|Kachana - From clarinet to Kachana - February 2002 |
In my opinion, KACHANA is the most interesting underground band to come out from England in a while. Their musical style can be described as a mixture of extreme metal (death for the most part) with a lot of different nuances adding depth to the tracks. No wonder that their latest demo "The Blood Eagle" made me think about CARCASS, OPETH, DEATH, JOY DIVISION, DARK TRANQUILLITY and a bit of IMMORTAL all rolled up into an all-eating monster. Moreover, considering the fact this is their first demo, I just can't imagine what possibly be next, 'cos the skills of this guys appear to be really high. But let's give up on speculations and come to the point here.
I had the chance to talk with this guys, so let's see what Sacha (vocals), Alex (guitars), Shieldy (bass) and Tom (drums) said about their demo "The Blood Eagle" and several other arguments…
Best of all, I wanna thank you guys for your kindness into accepting this interview. Well, let's start now.
I guess maybe the occasional reader isn't acquainted that much with KACHANA, so would you like to summarize a few history-lines of the band, please?
Sacha: I started the band with Tom at the end of 1997 in our first year of university. We found Alex to play on guitar. We didn't have any luck finding a bassist so I bought a bass and took it up instead of guitar. We only had one response to our search for a vocalist, Tom B, who turned out to be much more of a guitarist than a singer, so he and I shared the vocal duties. Tom B then left after contributing to our first three songs as well as playing in our first gig.
We continued as a three piece for another year before deciding to recruit Ed Shackelton (now ex-OBSIDIAN member) as second guitarist. He didn't stay in the band very long although he did contribute to a song and played a gig with us. He moved to London and joined OBSIDIAN.
Once again we were down to three so after another 6 months, having seen the skills of Shieldy decided to ask him to join to expand our sound without requiring a second guitar. He worked very well as it allowed myself to vary my vocals more. Since then we have continued as we are playing various gigs and writing more material, eventually recording "The Blood Eagle".
Alex: I think Sacha has summed up the main events in our history!
Shieldy: I joined the band near the end of 1999, primarily to expand the sound with a bit more intricate bass playing and to allow Sacha to concentrate solely on the vocals. They'd seen me play a couple of gigs with another band and so knew what they were letting themselves in for.
Your latest demo, "The Blood Eagle", clearly shows a totally experienced approach to the tracks, songwriting-wise. Can I ask to you about the process of composition of the tracks, how you craft it and from what you usually get the inspiration?
Sacha: We usually come up with riffs in our own time and we get together we play them to each other and Alex generally decides which riffs are good as he is the guitarist. We all put in ideas how to put the riffs into a song so they fit together in the best way, adding in extras and other ideas.
Alex and I generally come up with the riffs, although Tom tends to do some too. Tom and Shieldy then fill out the song with their own ideas which give the riffs much greater depth, especially with Shieldy's 6-string bass and his ability to create great harmonies and widdly bits!
I generally only think about the vocals once the song is structured, although may have ideas to change things. Sometimes I can write decent stuff quite easily, other times I come up with nothing. It depends on my mood I guess, and the style depends on what I have been listening too recently.
Alex: We throw together a mixture of Tom's, Sacha's and my riffs and then decide what order to play them in. We usually do 4 of each! The structure is usually verse/chorus with fill-in riffs and a middle section that is more instrumental with melodies and solos.
Shieldy: Once the riffs have been arranged into a nominal structure we tend to play the song a few times to see how it feels, during which I'll just play fairly simple bass lines and improvise the odd (bad sounding) solo. After settling on an initial version off the song, we'll record it onto a tape recorder with a built-in mic so that I can go away and write more interesting bass lines, harmonies and work on the bass solo (if any). I'm quite fussy when it comes to the bass lines, and I tend to re-write bits almost constantly… I've changed bits on all the songs on the demo since it was recorded. Makes up for the fact that I seem incapable of writing decent riffs I suppose.
Tom: One thing that we try to do is always keep the songs open to change. It's easy to get into the habit of just practicing a song without a mind to ever altering it, which is odd as it assumes all the good ideas for a song can only come in a specific "writing" period, when in actual fact some of the best ideas come whilst playing the song through when you know it.
As for the musicianship, I found it amazing, too. For how much time each of you has been practicing with his instrument? Do you received a classical musical education or something like that?
Sacha: I started the guitar about 7 years ago (although you wouldn't believe it, because I am so bad!). I played bass for KACHANA for the first couple of years too. When I was younger I also learnt the piano, clarinet and saxophone, doing some music exams, but I haven't touched those instruments much since starting KACHANA!
Alex: I learnt piano and clarinet as a child, but decided these were too gay and instead started the electric guitar about 7/8 years ago. I have never learnt any scales, music or theory for this instrument and just do things by memory. Because I live in a different town from the others (Oxford) and my amp has been in Bristol, I haven't practised the guitar for over a year now!
Shieldy: I got my first bass and amp about 7 or 8 years ago, they were bought with money that was meant to be for driving lessons (I still can't drive) (Hey, do you know what? I can't drive neither, and I really don't care, Shieldy! - Luca). I'm mainly self taught, I started by learning fairly simple songs (mainly METALLICA-ones) and moved on to more progressive and complicated songs by bands like RUSH and DREAM THEATER. A couple of my old flatmates at university were really good guitarists and musicians, and they both really helped me with music theory knowledge and technique. Also one of them paid for a load of guitar lessons from an old jazzer, and he'd come back so excited about the stuff he'd learned that he'd show me all of it, meaning I got the lessons for free!
Tom: I've been drumming for about 12 years, and the best teachers I've had have definitely been the non-classical ones. There's only so far you can apply a 12/8 shuffle march to Thrash Metal. Recently I've been teaching myself various Latin rhythms, especially left foot clave stuff, as it teaches independence that can be applied to any type of music.
While listening to the demo, in the structures of the songs I kinda noticed some musical solutions in the vein of DEATH and CARCASS (latter era). Am I pointing into the right direction? And what do you think about those bands?
Sacha: I am pleased you say that! I would say CARCASS has more influence on me in terms of my vocal style. DEATH are one of my favourite bands and I think I do have some influences from them when I write stuff.
Alex: I love both of these bands and CARCASS, "Heartwork" and DEATH, "Leprosy" are two of my favourite albums. I definitely prefer Death Metal along more thrashy lines and I can see how some of our riffs demonstrate these influences.
Shieldy: I'm a big DEATH-fan, especially the Steve DiGiorgio-albums, that man is a fantastic bassist. On "Individual Thought Patterns" you have these great riffs that Chuck would come up with, then there's also great counter melodies and rhythms on the bass as well as very powerful drumming. DiGiorgio really showed that you could apply a more jazzy, progressive bass style to a Metal-song and produce marvellous results. I'm not such a big CARCASS-fan, however I do think that "Heartwork" is a fantastic album, they were good live, too.
Tom: I like both those bands a lot, although I only got into them fairly recently. Listening to bands like DEATH is really inspiring as it shows you how good music can sound when some technicality and thought is added, and how the music continues to sound good after repeated listens instead of getting boring like a lot of simple formulaic chart music songs.
Well, so we come to the big question mark of the demo (at least for me): the vocals. How do you come to the determination of using a typical dark/gothic singin' style in some passages of the tracks? Don't you think it can be a turn-off for the extreme Metal-listeners, usually accustomed to growling or screaming-type vocals?
Sacha: I agree about the vocals being a turn-off for extreme metallers. I know people who don't like extreme stuff who think the clean vocals are really good, and we have also had reviews pointing them out as a downside to the demo.
I guess I decided to try singing like that for a change to add a different edge, but I didn't really have the intention of sounding dark/gothic! The harmony idea on "Fornicate For Me" was only created when we recorded and I am still a little unsure of how good it sounds!
Alex: I like the clean vocals for a bit of variety although the clean vocals have been one of the main criticisms levelled at our demo by people I know.
Shieldy: It was done, as Sacha said, in an attempt to create a different atmosphere to a portion of the songs, as the more extreme vocals can get a bit relentless at times. I think the clean/extreme vocals thing can work extremely well, like in OPETH or DARK TRANQUILLITY, but perhaps their songs simply suit it more (especially OPETH). As for the harmony it was a spur of the moment thing when we were recording, we can't do it live as there's no backing vocals. I tried briefly to do backing vocals once, but the less said about that the better.
It's quite strange as the only two KACHANA-songs to feature the clean vocals are both on the demo (a coincidence), so the next demo we do is unlikely to have any. See if anybody complains about the lack of clean vocals on the next one!
Tom: The dark singing was fairly experimental, and we realised that it wouldn't be to many people's tastes. The high singing at the end of "Racist Man" is actually me, I was testing the microphone recording level for Sacha's vocals and sung that high part, Alex found it hilarious and we decided to leave it in. I like the way it sounds, but sometimes get embarrassed and tell people it's a girl if they ask.
Moreover, I find a slight resemblance with Ian Curtis into the execution of the clean vocals. What do you think of JOY DIVISION (they were English like you) and all the English dark movement of latter 70s/early 80s as a rule? Is KACHANA in any way related to that kind of sound?
Sacha: I must say I have never knowingly listened to JOY DIVISION, although I might have a listen just to see what Ian Curtis sounds like! The style I sang was just how I sound when I try to sing in tune! I think I have improved a bit since the recording though as I am now singing clean vocals in another band. We will have to see if there will be any more clean vocals on KACHANA-songs. Probably not! We have one more song with clean vocals on the intro in a similar style, the song is called "Apostle Of Sin", and may be on the next demo.
Alex: Who the hell are JOY DIVISION? (Uh, a big hit with everyone, as I can see… J -Luca-)
Shieldy: Personally I'm not a big fan of that genre of music, although it did produce some good bands. I wouldn't say that it has much influence on the band in general, perhaps second hand through someone like DARK TRANQUILLITY's later albums.
Tom: I really like some JOY DIVISION songs like "Isolation" and "Transmission" are very powerful. (You're right, Tom, but let's not forget "She's Lost Control" - Luca) I'd say Sacha sounds like Ian Curtis however purely, because he's not a trained singer, and so wavers over the notes somewhat unevenly. It's nice to know however that we can say that Sacha is merely singing "in the style of" Ian Curtis to the critics!
Who is that Tom B chap who share the writing chores on "Triad", along with Alex?
Sacha: He was our original lead guitarist for about the first 8 months of the existence of KACHANA. He played in our first gig and wrote a fair proportion of our first 3 songs, including "Triad" on the demo (KACHANA's first song!).
Alex: He has also become extremely gay since leaving KACHANA, wearing indie/skater clothes and playing in an indie band - what a waste of talent!
I know all the lyrics of the tracks were written by Sacha, so this basically is a question for him to answer (sorry for the other KACHANA-guys... :) ). Regarding the song on there, "Racist Man", what it's about? I was wondering is that a song about someone in specific or is it just about how neglected I guess the racism related problems are today?
Sacha: The song is sort of aimed at someone, namely President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. I was brought up in Zimbabwe and now seeing him in recent years becoming more of a dictator with his racist attitudes inspired me to write the lyrics to "Racist Man". The song is also generally an anti-racism song as I feel strongly about the issue having been grown up where some of the people hold just stubborn views towards race.
In hindsight, are you still fully satisfied with the demo, or there's something you would have changed into the rendition of any track?
Sacha: Personally, I might have changed the harmony vocals on "Fornicate For Me", but then again it does at something different. I also realise that the low vocals should be a little louder in the mix, as several people have pointed out. Some of the guitars on "Blood Eagle" could have been re-recorded, but it was difficult due to Alex living 2 hours away and not being able to book the place to record.
Alex: In particular, "Fornicate For Me" could be neatened up in parts and in other sections Sacha's low vocals aren't clear enough. However, I like the demo for its raw quality and wouldn't go out of my way to change any of it.
Shieldy: There area couple of timing mistakes that would be nice to redo, plus I make a mistake during the bass solo on "Blood Eagle" that no one else would care about, but it really annoys me every time I listen to it. As I said before, I've also rewritten some of the bass-parts, and got a much better compressor so in an ideal world I'd like to re-record all the bass parts. Having said that, given the time and equipment we had I think we did a good job. Next time we do a demo we won't be trying to finish it before exams start.
Tom: Given that we recorded it ourselves I'm really pleased with the result. If I had to change anything it would be to sort out a few glitches here and there, and perhaps add a guitar harmony in a couple of places. We decided to record it so that it sounds fairly similar to how we do live, so economised on lots of extra harmonies. Sometimes you see bands after hearing their album and wonder where the other 5 guitarists are.
Okay, maybe you already made it clear into the previous answers, but I have to ask. What are the bands and/or musicians who influenced you? Can each of you please name a few albums he considers essential into his musical growth?
Sacha: I would say DEATH has been an influence, especially "Human". METALLICA's black album is what really made me want to pick up the guitar. I am also influenced by AT THE GATES - "Slaughter Of The Soul", SOILWORK - "The Chainheart Machine" and HYPOCRISY (the last 4 albums - Peter Tägtgren is a master!). At the same time I am also influenced by bands like SEPULTURA, CANNIBAL CORPSE, KATAKLYSM, OPETH and SLAYER, so a bit of a range, but probably more extreme influences than the others.
Alex: All classic METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and SEPULTURA (especially "Master Of Puppets", "Reign In Blood", "Rust In Peace" and "Beneath The Remains"). Also classic Bay Area-Thrash-bands such as EXODUS, FORBIDDEN and TESTAMENT (especially EXODUS, "Bonded By Blood" and TESTAMENT, "The Legacy"). I also love 70s and 80s classic Metal like OZZY, SABBATH, MANOWAR, IRON MAIDEN, LED ZEPPELIN and DEEP PURPLE. In particular, "Blizzard Of Oz" by OZZY, "The Number Of The Beast" by MAIDEN, "Hail To England" by MANOWAR and all SABBATH-albums. In terms of modern bands I like the whole Swedish Metal-scene, i.e. DARK TRANQUILLITY, IN FLAMES, AT THE GATES etc. I also think NEVERMORE are a great band.
Shieldy: I was going to get a guitar because of albums like "Master Of Puppets" and "Rust In Peace", but then I saw the "Cliff 'Em All"-video and wanted to be Cliff Burton. From the Metal-world my main influences would be Steve Harris, Burton and Steve DiGiorgio, but I'd have to say that most of the influences on my playing lie in Progressive Rock. The bass playing in bands like RUSH, MARILLION, DREAM THEATER, YES and PINK FLOYD really caught my imagination a lot more than most of the stuff in Metal-bands and inspired me to try to play in a more expansive way. I just find widdling more fun. Recently I've been trying to get more jazz-influences like Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorious into my playing, but those players are so far out of my league that it'll need a lot of work.
Albums: "Script For A Jester's Tear" - MARILLION, "Close To The Edge" - YES, "Individual Thought Patterns" - DEATH, "Exit … Stage Left" - RUSH, "Images And Words" - DREAM THEATER and more recently "A Sceptic's Universe" by SPIRAL ARCHITECT. Not very Metal to be honest.
Tom: I'd say ALICE IN CHAINS - "Dirt", TOOL - "Aenima", and FAITH NO MORE - "King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime" are three albums that have consistently inspired me to play and write music. On the heavier side, EMPEROR - "IX Equilibrium", IN FLAMES - "Clayman", and CHILDREN OF BODOM - "Hatebreeder" have all influenced me greatly.
What was your first introduction to the metal genre, and what made you seriously think about starting to write music and play stuff on your own?
Sacha: Difficult question. I would say I moved into metal through the Grunge-era of NIRVANA and PEARL JAM which my sister got me into. She then bought me the METALLICA black album, which got me hooked on them. I was only into METALLICA for quite a while until my sister played me some SEPULTURA which finally made me spread my taste to more and more bands and more extreme styles. I guess I have my sister to thank then! (I guess we all have to thank her! -Luca-)
Alex: I first got into heavy metal having been influenced by my cousins in Athens who were older than me when I was about 12 years old (I am ½ Greek). By 14 I was loving it as did most of my mates at school and was influenced by many of them who were playing in Rock-bands while I was stuck in the orchestra playing the fucking clarinet! Something had to change and it did! By the time I had started playing in cover bands in London I decided it was far better to write my own stuff, because anyone can play a cover.
Shieldy: My older bother leant me some of his records and the ones that really caught my attention were "Mob Rules" by BLACK SABBATH and "Real to Reel" by MARILLION. Then I heard IRON MAIDEN in about 1989, "Powerslave" I think. I started to get more and more stuff from people, and then one of my mates played me "Ride the Lightning" and I was just amazed. After that I went down the predictable road of Thrash to Death Metal (whilst still listening to Prog Rock strangely enough).
I'd been meaning to get a guitar for about 3 or so years before I actually did, I think the coolness of being able to play something like "Battery" coupled with the fact that I finally accepted that I was rubbish at football was too much in the end. (LOL -Luca)
Tom: I brought "Chaos AD" by SEPULTURA in a record shop on an impulse buy, and that got me hooked on Metal-styles of music. That band I was in at the time was a brit-pop type band, and I remember them laughing that I liked SEPULTURA.
KACHANA is a Bristol-based combo. I've to say that after CARCASS demise I haven't heard of good English bands that much, especially in regard to the extreme-Metal-field (okay, BOLT THROWER and BENEDICTION still survive, but in my opinion they're at a loss as for nowadays). What do you think about? How is the Metal-scene in the UK?
Sacha: I definitely think the underground extreme metal scene here is pretty good, but remains under the surface so not many people know about them. Most of the bands' fans are probably people in all the other bands!
Alex: It's pretty shit in my opinion. There is little popular interest in extreme Metal, instead the new generation listen to Goth/Rap Metal/Nu-Metal etc. As for the underground scene, I have been part of it in London for a long while now and there is nothing much going on of any real interest (especially since they closed the Red Eye/Devil's Church).
Shieldy: I think HECATE ENTHRONED are still releasing stuff (although it's not to everyone's taste) and there's a band called AKERKOCKE that are really starting to make a name for themselves (Kerrang! Album of the month, not bad for a Death Metal-band). There's always CRADLE OF FILTH for those that like them as well. The Metal-scene in Britain is largely either trendy Mu-Metal-stuff or underground more extreme bands, there's a lot of good bands in London and Bradford but they just don't get any real exposure as Death and Thrash Metal is very unfashionable at the moment.
Looking at my CD-collection, the only big British Metal-bands that are still going (and that I listen to) are CATHEDRAL and MY DYING BRIDE, most of my new stuff is Scandinavian.
Tom: There are some good bands, but it's not as strong a scene as I would like. I'm hoping that the Nu-Metal-scene will lead people to listen to the older metal bands, and different types of Metal, helping some sort of revival, but that doesn't seem to be happening. (I think you're sorely right, Tom. -Luca-)
Which type of music takes the new generations by storm, In England? The Nu-Metal-thing coupled with poppy boy bands are in full force too, over there? I ask to you 'cos so is in Italy...
Sacha: Boy bands, girl bands, Pop Punk, boy bands pretending to be Nu-Metal, Indie, garage……crap!
Alex: I answered this one for the previous question.
Shieldy: Same here, everywhere you look there's some teenager in a SLIPKNOT or KORN-shirt and bands like WESTLIFE and STEPS constantly top the charts. There's not a lot you can do really, except ignore it and hope it goes away. Do the British pop bands get exported to Italy? (yes, haplessly they do. :( - Luca) Probably, just think, at the moment you give us LACUNA COIL and we give you STEPS back. That's not very fair.
Tom: The music that takes the new generations by storm seems to be whatever the record producers decide to storm the new generations with. At the moment we have a torrent of Nu-Metal, a flood of boy bands, and a looming cloud of bland garage.
As for the live activity, do you had (or still have) the opportunity of playing any gig in order to promote the demo and allow the Metal-kids to know about KACHANA? And how was the response of the crowd?
Sacha: Gigs are a bit difficult to arrange due to our other commitments, but when we do play we generally get a good response from the crowd (even if it is small...) and sell a few demos, which is always good.
Alex: We have played a fair few gigs in Bristol, London, Bath, Portsmouth etc. The reaction is always good although there is rarely a mosh-pit. Some Metal-people think the music is too retro, but like the vocals, other non-Metal people love the music but hate the vocals.
Shieldy: We occasionally get to play gigs in Bristol, but there's not much of a live Metal-scene in Bristol, certainly not for the style of music we play. We're going to play in London again soon, and the response from there and when we played in Leeds seemed pretty good, some nice comments and we sold a few demos. We'll not exactly be challenging PAPA ROACH for record sales though!
Tom: We love playing gigs, and it's always nice when someone asks for a demo afterwards.
The last time we got in touch, told me about considering a signin' option. Any news on that? And please can you mention which label contacted the band?
Sacha: We haven't made any decision yet as we hoping to get some more offers if we're lucky! The label that offered us a deal are Blind Leper Productions. Their website is www.blindleper.ukf.net. They are still quite small and concentrate on the South West of England.
Alex: Looks we might sign to Blind Leper Records.
Shieldy: It would be nice to sign a contract, but it all depends on what we get out of it and what we have to put in. Sacha works full time and the rest of us are at different stages of PhDs so we're a bit limited in what we can do. Having said that I'd crawl over hot coals to sign a half-decent record contract that meant I could play music for a living and not just a hobby.
Okay, I think it's enough. Thanks again.
Shieldy: Thank you for asking us, and for sorting through the answers and trying to make it interesting :).
2001: The Blood Eagle (MCD, Demo)