MxCx Interview#11 "khost"

※ This interview was recorded on February 23, 2016 ※


khost are a Birmingham, UK based duo, made up of Andy Swan(Iroha / Final) and Damian Bennett(carthage / 16-17 / Cortex / Gauge/ Deathless / Techno Animal).

Since their inception in 2013, they have toured extensively with Godflesh and Conan as well as sharing stage with Asphyx, Locrian, Vodun, OvO, Final/JK Flesh, and more, with collaborators
including Eugene Robinson of Oxbow, Daniel Buess and other sources providing saxophone, cello and voice for their wide-ranging recordings. They have also been remixed by D&B artists Hostage and Necrobia.
They have two albums ‘Copper Lock Hell’ and ‘Corrosive Shroud’ (8/10, Terrorizer magazine)

AS: Andy Swan (Vocal&Guitar)
DB: Damian Bennett (Bass)

Where are you from? Where are you based now?

DB: Manchester right now.

AS: Birmingham

Since when are you interested in music? Who is the most important artist for you? Who you are affected by?

DB: I grew up with rock music like Alice Cooper who I saw in live 1977; I loved all rock while punk was happening as well as punk, and the music that came after punk, like the Banshees and The Cure. Eno and Fripp were always my favourites, then SWANS, Black Flag when that happened, and the whole spectrum of heavy metal through the eighties. Then hardcore, bands like the incredible Earth Crisis. And so forth.

AS: I remember the original punk era although I was probably a little too young to fully appreciate it. The main impact for me were the 1979-84 years with bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire who were taking experimentation to a whole new level.

When did you start making music or your music activity? What is the first equipments you bought?

DB: I had a band at school and we did Joy Division and Gang of Four covers plus our own songs, this was 1980. I saw The Birthday Party, Laughing Clowns, The Saints at a similar time as well so this had an influence. I worked for a builder and got my first bass. I later formed a two piece acid rock and metal band called Storm which was influenced by Sodom, Wire and Led Zeppelin, and we played a lot: bass and drums.

AS: I got my first guitar for my 11th or 12th birthday and, a little later, when I was around 14 or so I got hold of a monophonic Roland SH-09 synth. The first, real musical output I made was around this sort of time when I started making harsh, extreme electronics very much influenced by TG.

Together with Justin Broadrick you have made some projects together such as Atrocity Exhibition, Smear Campaign and FINAL. Where did you happen to meet Justin Broadrick? What kind of music was made in Atrocity Exhibition and Smear Campaign? I heard that the only release format was cassette tape. How did the process work, incl. production, recording, distribution and the marketing?

DB: I first met Justin around the time of Pure, when Godflesh was three piece (ie with Paul).

AS: I met Justin when I was 15 or so. There was a stall in a Birmingham market that used to sell live bootleg tapes of bands like Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, Killing Joke etc and I used to hang around there and buy tapes. Justin was also drawn to the same stall and we just got talking one day and found that we loved the same sort of music. As it turned out, the guy who ran the stall (he was a little older than Justin and me) was a huge TG and Whitehouse fan so we used to buy and borrow numerous TG and other extreme electronics tapes from him. The next logical step was to form a band so Justin and I started recording at every opportunity calling ourselves initially Atrocity Exhibition, Smear Campaign before settling upon Final. Everything was totally DIY. All the recordings were made straight to cassette tape and released on the same format almost on a weekly basis. The covers were handmade and then photocopied in the local library. We used to run off copies of the tapes by hand and post them out to various contacts we’d made via the active tape-trading and fanzine scene of the era.

When did the project as khost start? What is the concept behind it? What do you usually sing about in this project?

AS: khost started around 2 ½ years ago. Initially it was just an idea to get a couple of tracks recorded with no real intention of taking it any further. Cold Spring got in touch and offered an album deal. It was around this time that I got offered to play khost live so I immediately contacted Damian. We both moved in similar circles and I’d seen him play live with Transitional so getting him involved was very natural. Since then he’s been a full time member of khost co-writing all subsequent khost material. The lyrics – I’m not sure if that’s suitable terminology – for khost are a mixture of Gnostic mantras, invocations, chants and statements of aggression and/or repression. A lot of inspiration comes from the writings of Isidore-Lucien Ducasse and, of course, William Burroughs.

How do you create this heavy serious sound of khost? What kind of instruments (guitar, bass, effects etc) are you using? How do you program the drums?

DB: For my part I use old effects - Boss are the best - and my old 4 track tape machine as I like the compression of sound that cassette gives. My ideal amp set up is hybrid.

AS: The guitars are heavily down tuned 7 strings. They’re almost tuned to bass guitar territory. I go for old effects as well as I find the hiss and crackle adds to the texture of the tone. The drums are a mixture of samples and live playing.

Your another project "Iroha" provides more emotive melodies and non-mechanical sounds, and the groove of a "band" which differs from khost. What is the concept behind Iroha`s tracks? Is there any point in common between these two projects?

AS: I was always a huge fan of New Order and the shoegaze stuff of the 90s and the intention of Iroha was to combine the melodies of New Order with the guitar overload of, say, My Bloody Valentine. For khost, I wanted to try a more experimental sound (I liked that bands such as Wire could write a really fast track or a really short track that sat alongside their other material) but make it a lot heavier with no melody whatsoever. I’ve found that ‘some’ melody creeps into the khost sound but these tend to be from samples or found sounds that add a texture rather than a specific melody.

The Hard Drum&Bass artist "Hostage" did a remix for khost`s track, what brought you to select him as remixer?

DB: I like D&B a lot and have been involved in writing about it on and friedmylittlebrain from some years as well as others. Adar/Hostage has a similar outlook and does a great loud band too called aVa so it all merged.
There is a new D&B Khost remix on the DOROHEDORO mix too, by Necrobia.

You have been making music since the 80s. What do you think of the UK music scene of those days? In the Early 80s new genres such as industrial music and avant-garde music were formed. Were those scenes stimulating for you?

DB: I really loved the music: hearing Heathen Earth was great when it first appeared and quite scary to my ears as I didn’t know where the sound was created, or if I liked being there. I loved how it seemed to use sounds from hypnotising sessions which was maybe the first time I understood sampling. Interesting that recently the band YOB used similar too, with great effect. I loved 20 Jazz Funk Greats most of all from TG.

Away from UK, I immersed myself in the local live scene, seeing Severed Heads, SPK, NO (an important 80s band that featured electronic music and metal guitar), Hunters & Collectors and many more underground acts besides. I loved listening to EN and DAF in early 80s plus was amazed at the descriptions of them live. I liked how industrial sounds fused into heavy metal, influencing people like Voivod and later, Type O Negative in a BIG way. Type O live could be like a rubbish truck crushing your car in slow motion.

AS: The late 70’s early 80’s period for me was completely inspiring and shaped my entire outlook on music. It was such a fertile time when anything seemed possible sonically speaking. My favourite music is nearly always from this period – TG especially being a massive influence.

With what kind of artists and bands did you form friendship, other that Justin Broadrick and Diarmuid Dalton?

DB: I was in Storm, Deathless, Gauge, 16-17, Cortex, Techno Animal, briefly Transitional [live], bass with Anne McCue and have done a personal project called carthage since 97.

Our live visuals and the video for the Hostage work done by, a great electronic DJ in his own right and with whom I did scores of gigs in London and beyond as carthage.

AS: I’m still in contact with Nic Bullen (who was in the original incarnation of Napalm Death and appeared on ‘Scum’), Dave Cochrane (Jesu, Terminal Cheesecake, Transitional, Head of David) who I met on a train travelling up to a Killing Joke gig in Leeds sometime in 1983 and Stephen Burroughs (Head of David, Tunnels of Ah) – all people I’ve known since my teenage years. Nic actually recorded quite a lot of material with us back in the days of Final.

The UK is known as the place of origin of industrial music which affects many kind of different genres, also a lot of young techno or bass music artists have been influenced by industrial. Why do you think the UK keeps making industrial music?

DB: I used to live in Hackney, London in early 90s, not far from the TG HQ and the local vibe really got under your skin. It was dangerous, I saw big knives on the streets. The architecture and cold atmosphere could be unforgiving - think were many plague pits nearby - and the local squat culture was pervading too, for good or bad.

Your question also is something that we maybe touch upon in Corrosive Shroud: living in old, repurposed buildings, the inability to get near nature… unless you want to go bankrupt on commuting to work, by living in the country. Maybe it’s like The Hole, in your work.

These themes tie into how I see the industrial vibe continue to flourish, whether ugly and violent in sound or angular and dreamlike: by that I mean how ‘industrial’ can find its way into music by Ruffhouse, Clarity, Ben Frost, Scott Walker over time or into David Lynch’s films.

What kind of impression did you get from "DOROHEDORO"? Do you have any character or story which impressed you a lot after reading this comic?
What concept or image does the track offered by you for this comic have?

DB: The artwork is totally fantastic. The work is scary though, and use of the everyday objects we see around us I find really unsettling as can be 'close to home'. The characters live and breathe under your skin. I feel I can smell and touch it. I like all the characters equally and would not single one out. All very powerful and potent, looking forward to reading more.

I love Japanese animation a lot and on a personal front my son and I are big fans of Princess Mononoke and others, like The Wind Rises. I love how much of it examines realism but also long the lasting consequence, something much Western visual work lacks, as mainly just wants money.
Japanese horror – for example Audition – is very underrated and so influential. I do like how the Americans process TV, VHS and found footage themes but it was the Japanese who defined and explored all of them first.
The khost track for you is meant to feel like it is something that lives in the city, but the personality could be deceiving, to me. It could alter right when it has your trust

AS: ‘Dorohedoro’ is, to my shame, the first Japanese graphic novel I’ve read. I love the feeling of dread and fear that seems to drip from the pages and the illustrations are incredibly inspiring. The whole concept seems to leave the reader ill at ease and that really appeals to me. The refrain ‘Replace Me’ from the Redacted Recalcitrant Repressed track is a direct reflection of what I thought Caiman might be feeling.

Thank you for your amazing mix! By the way, we found some Japanese artist such as ena and corrupted in your mix and got surprised. Are you interested in Japanese music?

DB: I always have, personally and studied your culture as a kid, especially the art. I was lucky to tour with Zeni Geva in 90s, and this included Null in solo capacity. I would love to visit Womb too. Jeff Mills at the Liquid Room album is one of a kind, a classic of mega proportions, and I was lucky to see him at this stage too. I really love Japanese metal... and personally I wish the big 80s vibe would come back: big halls, big kits, no irony. I like Sigh too, and Corrupted live was insane. This was about five or six years back.
I like starRO, I think he’s from Yokohama, and of course really like Goth-Trad, for many years. Music without boundaries.

I loved how some D&B labels like Exit or Samurai/Horo adopted Japanese themes and sounds, to pay tribute. You can hear it in dBridge and I know he goes back with Japan. Ena’s work is awesome and I know he’s great live. You can hear it in artists like Commix too, as well as Photek of course and much of what is known as minimal D&B which is ongoing, and really fuses with electronica in a natural way.

AS: I’m also a massive fan of Corrupted (I saw them on the same tour as Damian). Begottened are also on my radar as what I’ve heard from them is amazing.

Please tell us the release schedule for the future. Any new releases as khost? Comments to your fans in Japan?

DB: The next album is almost written, there is a remix ep soon, we’ll tour in Israel in May. There is a video for the Necrobia remix ready and we’ll put it online when the mix drops.

AS: The new album is being recorded at the moment in various locations. We’re using derelict warehouses, old factories and abandoned houses to record various parts to take away and structure the album. It’s almost as if the new recordings have a life of their own, building upon the first two albums in a way that’s almost out of our control.
We’re also playing at an all day doom festival in Manchester in April. Thanks very much for asking us to be a part of this project. We’d love to play in Japan at some point so we’ll hopefully meet up in person one day.

Interviewer : Ume(Murder Channel)