went into the studio we'd go into a decompression time almost, to get her back to a Kills place. I like all the cracks and squeaks in her voice, I like when it breaks into a whisper - I like that stuff just as much as the powerful vocal technique she picked up with them."
When I think of The Kills, I'm often reminded of The Fall, a band who have continued releasing great records, unconcerned with prevailing musical trends and doing things their own (or at least Mark E Smith's) way for going on thirty-five years. I ask Hince if this is the kind of career trajectory he'd like for his own band, and he says it absolutely is. "I see The Kills unfolding over a long period of time," he says. "Decades. Bands like Sonic Youth and The Fall inspire us most of all. It wasn't about making a buzz with a debut record and then going mainstream; every record of theirs is just a snapshot of where the band happens to be at the time."
Blood Pressures is out now on Domino Records, through EMI. The Kills play the Prince Bandroom on Thursday July 28, but'cha better have tickets as it's already sold out. They're also playing at Splendour In The Grass in Woodfordia with Kanye West, Pulp, Coldplay, The Hives, The Mars Volta and many, many more.