Zushakon are an old school black metal band from Singapore. Recent progress has seen the release of a self-titled album and a change of line-up, which saw the introduction of Lord Kathir who is known for his work with Rudra and a new drummer. To bring the story up to date, Andrew Doherty interviewed founder member Kyng Hades Almighty.
AN: It’s good to talk to you! Thank you for taking part in this interview. I’d be surprised if any many European readers knew about Zushakon, as you seem to be a truly underground band, so can you tell us first of all what is your band’s vision?
KHA: Hellfire Salutations Andrew! Indeed it’s a pleasure.
Zushakon never had a vision, mission or simply any goals to start with. Zushakon is simply an outlet for our Fiery Black Flames to burn intensely with unlimited freedom to create without Laws and Limitations to restrict us … maybe we had a very strong desire to make music we were influenced by tremendously but we never wanted to bring a message or ideology to the underground because whatever message or ideology that was needed to be conveyed to the underground has already been conveyed by the Goatfathers of the Old and Night in Black Metal. That’s also the reason why you now see a band called Zushakon.
AN: From what I’ve read, your 2007 “Chaosophist” EP and “World Ablaze” compilation were well received, albeit by the small number of people in the metal world who had access to them. In spite of this apparent success, you’ve undergone line-up changes. What happened there to cause the division? Was it a difference in philosophy?
KHA: In the first place the only REAL line up for Zushakon since its birth in 2006 till 2012 was me and Dave (Armaros). Certain people who were close to us at that time were considered but were never part of the creative process at any single point of time for any of Zushakon’s material. Dave was the sole composer and I was the sole strategist writing the lyrics and planning the vocal and musical direction. I would tell Dave what I wanted and he would come up with the music in a matter of days, such was the chemistry we shared between us, because he simply knew what I wanted and at the same time also what he wanted for Zushakon.
To date I have never enforced my views or dictated Dave’s artistic expression because if you trust someone to wholly express themselves without restriction instead of telling them what to do in a creative process, then that’s when you’ll see brilliance. I might not be necessarily right and this might not work for other people and bands but it has worked very well for Zushakon and the key to our music is total trust and respect for each other. Dave left Zushakon in 2012 to pursue other interests and musical direction and I wish him well in all his future endeavours because we parted amicably and with total understanding on what’s going on with his personal life and goals.
AN: I reviewed your self-titled album recently, and although I knew it was an amalgam of your previous works, I hadn’t realised it featured the old line-up. What was the thinking behind the album release?
KHA: Zushakon’s “Chaosophist” was released in 2007 to a limited 155 copies I think … it was self released in CDR format and we wanted to at least put out something at that time under the Zushakon moniker within a year of existence. It was something that we had done seriously and CDR wasn’t really an ideal release but we had no funds or label to put it out in CD format. Everything had been done by us so far, and the second self released 7 track EP/ Compilation in 2010 “World Ablaze” was a similar story but by then we had been baptised in fire getting ripped off by many dubious people and labels. We never saw anything released as promised. There was a Swedish label that told us that they were going to release our stuff on CD and backed off the last minute giving some really lame excuses like “Oh you have a Thor’s Hammer tattoo on your arm” and then there was this German label which contacted us to release Zushakon’s “Chaosophist” on tape which never happened despite having a MySpace page and a website with promo for the release … Then in 2012, a Malaysian label RDL put out our stuff in very limited number of copies on CDR format and it wasn’t that satisfying an experience for me either. But then I sent our songs to the head honchos of Sonic Blast Media and they really liked what they were hearing. I met Imran of SBM and we hit it off really well and we had a deal. I think the key to the deal was an honest and straightforward conversation minus all the Lip Service you’d usually end up paying in both directions. Between Imran and me it was all straight to the point and we were both ready to help each other and give each other the support needed to make things work and that’s the key to a long lasting relationship with a label. So the idea to have a proper release for Zushakon’s old material was born … Sonic Blast Media felt that it would do justice to the material and Zushakon too because they honestly felt our stuff was good enough to be released again in a prim and proper form.
AN: Listening to the album, it’s clear that you’re inspired by the old Norwegian masters like Bathory, Mayhem and Darkthrone. In my mind I cannot relate Singapore and Nordic culture. Is this about paying musical homage or atmospheres? What do you see as the link?
KHA: Zushakon is a cauldron of influences and are not only influenced by those bands you mentioned above … of course Bathory and Dissection are a exception because it was Bathory and Dissection, alongside bands like Hades from Norway, early Katatonia and Absu, that influenced me more than any other. Even Mayhem wasn’t that much of an influence as Bathory on me … Dave’s influences are explicitly evident in his playing, with Dissection, old Darkthrone, Watain and Devil’s Blood running through his veins … so it was one hell of a cauldron of influences. With regards to people who try and establish a connection with cultures in the type of style we play our Black Metal, why try and establish a connection between diverse cultures in music in the first place? I don’t think it’s relevant to me and what I do with Zushakon, and I don’t even want to go there. Zushakon is probably the result of the immense influence of Scandinavian bands, and we play this way not because we want to sound Nordic or something but because the sound has become part of us and about who we are. You might probably say that we are paying homage to the bands that influenced us tremendously and I can’t say that you are wrong or right. We are just doing stuff that comes naturally from within.
AN: “Singawhore” – I cannot help but notice the similarity to the name of your country, in fact so much so that I initially wrote this down as “Singapore”. Thank you for pointing out my error! The lyrics are 100% nasty and misanthropic – what exactly is that you’re expressing hatred about?
KHA: “Singawhore” is a insultingly fitting tribute aimed at local Asian Whores in Singapore who love to be on the d**ks of preferably White Caucasian Men and while on it think they are on some kind of a celestial pedestal. They harbour the delusional feeling of superiority over the rest of the Asian women who don’t have White Boyfriends and the way they behave in public when they are in the arms of their White Fat Ugly Balding Paunchy Old Prince Charming is just so sickening. It’s all about the $$$ and a free passport to Europe or America or some exotic place. I spit on these C**ts and Singawhore was the perfect feeling for all that hate I have for such wannabes …
AN: “With Blood on your Hands” has a different ambiance from the others on the album, I thought. It has the deadened black metal drum beat but your drawn out vocals are threatening and tortured in spite of being clean. It’s an interesting track. What inspired you to make this style and present it in this style, which is different from the others?
KHA: “With Blood on your Hands” was actually never intended for Zushakon. After we laid Zushakon off for a while – I felt Dave was slowly losing interest in playing Black Metal – I thought why not play some Stoner/ Doom, and Dave seemed keen about it as well. We gathered up some good local underground musicians who played in prominent bands and started planning something. Dave already made two songs and while we were at it I fell into a phase of depression, panic anxiety attacks and it wasn’t really a good time or rather it was a low point in my life. I also seemed to notice that the others who were involved seemed indifferent and I just decided to shelve the whole idea. So I talked to Dave and we recorded the vocals at his home and decided to use it as a “Surprise Zushakon” track if the need ever arises … I wasn’t really happy about the clean vocals as I am not really used to singing clean and I felt it sucked. Some people who heard it liked it but many weren’t that interested and even though I didn’t really like it either I couldn’t care less because Dave’s work was awesome. I sometimes listen to “With Blood on your Hands” because Dave did a great song and sadly I think I probably didn’t do justice to that with my clean vocals but it’s a road that I still might venture down in the future …
AN: When I received the publicity for your album, there was a reference to the scene in Singapore being “safe and sterile” musically. I found that rather strange as for its size, Singapore seems to have a wealth of extreme bands, and from my experience metal genres like power and progressive metal are non-existent compared to death and black metal bands who are creating their own sounds and paying respect to the old school bands. What’s your take on Singaporean metal?
KHA: Singapore’s Metal Underground/ Metal Scene has seen its fair share of great bands, mediocre bands and has-beens … to be honest there are many great and talented metal bands and individuals here in Singapore like Rudra, Impiety, Wormrot and Demisor who have all made their mark in the underground scene locally and internationally, I would like to also mention bands like Truth Be Known, Chugga Ritual, Cardiac Necropsy, Analdiktion, Oshiego, Asilent, Bhelliom, Warsaw, Absence of the Sacred, Xanadoo, Soul Devourer, Imperial Tyrants, Helvette, Assault, Saitan, Nafrat, Thy Fallen Kingdom, Blood Divison, Draconis Infernum, Sanity Obscure, Luna Azure and Obliteration of the Obelisk. The only thing we lack is unity and a concrete identity. We are still treading on divisiveness and unwanted metal journalism within the scene and that leads to a lot of disunity. There is also a lack of support from promoters for local bands with more emphasis and priorities on big underground acts from Europe or America … some local bands find it really hard to survive with jobs and other priorities to deal with but overall I think the Singapore metal underground/ metal scene will see progression in the next 10 years with more local quality bands and local shows …
AN: Apart from old school black metal, what other influences have there been on your musical outlook?
KHA: My musical experience started way back in 1985, 86 and 87 where I was exposed to lots of mainstream pop rock music growing up with stuff like Madonna, Wham!, Tears for Fears and shit like that because my Mother loved them. Gradually I started to move away from these sounds when I was 9 and I started eavesdropping on my older cousin’s playlist which were largely Deep Purple, Rainbow, Uli Jon Roth era Scorpions and excellent British hard rock bands like Michael Schenker era UFO … then in late 1988 that same cousin of mine gave me my first heavy metal tape from Roadrunner Records – KING DIAMOND’s EP “THE DARK SIDES” and all hell broke loose for a scrawny young 10 year old. I was scared shitless by “Phonecall” and I never turned back since then. In 1993 a friend gave me SEPULTURA’s “MORBID VISION/ BESTIAL DEVASTATION” and TERRORIZER’s “WORLD DOWNFALL” and I got my first taste of true underground thrash/black metal – BATHORY’s self-titled debut on tape format. It heralded the beginning of my walk over to the dark side. Apart from all these madness I occasionally listened (and still do) to stuff by Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Canned Heat, Creedence Clearwater Revival or CCR, Grand Funk, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan/Double Trouble and some classic Malmsteen – all of these have been very influential on me to a certain point.
AN: Thinking of your new line-up, I guess that when you joined forces with Lord Kathir and your drummer Belial Hellhatehammer, you must have discussed the re-birth and direction of your band. How do you envisage Zushakon developing musically?
KHA: We are still in the development stages for the next release or rather “attack” … one thing is for sure and that is we will pick up from where Zushakon left with “World Ablaze” but with more progression and a certain feel of epicness without losing our aggression, originality and identity of what Zushakon really is and what it was intended for in the first place … I think only time can answer your question in depth …
AN: What are you working on musically at present?
KHA: Nothing at the present moment because the time is near to prepare for Zushakon’s next full length …
AN: Do you intend to upgrade the under-produced, dirty old school black metal sound that is very evident on your album?
KHA: … That is something that we are contemplating at the moment … you can probably expect a better sound quality in terms of production but we are not going for the over polished sound that some black metal bands are very fond of these days …
Black metal is meant to be Under-produced, Raw, Filthy and Old School UGH!!!
KHA: We are not a Corporate Black Metal Rockstar Whore Band to have a master plan to expand beyond any underworld. There are many self-proclaimed “True Underground Black Metal” bands for that. We are not interested in any expansion or profit oriented moves. Sonic Blast Media is not a vehicle for us to Get On and Get Big and then move on to a Glamorous Limousine Label with Glamorous Underground Black Metal Bands with frontmen with Gay Ray Bans and circus chimpanzee poses. Quite simply I am not Rob Halford, and Zushakon is no Judas Priest in the making …
AN: Are you playing live much? And what sort of environment to like to play in?
KHA: Zushakon has never played live so I don’t really know … I have played in a shitty gig though with another band but that’s another story. Playing live in Singapore to 30 or less people is a norm unless it’s the band’s lucky day and you get 50 or more people watching you play live … i am not really keen on playing live yet and if I did I want to f**king bring the house down and set the roof on fire and that would be great to bring at least 100 people there watching the show with me to Hell …
AN: To give us a better picture as you emerge from the dark shadows, is there’s anything you’d like to say to readers of Ave Noctum?
KHA: Stay True. Stay Strong. Stay Metal. DO NOT CONFORM! In Metal We Trust! No Compromise!
Thanks very much! I can feel the passion. I wish you success with the album release and your band’s progress in general. I look forward to hearing about future developments.
Wishing you all the best with Ave Noctum Andrew! Appreciate your time and interest in Zushakon. Hellutations!
Interview By Andrew Doherty