“REMEMBERING KRISTOV” Part 4: “’F’ Cancer”

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 took an extended break after the November 2007 tour dates and after looking over our options for 2008 I decided that a mini tour with WEDNESDAY 13 would be a good way to get back out there for a quick run and so I began piecing together the dates. Kris was determined to join us on these dates despite his quitting the band at the end of 2007. I was glad to hear he was feeling better but we had a back-up plan in case something weird came up or it didn’t work out. I always had a back-up plan. And a lot of times I had back-up plans for the back-up plan. It’s just how I operate.

In late March of 2008, I issued an update for Kris that indicated his condition was “stable”. I was extremely happy to be able to forward some positive news to everyone. There had been a lot of emails, texts, and phone calls asking about him and I had begun to realize I was becoming an expert at dodging the question. It set the tone for the first several months and the tone of the band seemed to be more positive. Everyone seemed to be back on the group/team parade and not on the “me, myself, and I” parade.

In June 2007 we did our last photo shoot with Kris. There had never been a discussion about rejoining the band. I was just happy he was back. Considering the hell he had been through he looked fantastic.

Pictures for MARAZENE have always a long, drawn-out, difficult process. It’s always been next to impossible to get everyone in the same room at the same time. And it’s always been even more difficult to get everyone to agree on the same pic, etc.

I sent Kris a text:

Dietrich: meet at 6 at nikks for pix 😀
Kristov: ok ya schmay don’t be gay

We all rode together to our photo shoot the result of which would be:

MARAZENE MACHINE 2008: Our last shoot with Kris

Kris informed me in early July that his doctor was vetoing his involvement with the W13 tour dates and told him he had to begin chemo immediately. There could be no mistaking the implied urgency.

I was as supportive as I could be but I wasn’t above scolding Kris for putting off a return to chemo for a week or two just for the possibility of joining us for a few tour dates. I understood the reasons why he wanted to do them. I was aware of the finality that was implied. But I was also told that there was still hope for a return to normalcy in Kris’s situation. Kris’s health was always a priority. I knew it would take time. I knew it would be tough. And I told him I would be there when he needed me. I told him there would be more tour dates and not to sweat it.

I used to think to myself “Kris,” as I was sitting there thinking of ways that I might be able to help. You know. To try to scheme or strategize our way out of this mess. “All you gotta do is say ‘f’ cancer and raise your middle finger in the air and stand strong in the face of this illness and this will all work itself out. You’re young. You’re strong. You’re my friend and I’m not going to let this happen to you. I’ve got your back.”

But it didn’t really end up working out that way.

And I used to think to myself in a broader sense, “All WE have to do is look to each other for support, stand together in defiance of cancer like we’ve all done at a Marazene show and feel the strength from each other as we raised our collective fists in the air and let all of our aggression out and again tell cancer to get the hell out our lives and to stop hurting our friend.”

This was all in ways that I could immediately relate to; like trouble shooting or meeting a crisis head-on, in terms of sound checks and if my photographer would come through with the full band shots that I keep asking for (that I never seem to get), whether or not I have time to answer 15 voice mails about what time the show is or where the venue is and if there is a guest list and if such and such is on the guest list… I could only WISH that that had been the case. At least then I could have made a difference. I could handle all of that shit with ease.

Kris said that he wanted to at least join us for our Chicago (Mokena) show with W13 where we had had such a huge show with Mushroomhead only 8 months earlier. But before we left he texted me that he would not be able to do it in farily graphic terms. This was in reference to a new double-chemo regimen he was on. It was some pretty toxic stuff. It was an unsettling reminder of the intense difficulties Kris was facing on his own while away from the band. Kris was being attacked in every conceivable way by the disease AND by his treatment and the worst part about it was that down the road, after he had gone through and suffered through the third chemo run, it would fail to make a difference with his overall health situation.

All things considered, the mini-tour went better than expected. Gas prices were shit and that had been our biggest concern. The tour ended in my hometown of Minneapolis and I ended up staying to reminisce and catch up with friends. Kris stayed in touch on the tour and I let him know in no uncertain terms that I would have preferred that he be there with us.

Marazene always planned for the future. Period. And Kris was always a part of that plan. Period. Anyone who says we didn’t do one or the other doesn’t know what the fukk they’re talking about. Period.

This brings me full-circle on this hastily written tribute to my friend. I say hastily as I wrote the entire thing within days of Kris’s passing. I wrote 2 other parts but I have decided not to release them due to the very personal nature of the experience.

I am sad to say that I was not able to attend Kris’s funeral as I was not anywhere near Illinois at the time due to circumstances far beyond my control – a vehicle break down and shit weather in the area I was staying in at the time being key factors.

But I did try to make sure everyone whose life Kris might have touched over the years was informed of the details online with an hastily written obituary and an address to pay respects.

For my part, I would have read a slightly altered version of the following at Kris’s wake were I able to attend:

Thank you. First, I wanted to say hello and to thank everyone for attending.

Second, I just wanted to apologize to the Kemp family for their loss and for not being able to attend today. [Bad weather and a vehicle breakdown prevented me from getting back to Chicagoland in time for the services.]

I’ve been scrambling for something wise and appropriate to say for Kris in Kris’s name but it’s been pretty hard to narrow it down since we spent so much time together and so rather than make it some huge over-the-top philosophical thing that kept just kept on writing itself when I tried to think of the right words, I’ll try to keep it simple.

I had a unique and one-of-a-kind relationship with Kris.

I wasn’t as close to him as some.
And I didn’t know him quite as long as others.
But we had some really cool times together.
Some of the best.
And we had a good run.

I am happy to have known Kristopher Kemp.

And I am very happy and proud to be able to say that he was a brilliant and colorful streak across the massive canvas that has been my life and my times in Chicago.

Thank you.

And I thank you for reading this far. The comments, emails, phone calls of support, empathic exchanges, the understanding, the patience… They are all very much appreciated.

RIP Kristopher Kemp
10.28.74 – 01.26.09

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