Kristian Hoffman Biography

As a Swinging Madison

As a Swinging Madison

Kristian Hoffman released his fourth solo album, "Fop", on Kayo Stereophonic Records, in September 2010. It was met with overwhelming critical praise, making it one of the best reviewed albums of the year. A sample review from the highly regarded Magnet Magazine: "Hoffman’s latest solo LP is Fop (Kayo Stereophonic), and it’s a 17-song masterpiece sure to blow your mind." More journalist response is available on the official Kristian Hoffman Press Page.

Kristian Hoffman ran away from his boyhood home in Santa Barbara, California, to New York City where he and his high school friend, Lance Loud, formed a band, Mumps. This was quite soon after both had made dramatic appearances in what is now known as "the first reality T.V. series: PBS' award winning "An American Family".

Flourishing for about five years in the New York club scene in the late '70s, Mumps drew musical comparisons to The Move, The Kinks, and Sparks, and stylistic comparisons to the New York Dolls. Lance was the flamboyant singer, Kristian the songwriter and keyboard player. There were a variety of members in the first formative year or so, but the classic Mumps line-up is Lance Loud: vocals; Kristian Hoffman: keys and backing vox; Rob DuPrey: lead guitar and backing vox; Paul Rutner: Drums; amd Kevin Kieley: Bass and backing vox.

Mumps was known not just for its musical unpredictability, and the wildly gymnastic delivery of Lance as a song stylist, but for its love of fun (Kristian was known to play a kazoo on stage, or appear with a wig made of Easter Grass, and every other member was equally flamboyant!). They recorded their first single, "Crocodile Tears" in Brian Wilson's studio in Santa Monica, where Kid Congo Powers insisted Stevie Nicks famously had illicit substances blown up an untoward posterior aperture. It was produced and engineered by the go-to psych-pop engineering genius and former Spark Earle Mankey (Runaways, the Quick, Helen Reddy, Elton John, the Beach Boys!).

"Crocodile Tears" was an immediate intercontinental critical hit, and subsequently included on numerous compilations, and secured Mumps a hearty welcome in every punk/pop venue across the country, but did not secure them the major label record deal afforded many of their probably less deserving peers.

They released another highly regarded EP, "Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That", but were never allowed the mission statement of a full length LP, and narrowly missed the chance to have a record produced by John Cale of Velvet Underground fame.

All Music guide described the first reissue of the Mumps canon thus: "Fatal Charm" proves that the Mumps' music remains vibrant, creative, and intoxicatingly bizarre decades after it was recorded."

Many people assumed the fact that for a live act as popular as the Mumps, who often sold out CBGBs three nights running, not being signed was due either to Lance Loud's completely out sexuality, or a backlash against "An American Family" and the presumed dilettantism of an act whose members that had already achieved unpredcedented nortoriety in another arena. Nothing could be further from the truth, since both Lance and Kristian had been avid music lovers with broad and eclectic musical palates who had been trying to form a band for years before "An American Family" had been produced. In fact both famously had attended the concert at Altamont, and recorded the then unreleased Rolling Stones song "Brown Sugar" on a cheap cassette, and rakishly claimed authorship of said composition in their High School band until they were "outed" by the commercial release of the Rolling Stones 45.

When Lance and Kristian moved to NYC in about 1970, their obsession with the emergence of the New York Dolls as pioneers of a truly American sardonic take on glam lead to Kristian drawing the infamous "Bendover Girl" which was included as an insert in the Doll's first LP.

While still performing as Mumps, Lance and Kristian subsequently appeared in a show called "New Wave Vaudeville" , produced by Ann Magnuson, who was to prove a life-long collaborator with Kristian. Thus they met met the headliner Klaus Nomi, the eccentric legendary German counter-tenor mutant glam virtuoso visionary.

Kristian was at that time concurrently a member of James White's band the Contortions (on slide guitar!), and urged on by Contortions manager Anya Phillips, Kristian approached Klaus Nomi about forming a band. Kristian's collaboration with Klaus included writing several songs for him, including "Total Eclipse," which was featured in the rock and roll movie Urgh! A Music War.

Meanwhile Kristian continued to make his mark as keyboard player, drummer (!), producer, and songwriter for musicians in the avant garde "No Wave" of the New York music scene, including Lydia Lunch (he played drums on her "Agony Is The Ecstacy" European tour, opening for the Birthday Party and the Cure, and on her tour as a blues revisionist in "The Devil Dogs"), James Chance (he toured for a year or more as guitarist for the 2nd configuartion of the Contortions, and supplied lead vocals to James White and The Blacks' recording of "Tropical Heat Wave"), and Ann Magnuson (with many one-off conceptual performaces under their belt at various venues in NYC and Los Angeles, they also spearheaded the "anti-folk" movement with their popular act, Bleaker Street Incident).

In 1981, Kristian's post-Mumps band, The Swinging Madisons put out a 5 song EP featuring "My Mediocre Dream," which was a parodic post-Reagan riposte at Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, and "Guilty White Liberal," which he was known to dedicate to his mother. Kristian's mother had raised him in an atmosphere of liberal activism and folk music. The Swinging Madisons combined a lounge-band look with hard rock music, and gave Kristian the chance to take over the role of flamboyant singer. Bleaker Street Incident (featuring Ann Magnuson and also and Robert Mache), continued to play bicoastally, parodying the folk music that had provided the soundtrack of Kristian's childhood.

"Volare", the Bobby Rydell standard, became so closely identified with Kristian as the lead songer of the Swinging Madisons, that on more than one occasion he was chased down an NYC street by young girs yelling, "It's Volare man!"

By the early '90s joke band fatigue set in. After Bleaker Street Incident, Kristian was thinking folk, had written a lot of sad songs, and set out to make an album out of them. In the meantime he was recruited to record songs for tribute albums to the Hollies and to the Bee Gees (pre-disco era). The producer for the songs he recorded for these two compilations was Earle Mankey, with whom Kristian had been associated since Mumps days, and both songs (Hollies' "I'm Alive" and Bee Gees' "Lemons Never Forget") featured a modern psychedelic production, which steered Kristian's musical thinking back toward other music he knew how to create. As a result, Kristian's solo debut, 1993's I Don't Love My Guru Anymore featured a broad array of musical styles, including the string laden Baroque Pop ala the Left Banke that Kristian continues to explore until this day, although folk/acoustic was the strongest influence heard on the album.

The '90s and '00s have brought more collaboration opportunities to Kristian Hoffman. He's made his mark on rock and roll history as the first musical director for chamber pop singer Rufus Wainwright's touring band, has played keyboards and written songs for the atmospheric torch band Congo Norvell, has produced, toured with, and written songs for punk/cabaret singer Abby Travis, toured and recorded as keyboardist for El Vez, the Mexican Elvis all over the U.S., and toured for five years with and played on several albums withKinks founder and lead guitarist Dave Davies. Meanwhile Kristian found time to record and release his second solo album, 1996's Earthquake Weather, the electric follow-up to the softer-sounding Guru, and to add his sometimes humorous illustrations to books by long-time musical accomplice Lydia Lunch and by Los Angeles poet Iris Berry.

Kristian, who until a couple of years ago was defiantly computer-free in Los Angeles, finally entered the cyber age with the debut of this fan-designed website in February of 2002, thanks to the efforts of long-time Dave Davies supporter Joanne Corsano, who designed and managed the site for many years.

Kristian's third solo album, called & because it consists mainly of duets with other musicians (including Russell Mael of Sparks, Rufus Wainwright, Maria McKee, El Vez, Paul Reubens, Anna Waronker, Lydia Lunch, Stew, and Ann Magnuson), was released in July of 2002 to great critical acclaim. "Uncut" Magazine called it a " spectacular, operatic art rock power-pop album"; Aquarian Weekly called it a "flawlessly crafted, ornately embellished pop opera"; and the L.A. Weekly said "& is the record that every fan of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Kinks and great songcraft in general has been pining for. Frighteningly Excellent!"

Record release parties at Amoeba Records, Tangier, and The Fez (in NYC) quickly followed. All Music Guide called "&" "a tour-de-force of classic pop songcraft." Soon after "&" was released, Kristian was approached by "Sympathy for The Record Industry" founder Long Gone John to release the definitive Mumps reissue.

The result was "How I Saved The World" , a two disc set with a 24 page color booklet designed by noted rock historian Steve Stanley, with over 30 songs (incuding 10 previously unreleased tracks), and a DVD of never-before-released rare live material lovingly assembled by director Dave Markey ( "The Year That Punk Broke" ) and containing optional commentary by Kristian himself. All Music Guide raved, "Mumps' particular combination of pop hooks, rock guitar figures, full-on glam flamboyance, wickedly funny lyrics and unashamed charisma added up to music that was a little too smart for the house no matter where they played."

Soon after, Kristian started working with Ann Magnuson on what would be her second solo album, "Pretty Songs And Ugly Stories" . Kristian produced, arranged, and played multiple instruments on the entire album, and co-wrote 10 of the 14 songs. The album contained yet another collaboration with Rufus Wainwright, who supplied a one-man choir to the evocative and plaintive "Whatever Happened To New York?" about which reviewer Greg Burke said simply: "Excellence abounding"! Sold out shows at Los Angeles' Redcat Theater and NYC's Joe's Pub followed soon thereafter.

For the next few years, Kristian continued to collaborate with Abby Travis, Carolyn Edwards, Andrew Sandoval, and Steve Moramarco's delightful and ambitious "big band" send-up, "The Abe Lincoln Story", the self-anointed and yet legitimate kings of "soul punk swing".

But next came what would be Kristian's most ambitious project to date: the seventeen song opus "Fop". Intended to be a response to, and celebration of, not only the production excess of Richard Harris era Jimmy Webb, but also a searing examination of the devaluing of art and beauty in an era of intellectual, spiritual, and political collapse, "Fop" was released to Kristian's best reviews ever, and indeed was one of the best reviewed albums of 2010.

Produced and arranged by Kristian, with contributions from Kristian's Santa Barbara High School alumnus and genius conductor/arranger Jeff Bruner, as well as Stephen Oremus, whom Kristian met when he was conducting the orchestra for Rufus Wainwright's "Judy At Carnegie Hall" show, "Fop" subscribed to a religion of sensory excess. It also features an 28 page full color booklet designed by Kristian himself, which was mentioned in several reviews as the best package of the year.

To celebrate "Fop"'s release, Kristian ventured to NYC to have a record release party at Bowery Electric, backed by the incredible Joe McGinty's famous "Loser's Lounge" band, which included the heart-rendingly gorgeous vocal accompaniment of Ward White. A sold out, standing room only record release party at M Bar in Los Angeles followed quickly thereafter, hostessed by Ann Magnuson, with guest vocal appearances from Timur Bekbosunov (whose band "The Dime Museum" had just covered 5 Hoffman compositions on their debut CD "The Collection") and Liberty Larsen ( whose vocal prowess had also graced the stage at Brookledge, the original "Magic Castle" in Hancock Park where Kristian was now musical director.

Since the release of "Fop", Kristian continues to promote the CD compilation while playing regularlty with Abe Lincoln Story, and participating in promotional videos for "Fop", including Steve Moramarco's controversial and delightful "Hey Little Jesus". "Hey Little Jesus" stars John Quale as Jesus - John is probably better known as Prince Poppycock. Kristian appeared as the keyboard player with John/Poppycock on the Prince's stellar rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" on "America's Got Talent".

Kristian is currently collaborating with Prince/John on several recordings, as their relationship has progressed ever since John asked Kristian to play keys on John's rendition of the Mumps' classic "Fatal Charm", opening for the Dresden Dolls at Los Angeles' legendary Orpheum Theater.

Prince/John was also one of many singers guesting at Kristian's sold out, standing room only "Fop Formal" at the Steve Allen Theater in February 2011. Poppycock gave his magical treatment to "Fatal Charm" , while other singers, including Carolyn Edwards, Kristi Callan, Steve Moramarco, Todd Lowe and Ann Magnuson gave their own personal imprint to classics from Hoffman's extensive back catalog.

Kristian continues to collaborate with Poppycock and Bekbosunov, as well as being nearly through with writing the songs for his next album.

As for where this multifaceted singer/songwriter, musician, poet and artist will be headed next, it's a safe prediction that he has a surprise or two in store.

- August, 2002