Interview: Kemakil

I think if an audience can see that what you are doing is honest and genuine it can cross musical boundaries. Challenging the Conservatives is important however it's played.

Suffolk based thrash metallers Kemakil have been going in a form that is recognisable today since 2007 when Rob Durrant and Chris Stockdale recorded material that later became the demo Gondolas Of The Styx. Fast forward to 2018 and Kemakil, via various personnel changes, has settled into Rob (guitar and vocals), Aaron Boast (drums), Sue Clark (vocals) and Tim Franklin (bass). In those 11 years the band has released an eponymous album and three EPs, the last being The Leaving in 2016. How do I know any of this? Because while co-organising a Punk 4 The Homeless benefit gig in Norwich a friend came into contact with Aaron, conversations ensued and then Kemakil offered to play the gig for us! I have to admit my initial response was “Err, I…hmm is this going to work?” But after checking out the videos to ‘Liquidators’ and ‘Brain Rot’ we realised we had just been offered something really quite special and quickly grabbed them before there was any chance of them changing their minds! Good decision! They put in a stunning set of pounding, driven, riff based politically tinged thrash that the crowd loved and that fitted in very nicely alongside the metal punk of Radioactive Rats and Meinhof. After the gig I chatted with Rob about the possibility of an interview and here it is!

(((o))): Could you give us a quick history of Kemakil? On your Facebook page it seems to imply that the origins of the band lie in the dim and distant past!! But that there is a sense of continuity since 2007?

Rob:I started the band way back in 1988 with the intention of it sounding like the Thrash Metal bands of the San Franciscan ‘Bay Area’ scene like Exodus, Testament and Vio-lence. We played a number of local gigs in Suffolk before breaking up in 1990. In 2007, the emergence of myspace spurred me on to get Kemakil going again. I made some recordings at home and my brother-in-law Chris put in some solos. We put these tracks onto myspace and found Aaron, our great drummer! In 2008 we played our first gig in London and have played many shows since. We have an album and three EPs to our name and after a couple of line up changes I decided to concentrate on the guitar and hand over vocals duties to Sue.

(((o))): Has the line up stayed pretty constant since then?

Since 2015 we’ve been Sue Clark (vocals), Rob Durrant (guitar, vocals), Tim Franklin (bass), Aaron Boast (drums). We are as solid as a rock and all get on very well.

(((o))): Have any of you played together in other bands before, do any of you play in other bands as well as Kemakil?

Sue, Tim and Aaron have all played together in a band called Fallen Humanity. Aaron is currently playing in four bands! (He is a drummer and they are like gold dust! Haha)

(((o))): How would you describe Kemakil’s sound?

Old school Thrash Metal mixed with a strong element of D-Beat and Voivod.

(((o))): I think Sue joined in 2015 as vocalist, does having a new voice and delivery of lyrics have a knock on effect on other aspects of the music?

I think Sue gives us a really raw punk edge. We have all played in Hardcore bands and those roots are coming back to the fore, she makes us sound very ‘in your face’!

(((o))): Sue, how is Thrash and female musicians, have you experienced much sexism or is it better than most other areas of society?

Sue: I have found the genre and scene genuinely less sexist than other aspects of life. Although the majority of bands are male, there doesn’t seem to be much issue accepting female musicians. It’s all about the music,not what’s in ya pants! I’ve heard the occasional comment of “I can’t believe a girl can sound like that” but mainly from an older generation!

(((o))): I was last familiar with any sort of Metal in the late 70s when it’s iconography was preoccupied with sexist imagery and demons! Has it moved on or was Thrash never like that?

I think Metal still has it’s fair share of demons and dragons but I think the sexist imagery has all but disappeared. Thrash Metal had a satanic vibe to it but also had politics too. A lot of the politics veered to the left as there is a strong punk influence. Bands like Sacred Reich sung about Reagan’s antics in the 80’s with a particular classic of theirs being the track ‘Surf Nicaragua’.

(((o))): How does a song come about in Kemakil, is it a very collaborative process or is there one main songwriter?

I come up with the ideas and the band just slot them into place with me. They are great to work with. We always try to make a song sound like it’s topic. ‘Iram Of The ‘Ad’ sounds very Middle Eastern, ‘The Shard’ (a song about the London landmark being a rocket) is very ‘spacey’ and ‘Plutonium Suitcase’ is an explosive D-Beat track.

(((o))): I think you had an EP out in 2011, Blood Removal Machines, then a self titled album in 2013, The Shard EP in 2014 and The Leaving in 2016 what sort of things do you engage with?

Social comment, sci-fi and sometimes anything that just springs to mind. We have a song called ‘Poor Mr Myosin’ that is about a myosin protein carrying endorphins on it’s it’s back. We thought, ‘Poor Mr Myosin, what a lot of work just to make us smile’!

We like a good mix of topics and don’t like to be preachy. There’s some serious stuff, some sarcasm and a sense of humour too.

(((o))): I was fascinated by your set list in Norwich and the obvious (Left) political element to the band- how does a Metal crowd respond to that?

Not always much of a response to politics. The Metal audience is so diverse it sometimes doesn’t respond at all haha. We were very at home with the Norwich gig at Gringos in early February. We felt at home.

(((o))): Are political bands unusual in Thrash Metal or am I showing my ignorance?

In the new wave of Thrash Metal, it seems bands aren’t too political and are singing about the usual nuclear/chemical warfare kind of thing. Bands from South America are more political and to the left I think.

(((o))): In Norwich you were playing in a predominantly punk gig, how was that? Do you find there is enough genre overlap to make that sort of crossover fairly easy?

I think if an audience can see that what you are doing is honest and genuine it can cross musical boundaries. Challenging the Conservatives is important however it’s played.

(((o))): What bands, artists, writers have you been influenced by in your thinking and music?

We all cover quite a range of tastes in this band. Aaron digs Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Pantera, Sue loves Type O Negative and Devin Townsend, Tim likes his Death Metal and as for me, there’s the Thrash and my great love of Rory Gallagher and Nina Hagen.

(((o))): Who are you enjoying musically at the moment?

Nina Hagen!

(((o))): What has Kemakil got planned for 2018?

We are up in Manchester in March and are hoping to record another album. We’ll hopefully get the chance to get out there and show our disgust at the government and the love for what we do.

Photo courtesy of Kemakil.

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