More Than a Feeling
Before Dallas’ blues-rock outfit The Kül take the stage, drummer Ross Martinez spins some vinyl to set the mood. His favorite choices are classic rock’s finest: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and especially Jimi Hendrix. One night the owner of Dallas’ Goodnight Records heard The Kül (pronounced like “cool”) doing their thing at the What? Bar.
He loved the foursome’s vintage rock ‘n’ roll so much he offered them his studio to record an album produced by none other than Hendrix’s former drummer, Fort Worth native Buddy Miles. Every member quit his job and prepared for what looked to be a musical ride of classical proportions. But as Martinez and company soon learned, “This business can be ruthless.”
The Kül recorded a few tracks with Miles but eventually parted ways with him and Goodnight. All that guitarist Dane Manshack will say is that the relationship was “not as good as it could have been.” In April, the band will independently release six songs on a currently unnamed e.p. Martinez, Manshack, and the other two band members, singer Johnny Linix and bassist Evan Johnson, do appreciate the free work they accomplished at a pro recording studio. “Spending a lot of time with microphones was vital for our sound,” said Martinez. “And for someone like [Miles] to take a liking to us gave us the confidence to step out and do it.”
Hitting the big time is still a dream of Linix’s. Years ago, the Kravitz-like crooner toured with gospel guru and Fort Worth native Kirk Franklin and his band, God’s Property, but nothing came of that. And even though his dream seemed to be fading, Linix continued chasing it. He found Manshack, who worked clean-up duty in Deep Ellum during its halcyon days. He drove a cart armed with a long tube for sucking up the nightlife detritus, and all the while he kept an eye out “for the best cats who wanted to jam.” A hardworking bluesman from the back- backwoods of Jefferson, Texas, Manshack had already formed a blues jam band, then titled The Cool, and was searching for a singer. One day while working the cart, Manshack recalled, “I saw this guy with a beat-up guitar looking to jam. It was [Linix], and we had this instant writing chemistry.”
Linix said that because of his self-described charisma, everybody always told him he was going to grow up to become a preacher. “Instead, I want to take what’s in me to the clubs and bars so people can experience more life,” he said. “My main focus now is to leave my legacy in music through love, strength, compassion — the truth.” Manshack is also moved by a higher musical calling. “We definitely don’t want to be depressing,” he said. “We hope our music makes you feel good. Music should make you feel better, not the other way around.”
Motivated by thoughtful words and corresponding guitar licks, the Manshack/Linix experience sought solidification through a permanent rhythm section. “We went through 10 bass players and  drummers,” Manshack said. “[Linix] would play drums and sing, but it was too hard for a frontman.” Worn out by the extra duty, Linix tapped into the alumni database of his alma mater, Dallas’ famed Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet High School. Fellow BTW alum and prog-jazz freelancer Martinez joined The Kül in early 2005.
Although the happy e.p. has yet to be officially released, the guys have been passing out copies like crazy. Manshack and Linix accompanied departing Fort Worth soulster Nuwamba to Los Angeles in the midst of some recent awards shows. One night, Manshack and Linix snuck into the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the BET awards were taking place, and tried to hand discs to Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, and Lenny Kravitz. After Manshack made himself at home at the table of famed hip-hop producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, someone thought to ask who the unknown, long-haired, swamp-talking Texan was. “[Jam and Lewis] wouldn’t take they c.d., but [Lewis’] mother-in-law thought I was cute, so she took one.”
Linix said that his and Manshack’s stunt “was like an episode of The Three Stooges.” Confident? Yes. Manshack said, “We’re good enough, persistent enough. We’re gonna get it. If the product is good, the business will follow.” As much fun as making pure music can be, the business side can be rough. Martinez said, “This is a business, and we’re trying to make money.”
Every member works in the service industry, which only makes them strive to get out and get going with their music career. Much like their esteemed rock ‘n’ roll predecessors, The Kül is 100 percent committed. “It’s music or bust,” Manshack said, and Martinez agrees: “If the music career falls through, I will be living under a freeway, kicking it with the bums and playing harmonica.”