RIP Kristopher "Kristov" Kemp: 10.28.74 -- 01.26.09

In thinking about my times with Kristov over the course of the last 8 years this is what comes to mind. I thank you for understanding a random missed detail during a time of mourning.

I wrote this for myself. To make sure I would not forget. But I also wrote it for Kris. To make sure noone else would forget what he meant to me and to the band MARAZENE.

I miss my friend.

We were set to do another tour with Mushroomhead in late 2007 and Kris called me up to inform me that he had several cancerous nodes that were acting up and that his doctor was again ordering immediate chemo to deal with it.

It was the nightmare all over again.

I notified Mushroomhead to let them know there was the possibility we might need to cancel our tour with them due to the recurring illness. They said understood and to let me know what we decided. It was a very very difficult phone call.

For a long time Kris had made it clear he wanted his health situation to remain a private and family matter. I rarely spoke about the situation with anyone other than Kris or close friends. But when he found he was unable to participate with our Fall ’07 tour plans I suggested that Kris’s struggle was one that people should be aware of because (unfortunately) cancer is so prevalent. I was convinced people would understand and relate. Also because I thought his unique and individual struggle should be understood. That he was fighting something so overwhelming. I wanted to let Kris know that he wouldn’t be alone in facing this fight.

On September 20th, 2007 I issued an update that detailed Kris’s struggle from the onset in 2006. The response was overwhelmingly positive from close friends and our fans. Industry insiders contacted me privately and via email saying they wished Kris well also. I was only happy to be able to contribute something since being on the sidelines of this situation was starting to make me feel a little too helpless.

My rationale of the November 2007 touring situation was that it would have been as difficult to cancel the tour as it would be to go forward with the tour. There was a lot of things already in motion by that point. It was a high-pressure, rapid-fire decision-making situation that was very similar to the one we had faced in May of 2006. We only had a few days to sort it all out. Despite all of the success of the band we were still flying by the seat of our pants. There was no industry insider advice for us to absorb. We made these decisions on our own. We made what we thought were the best decisions for the band and for each other.

I called Mushroomhead percussionist Dan Fox to see if there was the possibility he could pull triple duty (he was already performing with PSYCLON NINE on top of performing with Mushroomhead and on top of drum teching) and cover our 25-30 minute set. Amazingly he said he could and that he would do anything he could to help.

We kicked off the tour in Detroit without any rehearsals. Obviously there were differences in Kris’s and Dan’s playing. But we did it. We did what we needed to do to keep our dreams alive. And we kept getting better as the tour went on.

I would have preferred that Kris be there but this is the hand that we were dealt. The band had agreed that we should push our forward momentum while we had it in our favor and take it as far as it could go. Kris might miss a few shows in the short term but when he returned to us we would be that much further along in spreading our music and Kris would be able to rejoin us with the band better positioned and ready to do even bigger things. This was something that our short-term thinking critics had a hard time wrapping their brains around. You’d be suprised – I certainly was – as to how many people came out of the woodwork and who thought they had a better plan than ours – and this being absent any real knowledge or history about our band.

There was and continues to be, without a doubt, persons out there that loved to watch every minute of our struggle and who wanted to see our band fold under the pressure. But no amount of negative energy can tear down what Kris, Nikk, and myself have done and everything we have done is merely prologue to what we as MARAZENE MACHINE hope to achieve in the coming months and years.

So if I haven’t made it clear enough – if you’re a hater or have a sour grapes mentality – you are surely headed for disappointment.

Kris was able to join us for our hometown show at Pearl Room in Mokena, IL (considered a far southern suburb of Chicagoland) on the second date of the tour. We had tried to make it work for him to join us on a couple other of the closer regional shows but it just wasn’t meant to be.

The Mokena show however was probably our biggest hometown show ever next to our headlining Metro show in January of 2006. The vibe was tremendous. Kris was introduced and the crowd went apeshit. Kris had become a rallying cry and it was cool that so many people seemed to be able to relate to his being present and as ready as ever to throw down.

Cancer? What fukking cancer!?

Backstage everything felt right. The familys were out. The friends were out in support. It really was an amazing night. The show was as much a MARAZENE hometown show as it was a Mushroomhead National headlining tour date. Many many shots and beers were offered that night and it was difficult to find a reason to turn them down.

The tour without Kris ended up being more difficult and took more out of me than I expected and to this date I am not convinced that doing the Fall ’07 tour was the best choice for us at the time. But what’s done is done. It was fun. But it was costly. We had to make a quick decision. And there was a lot of pressure to do the right thing.

Kris was able to join us for a few remaining tour dates in the second week of November 2007 (which was the week after the Mushroomhead tour) but the situation ended rather ugly. The rigors of the road coupled with a little too much of the general clautrophobic nature of touring and a run-in with a band member that I was also having problems with at the time, which is all too typical for bands, proved to be a little too frustrating for Kris. It didn’t help that the night before in Milwaukee his truck, which had been hauling all of our gear, had been broken into. It also didn’t help that the majority of items missing from the truck were his. It was a karmic bitch-slap that seemed out of place considering everything going on in his life. He informed me via a phone call on Sunday, November 11th at around 3PM that he was no longer interested in performing with the band for the final show or any show thereafter. The show he refused to play was our welcome home Chicago show.

Over the past several years there’s been an unwavering desire by myself and the members of this band that once committed to a show you come through. You don’t cancel at any cost. You make the show happen. I distinctly remember this moment as a time when I saw clearly that self-preservation on the one hand and maintaining the integrity of the band on the other was more important in the longer run. This moment would profoundly change the way I would decide to accept show offers and is a pretty good indicator for why we played considerably fewer shows in 2008.

In the past I would have scrambled and scanned my phone book for a sub to come in and play. Not to diss Kris. But to make the show happen. I’ve always had a bit of the never say die mentality myself. Show me a problem and I will destroy the mother fucker from every available and (presumed) unavailable angle. It’s part of how we managed as a band to accomplish the many cool things we had over the past several years.

But the thing is, I had just gone through that with the tour. I was already completely burned out. Tensions were high. We had been touring in the least comfortable way possible with a minimal of amenities. 3 days off in 37 days was what I had prepared my brain for. 3 days off in 37 days and a band member quitting at the last minute was enough for me to agree with Kris to say “fukk it” myself. I was only happy to accept the moment of clarity for what it was worth.

The fact that Kris said “fukk it” and that I said “fukk it” after all the years of working together was unsettling and I think that’s putting it mildly.

It was a disappointing end to a very rough and tumble couple of months.

It really seemed like the end of the road for MARAZENE at the time.

to be continued…

One comment

  1. […] Part Three HERE. […]

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