Before they bullied an X Factor contestant on live TV, Natalia Kills and Willy Moon arrived in New Zealand like a mini-tsunami. Chris Schulz remembers it well - it might be the strangest moment of his career.

They were billed as the show's wildcards. The big names. The fresh faces. The newlyweds. The new blood. They were there to cause a stir. Were they what.

On a spring evening in 2014, Willy Moon and Natalia Kills - a concrete-faced Kiwi singer who'd scored an iPod commercial, and a UK pop star who has written hits for Rihanna - were the surprise guests at an uber-glam Mediaworks programme launch.

Natalia Kills and Willy Moon appear at Mediaworks' 2015 launch at Shed 10 in Auckland. Photo/Norrie Montgomery
Natalia Kills and Willy Moon appear at Mediaworks' 2015 launch at Shed 10 in Auckland. Photo/Norrie Montgomery

Standing on stage, joined at the hip and dressed all in black, Kills and Moon were like a pair of smiley assassin emojis. They were being confirmed as the new judges joining Stan Walker and Mel Blatt for a second season of The X Factor, one of the many reality shows that aired, and were then axed, during TV3's wrecking ball of a 2015.

Under the spotlight, the pair paused frequently like only newlyweds do, to gaze, cuddle and smirk at each other, shutting out TV3 celebs like Paul Henry, Hilary Barry and Jono & Ben. If you looked closely, the signs were already there that it was Kills & Moon vs The Rest of the World.


As The Spinoff editor Duncan Greive noted that day: "I am personally extremely worried about how that particular Hail Mary casting will play out."

Wise words indeed.

A clandestine meeting and some awkward chit-chat

Just hours earlier, Kills and Moon had stepped off a flight from New York and were driven straight to Shed 10, where they met me.

Ahead of rehearsals for the Mediaworks programme launch, Kills and Moon had been asked to do an early embargoed interview with a Herald reporter, and I had been given the honour.

I didn't know it at the time, but seated on white couches in a sectioned-off area at the back of Shed 10, I was about to endure one of the weirdest moments of my career. That includes a bonkers six minutes with Wiz Khalifa.

The first warning came when TV3's publicist quietly mentioned that Kills and Moon were in a weird mood. They might be jet lagged, she warned. It wasn't jet lag. It was just them.

Natalia Kills, Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt on the set of The X Factor in February, 2015.
Natalia Kills, Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt on the set of The X Factor in February, 2015.

The second came when they arrived. We exchanged pleasantries, then several minutes passed as seating arrangement discussions got underway. Kills sat down on a one-seater, but there was wasn't room for Moon. He complained. She stood up. Moon stood up. I stayed seated. They wanted to sit together, and I was taking up the only two-seater.

Kills briefly contemplated sitting in Moon's lap, but thankfully decided against it. Instead, I relinquished the couch, and sat in the one-seater. They snuggled up on the two-seater. Then Kills asked me to join them.

Moon looked like he'd heard this invitation before. I laughed nervously, before declining.

Then we got into the interview. They'd been married for three months and still had that post-wedding glow. They liked to drink in their New York apartment, then head out to karaoke bars. He was in charge of the music in their flat. She didn't like the Ramones.

Then she said this: "We've never had an argument. The only thing we disagree on is music ... He has a very broad palate. I come from more of a pop perspective. It's going to be really interesting discussing on camera the only thing we avoid discussing at home."

Moon replied: "Of course I completely disagree."

Did they just have their very first argument right in front of me? Probably not. But I still remember how super intense they were. It was scary to be around. When she spoke, with Moon nodding on in approval, her eyes pierced through you like an x-ray scanning your soul. Perhaps that was a little taste of what Joe Irvine would later feel.

They both agreed they would take no prisoners on the show. There were no excuses for bad performances, just bad performances.

"If you really want it, you just do it," Kills said "I've been in a van traveling across Europe without sleep or food or showers for days on end, getting up on stage three or four times a day, interviews, TV, bad sound, microphone not working, loads of feedback ... there's a million reasons why it can all go wrong ... There's a lot of honesty under a spotlight. If you can get up there, and even if it's bad, but there's something believable there, that's good."

Moon nodded, then said something so out of leftfield, so against whatever message The X Factor was supposed to be sending, that it shocked me, and had the TV3 publicist quickly stepping in to try and wipe it from the record. Fat chance.

Moon's advice to the show's contestants was this: "Fortify yourself with drugs and alcohol ... especially if you're under 18."

Of course I used it in my story.

What happened next?

Some months later, seated side-by-side during a live episode of The X Factor, Kills and Moon did something so unfathomably awful, even Simon Cowell was forced to speak out about it.

"She sounded mad ... It didn't even make sense," he said.

Watch it play out below:

Where are they now?

A year later, Joe Irvine says he still can't watch repeats of the episode that saw Kills and Moon sacked from The X Factor. As part of his recovery process, he wrote a song about the incident called Addiction.

"The track is about where Natalia Kills is at now and the highs and lows I went through because of her," he told the Herald on Sunday. "I wish her and Willy well. I just hope they never do anything so stupid and uncalled for again."

Read more: This is what happened to Natalia Kills and Willy Moon

After being sacked, fleeing the country, and making international headlines, Kills and Moon issued separate apologies. She said: "I was encouraged to be outspoken and things got out of hand." He said: "It went too far and I never intended to single out anyone."

Later, Kills changed her name to Teddy Sinclair and formed a band with Moon, called Cruel Youth. They've released one song, called Mr Watson. She sounds a lot like Amy Winehouse in it.