Easy genre tags for the UK’s Kurokuma would be sludge and doom since, put quite simply, they do this combo extremely well. But a further look into their output thus far would uncover the heavy repetition of psychedelic metal along with the forward thinking of what avantgarde brings and nowhere is this heard better than on their upcoming EP, Sheffield’s Best Metal Band’s Vol. 1 due to the wicked Jamioquai cover and the strangely fitting acid hop EP closer. But, their insane heaviness is still the backbone of everything they do as they prepare for a future full length and the fact that they were recently described as ‘really stoned bisons that decided to drop some acid’ helps tremendously. Just ahead of this EP we had a chance to ask guitarist Jacob (Jake) Mazlum our set of Profile questions so head below to see how it went down.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
I had piano lessons from the age of 7 and started teaching myself guitar at 15. I guess the instrument came before the real love of music, which only started getting serious after I’d picked up the guitar. I spent years playing scales hunched over a Guitar Techniques magazine before I started with bands. The technical aspect led me to extreme metal, the mentality and otherness that fuel the genre made me stay. I’ll never reach the level of success that I hope for. It’s like chasing the horizon. Start anything and within three years you’re where you wanted to be when you started, but by then you’re too focused on where you’re now going. Get to a certain stage and you can see the road laid out in front of you. Then it becomes a question of how much you’re willing to sacrifice to follow it.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
Years ago we once played a ‘Metal To The Masses’ show, which is essentially a series of glorified battle of the bands events where acts compete to play Bloodstock Festival. We got knocked out in the first round by a nu metal band. They were dreadful. Enough said. Needless to say we didn’t try the next year. We’re not the kind of band to simper and compete for approval.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
There are incredible examples of musical cross pollination happening across the spectrum now. Boundaries are getting blurred and creating new forms of music as a result. I like to think we’re part of this. Done right, these aren’t simply dilutions of the originals nor should they completely replace the forms from which they came. Luckily there’s enough conservatism in most genres that means their progenitor sounds remain healthy and alive for those who want them. The inverse of this is one of the worst things I see happening in our corner of metal, though. The old guard hammering away at their pentatonics and tritones through big amps to the expense of everything else. Experimentation? Nah. Subtlety? No chance. Originality? Can’t be bothered. I just want to see bands take more risks. There’s a huge audience for those more conventional comfortable sounds, but I’m not in it.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
We’re three different people and our values are not completely in line, which is a good thing. We explore different sides of these along with the overlaps between them. Our passion is an exploration of internal or fundamental truths, not beating our audience over the head with some crude ideological cudgel. Music has always been a poor vehicle for exploring current issues to me. It doesn’t allow the space for proper and nuanced exploration of a topic. I find it difficult to get much value from infantile lyrics that present some one-sided reductionist argument on a huge issue. And this is what most music about a ‘cause’ is to me.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
The guitar got me into metal. The sheer force and precision that you learn to recognize in a band like Slayer is incredible when it first hits. I must have been 16. I’d worked my way up through the grunge/alt-metal ladder with bands like Rage, Soundgarden, Tool et al. Without this my ears probably couldn’t have translated the chaos that extreme metal is. My family are clueless about it. I love them but their opinions on my music tastes are pretty irrelevant to me.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
It’s not often said, but smaller bands are real grateful for the exposure they get from small blogs and outlets. Success comes from a collection of countless drops building into something bigger, and you guys seriously help with this. The only advice I would give is to get people on who can actually write. I’m a copywriter myself and the amount of dreadful sloppy writing I see has brought my estimation of countless blogs down down down. To the point where I actually don’t want some to review/feature us. Also, a bit of musical quality control. If you hear some small band’s new release that is painfully bad and can’t justify its existence, give constructive feedback or don’t feature it. If it’s a big band that has done likewise and needs to understand the extent of their fall from grace then you’re the guys to get them back on track.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
The cult sounds good. Kurokuma needs to continue on its path of ferally uncompromising exploration, it needs to be the reflection of a middle finger on the iris of your third eye. The success will follow, naturally and steadily. Of course we have lives, jobs and interests outside the band. We’re three very different people in our own ways, a soundbyte answer won’t illuminate the reality of that much.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non -metal)
I’m currently indulging my passion for synthy 80’s electronic music, mostly the electro/cosmic disco side of stuff. I dug through Slow Motion Records’ entire Bandcamp catalogue and now I’m onto the Feel My Bicep italo selection.
When all else fails just head to Intergalactic FM for your Rotterdam-sound kicks, it’s the best radio station on Earth.
What is the 12 month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
We’ve got some good shows lined up through April and May, including an appearance at Desertfest London and support slots for Author & Punisher and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. The biggest news is the release of our new EP on Off Me Nut Records on May 3rd. We’ve taken a very different approach on this release, it’s got a more pronounced electronic element and we’ve finally got a real remix of one of our tracks done which is included in the EP. Initial impressions are more positive than I’d imagined for a more left-field release so that’s certainly interesting. After May we’ll make a temporary retreat to the shadows. We’ve been an active hard-working band for over five years. This, combined with the various pressures of being real people with real lives, means we need to take a break from the stage for some months to keep things sustainable. Then we’ll emerge from our hibernation, fresh from the cocoon like a new-born vicious dragonfly.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Figure that one out. (We’ll allow these extra words, figure out readers!)
Many thanks to Jake for his time!