Formed in 2011, DEATHROLL is a one-man project led by multi-instrumentalist Kazu. With a dark and discombobulating sound, DEATHROLL captures the true essence of Norwegian black metal whilst simultaneously putting a decidedly Japanese twist on the genre. Having just released their latest album, Japanese Extreme Metal Art (reviewed here) now seemed the perfect time to catch up with Kazu for an exclusive chat to discuss all things DEATHROLL.
AVO Magazine: Please tell us about your musical history. What first interested you? How did you first encounter heavy metal and then black metal?
Kazu: I first became interested in the sound of heavy metal music when I heard it played as background music in a video game, which I thought was cool. When I learned that the composer of the background music was inspired by the sound of Judas Priest, I listened to Judas Priest’s Painkiller and fell in love with the world of heavy metal. As I listened to it, I wanted to hear something more intense, and then I listened to Morbid Angel and was fascinated by its rebellious spirit and dark worldview. Then I learned that black metal is a genre that portrays a dark worldview, a worldview that is realistic and eerie, and I listened to Burzum and it broke my heart. I was completely captivated.
AVO Magazine: Why did you decide to play black metal instead of other extreme metal?
Kazu: Because of its rebellious and ruthless spirit.
AVO Magazine: What bands did you play in before DEATHROLL? How did that experience change your view of music and how you make music?
Actually, I have never been in any other bands. I have been on stage a few times for session gigs, but that’s about it. Therefore, I think that the influence of other bands is quite minimal, and I also think that I am only influenced by the music that I really like.
AVO Magazine: Why did you start DEATHROLL as a solo project and not as a band project?
Kazu: I started DEATHROLL as a solo project because I was impressed by the fact that my favourite bands such as Burzum and Xasthur were single-handedly carrying out their black metal worldviews.
AVO Magazine: How do you exercise editorial control over your work? What are the advantages and challenges of working alone?
Kazu: I use Pro Tools as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation – Ed.), and I use plug-ins for drums and bass. Then I play the guitars and vocals myself and line record them. The advantage of doing it alone is that I can completely pursue my musical tastes. I guess the disadvantage is that I am not as knowledgeable or aware of unnatural drum patterns, etc.
AVO Magazine: At concerts, you will play with a full band. Is it easy for other musicians to play your music? Do you feel they do a good job?
Kazu: I think it is difficult for other musicians to play my music. Because I am not a person who studied music theory, but I make music with my own sensibility. And the support members who are currently supporting me know my intentions and are doing a very good job.
AVO Magazine: You are currently signed with WormHoleDeath Records. How did that come about?
Kazu: I asked the Greek promoter called Angels PR to find a label that would release my new releases. And the one I found was WormHoleDeath Records.
AVO Magazine: Your latest album titled Japanese Extreme Metal Art has been released. Please tell us about the recording process, did you record it in a studio or at home?
Kazu: Actually, I recorded this album at my home. I listened to and sorted through a great many plug-ins and did the sound creation, though.
AVO Magazine: What is your creative process for composing and recording black metal music as a solo artist?
Kazu: Basically, I stare at Pro Tools and think of a number of rhythm patterns. Then I add riffs and backing to the rhythm on the guitar. I create a number of patterns, think about the structure, and put them together like a puzzle. When I finish making the clicks, I re-record the drum patterns and guitar precisely. Finally, think about and add bass lines and vocal lines.
AVO Magazine: Do you have a specific approach or routine?
Kazu: I want to approach DEATHROLL not only as music, but also as a project that respects spirituality and soul.
AVO Magazine: What lyrical influences did you have for this new album Japanese Extreme Metal Art?
Kazu: I think the main source is Slayer’s Disciple (To be found on the ninth album God Hates Us All, this song was nominated for a Grammy Award – Ed.). I wrote lyrics based on my own ideas using the language and spirituality of Slayer’s Disciple as a motif.
AVO Magazine: What were your musical influences? The album opens with an operatic piece, which may come as a surprise to some.
Kazu: Basically, as I said at the beginning, the music became more and more intense, in the order of my preference for game music, Judas Priest, Morbid Angel, and Burzum. But after that, I was also impressed by the Japanese band X Japan, classical music, and other wonderfully constructed beauties.
AVO Magazine: Finally, what are your expectations and inspirations for this album? How will you promote it? Do you have any plans to introduce your music in Europe?
Kazu: We were able to finish this work as we imagined to introduce DEATHROLL. For the time being, we can only promote it via the Internet, but we will continue to show live videos and other information through YouTube and other media. We will consider doing live shows in Europe if we are asked to do so.
Many thanks to Kazu for his time and WormHoleDeath Records to make this interview possible. If you are interesting to be updated on DEATHROLL’s future steps, be sure the follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, now known as X, and Instagram, check out the official website and subscribe to DEATHROLL’s YouTube channel.