Chip Kinman is living proof that the early bird doesn’t always get the worm. And that leopards don’t change their spots.
Along with his bassist brother Tony, guitarist Chip was at the forefront of two major American musical movements: The L.A. punk scene of the 1970s, which the Kinmans helped kickstart with their legendary band The Dils, and the roots-punk boom of the early 1980s, which the pair essentially invented with Alejandro Escovedo in the Austin outfit Rank And File. And those are just two of a handful of stylistically diverse groups the brothers co-founded over the course of their life-long partnership, which sadly ended with Tony’s death from cancer in 2018.
Ultimately, their creative restlessness and commitment to art over commerce are part of the reason why the Kinmans never got the recognition and reward they richly deserve. But that might be slowly changing. The Dils’ Live! album from 1987 has just been remastered, expanded and reissued for its 35th anniversary — just one of several archival Dils reissues this year, in addition to a Rank And File live album. Meanwhile, Chip — who is about to write his memoirs — continues to explore new musical avenues; his latest solo release is a full-on electronica album fittingly called The Great Confrontation. From his home in California, Kinman joined me on Zoom to chat about confounding listeners, performing in vegetable markets, and whether his taped-up Les Paul really inspired the design of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat. Enjoy.