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Incubus stopping at Pinewood as summer tour winds down

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2018 BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival - Day 1

Singer Brandon Boyd and turntablist Chris Kilmore of Incubus perform at a California festival in 2018. Incubus will play Pinewood Bowl on Friday.

Getting kicked off the road by COVID-19 was a shock to the system of Incubus, whose bread and butter is touring.

“It felt like somebody just slammed the brakes on,” said turntablist Chris Kilmore. “We're riding on this really cool tour bus and somebody just slams the brake on and says, ‘OK, you're done. Stop, get out’. And we're in the middle of the desert or something, there's no direction. What can we do?’”

So Kilmore was thrilled to be heading back out on the road in June just as Incubus was to begin the summer tour that’s now winding down, with a Friday show at Pinewood Bowl one of the run’s final four dates.

Kilmore spent the last couple of years working on the keyboards, which he picked up late in life. He also learned some more music theory and honed the turntable skills and sounds he’s been making since his boyhood in Pennsylvania.

“I saw Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince when I was young and Jazzy Jeff blew my mind,” Kilmore said. “At that moment, I was like, Man, I want to try to do that.”

He started DJing at 13, continued through high school and college in Washington, D.C., before he moved to Los Angeles to become part of the Jedi Knights DJ crew.

“We would link all of our turntables together,” he said. “We make beats and things like that live together. While we're scratching, and it's  kind of like we're a band."You're playing the bass on a turntable. I've got a kick drum. This guy's got a hi hat and snare and so on. I'm like, we're a band. That kind of opened up my mind.”

That led to invitations to join rock bands, who were adding DJs to the sound mix in the “nu metal” movement. Eventually, an invitation came from Incubus, which was looking for a replacement for Gavin Koppel.

Joining the band for its 1998 tour behind “S.C.I.E.N.C.E,” Kilmore went into the studio with Incubus to create “Make Yourself,” a 1999 double-platinum breakthrough album that yanked the band out of the nu metal mass and into the rock mainstream.

“I feel like just having my personality and the fact that I'm the DJ kind of pulled us out of that a little bit,” Kilmore said. “There was a point there where I felt like a DJ in a rock band was really cliche. Every band out there was trying to come up with a DJ. But I felt like I was always a little different than those guys.”

In large part, that difference was rooted in Kilmore’s musical approach, which aimed at incorporating the turntables almost like another instrument in the group.

“I always felt like when you scratch on top of music, regardless of what genre it is, it's equivalent to a guitar solo,” he said. “It sticks out. It’s loud. It’s hard to sing over it or do other rhythmic things over top of it without that (scratching) being the focal point. So I was always conscious of that.

“So there's a bunch of solos and things like that, but there's a lot of other stuff going on that are blended in. That was actually the hardest thing to achieve with this band — how do I get into this and not stick out and blend in just like everybody else is blending in? I think through that process, it was like, ‘OK, now our sound is developing and our sound is getting bigger and we're not a nu metal band.’”

That change wasn’t just evident musically. It could be seen in the Incubus audience, which Kilmore initially saw on the “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” tour.

“Back then it was all guys,” he said. “it was the mosh pits. It was guys shaking the barricade and everything like that. And then, we wrote ‘Make Yourself’ and ‘Pardon Me’ came out and you started seeing a little bit more girls. As that album went on, and the singles came out, ‘Stellar’ came out and now that front row was all girls, with those guys behind them. And then a crowd developed.”

The audience has stayed with the band through its hit-making years, with it 2000s albums “Morning View,” “A Crow Left of the Murder” and “Light Grenades” and the touring years of the last decade.

Kilmore, who had a bout with COVID-19 in June — “it took me out for a little bit, it’s definitely the sickest I’ve ever been" — missed the band’s rehearsals and had to play a pair of shows in Spain without the practice.

“It's really funny how mentally you forget things,” he said. “You're like, ‘Oh, what song is this or what setting is that?’ Once you get into it and don't think about what you have to do, it's almost like muscle memory. Your body just takes over and it's like, 'This is how you do it.'”

Unlike the majority of artists, Incubus plays different songs every show.

“We usually have a structure, obviously,” he said. “It’s a coordinated event kind of thing. It’s not just us up there jamming. We’ve got sound guys and lighting guys all trying to do their jobs as well. So we usually keep a good outline, how we're going to start, maybe a middle section and then switch out some songs in between."

“We're pretty flexible as a band. Obviously, we've been around for so long, we have so many songs we could play, we can throw in audibles as often as we like. We try to keep it fresh every night and do our thing.”

Not only does Incubus change up the songs at every show, the band also uses its soundchecks to create new material.

“Over the years, once we get our soundcheck kind of straight on stage, we just start jamming and we always record,” Kilmore said. ”So after soundcheck, we might say, ‘Oh, that was a cool idea’ and go back and revisit it and then work on it for a couple days. The process of writing songs for us, that's kind of what it is. It's just a rough idea until it sparks an idea with somebody else. And then it starts going around the rest of the guys and before long it whips up into a song.”

Kilmore said he expects the veteran alternative rockers to have a bunch of new songs in hand when they hit Lincoln on Friday, adding he is looking forward to playing Lincoln’s tree-lined amphitheater in the park.

“We love venues like that.” Kilmore said. “We love the summer because that's the time you can play outside and it’s just so great. When you can do a concert outside in the open air.

"Yeah, yeah. It’s the best.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or On Twitter @KentWolgamott  


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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott, the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award, has written about arts and entertainment for Lincoln newspapers since 1985, reviewing thousands of movies and concerts and hundreds of art exhibitions.

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