Vikings punter and bassist Chris Kluwe talks about balancing music and football
Though Chris Kluwe played violin as a child, his primary influence for picking up a bass guitar was the video game Guitar Hero. Adept at the simulated version, Kluwe wanted to try the real thing. This led him to forming the alterna-metal band Tripping Icarus, whose debut full length will be released digitally sometime in 2011. Sure, three of the four members have been in bands throughout the past decade, but it's the rookie bass player who is getting the most attention. Besides holding down half of Tripping Icarus's rhythm section, bassist Kluwe has also been under the spotlight as the Minnesota Vikings' punter since 2005.
Gimme Noise got a hold of Kluwe in between the Dome's collapse and the
snowstorm in Philadelphia to ask a few questions about how he juggles rock 'n' roll with his NFL schedule.
Gimme Noise: Most labels I've seen of the band say something to the effect of "progressive, hard rock." How would you describe your sound?
Chris Kluwe: I would describe our music as "Tool mixed with Nirvana mixed with Audioslave, with a little bit of Rage Against the Machine thrown in." I don't know if we're really in a genre, but alternative rock probably is the closest fit.
How did the band get started?
I met Andy Reiner (our rhythm guitarist) through a mutual friend who was having a video/board game night and we found we had a lot in common. He's the executive editor of Game Informer, the video game magazine, and plays about as many video games as I do. Andy mentioned he had been in a band before, and I wanted to learn how to play the real guitar after mastering Guitar Hero, so we decided we would try starting a band of our own. Andy called Matt Marshall (our drummer) and we started practicing. Matt asked Jesse Revel if he would be interested in singing for us, and Tripping Icarus was born.
What was the hardest part about learning bass and, ultimately, learning to play in a band?
The hardest part was learning the muscle motions (finger strumming, hand placement, etc.), but once I had the proper motions down I just practiced them until they became muscle memory. Then it was just a matter of building up calluses on my fingertips from continuous playing.
How do you balance your Vikings schedule with the band? You mentioned moving to CA for the winter, and your weekends are pretty booked during the NFL season. Is there a "No shows on Saturday nights" rule?
Yeah, there's definitely a "No Shows Saturday Night" rule, and a "No Shows Friday Night Unless It's a Huge Band and They Ask Us to Open for Them." We played a couple Friday night shows last year, and I definitely felt a little groggy on Sunday, so this year Thursday night was as late in the week as I felt comfortable going.
Are there any similarities between playing football and playing music on a stage? Has playing football made it easier to perform in front of an audience?
It's similar in that the spotlight is on you, and people will definitely know if you mess up, but each one is exhilarating in separate ways. Football is more about the team aspect, whereas being on stage is a lot more personal. The fans are right there in front of you and the goal is to make them enjoy listening to the music as much as we enjoy playing it. I enjoy doing both.
Do you know of other NFL players in bands?
I know the Dallas Cowboys O-line has a band, and I think Hunter Smith (the punter for the Redskins who was let go) played in a band for a bit as well. There are quite a few guys on the Vikings that like to dabble in the guitar and other musical instruments, but none that I know of that have actually formed a band.