It seems that this year is going to be ending in full interview power and I couldn't be more happy about that fact, since this really reminded me how much I enjoy talking to bands and "meeting" new people. In any case, thanks to Luka for connecting me with the amazing "Masakari" and thanks to Joe for answering the questions. Hope to see you guys on the road some day! Definitely check out this interview, it's an excellent read.
1. Hello friends! First, I would like to say thanks for taking your time for this interview. Please, introduce yourselves.
Hey my name is Joe and I play guitar. The rest of the band is Tony (Vocals), Greg (Guitar), Adam (Bass) and Jon (Drums)
2. "Masakari" is a Japanese battle axe as far as I know. Tell me why did you pick that name and is there a specific story behind it?
Honestly, as most bands will probably tell you, we spent a long time trying to come up with a name and we just kind of like how it sounded. Plus it had a cool meaning, and it was an added bonus that is was Japanese because we tend to be Japanese fanatics.
3. Aside of the name, your music is influenced by several Japanese bands. What managed to draw you close to that music in particular?
Cleveland has always had a closeness with the Japanese scene. Every popular band I can think of from Cleveland from "H100s", "9 Shocks Terror" and even "Integrity" had heavy influences from Japanese Hardcore. We just all fell in love with bands like "Death Side", "Gauze", "GISM", "Judgement" and "Bastard" (amongst many others) and haven't stop jamming those records since we first heard them.
4. Next to Japanese hardcore punk, can you tell me which bands and styles inspired you to create music?
Probably most apparent is our influences by American crust/hardcore bands, most importantly "His Hero Is Gone". It is no secret that we craft our sound off of what they were doing. Their records are flawless and we try to take the intensity in their records and filter it through our own creative writing abilities. We aren't that unique and we don't care to be. We try to write music that we would want to listen to. Other influences come from all over the place, but I would have to say that pretty much everything coming out of Germany has a huge personal influence on me. Next to "His Hero Is Gone", I think "Perth Express" has the strongest impact on me. What they did in such a short time is something that will never not impress me.
5. When did the band form and how did the idea to create a project such as "Masakari" arise?
"Masakari" formed in 2006, we originally started writing epic sounding crust. After about 2 years of doing this, and realizing we weren't very good at it, we decided to strip things down, play faster, heavier and write much shorter songs. We scratched all of our material and started fresh with all new songs. 5 of the first 8 songs we wrote formed the first 7".
6. Your most recent release is a split LP with the German band "Alpinist". How did that collaboration occur?
It actually happened rather quickly. The last day of our first European tour, we were hanging out with Timo (Alerta Antifascista) and talking about records/listening to records when he mentioned that we should do a split with "Alpinist". Of course we jumped on the idea because at the time "Alpinist" was on constant repeat for the majority of the band. Originally we didn't think anything would come of it, but about 3 months later we began the planning process...
7. Can you tell me something more about the split itself? And some interesting bits and pieces about your previous releases?
The split represents, to me, the most important material we have written so far. It is the first proper release with Adam on bass, as well as being the record I am most proud of lyrically and musically. I think it really represents a growth we went through as a band. The first 7" is actually a funny story too, because we actually recorded it 2-3 times prior to the recording that can be heard on the record. We just originally couldn't find the sound we wanted. We were extremely meticulous with the recording process and we can't be happier that we decided to do it the way we did.
8. "Masakari" releases always featured some very interesting artwork, so who creates it?
Everything we have released has been created by someone new, and we like it that way. The original 7" was created by "KENNTWOFOUR", the repress of the 7" is a piece of art from Gustave Dore with a drawing
from "Halseycaust" in the insert, the LP is by one of my favorite artists Sugi, the "Sleep//Rot" 7" was designed by myself and the split artwork was drawn by Alex CF. We like that every release looks a bit different but still maintains the dark aspect that our music also has.
9. You have also toured with "Alpinist" recently. What were your impressions about the said tour and are there some plans about doing a European tour with them? Do you enjoy being on the road?
The tour with "Alpinist" could not have been more fun. They are one of the most real and down to earth group of people and we completely connected with them. I wish I could tour with them every time we hit the road. We actually are currently in the process our planning a European tour with them that will begin in July 2012 and end in Augsust! I think being on the road has its disadvantages, but overall I couldn't be happier than when touring. Touring is one of the most exhilarating experiences and I anticipate starting immediately when tour ends.
That is a hard question, there have been so many, but I think I have to say that playing Maryland Death Fest will probably always come to mind. There is nothing like being on the same bill as so many bands
that are completely amazing, and so many bands that we grew up listening to. It is one of the most well run festivals I have ever seen and I only hope to be able to play again!
11. I noticed that you are dog lovers, loving pit bulls in particular. What is the situation in your hometown when it comes to organized dog fights and is there a discrimination of pit bulls? I am asking since here there is such a situation, the government even wanted to ban the holding of this race of dogs at one instance. I would like to hear your general thoughts about this matter, about dogs, fights and all those bastards that revel in something like that and earn money from it.
Dog fighting doesn't seem to be huge in Cleveland, but I know it happens, what is more common are assholes who think that the dogs are only good as pieces of jewelry. They walk their dogs with gigantic chains and clip their ears, all so their dogs look menacing. We as a band are absolutely disgusted by this. 3 of us own pit bulls and we understand their true nature, which couldn't be farther from the menacing nature in which people like that and the media would like others to believe. As far as bans, the city of Cleveland, where we live, actually recently just revoked any discrimination laws against them. Now we can freely own Pits without dealing with the bullshit laws that just recently existed. However, many cities in America have these laws still and a lot of cities do outright ban them, including a suburb outside of Cleveland, actually about 2 miles from where I live.
12. Back to music subjects, tell me something about your local scene in Cleveland. Are there many active bands and venues, any fanzines? Anything in particular that you love or hate about the scene?
I always have a love/hate relationship with Cleveland. Cleveland's scene is hit or miss, it will have its moments of greatness and then moments of absolute horrific-ness. All in all it is my home and will always be important for me. We have tons of great bands (check out "Grin and Bear It", one of the best fast hardcore bands out there period) and two solid punk venues ("Now That's Class" and "The Tower 2012"), which is a lot more than most cities have so I can't complain.
13. Since you have been touring a fair bit, what are your impressions about diy music on a more global scale? Do you enjoy what the diy bands of today are doing?
I'd have to say that no one knows how to handle DIY punk ethics better than European punks. The treatment of bands, the political ideology, etc.. is just on another level. I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to know that no matter what, every show on tour we will be fed and have a place to stay is just about the greatest thing. In America DIY punk is awesome but still has a little ways to go. Touring Europe really had a positive effect on us, because since we have been modeling the shows we book after them.
14. Tell me something more about your own experiences with diy ethics. Do you find some elements tough on the band and, in contrast, do you consider that the diy approach creates a more intimate relationship between the musician and the music?
DIY purists may not consider us DIY since we released the CD on "Southern Lord" but everything we have ever done has been within the DIY community. We can't exist as a band without that community. We are happier playing small punk houses/venues than big clubs, and while we still have fun playing some big shows here and there our home will always be inside the DIY community.
15. Any thoughts about diy music and the internet? Do you consider the internet being a valuable tool for underground bands? And do you follow some specific blogs or webzines?
The internet is double-edged. It makes it so easy to share our music with the world, and it has helped us reach the people we have reached, and for that we are grateful, but it also makes the music community over-saturated and I think that it causes some people to feel that they can pick and choose what bands to listen to based on superficial reasons, rather than base bands on their music. The internet though has really allowed an exchange of free music globally that we can't be more behind, we have said this time and time again but will continue to say it, we love having people download our music and think that digital music should always be free. For internet sites check out "CVLT Nation", "Crustcake", "Brooklyn Vegan" and "Toxicbreed Funhouse".
16. Time for you to ask something!
What are some Serbian bands that I should be aware of?…and what is the political state of Serbia like, does this infiltrate the punk scene?
I have been asked this first question numerous times before and I always end up listing the same bands, so I guess that makes them really good! My favorite band is definitely "Dazd", which everyone needs to check out, apocalyptic crust/punk at its best. "Reflections of Internal Rain" are also worth the note, playing an extremely fast and melodic crust/hardcore combination. You should also check out "Went", if you are into mellow postrock/acoustic/low-fi music. And definitely the newly risen band from Novi Sad, "Furtive Forest", an emotional hardcore act which just released their first recordings and I managed to miss their gig a few days ago so they probably hate me now. Those bands are active, but there are lots of projects worth the note from the past, like "Ground Zero" and "Unison".
As for the political state of things...I don't really like talking about stuff like that here, you can check my tumblr page for a look at my (a)political opinion of things. But generally, what I consider most disturbing about the state of such things in Serbia is the amount of media manipulation and similar bullshit, which is too subtly influenced by politics. If it weren't for the internet, we would probably be like living in caves. But the sad thing is that the majority has fallen to such manipulations and it actually results in people being overtly stupefied and younger generations turning horrible. There are political aspects that seep through into music and stuff like that does manage to inspire some bands here, but they usually end up being not my cup of tea, so to speak.
17. Aside of "Masakari", are the memebers of the band associated with some other music projects, both past and present?
Yes currently we all have side projects I am also in "Wind of Death", "Little Sister" and "Trespasser", Tony: "Gasmask" and two unnamed projects, Greg is in a new also unnamed project, Jon: "Wind of Death" and both unnamed projects with Tony and Adam is also in "Heartless".
18. Since you are all young in the band, are there some schools or jobs next to music related work? Some hobbies even?
Currently Tony, Jon and myself are pursuing degrees, while Adam works a series of jobs and Greg works full time. Other than working music takes up a lot of time, but I think we all have hobbies that we like to do, for me I love seeing films.
19. The year is almost over. Do you have some music releases which marked this year for you? Or are there any overall favorite records you would like to recommend?
This is coming from me, but my favorite releases this year are Heartless' "Hell is Other People", Ghost's "Opus Eponymous", Alpinist's side of our split, Midnight's "Satanic Royalty", Hungry Lungs' 7" and
Dead in the Dirt's "Fear" 7".
20. In the end, I would like to thank you again for doing this interview! Any final messages for the blog readers?
Can't wait to get to Serbia, and stay in contact!