Interview with Khemmis

Khemmis

Khemmis’ début album Absolution is an interesting, exciting and fresh take on Doom Metal, combining Traditional Doom with harsher Sludge Metal qualities. It’s a sure-fire winner in my book and a firm recent favourite. I wanted to find out a bit more about this intriguing band…

For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself!

We are a doomed rock ‘n roll outfit from the greatest city in America – Denver, CO. We like good beer, loud amplifiers, old motorcycles/cars/vans, and Iron Maiden.

Give us a bit of history to Khemmis

[Ben] I moved from Mississippi to Colorado to go back to grad school. Phil was already a student in the same doctoral program, and we hit it off instantly after talking about Saint Vitus. I posted an ad on Craigslist featuring a picture of Jawas from Star Wars carrying a Sunn Model T, and Dan got in touch with me. We grabbed beers at TRVE Brewing, where Zach, having also recently relocated to Denver and looking to join a band, was the head brewer. At the end of the day, we’re just four friends who try to write the sort of rock ‘n roll we want to hear. We are floored that our music is connecting with people.

Where did the band name come from?

[Ben] While travelling abroad, Phil partook in a ritual with the high priests of Akhmim. He awoke, alone in the desert, babbling incoherently—and the only word that could be understood was “Khemmis”.

khemmis bandWhat are your influences?

[Ben] We each have our own personal influences, but collectively we cite Yob, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Sleep, High on Fire, and Motorhead. Personally, living in the South for most of my life really impacted how I approach music. Bands like Rwake, Deadbird, Eyehategod, His Hero is Gone, Crowbar, and Corrosion of Conformity have shaped what constitutes “heavy.”

What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?

[Ben] Fister – IV, Primitive Man – Home is Where the Hatred Is, Water Liars – Wyoming, Abrams – Lust, Love, Loss, Mercyful Fate – Melissa , Bell Witch – Four Phantoms, the new High on Fire (Luminiferous).

Absolution has an interesting mix of Traditional Doom and Sludge – tell us about this.

[Ben] Thanks, we’re excited that people are into our take on doom/rock/whatever you want to call it. We started as a more traditional low-tuned, mega-loud, fuzzed-out doom band. Over the course of a few years, we just naturally found ourselves playing more harmonized lines and streamlining our songs, combining our love of classic rock/metal with the visceral heaviness of amp-worshipping doom and sludge.

You strike me as a band that would be very good live – what’s the typical Khemmis show like?

[Ben] We are loud. Eyeball-vibrating loud. Bring earplugs. We try to put on a show that is both compelling and entertaining. The four of us enjoy playing music together and try to convey that through our shows. So, duelling flying Vs, a wall of amplifiers, and a band of guys who try not to take any of this for granted.

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

[Ben] I love ‘em all, but “Ash, Cinder, Smoke” is one that just evokes a lot of emotion for me, as it’s a rather personal song about loss. Plus, our brother Ethan from Primitive Man laid down the heaviest of heavy vocals at the end.

khemmis band2What are the subjects/themes of the songs on this album?

[Dan] Each song has its own topic and meaning to us. Themes include suicide, abuse, and (when it’s time to lighten things up a bit) the apocalypse. Phil writes most of the lyrics, so the songs are largely about those things as he has experienced them, though we can all share those experiences to some degree. Basically it’s your typical, uplifting metal album.

Give us a bit of information on your songwriting process.

[Dan] Usually Ben and Phil work out a riff or two together before we play it as a band. In the rehearsal space we massage it until it feels right: we’ll play with timing/tempo, the overall feel, modifying riffs, changing structure, maybe even borrowing riffs from other working or discarded songs, and then Phil will start singing nonsense along with it all. Zach and I are usually on the same page; I think we try to take a listeners perspective and apply that to the working tune. Generally speaking, the song comes together like this: riffs first, structure, and then vocals; but nothing is set in stone and the formula is constantly changing.

How did the recording go?

[Dan] Overall, it was awesome, because we’re really happy with the result. The process definitely evoked many emotions; at times it was hard work, sometimes it was really fun, we occasionally wanted to quit, but mostly it reassured us that we loved what we were doing. Dave (Otero at Flatline Audio) was super focused when it came to vocals. He and Phil shared ideas constructively, revisiting much of what we thought we were going to do, and the finished product turned out great (we think).

How do you see your songs/direction developing in the future?

[Ben] We are already writing for the next album, actually. There are Thin Lizzy moments a plenty, some hollerin’, some soaring, clean singing, and lots of heavy riffs. That said, there are already some moments that are more rockin’ and some that are more expansive than what we have done thus far, so expect some surprises.

What’s next for Khemmis?

[Ben] We are hitting the road in August and heading up to the Pacific Northwest and down through California. We are lucky to get to play with a ton of great bands on that run, including a few days with Atlas Moth, Vattnet Viskar, and Atriarch. We are also ironing out the details for a run with a certain sludge band from St. Louis later this fall. 2016 will see us head down to Texas and, with any luck, out to the East Coast at some point. Our primary goal, though, is to complete writing and preproduction for the new album by the end of the year and to return to the studio in early 2016.

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