“People have this perception that if you play metal then you’re angry and hate the world. That’s the general consensus, but what they seem to forget is that metal is a genre, just like pop and hip-hop. Each style has its musical traits and some are more aggressive or passive than others.”
SUBJECTS: KEENAN OAKES / DYLAN VILJOEN
PHOTOGRAPHY: OLIVER KRUGER
INTERVIEW : RICK DE LA RAY
YOU GUYS STARTED OUT IN 2010 AS HEATHENS AND THEN CHANGED TO WILDERNESSKING IN 2011. WHAT MADE YOU CHANGE THE BAND NAME AND WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES IN MUSICAL STYLE BETWEEN THE TWO?
Heathens started as a fun side-project with no other motives than to record an EP and play a couple of shows. We managed to put out a few small releases that garnered some attention, thanks to Angry Metal Guy and eventually Lurker’s Path. When Jesse joined the band in September of 2010 we began working on the Morning single, ushering in a more focused direction for the band.
With a sense of urgency (and validation) in place, we set out to find a name that encompassed our new musical path, one that didn’t feel as limiting as Heathens. We wanted to give our musical ambitions the scope it deserved and not ostracize potential listeners. Wildernessking is simply an evolution from Heathens.
WHAT SORT OF MUSICAL BACKGROUND DOES THE BAND HAVE AND WHAT WAS THE INITIAL DRIVE FOR YOU GUYS TO START PLAYING MUSIC TOGETHER?
Jason and Jesse have musical training in their respective instruments and we’ve all played in various bands before Heathens/Wildernessking. Being good friends, we came together for a mutual love of black metal and other forms of heavy music.
YOUR FIRST ALBUM ‘THE WRITING OF GODS IN THE SAND’ CAME OUT PRETTY QUICKLY IN 2012, ON THE AMERICAN LABEL ANTITHETIC RECORDS, ON CD AND LP. HOW DID YOU GET CONNECTED WITH THE LABEL AND WHAT MADE YOU RELEASE ONLY ONE ALBUM WITH THEM?
Shawn Sambol of Antithetic Records contacted us after he read the Lurker’s Path article. He had only put out a couple of records at the time and wanted to release our debut. We jumped at the opportunity and the first album was released on CD in February of 2012, followed by the vinyl release later in the year. We may release another record through Antithetic in the future but it’s difficult to say. It wasn’t a conscious decision to only release one album, it was just circumstance.
YOUR EP ‘…AND THE NIGHT SWEPT US AWAY’ CAME OUT VERY QUICKLY AFTER THE FIRST ALBUM IN 2012 AND THEN YOU ONLY RESURFACED AGAIN WITH ‘THE DEVIL WITHIN’ IN 2014. WHAT LED TO THE LONG BREAK BETWEEN RECORDINGS?
Studies, work, life… We were fairly busy in 2013 though. We spent most of the time writing our second album and completing ‘The Devil Within’ EP. We wrote Kings for the Elemental Nightmares split, we played RAMfest and we did our first tour in the winter of that year. It’s great to be able to give all aspects of the band some attention. When we returned to the studio, we had a range of new experiences to draw from.
I HAVE HEARD MANY DESCRIPTIONS FOR THE TYPE OF METAL YOU’RE PLAYING AND THERE ARE SO MANY GENRES OF METAL THESE DAYS. HOW WOULD YOU PERSONALLY DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND?
We’re a metal band influenced by a host of other musical styles, ranging from rock to black metal to folk. Under the banner of metal, we have room to explore all the different paths that may lead one to and from it.
THERE SEEMS TO BE SO MANY BRANCHES ON THE METAL TREE THAT ARE MOSTLY SLIGHT ADAPTATIONS OF A PREVIOUS GENRE, BUT JUST GIVEN A NEW NAME OR AN ADDED EXTENSION. WOULD YOU AGREE?
Yes, in some cases, definitely. In others, there’s a distinct musical difference, let’s say between black metal and death metal for example. Those sub-genre pillars are important for categorical purposes and overall aesthetic. When you venture into sub-genres of sub-genres it can become slightly redundant. As long as a band is resonating with you on some level then it shouldn’t matter whether they’re a throwback heavy metal band or a space-themed psychedelic black metal band.
THERE SEEMS TO BE QUITE A FEW AFRICAN METAL AND PUNK BANDS SEEPING THROUGH THE CRACKS LEFT BY DANCE MUSIC THROUGHOUT THE CONTINENT. DO YOU SEE A LOT MORE BLACK KIDS GETTING INTO METAL IN THE FUTURE AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL INFLUENCE THE MOVEMENT AND THE MUSIC?
Oh yeah, because more and more African people are being exposed to the genre, as it makes its way into every crevice of the globe. It will no doubt influence the movement in a positive way, as this music should never be race specific. The brother/sisterhood aspect of metal culture is a wonderful thing and the more multi-ethnic, the merrier. It’s time to break down those silly misconceptions.
There’s a lot of African history that is dying to be tapped into, both on a thematic and musical level. The combination of traditional African music and heavy metal will certainly make for an interesting and fresh perspective, with some bands already making use of this unique musical combination. The future is bright.
WHY DO YOU THINK METAL AND HEAVY MUSIC GENRES ARE STILL SO FROWNED UPON AND STILL HAVE SUCH NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS ATTACHED?
It’s simply a matter of education. People have this perception that if you play metal then you’re angry and hate the world. That’s the general consensus, but what they seem to forget is that metal is a genre, just like pop and hip-hop. Each style has its musical traits and some are more aggressive or passive than others.
Things are changing though, thanks to music publications and blogs that are covering all types of music on the basis that it’s good, not whether it’s metal or electronic or indie or whatever. It’s not important. Good music is music that moves you, regardless of labels or constraints.
THERE SEEMS TO BE QUITE A FEW MORE ‘HARD’ INTERNATIONAL BANDS TOURING THROUGH THE COUNTRY AGAIN, DO YOU SEE AN UPRISE FOR HEAVIER MUSIC COMING OR DO YOU THINK IT WILL KEEP ON SLOWLY GROWING AT ITS OWN PACE?
We sure hope so. The prospect of all these international hardcore and metal bands coming is one to be excited about, and hopefully these bands will receive the necessary support to make these tours a regular occurrence. Whether it’s backtracking or growing, the scene will remain regardless, but we see it going from strength to strength as more people abroad are introduced to ‘African’ metal.
WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO BE DONE TO CREATE MORE LOCAL INTEREST IN HEAVIER MUSIC?
The mindset has to change with regards to the genre. There are local music publications, such as Platform, that embrace all styles of music. This is something that’s desperately needed to alter the minds of some people who may like heavy music, but are too intimated by it or think the image is silly and comical. International music journalism heavyweights like Stereogum and Pitchfork are leading by example, covering everything from black metal to rap.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO RE-RELEASE THE EP ‘…AND THE NIGHT SWEPT US AWAY’ ONTO TAPE THROUGH GRIMOIRE CASSETTE CVLTURE? UNDERSTANDABLY IT’S FINE TO RELEASE MUSIC ON LP AGAIN BUT DO YOU THINK THE TAPE CULTURE WILL MAKE AS BIG A COMEBACK AS VINYL CULTURE?
Even though we’re a South African band, our audience is global. That’s the beauty of the international metal scene. If people love what you’re doing, they will support your band. It’s a loyal movement. So, where tape culture is almost non-existent in our country (for now), it’s thriving in the underground and always has been, much like vinyl culture. Within the DIY punk/hardcore/metal scene these things have always been a staple for the music nerd in his/her bedroom.
YOUR NEW ALBUM IS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY, MUSICALLY WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED FROM IT, WHEN WILL IT BE AVAILABLE AND WILL YOU BE WORKING ALONGSIDE ANY LABELS AGAIN ON THE RELEASE?
Currently, it’s in the post-production phase. Incorporating all we learned from the first full-length, we set out to write a focused, dynamic and cohesive album, both musically and conceptually. It will be available in early 2015. All that’s left to do is sort out the finer details.
MOST OF YOUR PREVIOUS RECORDINGS ARE DISTRIBUTED BY DIFFERENT LABELS AND COMPANIES. DOES THIS GET DIFFICULT TO MANAGE AND HAVE YOU HAD ANY REALISTIC OFFERS MADE BAY ANY LABELS ABROAD SO FAR?
It’s easy to manage as we’ve always been on the same page as the people we’re working with, like Grimoire and Antithetic for example. Expectations are outlined from the start, so everyone knows what they’re supposed to handle and oversee. We have had some offers, but we’re still taking things as they come.
ALL THE ALBUM RELEASES, WHETHER THEY ARE ON CD, LP OR CASSETTE, HAVE DIFFERENT GRAPHICS AND PACKAGING. MOST OTHER BANDS WILL STICK WITH JUST ONE COVER PER RECORDING. WHAT MADE YOU GUYS DECIDE TO GO MORE OF A CREATIVE ROUTE WITH YOUR ALBUM RELEASES?
Something we’ve always held in high regard is exclusivity, making each piece of music or merchandise as unique as possible. It was never our initial intention to have different covers for each format of every release. Well, it’s part accident and part deliberate. Now that we’ve carved this path, it gives us the opportunity to work with more people and to have different artists interpret the music in their unique way.
THE BAND HAS HAD SOME AMAZING ALBUM COVER ART, HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT WORKING WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT ARTISTS OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS?
Thank you. E-mailing and networking has been our mantra from the very beginning. We are always surprised at the response we receive when we contact a favourite artist of ours. From Pierre Perichaud being a big fan, to how humble and kind an artist like Reuben Sawyer is, it’s thrilling to be a part of that inspiring and talented fold.
AS FAR AS TOURING GOES, ARE THERE ANY PLANS FOR THE BAND TO BE ON THE MOVE LOCALLY AND / OR ABROAD WITH THE NEW ALBUM?
Definitely! We have plans for both and we hope to execute them. Thanks for your interest
FOR MORE INFO GO: HERE
The Writing of Gods in the Sand / CD / LP
...And the Night Swept Us Away / CD / CASS
The Devil Within / CD / LP / CASS