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Interview: Kurokuma

by Srđan Radovanović
Kurokuma are an English Doom/Sludge trio that are new to the scene but their impact is already felt. Founded in 2014. in Sheffield, UK by George Ionita (Bass, Vocals, Percussion), Joe E. Allen (Drums) and Jacob Mazlum (Guitars, Vocals, Percussion), they are already showing off their talent. Metal Jacket Magazine had an opportunity to talk to them, just an hour before their show at Brutal Assault 23.
With me today, new faces on the scene, straight from Sheffield, Kurokuma! Welcome gentlemen!
Everyone: Thank you! And thank you for saying our name right! (laugh)
How do you like it here?
Jake: It’s incredible! We’ve done a few dates, from Romania, Budapest, Slovakia, done a few here in Czech Republic and now this festival! It’s so good, it feels so real, people are so cool, there’s people from so many different places. We’re really looking forward to our show, like number one on our tour so far!
Like I said, you’re a pretty new name on the scene. How do you feel compared to bands who have been around for a while.
Jake: We’ve already played with some big names of our scene and none of us are impressed by the celebrity of the people around us. They may want to talk to us or they may like what we do, but we’re not going to get excited like when you’re meeting a Hollywood actor (laugh)
Joe: Apart from Danzig!
Jake: Well yeah we all have one we’re all allowed to have. Joe’s is Danzig!
For many of our readers, would you like to tell us a bit about yourselves that doesn’t really show on your Bandcamp or anywhere else, something you don’t really get a chance to say?
Jake: I think we should answer than individually rather than as a group. I’ll let George start.
George: Well, I feel like our fans only see a certain side of us, the metal side but in our free time we all go to rave and electronic music events and we have other sorts of interests that we like to bring to the band, so all the stuff and effects comes from weird electronic music that we all listen to. I think it’s important to let people know it’s not all just metal, it’s important to bring other elements from the outside!
Joe: We started off based in Doom and Sludge, even Stoner kind of styles, but we felt like we quickly needed to distinguish ourselves from everyone else by bringing in these extra elements from other genres, even not from music, just concepts. You know, we’re bringing in a lot of stuff that’s weird for a lot of fans. Like when we played in Romania, a lot of people didn’t understand us there, they thought we were… odd. But that’s very important for us and I guess you can get from our performance anyway.
Jake: It’s true, we don’t want to be like everyone else, we try very hard not to be. For me, what we want to do with our music is to let the people know that the world is a huge and mysterious and amazing place full of things we don’t know about, so we just stick it in some weird instrumentation. We want to Let them know it may be something they don’t know or might not have experienced.
Joe: If you imagine metal as a cave and there might be some bands at the entrance of the cave and they’re happy to be there, well we want to be at the bottom of that cave and to reach it, you’d have to swim through different shit.
A bit of a personal question. Kurokuma is a Japanese word and it means “black bear”. I’m pretty sure it’s an anime character. Can you tell us about the origin of the band name?
(Jake didn’t seem too eager to talk about this 🙂 )
Jake: (following a period of group laughter) There’s zero connection between us and the anime character! We had no knowledge of this character whatsoever, we made the name for specific reasons unconnected to that. There was a lot of children who were looking for the anime character and they ended up liking our Facebook page so for a while about 5% of our fans were children from Philippines, luckily it has stopped in the last year and a half but we still remember the trauma! (laughs)
George: I’m thinking about starting a campaign to take down the site and all mentions of the anime. It’s gonna get me into trouble but I’m definitely up for trying that (laugh).
Joe: There’s a waterfall in the north of Japan where I used to live and that’s where the name comes from.
Jake: We actually wanted to visit that waterfall but mother Nature decided it was not our time, so she send lots of snow our way, which means we have to return to Japan to complete our pilgrimage.
Can we talk about your EP. It’s maybe your first concrete work so far?
Joe: It’s our second EP but it’s the most fully formed. We’ve worked on it for a long time. It’s only got two tracks but it’s the same thing really, same piece of music. The music, the lyrics are all based on a comic strip called Dope Rider which was published in “High Times”. Obviously we wanted to channel that surreal, mind bending, drug addled feel of that comic into our music.
Do you have a set goal in the next 5-10 years, regarding writing music, playing music, just having fun etc?
Jake: Having fun does not lead you anywhere conclusive. Fun is a very shallow goal for a human being to aim for. We don’t do this for fun or satisfaction, we do this because we need to! We do it for something inside us which compels us to make music, and not just any music, something that touches us personally and deeply inside. And this is difficult to keep doing, there’s not many people who follow new-ish bands like us. I mean we do have it easier than some black metal bands but you have to do it out of passion and personal motivation. So yeah, we’re gonna keep playing shows and they’re gonna keep getting bigger. We’re gonna keep making music which will be better and better.
George: We’re definitely gonna do a full album in the next year or two. As a general direction of the band, we’re gonna play more and more interesting shows rather than just doing your normal type of metal shows. We’d also like to play with other bands of other styles, not just metal. Musically we will also keep exploring ourselves. Eventually we’ll probably reach a peak and there’ll be nothing left for us to do.
Joe: We’ve definitely enjoyed the journey. Just traveling and meeting people is really the best to happen. We don’t want to depend financially. We just want to keep going and well, the bigger we get we enjoy but at the same time we shy away from it and we want to keep a level of grounding. The very reason we formed the band was to put out something meaningful.
Going back to the current event here at Brutal Assault. Your show is gonna start soon, what are your expectations?
Jake: Well the crowd will be bigger than usual, there will be lots of new faces. Many times when you play in the scene in the country that’s very niche, very often you’ll see the same faces so it’s nice to have people who are 95% new to you. It also means there will be a lot of people who don’t stand you but that’s fine, I love the attention. It’s exciting to play in front of a bigger crowd, to be a part of this. Whether people like it or not, we’re in an environment which is essentially the basis of where we come from musically on a fundamental level while there’s other elements as well. We just like to be here really. We’re still learning how to navigate this landscape, this festival because it’s huge and we’re used to smaller, intimate shows.
George: I think it’s humbling to be a part of this with so many top notch bands. It feels good to be able to bring a part to a festival like this.
Another bit of a personal question, there’s a lot of followers of this type of sound back home. Do you or did you consider visiting Serbia?
Joe: We want to go everywhere. We could have gone to Germany and France and here and then go home but we chose to go to different places. We want to go everywhere where people would want to see us. I’d love to come to Serbia. I love going to new places, it’s an excuse to visit these places.
Jake: It’s just logistics and planning. It’s difficult to put it all together. We have carefully planned this tour but unfortunately Serbia wasn’t a part this time. But we’re definitely excited to play there if the possibility arises.
George: I’ve actually always been interested in Serbia since I’m originally from Romania, obviously very close. I’ve always wanted to visit, it would be very interesting.
Is there anything you always wanted to say to the general public and you’re feeling like “ok this is the moment I will speak my mind without consequences”?
(Joe and George jokingly agreed not to ask Jake much about this)
Jake: Well I will say a very positive thing actually. We’ve been going for 4 years, we’ve been working very hard. It may sound cliché but you realize how important the support from the people is. People who come to see you, buy your merch, leave comments on social media, put you on streaming. It seems like such a small thing from a listener to do, but we need that and we got here because of that and honestly something like that is going to stay with me long after this band is finished.
Speaking of which, how important do you think is being connected with other bands and other musicians. Bands of your and some previous generations?
Jake: That’s a very interesting question. As a band, there’s generational difference between us (Joe and Jake are 30, George is 23). When we were growing up there wasn’t the internet, only stuff like CDs. However, with George’s generation, everything’s been digitized for as long as he can remember. Obviously his relationship with music, with the history of metal, the how to consume music both is very different to how we feel it, so it would be best for him to start.
George: I know a lot of people would put me down for this, but I don’t really engage with the music before the 2000s. When someone would play me an album from the 70s or 80s I’m like yeah it’s ok but it doesn’t mean anything to me. I know it’s hard for people who grew up listening to that to understand. Likewise, I would play something that I like, for example Dying Fetus where it’s almost like a drum machine playing. That’s the kind of production I am used to.
Jake: Whereas for example “Leprosy” by Death and we’re like “yes you can hear all the mistakes!
Joe: Yeah but we’re talking about relationships between bands. For example, there’s a band in the UK called Conan. We’ve gotten to know them over the past few years and they’ve helped us a lot. They probably don’t realize how much they’ve helped us, they did by just being there, by taking us with them on tours so yeah we definitely wouldn’t be here without the help of the Heavy scene in the UK and certain bands.
George: We’ve reached out to friends who were in bigger bands and asked to play shows with them. Over those two years we made connections in many cities, because you can’t just show up and say “hey can we play here”. It’s a natural progression for a band, you have to make connections and them the band becomes a thing of its own.
(at this point the 15 minute mark was up)
I’d really love to talk to you people some more, there’s so many topic you’re able to cover.
Jake: Well, maybe we should talk more in Serbia once we’re there (laughs)!
(the conversation becomes slightly more casual now)
This has been discussed many times but in your opinion, where does, or rather, where do we all go? What are we left with once this “golden generation” is no longer in the picture?
Jake: So what you’re saying is, this interview is about “Kurokuma – the future of Metal” (everyone laughs).
George: The problem is, Metal has been stuck in its own ways for years. Since the 90s there has been so many genres and so many good things that was very exciting but since then yeah we’ve seen some new things but nothing super meaningful. Also, young people don’t really go to gigs anymore, I mean I’m usually the youngest person at a metal gig and that’s a problem because metal is going into a crash course. There’s not enough young people doing it, so in 5-10 years there will be very little metal left. It definitely needs a new energy.
Joe: I think this is also related to the power of the Internet. Metal is becoming broader and broader.  I mean we even got a name like Pertubator performing in a festival like this, which is just Synthwave really. So that’s what’s happening to music in general, people are starting to reach out and bring other things, we’re trying to do that. We feel like this Doom thing has peaked so we need to grab onto something else and ride that wave. Eventually things are gonna keep growing and be less “pure” and as a result more open minded and broader.
Jake: We will always have endless respect for old school metal in our hearts, the vintage sound of death or thrash or heavy metal, second wave of black metal. You know, things that made everything today. I will respect that even though I don’t do it myself. So it’s gonna be maybe less relevant but not less important.
Joe: This is also one of the things we’ve seen in Europe, there’s still a big respect for metal. In the UK it’s been lost because people are trying too much crazy stuff. It’s about keeping the respect for the old stuff while bringing in something that fits with it instead of creating a stupid mashup that just doesn’t make sense.
Thanks a lot for your time.
We started chatting from this point. These young men are full of energy and full of life and I’m sure they will be heard a lot more in the future!

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