WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2012 – It’s fitting that Kunvuk comes from the same continent as the Outback. Much like that vast wasteland, the Sydney trio’s sound is as gritty and unforgiving as desert sand. Their latest album, this year’s “Consume Rapture,” is a collection of primal howls delivered with predatory intent. Exchanging e-mails with vocalist/guitarist David Hart, I asked the Aussie about topics ranging from heavy metal to modern societal ills.
Many thanks David for writing to me back-and-forth like this despite your busy schedule.
The word “Kunvuk” means “the energy of a life under attack” or “to act in an explosive manner with great irrationality and wisdom.” How did your band find that moniker and how does it describe what Kunvuk’s about?
David Hart: It’s a word we created so that we could fill it with a meaning that we defined. I wanted it to essentially be a clean slate – that is, when people hear the word it conjures up our music and our ideas.
The definition we defined is an attempt to describe what provokes the music to sound the way it does. It’s our response to the modern world. It’s a state of anxiety and hyper-energy that is aggravated by contradictions and oppressions in our everyday lives.
Australia has a heavy metal scene like few others in the world with unusual bands like Ulcerate, Destroyer 666, Portal and Stargazer calling it home. Why do you think Aussie metal bands are so different from their counterparts elsewhere?
Hart: That’s a good question. I’m sure it has something to do with the geographical size of the country. Australia is such a massive country with a sparse population scattered predominantly along the coasts so it makes touring a very long, arduous and costly affair. It’s also difficult organizing frequent shows.
The result of this for Kunvuk was that we spent much longer developing our sound. We’d spend days in the rehearsal room sculpting out new rhythms. We’d have a sixteen-hour drive to the next show, so we’d spend all this time driving and discussing how we were going to evolve our ideas. I think all this time spent travelling and waiting for that next show inevitably leads to a more developed and individual sound.
You recorded and released your debut full-length, 2010’s “Immute: Jackals,” totally on your own. What blessings and curses are there working as an independent band like that?
Hart: The blessings are obviously complete creative and business control over our music and band. We’ve always had a very specific idea about every aspect relating to an album release. Almost everything for the band is done in-house. The engineering, mixing, artwork, website development, advertising, merchandise and music videos are all done by us. The freedom is incredible and we refuse to let anyone but ourselves own our music.
We play with so many bands that are hanging out for a record deal so they can record an EP. Many of those bands would compromise everything to get that chance at recording. I will never feel that helpless. The tools are right there in front of you. Start doing the work and record your noise.
Answering your other question, there aren’t too many curses associated with it being perfectly honest. It’s hard sometimes having to do so many different jobs that would normally be handled by a team of people but nobody is ever going to work as hard as you will for your band. We’ve tried using other people before and the quality of the work was never up to scratch. So we do it all ourselves and just sleep less.
You’ve recently released your latest record, this year’s “Consume Rapture.” What significance does that title have to you?
Hart: “Consume Rapture” is an observation of how humans are interacting with our current world. Most of us would be familiar with the Christian meaning of the word “Rapture.” The term can also mean “a seizing by violence,” “a spasm, fit or delirium” or “the state of being carried away in extreme joy.”
We use the term across the album in all of these senses. I think humans are constantly chasing the feeling and notion of Rapture and desperately trying to attain it. There’s an internal violence associated with their pursuit that can only be described as all-consuming.
The theme of Rapture – i.e., a fundamental unmaking of how things are – is a recurring one on “Consume Rapture.” Why was this topic interesting or important to you?
Hart: I spend most of my time contemplating how to deal with our finite lives. One thing I keep coming back to, one thing that gives my life meaning and makes it worth living is the pursuit of the rapturous mind, particularly the ecstatic joy of creation. That’s what I live for and I think the act of creation is the only way I can feel truly happy. There’s hence an acute obsession with that concept on this record.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about your band is how often your lyrics focus on everyday, mundane concerns as it’s a rarity in heavy metal. What do you hope listeners learn from hearing that particular message?
Hart: I’ve never been a fan of lyrics that are based on fantasy concepts. Some people listen to music to escape their lives and I can understand the appeal, but it doesn’t do anything for me.
I look to music and lyrics as a way to thrash out deeper personal issues based in reality. Often when it comes to writing about reality I can’t help but point out the absurdity of my own everyday concerns. I try and offset the extreme aggression in the lyrics with sarcasm and humor because yelling and barking the whole time is not really going to get the point across that I’m trying to make.
I suppose what I’d hope people take away from it is that they see the many sides of the existential issues covered by the lyrics. I’m not trying to dictate to people whether they should believe this or that about their lives. I’m just presenting the arguments how I see them and where I am currently at with these issues. If people don’t care about these issues, then hopefully they can at least have a laugh at the absurdity of it all instead.
It’s my understanding half the sales of “Consume Rapture” will go towards protecting the Tasmanian Devil. Why is protecting that animal something Kunvuk is passionate about?
Hart: We feel a strong affinity with this crazy little creature. Australia has some of the most bizarre animals on the planet and the Tasmanian Devil is an iconic creature that’s really in a lot of trouble due to the spread of Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
There are so many causes that hassle people for money each day that you can become paralyzed and end up not doing anything for anyone. So we wanted to pick something that was specific so that we could say “yes, this is where the money is going and this is how it is going to make a difference.” We are hoping that by donating half of our profits from the album sales people will not only come out and support independent music but support and raise awareness about this endangered Australian icon too. If people are interested in helping out, they can buy a copy of “Consume Rapture” online or go directly to the website www.tassiedevil.com.au to donate.
I mean this as a compliment, but your vocals for Kunvuk are totally deranged. They’re chaotic, scary, absurd and intelligent all at the same time. As a singer, do you have to tap into some genuine insanity to get that mood across, or do you just utilize technique and practice?
Hart: Thanks man. To be honest just the everyday things that I encounter drive me out of my mind so much that this is what comes out. There’s no need to tap into any insanity, just look at what we are surrounded by. All I do is think about the point I’m trying to get across and this is what it sounds like. It did take a few years of adapting techniques and practice so that my voice could handle what my brain was trying to make it do though.
What metal band has impacted you the most personally and why?
Hart: I’d have to say Black Flag would be one of the biggest influences on me. They’re one of the few bands that I respect for their music and work ethic. When they used to hit the stage everything exploded. Their style taught me a lot about how you should go about executing your music in the most uncompromising way. Because of them I know now that it doesn’t matter how hard you think you are going, you can always go harder. You never should bend to what other people think you should sound like and always express your true noise.
What does Kunvuk have planned for the rest of 2012?
Hart: We will be performing on the Australian Whiplash tour with Mnemic in October. We are working on music videos, smart phone applications and an instrumental companion album for “Consume Rapture” that should be released by the end of the year. We also have a few overseas jaunts in the pipeline but we’ll release details of those as they get finalized.
Read more of Mark’s work in Heavy Metal Hensch at the Washington Times Communities. When not writing for the Communities, Mark serves as a digital editor for the Times’ Times247.com.
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