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Kid Congo Powers

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Kid Congo Powers
Kid Congo Powers in 2009
Kid Congo Powers in 2009
Background information
Birth nameBrian Tristan
Born (1959-03-27) March 27, 1959 (age 65)
La Puente, California, U.S.
Instrument(s)Guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals
Years active1979–present

Brian Tristan (born March 27, 1959), better known by his stage name Kid Congo Powers,[1] is an American rock guitarist, singer, and actor 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, Die Haut, and Knoxville Girls.[2]

As of January 2015, Powers' primary musical project is the band The Pink Monkey Birds.[3]

Early life[edit]

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.[4]


1979–1987: The Gun Club and The Cramps[edit]

After traveling to London and New York City he returned to L.A. and in 1979 met Jeffrey Lee Pierce.[5] Pierce taught him to play guitar using open tuning, and they formed The Creeping Ritual, which became The Gun Club.[1] Powers left that group before their recording debut, instead joining New York-based band The Cramps in December 1980.[1][6]

Powers rejoined the Gun Club briefly in 1983,[7] touring with Pierce's band in Australia the following year,[8] and then again between 1985 and 1988.[9]

1986–1996: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, The Gun Club reunion, Congo Norvell[edit]

Powers joined Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Berlin, Germany, September 1986 initially as a short-term replacement for Hugo Race. Powers ultimately recorded and toured with the Bad Seeds for four years.[1] Powers recorded the albums Tender Prey (1988) and The Good Son (1990) with Cave and his band. Powers recalled in early 2015 that he "loved" the "primaeval element of rock'n'roll" expressed by the band.[8]

During April 1990 Powers amicably left the Bad Seeds to rejoin The Gun Club, which he had reconvened with Jeffery Lee Pierce in 1989. Powers was active with the Gun Club until their 1996 dissolution, and Pierce died in 1996.

Parallel to his final stint in the Gun Club, Powers formed Congo Norvell with vocalist Sally Norvell. The band explored a fusion of cabaret and rock styles from 1993 to 1998, and released three full-length albums.

1997–2009: The Pink Monkey Birds and Dracula Boots[edit]

Kid Congo Powers performing in 2009

For his next project, The Pink Monkey Birds, Powers initially collaborated with New York City guitarist Jack Martin,[3] who he has also collaborated with for the Congo Norvell and Knoxville Girls projects.[10][11] 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,[12] which was called a "return to form."[13]

Dracula Boots was coproduced 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]

2010–present: Gorilla Rose[edit]

In 2011, Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds released their second 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.[8] 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.[8]

The Pink Monkey Birds, whose name Kid credits to inspiration from David Bowie,[14][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 his band's fourth album.[16] In the interview, he was noted for his iconic sense of punk style and 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[edit]

Kid Congo Powers is gay and is married.[4] During the 1980s, he was involved with the ACT UP advocacy group.[4]

Selected discography[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 25, 41, 359
  2. ^ ""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 May 13, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Marszalek, Julian (2009) "Kid Congo Powers Pays Tribute to Mentors Archived 2020-10-25 at the Wayback Machine", Spinner, November 30, 2009, retrieved January 30, 2010
  4. ^ a b c Remezcla. Punk Was Always Gay: Kid Congo Powers on the Genre's Queer Beginnings. June 30, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  5. ^ ""Rock And Roll High School": Kid Grows Up (1960–1979)". KID CONGO POWERS ORAL HISTORY Pt 1. New York Night Train. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  6. ^ "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 May 13, 2012.
  7. ^ "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 May 13, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Patrick Emery (January 1, 2015). "Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds perform in Australia in late January". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  9. ^ ""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 May 13, 2012.
  10. ^ ""Black Bag" Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds (2001 – Present)". KID CONGO POWERS PT 2 ORAL HISTORY. New York Night Train. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  11. ^ ""NYC Briefcase Blues" Knoxville Girls (1998–2001)". KID CONGO POWERS PT 2 ORAL HISTORY. New York Night Train. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  12. ^ Thom Jurek. "Dracula Boots". All music. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  13. ^ Todd Killings (June 5, 2009). "BREAKING SOUNDS: Kid Congo Dracula Boots LP" (Article). Victim of Time. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  14. ^ "Kid Stuff: The Pink Monkey Birds would not be so named without you David Bowie! R.I.P". Kidcongopowers.blogspot.com. January 19, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  15. ^ The lyrics to Bowie's song "Moonage Daydream" include: "You're talking like a pink monkey-bird."
  16. ^ Kristin Anderson (April 25, 2016). "Punk Legend Kid Congo Powers on His Style Throughout the Years". Vogue. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  17. ^ "Kid & Khan". discogs.com.
  18. ^ "Kid Congo Powers & the Near Death Experience - Live in St. Kilda". Intheredrecords.com.
  19. ^ Smith, Harris (May 8, 1999), Modern Young Man (Short, Drama), Modern Products, retrieved October 13, 2022
  20. ^ Verow, Todd (March 12, 2000), Once and Future Queen (Drama), Bangor Films, retrieved October 13, 2022
  21. ^ Ambler, Ned (August 15, 2000), Hair Burners (Comedy), Ned Ambler Pictures, retrieved October 13, 2022

External links[edit]