Q&A with ITRS: Chain Gang of 1974 chats past 80's influences, present favorites.

By: Hannah Herner, In The Record Store staff writer.

Chain Gang of 1974 isn’t really a gang at all, it’s the synth pop project of Kamtin Mohager. 

He’s set to roll in to Columbus for an early show at Skully’s Music Diner on February 4th.

At 31 years old, he was born in 1985, the hey-day of the the type of 80s new wave music he emulates. Currently based in Los Angeles and raised in Hawaii and Colorado, the last time he was in Columbus he was opening for the Naked and Famous in November.

Chain Gang of 1974 just released the second single “Slow,” for its upcoming album, following the first single, “I Still Wonder.” Mohager said a third single is expected for next month and the full album is expected to be released sometime in the spring.

In the Record Store spoke with the artist about his musical past, 80's inspirations, and current favorites.

Hannah Herner: The tour is starting Friday. Are you ready, are you excited for it?

Kamtin Mohager: It’ll be awesome, we’re looking forward to it. It’s nice because it’s such a short tour, three weeks, it’s the perfect amount of being on the road. I couldn’t be more excited and grateful to be touring with a band like AFI, a band who’s done so much for a scene that I truly respect and admire. It’s always pretty incredible when people you admire ask you to be a part of what they’re doing. When we got this offer it was pretty surreal. We all spent our early teen years going to AFI shows so it’s pretty cool that we’ll be hitting the road with them.

HH: Is there anything you remember about the crowd in Columbus or something that happened outside of the show that was memorable for you?

KM: There was just a really good youthful energy within the crowd. When you’re performing to that, there’s a specific type of electricity that I think you desire as a musician and a performer. I’m looking forward to coming back.

HH: Kurt Smith of Tears for Fears was in your most recent music video. Can you tell me how you ended up getting in touch with him?

KM: That was another dream come true. They’ve been one of my biggest inspirations since I was a little kid. Morgan, who directed the video had this wild idea and he was like “Listen, I’m going to send the song to Tears for Fears and see if they just want to be in the video.”

Basically he sent the song to Kurt and he e-mailed back immediately and was like “I love the song, I’ll be there.” It was pretty crazy having him walk in, he’s one of my heroes and I write music the way I write music because of what him and Roland (Orzabal) have done. It was pretty surreal. He was such a gentleman, such a nice guy and humble...I still don’t think it has sunk in yet that he’s in that video. It’s such a... moment for me. It’s incredible.

HH: I read that you wanted to play hockey and hearing “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” made you want to do music. Was it really that simple?

KM: Oh yeah, 100-percent. When we were kids my brother and I would call that song the popcorn song because it comes on near the end of “Real Genius” where a house gets filled with popcorn. I’ve been listening to Tears for Fears since I was a little little kid. I grew up wanting to be an NHL player, but I grew up in Hawaii, so how was that even going to be possible? I’m also only 5’10” so there’s no way I could be a successful goal tender.

HH: What is your favorite song of the moment?

KM: I’ve probably listened to it over 10 times yesterday, the latest single from Japandroids. They put out my favorite album of 2012 called “Celebration Rock.” The song is called “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.” It’s the newest single for their next album. It’s amazing.

HH: What do you think it is that makes a song good?

KM: I think for me, what will draw me to a song or record is all based upon personal things. Not to sound cheesy but if it can kind of tug at my heart strings, I’m in. If it evokes that feeling inside of you where you can get lost in it for that one moment, that’s a good song.

HH: I also saw that you used to play for 3OH!3, which is super different from what you do now, as far as style of music. What was that transition like from pop punk to what you do now?

KM: I was a touring musician for them, but when Chain Gang first started it was very dance-punk-y stuff. It was fitting to play to a crowd that wanted to get rowdy. 3OH!3 were some of the early supporters of Chain Gang. They took me on my first tour of the U.S., and would always have me open their shows in Colorado when they were starting to really explode and sell out these 900 cap rooms.

We became family. We’re still extremely extremely close friends and see each other almost every day when we’re home. They asked me to play bass for them because they were expanding their live setup. It was incredible, it was an amazing three years of my life and I learned so much and toured the world and made a lot of dreams come true, and I owe that to them. 

HH: But with your own project you’re the frontman and with 3OH!3 you’re in the background. Did you always see yourself as a frontman personality?

KM: I guess some could argue that. I am a Leo so people state that I want all the attention. I can also get weireded out by attention. If someone ever asks for a picture or an autograph or freaks out when they meet me, I of course am so grateful for it and so appreciative of it. But at the same time I’m just like, “I’m a normal person. Why do you want my picture? Why do you want my autograph? I’m on your level. That’s it. We’re all equals here.” There are moments when I feel like, “Yeah, I’m a front man,” but there’s also moments where all I want to do is put on a bass guitar and be in the background, and be in my little world and just play guitar.

It’s nice to be able to have a wide range of things to do so I can experience all those roles, but honestly I’m taking it day by day, and if today asks me to be a frontman, I’ll do it. If tomorrow asks me to be a bassist, I’ll do it. The next day, maybe a drummer, who knows?