2020 was the year that nobody predicted…except maybe psychic Sylvia Browne! Our world of music was dropped on its head, much like a metalhead diving into a crowd dispersed of people. But from despondency, comes inspiration, innovation, comradery, and the overwhelming love of our music industry. Just ask South Wales’ King Kraken, who in 2020 released their ‘Chaos Engine’ EP, got a record deal (with Metal Rocka Recordings), and are now in the throws of recording their debut album.
HRH spoke to King Kraken about what makes a band, live music, lockdown & um… snakebites!
Q: King Kraken, such a great name for a band! How did it come about?
Mark: Well…now then, what I would have liked to say is that a Kraken is a huge terrifying beast of the deep. Many fears in its wake and a Kraken perfectly fits the huge massive slabs of monster riffage that we like to put out! Also, the ‘king’ of a species is a cannibal. What is more badass than a Kraken that eats other Krakens? A King Kraken! However, the truth is far duller. Originally one of the boys came up with the name Kraken. Rich (drummer) suggested we stick ‘King’ in front of it and the rest is history! I prefer the first explanation which is completely untrue. Sounds a helluva lot better than ‘Stick KING in front of it boys!’. Well…there we go.
Q: Pete, you created King Kraken. How has the journey been for you? With a record signing, and a positive fanbase, did you expect to be where you are today?
Pete: I wanted to be around people with the same passion and need to create and play heavier within a genre that I felt happier in. I yearned for a band where we were all on the same page with the same goals and mission to get things moving the way I wanted. My advert stated ‘NO DIVAs!’ I’m not sure I managed to find a band without divas as such, but we respect each other’s work we all put in and that is evident in our songwriting. I truly believe that the songs are a complete manifestation of our passion and need to push the boundaries with fresh and exciting music that is gaining momentum. I love what’s happening.
Q: Combined, you have a wealth of passion for music. What does that bring to King Kraken?
Mark: We have all come from different musical backgrounds. This is evident in our writing. Each member contributes equally. So much so that if a single member writes a complete song to bring to rehearsal it usually leaves a shadow of its former self, although for the better. You got Pete who loves Jinjer at the moment…and vodka…ALWAYS vodka. Richard who loves Pantera. Karl is full-on Slayer. I love Black Label Society and Queen. Adam is…well…born in the wrong era. He is full-on classic CLASSIC rock (that needed two classics) eg Spooky Tooth, Hendrix et al.
Adam: I think the reason I got into a lot of the music that I really like is because of my parents, and because when I was 13 I started a Saturday job in a local guitar shop, and I got ‘schooled’ by the owner as well as a host of regulars who would’ve fitted right in on the set of Almost Famous. I remember asking my father how bands decided on the music they were going to play, and his answer was simply, ‘they’re just playing the music they like son’. Whilst it’s clear that isn’t always the case, it really should be, so that’s what I do, most of the time anyway!
Richard: I have always been a self-taught drummer but when I wanted to learn new techniques of playing I would just turn to YouTube and watch videos of people teaching or my favourite drummers such as Vinnie Paul, Bill Ward, & Ian Paice. I have always found that very handy at learning new stuff.
Q: How collaboratively do the band work together? Does each member have a specific role?
Mark: It usually starts with someone bringing a riff. Pete can usually come up with full songs that get torn apart at rehearsal. I will come up with the occasional full song that gets… yes you guessed it… torn apart at rehearsals and I also handle 95% of the lyrics. Karl is absolutely, unequivocally the ‘riffmeister’! Adam will NOT listen to pre- written songs that we post to each other. This is to his advantage as he gets to listen to them with fresh ears. Rich knows what works and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t pass the Rich test it usually needs changing. The important thing is we all have input to each others roles and I believe that is how King Kraken work best. I mean…it’s that formula that got us to where we are today.
Karl: Well, the honest answer is that Pete and I are both ‘riffmeisters’ of the band. However, I believe I slightly outrank Pete for the reason that, when we are in rehearsal and something isn’t quite coming together, I can usually pull something out of thin air that will fall into place.
Q: If 2020 was a riff, how would describe it?
Karl: Well definitely not a riff that I would come up with. It would most likely be a riff where all strings on the guitars and bass were all out of tune and plenty of palm-muted nonsense chucked in too.
Q: And Mark, you write horror fiction. Does this lend into your songwriting?
Mark: It does indeed influence my songwriting as in the songs I like to tell actual stories and not just address issues pertaining to this and that. To give a little secret away ‘Chaos Engine’ from our latest EP is actually all about The Purge, ‘Freak’ is about the dark side of the internet, ‘The Grey’ is about alien abduction, ‘Castle Of Bone’ is about a greedy ruler that has no thought for the people he rules, etc. It’s all stories.
Q: If you were going to turn one of these songs into a horror film script, which would it be and why?
Mark: That’s easy. One of our early songs off the first EP ‘Under The Sun’. It’s quite apocalyptical and biblical. It’s all about God having a gutful and giving Earth back to the Devil. The Devil comes back and starts cleaning house. I would watch that.
Q: King Kraken’s new music has a filthy edge, but also feels specific & polished. I don’t know whether to listen with a Bourbon or fine Malbec. Was this the aim? Working with producer Romesh Dodangoda?
Mark: We have always been a live band. The songs that we write develop as we play them live. To quote a member of the band ‘we need to play these songs live before we record them for the songs to evolve’. That kinda’ dictates what songs go on the album.
We wanted someone who could capture the live, raw sound of King Kraken whilst giving a polished produced feel. There was only one choice. It’s unbelievable to think the same guy did Motorhead, Bullet For My Valentine and Bring Me The Horizon because each band has such a vastly different sound. That is a true talent. We wanted to catch our live energy sound and have a really big sound like King Kraken and OMG did he deliver!
Romesh is an absolute legend. As a true producer, he wanted to know how we wanted to sound. He took the time to listen to our ideas and totally understood where the band wanted to be. That’s a good producer! It was an absolute pleasure to work with this guy. We are going back to finish our debut.
And to answer your original question, Lambrini with 2 gallons of snakebite and ya good to go!
Q: You’ve been using lockdown productively, creating new music in your studio. What can people expect from your debut album?
Mark: Honestly, I believe that those who are familiar with the Kraken can expect THE KRAKEN. Lockdown has improved us, damn if only I could post songs right now! If you like us now…wait till the album! There’s something for everyone… a cliché I know but f**k it! You want the Kraken, it’s coming! We honestly believe that this is gonna be a killer album! And to be humble, it won’t be for everyone, but it’s gonna be a BELTER! You will find songs about serial killers, war, outcasts, the devil, Robert Johnson’s crossroads and of course… Batman! GOD I love Batman!
Q: And, what are the biggest things you’ve missed during lockdown?
Mark: What we have missed is working together in a rehearsal room and gigs, gigs, gigs! The lockdown has shown how much you miss something when it is taken away. We have new material and are itching to show it but the powers that be prevent that. It’s very strange.
“Signing to Metal Rocka is the best thing we could have done. They believed in us.”
Q: What’s next for King Kraken? Will 2021 be the year you were expecting 2020 for the band?
Mark: 2020 was our year! We were gonna conquer the world! Then we thought ‘F**K THIS’, we’ll do it anyway. We wrote tunes individually. We became creative if only to not let the restrictions ‘Kill the Kraken’. We hoped that at some point the lockdown will ‘Release the Kraken’ and it has. We now bring all these ideas to rehearsal.
2021 brings new responsibilities with our recent signing. We see this as a natural progression to spread our music to a wider audience, whereby our current fans can come on the journey with us. Signing to Metal Rocka is the best thing we could have done. They believed in us. They saw what we had to offer. They liked it! There are plenty of irons in the fire and if everything comes to fruition 2021 will be a very exciting year indeed.
Q: When you are on stage, how do you know you’ve connected with a live audience? What is the difference between a good gig and a great gig?
Mark: Simple! When the crowd sings back our lyrics! BUT also… when you get the comments at the end of a gig. Those are the best! Might have been a quiet night but when ONE person comes up and says, ‘loved it’, you have done your job.
Q: What can your audience expect from a King Kraken gig?
Mark: Tunes! Aggression! Melody! And a bloody good time! Come to a King Kraken gig and forget about all your stresses and shit for a while and let go!
Q: Seriously, how much do you miss live music?
Mark: It feels like I have lost a limb, to be honest. All we want to do is share our music with as many people as possible. It’s the way we express ourselves. King Kraken might as well not exist without the Kraken fans! 2020 has been a real struggle. To coin an old phrase, you don’t realise how much you miss something till it’s gone. We must keep positive. Gigs will return and with it a ton of new King Kraken material.
There are things that can be done such as live streaming, but nothing replaces the energy and connection of a live gig. You’re there feeding off the band, the band are feeding off the audience. You simply don’t get that any other way.
Q: Since we are talking about gigs. Let’s reminisce about King Kraken’s best gig?
Mark: HRH Metal 4, Birmingham 02! Hands down! 15 minutes before going on I took a sneak peek from backstage, & there were only six people in the audience. When we finally took to the stage the room was rammed to capacity! And they stayed. The day before we went randomly around the crowds giving out CDs with stickers on them with our slot time on it. Seeing those people in the crowd made the connection even stronger. Everyone got into the spirit of it all. It was a magnificent gig.
Q: You were finalists for Bloodstock’s Metal 2 the Masses and have recently signed with Metal Rocka Recordings. How has your world changed?
Mark: It’s crazy to think that we formed in 2018. Here we are 2 years after its inception and King Kraken have been signed. We literally gigged our asses off when we got together. We wanted as many people to hear us as possible. We are like, Holy Sh*t! Is this us right now? We feel that although we are the same band, responsibilities to ourselves and our fans have shifted up a gear. If anything, to answer the original question… our world has changed to the point where we now work harder, and not only do we welcome that… we fu**in’ love it!
Pete: It’s a real honour to be part of the HRH team, (signing to) Metal Rocka has made 2020 a bit more digestible. I’m just the same as every other musician out there who is screaming to play again especially in the larger arenas and festivals planned. Let’s just hope this virus fu**s off soon so we can get back on it!
Q: What words of advice can you give new bands that are coming together for the first time, especially during 2020? What excites you about new music?
Pete: Ahh man, there’s literally so much raw talent out there and we’ve had the privilege to play with so many amazing local bands who we love. I’m really excited for the new wave (of music) that’s coming and will definitely be sharing the spoils wherever we can. We love playing with the awesome Southwalian talent box that’s out there and we will be lucky enough to experience lots more talent in the UK scene we’ll be playing with as soon as this bullsh*t calms down a bit.
Mark: I believe that Covid-19 and all this lockdown sh*t has afforded the creative to be…well…creative. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that times are difficult and hard, and it feels like that you are slowly being crushed by restrictions and rules but know this. If you are in a band and coming together for the first time, then WRITE! Just do it and don’t think about it. Most importantly, four words…DO NOT GIVE UP! To new bands, if you give up then the world just might have missed out on the next Metallica, Dimmu Borgir, Jinjer, Slipknot, whoever is your taste! KEEP WRITING, KEEP CREATING. The important thing to remember is if you can survive in the face of adversity then you will come out the other side! Any band that does that deserves checking out!
King Kraken – Chaos Engine is out now on via Metal Rocka Recordings on all digital platforms.
Photography by Konstantina Frasia Photography