MAHATMA – Diverse korean thrash metal
Koreans thrash metal eller koreansk metal i det store og hele er vel like ukjent for oss nordboere som måtehold er for Chelsea boss Abramovich. MAHATMA er et thrash metal band fra nettopp Korea og de har eksistert så lenge som 15 år allerede, men det er først nå de når ut til den store verden utenfor de koreanske grenser. Listenable Records er årsaken til det etter som MAHATMA for tiden er signet der. Vår skribent Ravn Hansen sendte noen spørsmål til den andre siden av jordkloden og ikke mange dagene senere dukket svarene til bandets selvutnevnte leder Jongkap Yoon (gitar og vokal) opp i mailboksen. Hvis du ønsker å få mer kjennskap til koreansk thrash metal, er dette en fin plass å begynne.
Describe your music for our readers:
We play traditional thrash with a modern sound and various metal influences.
How did the band come together?
The band was formed in 1993. The four members are vocals and rhythm guitar JongKap Yoon (myself, the leader), JinHo Seo (lead guitar), Kyungheon Jeong(bass) and Junesun Lee (drums). We were all active in different bands in the same area and as some of the bands we were in broke up or were looking for members we came together in Mahatma. Our musical directions were similar and we naturally came together with the purpose of playing metal.
Which bands did you look up to when you were growing up?
When I was young I really liked old hard rock albums. Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, MSG, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden… there are so many great bands. In the late 80's, I listened to a lot of thrash like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and Kreator. I also listened to a lot of death metal at that time.
Why are you satisfied with your latest album?
When a band finishes recording, there are always parts they wish they had done differently. Since we did the producing ourselves, we had some extra difficulties. Due to time restrictions, studio problems and so on we weren't able to record under ideal conditions. In fact, the recording conditions were really bad and we were frequently exhausted. We really worked hard to make an excellent album, but we have a lot of regrets for the way some things came out. However, we did our best under the circumstances. Fortunately, many people are satisfied with the album and seem to enjoy it a lot.
Do you feel like you have accomplished everything you could with "Perserverance"?
Of course not. I consider this album to be the start of showing what Mahatma's music can be. In the future, we will have a lot to show musically. We plan to experiment with the music and work very hard.
How has the feedback been so far?
We don't want to be confined to the local scene and we are very interested in becoming known in other countries. We are thankful that a lot of people here at home and abroad have shown interest in this album. We are planning overseas tours as well.
Are you trying to send a message with the music?
There are many messages we want to convey. Overall we focus on the trials that we go through during our lives and the question of how we will go on living in the future. Generally, there is a conflict between our lives and the life that society imposes on us. Our message is that in this conflict, we have a choice in how to find meaning in our own lives.
How did you first get attracted to extreme music?
After listening to a lot of different music, I wanted to find music that was heavier, faster and stronger than other styles. So I learned a lot when I was young from rock magazines and listening to the radio. From there, I started listening to more extreme music. I think this kind of music has a lot of passion and style.
What do you feel separates you Mahatma from all the other thrash/death metal bands out there?
I think MAHATMA's music is diverse. While it is of course heavy and fast, we also worked to incorporate passages that have more groove. We don't write songs like this just to be different. Rather, albums that have the same tempo all the way through get tiring. I think there are diverse patterns hiding in each of our songs.
When did you decide that you wanted to play in a band?
When I was in high school, I became obsessed with hard rock and started playing music and I'm still carrying on today.
Do you prefer to work on the songs, (writing, and recording) or to be out on the road playing your music?
I like working on new songs (although it can be difficult when it's not going well), but recording is a very tiring process that I don't really enjoy. However, touring and playing shows is really great. We can play our music for different crowds and it's great meeting and talking to new people.
What motivates you to continue playing music?
I don't think there is a specific motivation that keeps us playing. Rather, it's just that music and metal are a part of our lives, so that it's natural just to be making music. Music is the most enjoyable thing we can do.
What are you up to these days?
We've continued to play a lot of shows. And we've been doing a lot of overseas interviews. We also recorded a new music video.
What does the future hold for the band?
We're working to become known in the overseas market. And wherever there is a concert venue to play at, we want to play it. We want to show what we can do with music in a new album as well.
What music/bands do you listen to?
These days I still listen to a lot of old hard rock albums. We're opening for Shadows Fall, so I've been listening to them and As I Lay Dying, Testament and other metal. I've also been listening to other bands on the Listenable Records roster.
What would you be doing if you had not dedicated your life to music?
Well, I'd probably be working a normal job like a lot of other people. That's terrible to imagine.
What do you do when you are not focusing on the band?
I meet up with other musicians, practice by myself, write songs, read books and sometimes work as a live sound engineer.
What do you believe in?
I believe in hope. Although you can be deceived by hope, it is because of hope that we can live tomorrow. So I believe we should follow all our hopes. Even if deceived again, I can keep on living because I believe in hope.
Your band name isn't very characteristically Korean or a typical thrash/extreme metal name. Please tell us why you chose to call your band Mahatma.
MAHATMA has the meaning of "great soul" in English. Tagore referred to the Indian hero Gandhi as MAHATMA in a poem praising him. I don't know if a lot of people know about the history of Gandhi's name, but I consider MAHATMA as a title of honor for sages. Even though our music doesn't get much recognition now, my hope is that as time passes we will leave a legacy of really good, if not great, music. That's why I chose that name.
Please tell us a little about the Korean Metal Scene.
There aren't a lot of metal bands in Korea, but there are bands that tirelessly remain active and release albums. While there aren't a great number of metalheads, there is a good number keeping the scene alive. So a lot of people used to go to overseas metal band shows. Although non-metalheads don't come to shows much, I don't think they really disapprove of the music either.
I must be honest and admit that very few people in Norway have heard any Korean metal. How much do Korean Head bangers know about Norwegian metal bands?
Korean metalheads know of a very many different Norwegian bands. But some of them might not know that the bands they listen to are Norwegian. I also listened to TNT a lot in the old days and bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir have a lot of fans in Korea.
Have you started writing material for your next album?
Yes, whenever I have a spare moment, I work on new material. I'm now deciding on a theme for the next album.
And to finish of: Why should anybody buy your album?
I want to show the world that there a lot of diverse bands in Asia that deserve recognition. Of course there will be some people who criticize, but at the very least you will be left with a new experience. Another reason is, we give it all we got, our will and effort. Thank you!