During the last 5 months or so of 2013, we have reviewed and interviewed countless bands, however when I listened to Kether by I Klatus, I honestly felt this record was something new. Yes it has sludgy riffs and the record probably does fits within the parameters of Doom, however I found it to be very visual, like it was telling a story. The band themselves describe themselves during the interview as Beyondcore and that it perhaps quite fitting given that Kether cannot be constrained within any one description.
Anyhow, I thought it would be cool to talk to this amazing band, so here for your reading pleasure, is the obligatory 20 Questions interview. Before you dig into the interview, here is a snippet of what Lucas had to say about the record. "In many ways, this album is an exploration of both inter-cellular and inter-stellar space and the danger-fraught mysteries that lie within. This band is all about atmosphere and most of it is ghastly."
I Klatus, How are you? I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord.
Woz: Doing well, thanks. Appreciate the opportunity.
Q) How are things in the camp I Klatus? What are your immediate plans for the rest of 2013?
Woz: Things are a bit quiet on the surface, but we have a lot of movement right now—literally. John is moving out to the West coast, joining Tom who has already been in L.A. for a while now. I’m remaining in Chicago, but I guess that makes us a West coast band now, by majority rule. So maybe I’ll take a trip and we’ll get some shows going out there sometime soon…
John: We are currently searching for representation and tour management but until then we will continue to put shows and tours together ourselves and with budget and resources being what they are, our expectations for extended touring are low. Other than that, just perpetually writing, making cool art, and conceptualizing ideas for the band's forward progress.
Tom: We are currently wrapping up the recording and mixing of our upcoming EP, “Vortex”, which we have been working on periodically for the last 2 years. It is a noise-concept recording based on a person being ensnared within an energy vortex and their struggle against being torn asunder by it. It is intended to be a follow up conceptually to "Kether" in that, the listener is brought through a gateway from the fourth and fifth dimensions. The new recording again features many noteworthy collaborators and multi-cultural instrument usage. It is an expansion of the concept that the song Portals from our last album was written about. We are currently editing an epic video for that song (Portals) to put out with the follow up album.
Q) First of all, congratulations on your recent release of Kether. Lucas did a great job with the review, I felt. Can you tell us about the record and the process of putting it together? Conceptionally, it feels very different than anything else out there, almost a soundtrack if you will?
Woz: Great review—thanks for that. “Kether” actually took five years to put together. Many collaborators. Many recording locations. I think that is reflected in the feel of the album. Chaotic and bipolar.
John: With “Kether”, there was definitely a much more cohesive approach to the songwriting, where we all kind of knew where the others were coming from, and could therefore fill in the space and eliminate the chaff to make the songs feel like that they were "ours" rather than being created by each one of us separately and then brought to the table. We also had the addition of Tariq Ali (R.I.P) for some of the writing on bass which helped me to redirect some of my creative focus to vocals and the gongs & robots, which is kind of our blanket term for all the weird noises and effects that we are so fond of. In truth, this is the first of our records that really felt like a band, rather than a studio project between Tom and me.
Q). I always apologise about this, but readers who may not have heard about you guys, could you tell us a little about I Klatus? Current band members? A brief history if you like?
Woz: I Klatus was initially Tom’s brainchild, dating back many years. John and I had been involved in the project to varying degrees over the years, but we didn’t really come together as a group until the release of the previous album, “Surveillance and Worship”. Since then, the three of us have made up the core of the band, but as mentioned, we’ve had many collaborators. We always have a fourth member join us on stage. Most recently Mark Manto (A Soundtrack to Violence) joined us as our live guitarist. At times we’ve had a fifth member join us for live actions.
Q). Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band? What was it like growing up in your hometown and being fans of metal for example?
Woz: Genesis. Most important band ever. And Acid Bath, of course.
Chicago is a huge metropolis, therefore there’s a community for any scene or genre of music you can think of. But we’re all from the South side, and that can be a bit of a cultural void. Kind of like growing up in the sticks. Cutting edge music takes a bit longer to get to you if you wait for it to arrive. So it’s important to go out there and find it.
Tom: I think we were also really lucky because the North Side of Chicago was just a train ride away. There we were exposed to live performances of His Hero is Gone and Buzzoven and Buried at Sea and Rwake and Eyehategod and all the heaviest bands ever. It seemed like there was no end to the brain beating especially from 96-2003 era. I would say we are a product of that stuff which seemed so very prevalent in Chicago at that time, if you knew how to escape the Southside.
Q) A variety of music inspired me to pick up the guitar or get into music, ranging from my pre teens with Michael Jackson, to Metallica, Frank Zappa and obviously Black Sabbath, What was your motivation to start I Klatus, because it is seems there seems a close connection between visual art and heavy music, reminiscent of Neurosis or A Storm of Light for example?
Tom: Yes as a kid, it was Black Sabbath and Metallica that inspired me to bang my head and want to learn guitar. It wasn't until I discovered Neurosis that my brain got all twisted up and my DNA was reprogrammed about the meaning and method of sound in a "song". I would say it was more "Through Silver in Blood" that shattered my illusions of what "song writing" was and where the boundaries are found. I remember seeing them perform that album live and having a complete brain shut down and reboot. It had never even occurred to me to incorporate all the elements of feedback and destruction and multiple vocalists all screaming in pain at the top of their lungs and I just thinking how crazy and next level all these stacked elements can be. No one in death metal or thrash was taking tribal drum beats samples and synths and layering them to create as heavy a sound like that which Neurosis was doing, at least none that I had heard at that period. If anything opened the door to what I Klatus is able to do now, it’s that era of Neurosis for certain.
Q) So, you form a band; perhaps kick out the jams for fun. When did you go from that to writing and releasing your own music?
Tom: That’s the way it’s always has been. Woz and I have been recording stuff since we were kids, and just making weird stuff on 4tracks and VCRs then making copies and releasing it to friends. Woz and I did a demo in 2002 and again in 2005 then just kept going 2008 and again in 2012 and so we continue. Here it is 2013 and we are finishing up yet another record. That’s what we do we write "songs" then record them and release them in any way which is appropriate to the era.
Today its vinyl, tomorrow it might be a glowing crystal cube that plugs into your subconscious directly for a fully immersive simulation engagement. We will likely be at the forefront of holography technologies as it’s made available in the near futures. Everything will evolve.
Q) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for I Klatus to get coverage because you’re definitely offering something different and difficult to pigeonhole? Lucas called your music mad hatter music, about as straight forward and knowable as a caucus race.
Woz: We will continue to craft our art for the sake of art—not for fame or fortune. If we continue to excel in being obscure, so be it. I’m not sure if that’s completely selfless or selfish, but in our experience, the best results are derived when we make sounds for ourselves.
Q) It might sound like stupid question, but is playing live important to I Klatus, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc? Often touring is the main source of promoting your band. You’re also members of other notable bands such Lair of the Minotuar, Indian, Yakuza? Is Kether a record you intended to present live?
Tom: We have played shows, and intend to play more shows. Arranging things around schedules is always an issue, though we do pull it off, but have yet to get beyond the Midwest. Perhaps that will change now that we will be focused more on the West Coast. As we live and continue to write, the desire to perform our songs grows. We performed a great deal of "Kether" at the record release show in Dec 2012. We hope to perform those songs more in the future.
Q) I think I’m correct in saying you released, this record yourselves? Does this approach allow more creative freedom and what was the gestation of this record like in terms of its conception to realisation of the actual release?
Tom: It took extra long to put it out ourselves and promote it ourselves. It would be nice to have help; I think that would only lead to more room for creative expression. However, it was nice to have absolute control over every aesthetic element.
Q) Fittingly and poignantly you dedicated this record to Tariq Ali, who tragically passed and includes some of posthumous recordings. It is the perfect epitaph. What are your thoughts now the record is out there for public consumption? It is certainly genre bending?
Tom: Genre bending? I've always had trouble with rules. I am so glad that it is at least out there and I hope that people come across it and are able to process it.
Q) Please, do not think about this too much, but if someone was unfamiliar with your band, what words immediately spring to mind when you think about your sound?
Q) Tell us some of your influences/heroes both musically and artistically, both metal and non-metal? Do influence from your other bands manifest into ideas for this project
John: I would say the bands that most influence the decision making of I Klatus are Neurosis, Buried at Sea, Burzum, Warhorse, Drudkh, and Godflesh, as well as elements of Kundalini meditation, Tibetan throat singing, and other chakra charging activities.
Woz: It’s practically impossible for other band experiences to not bleed into this one, but generally speaking, I think this project is quite different from anything any of us are doing outside of I Klatus.
Q) It might sound like a stupid question but, how important is the band’s chemistry when writing and performing??
Tom-It’s as essential as everything. Like the way you could not exist without your liver or lungs, each on its own dies, yet while working together creates the living biology that is you. So do the members of I Klatus work together and chemistry/friendship is essential.
Q) What were your aims for Kether?
Tom: To be the heaviest and to uplift the listener with embedded codes, frequencies and tonal vibrations which we channelled for the purpose of healing and evolving the human consciousness.
Q) I’m assuming all musician like to talk about the gear they use, so with that in mind what do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?
Woz: I’ve been using vintage Ludwig Vistalites for a while now. They just have a massive sound which works well in all bands I play with, but especially this one.
Tom; The guitars are in Drop A with a Gibson SG played through a variety of Frankenstein gear.
Q) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, what with illegal download and perhaps more pressure on mags to feature ‘scene’ bands or bigger artists. How valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Does all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?
Woz: Unfortunately, these days there isn’t much that translates into people buying or showing up for anything. The market is flooded. There’s much to dig through, and many chances to be taken, just to find something that resonates with you musically. On the flip side, with so many physical and virtual outlets, it’s now possible for anyone to have a fair shot at putting their music out there, or having an opportunity to get on stage. Same goes for blogs. There’s quite a few of them out there—some good and some bad—and literally anyone can start one. But without question, it’s a resource that the community is becoming increasingly reliant upon, so thank you for that.
Q) Quick fire question, what’s your preference? Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?
Woz: Anything but CD. It’s a dead format. We’ve accepted this fact. I’m hoping we can make a completely analog recording in the future, in some very meaningful location. I’d like to capture all the extra-dimensional information that can will its way onto analog media. We would of course not introduce any digital filtering along the way, so this information can be assessed by the end user.
Q) As music fans yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how important for you was it to present a great package for the release of your record? The vinyl release is a stunning ltd ed Vinyl.
Woz: That’s part of the vinyl experience, in my opinion. It gives the listener some amount of visual stimulation to enjoy whilst playing the album. As you alluded to earlier, visuals are fundamental to this band’s M.O., so we approach album art as a consolidated means of delivering visuals to folks outside of our live experience.
Q) What sets you apart from your peers and what are your thoughts about being part of any scene?
Tom: I would say we are part of the doom scene I hope. , That’s where I spend the most time, although you never know. I write to appeal to the sacred tones of the Doom; there is something very significant there. If anything, I think we are imagining the same thing as most doom bands, that heavy crushing sonic worship which is so rare to find, yet soothes a tortured so to a level of almost clarity, purity. A perfection of amp driven pain. However, we are all from the Southside, which keeps us from getting too caught up in anything. We remember that we are lucky to be able to play, instead of falling into just getting a job with the city.
Q) Do you learn anything about yourselves in terms of the bands you play with in terms of recording and touring, does that affect how you approach writing material?
Woz: Of course, without question. As we’ve mentioned, our live activity has been limited, but we’ve played with some amazing bands over the years. We’ve really vibed off of some of them, and that undoubtedly is reflected in our studio and stage performances.
Q) Did you have an agenda when you began writing the new record? For example a band might want more of the crunch, less of psychedelic type approach or just get together and jam?
Tom: I was intentional about being as heavy as possible. For whatever reason, it translates through my brain as layers of sonic which can be called psychedelic. Whatever the result, even with the tribal parts, the theme was always to BE HEAVY. It is a rare gift as we float on this ball of Rock through infinite space that we here on Earth alone in the vastness of the massive cosmos without end, are able to conjure and endure the heavy tones, and twisted synthesized perceptions where none other existed in all of known creation. It’s an obligation.
Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with or bands you’d like to share the stage with?
Woz: I’ve learned from John that with some 2 x 4’s and a sheet of particle board, one can transform an ordinary cargo van into a compartmentalized living and storage space. And when one is offered a place to stay for the night on tour, only to discover that the gracious hosts cannot control the extensive feline population in said domicile, the van in the driveway becomes a viable option for sanctuary and rest. Even in sub-freezing temperatures.
Q). Reflecting upon your time together as a band, what have been some of the high and low point in your careers.
Woz: Losing Tariq was definitely the lowest point for us, both personally and as a group. It’s a huge loss, but this album serves as a lasting tribute to our fallen brother. With that said, the completion of Kether is our high point. For me, personally, this is the most important album I’ve ever helped to create.
Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure. We’d only like to say “thank you” to our fans.