In October 2011, the headliner of the X96 Big Ass Show was Panic! At the Disco.
Right before the show, lead singer Brendon Urie had to be hospitalized for a temporary but serious matter.
Instead of canceling the gig, the rest of Panic! At the Disco decided to perform, with different singers on the bill filling in for Urie.
One singer who filled in that day was Tyler Glenn of the now world-famous Neon Trees.
Another was Ransom Wydner, the frontman for local pop-rock band King Niko.
Just being invited to perform at the Big Ass Show, as well as stepping up and being able to fill big shoes, illustrates that the future for King Niko is bright.
The quintet, which as also being called “dance rock,” has become one of the most successful bands coming out of Salt Lake Ciyt, having opened for Loverboy, Rooney, Say Anything, 30 Seconds To Mars, Switchfoot, Anberlin and Grouplove, since forming in 2009.
The band — Benjamin Moffat, guitar, 37; Wydner, 27; Reid Laitinen, keys, 30; Tim Rawcliffe, bass, 29; and Zachary Sloan, drums, 30 — answered questions posed by The Tribune about inspirations, musical training, and the best jokes they’ve heard lately.
What musical training have you had?
Moffat •I took some jazz theory classes in college. However, all my real chops were learned from the school of hard knocks ( male prostitute).
Wydner •- I’ve been singing my whole life. As a kid, my dad made us kids — me, my brother and sister — sing songs in different languages for prospective investors in his translation company. My big sister told me to try singing Jackson 5 when I was 9, and I started writing terrible songs at about 10. Besides choir classes, I’ve had no formal training. It’s a band joke that I really don’t know anything at all about music — I just sing.
Laitinen • I took piano lessons throughout grade school, and guitar lessons in middle school. Also, a theory class at the U.
Rawcliffe • I took lessons for a few different instruments when I was younger. Then played bass during church services in high school. Ten-plus years of gigging and playing in a band is really the best training though.
Sloan • I started playing in my first band, No Hot Ashes, at 9 in Urbana, Illinois. I lettered in marching band at Urbana High. I attended summer youth band programs as a kid.
What inspires you? What doesn’t inspire?
Wydner • I’m inspired by surprise and the unexpected. That’s what I wanna sing about — stuff that you maybe hadn’t considered. I’m also inspired by patriotism, excellent magic tricks and animals who are friends so I suppose I inspire easily. I’m not inspired by sleepy-time jangley nonsense with grandiose choruses. Get real. Get a little dirty.
Laitinen • My main inspiration is the guy from [Nebraska rock band] The Faint. After seeing them for my first time, I thought, “I gotta get a synthesizer.” I’m not inspired by people with “cooler-than-thou” attitudes, who never look like they’re having any fun.
Moffat • When my wife is topless, I’m inspired.[Uganda war criminal] Kony doesn’t inspire me. Also, macaroni and cheese with ketchup. That’s just gross.
Rawcliffe • I’m inspired by great musicians and good songwriting, it makes you think “I wanna do some of that too!”
What is the most musical thing in the world?
Moffat • Michael Jackson
Wydner • Struggle. Whether it’s about winning or losing, the fight is what we like and the best music of any sort is about some kind of struggle.
Does being a Utah-based band help or hinder a music career?
Moffat • think it helps. There are a ton of great bands from Utah, so I feel lucky to be a part of that community. Plus, Utah has the hottest girls in the nation. So that’s nice.
What are some of the highlights of King Niko’s career?
Moffat • Getting our songs played on X96, meeting Jared Leto, chilling with the dudes in Royal Bliss, and most importantly, getting to hang out and play music with my favorite bros in the entire world. It’s all about the friendships.
Wydner •Jared Leto wandering into our green room in his sleeping clothes; headlining the Arts Fest; the mechanical bull and afterparty in Boise following our Knitting Factory show’ the first time hearing ourselves on radio; talking Latin and music with Doug Fabrizio on Radio West; dozens of hotel room shenanigans with my good friends and bandmates; singing with Panic At The Disco.
Laitinen • Signing autographs after our set at the 2011 X96 Big Ass Show. That was a trip.
What does your upcoming album say about you, and your aspirations and goals and world-view?
Moffat • Probably that we like disco just as much as we do rock. I also think Ransom’s lyrics are unlike anything else other bands are doing. We’re not afraid to tell the story of the universe using the 3:30 pop song formula. I also don’t dig “yawn rock.” Nothing against the new folk-beard movement, but I like edge in my music. If there’s no urgency or edge, I get tired and bored. King Niko always has an edge to their music. It makes us feel alive.
Wydner • We try not to take ourselves too seriously. I’d say that’s the theme. Everything’s a bit off, a smidge strange, a little weird. There’s a place for serious, sure, but we’re at our best a little weird and having lots of fun. It’s a fun record, for sure.
What are two of the funniest jokes you’ve heard lately?
Moffat • Tim and Ransom are the funniest dudes on the planet. Every time we hang out, or practice, they make up these stupid songs about food. I would say their food parody songs are the funniest things I’ve heard lately.
Wydner • King Niko only knows a handful of jokes fit to print, but here’s a couple: 1. A bear walks into a bar and says “I’ll take gin and ................ tonic.” Bartender says, “OK, but what’s with the huge pause?” The bear answers, “These? Had ‘em my whole life.” 2. René Descartes walks into a bar. Bartender asks, “Can I get you anything?” Descartes says, “I think not,” and vanishes.
King Niko CD Release show
With • Hang Time and Cathy Foy
When • Saturday, March 16 at 9 p.m.
Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City
Admsision • Free
Info • Show will also stream live at gigviz.com