Both of Khemmis‘ albums were received a lot of positive critical response, with 2016’s The Hunted appearing on a lot of best-of lists. The expectations are high for Desolation, the Colorado doom band’s third full-length. Guitarist/vocalist Ben Hutcherson weighs in on the album, the increased expectations, touring, his other band Glacial Tomb, the metal scene in Denver and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Desolation compared to your other albums?
Ben Hutcherson: If anything, the process was more organic and exciting than ever. We have a lot of faith in each other when it comes to songwriting and we know how to hear each other out with new/different ideas as well as to trust in each others’ judgment about whether an idea works or not. As a result, we wound up bringing in a wider variety of influences and pushing ourselves as songwriters to a far greater extent than on our earlier records.
With how well received Hunted was, did you feel any additional pressure (internal or external) going into this one?
Knowing that there are outside expectations about our music was certainly in the back of our minds when writing, but we are always our own toughest critics and knew, first and foremost, that we had to create an album that all of us found compelling.
What led you to work with producer Dave Otero again on this album?
Dave is a phenomenal engineer and producer. At this point, he’s almost a fifth member of the band. His input on everything from vocal lines to drum fills is invaluable, and we feel incredibly comfortable working with him at Flatline Audio.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
I can only speak for myself here, but the grueling days of tracking leads/guitar solos will always stand out in my mind. I spent two and a half days recording guitar overdubs, and Dave pushed me to play better, faster and cleaner than I ever have before.
How has your sound evolved from Hunted?
We are more confident in our abilities as musicians and songwriters. We’re also older and more cynical than we were only a couple of years ago. Those two realities directly shaped how we approached this album from the earliest writing sessions through the weeks we spent recording it with Dave. We also brought in a wider variety of influences – including moments of full-on death and black metal – than ever before.
What inspired the album title?
Given the state of the world and our individual experiences in the last few years, the title speaks to a feeling of disconnectedness from other people and a pervasive sense of despondency that can easily consume a person.
Did you struggle with song order at all?
Not really. We wrote “Bloodletting” and “From Ruin” with the intention of them being the opener and closer, respectively. The flow of the rest of the songs came about fairly naturally as we were writing them.
What impact do you think having international distribution of the album through Nuclear Blast will have? Will you try to do more international touring?
Working with Nuclear Blast has been incredible, and they’re already responsible for helping us reach a lot of new fans throughout Europe. We absolutely want to tour internationally more! The respect for, and commitment to, heavy metal overseas is amazing and something that blew our minds when we played in The Netherlands and Germany earlier this year.
What were some of the highlights of your inaugural European tour a couple months ago?
The whole trek was incredible. Playing Roadburn was a bucket list item for each of us. To get to do it to a packed crowd at Het Patronaat was incredibly moving and is something I will never forget.
There are a few dates on your calendar, but what else do you have planned for touring in 2018?
We’re doing three special Desolation release shows: June 29 in Los Angeles, July 1 in Chicago, and July 7 in Denver. At those three shows, we’ll play the new album in its entirety. We’re playing Migration Fest in Pittsburgh on July 27, and then we head to Canada for Heavy Montreal on July 29 alongside Power Trip, Sleep Eyehategod, Gojira, and a lot more. Beyond that, we don’t have anything we can announce yet, but rest assured we’re going to hit as many places as possible in the next year.
Special limited edition vinyl of the album will be available at your release shows. Are you a vinyl guy?
Not like some folks. I have friends who have thousands of LPs; I have somewhere around 200. About a third of them were given to me by my late father and, while decidedly un-metal, are all very special to me. That collection includes the first two Yes albums, Little Feat, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, and lots of other ’70s rock, country, and folk. The rest are albums I’ve bought over the years, mostly doom and black metal (e.g., Neurosis, Ash Borer, Rwake, Woe). I’d like to have more, but I spend most of my meager income on musical gear.
Your other band Glacial Tomb released an EP last year. What’s the status of your debut full-length?
Thanks for asking! GT was originally going to be a studio-only project, but once we started writing the songs we knew those songs deserved to be played live. We recently signed with Gilead Media, a fantastic label based in Wisconsin whose roster includes Thou, Krallice, Forn, Yellow Eyes, and so many more. We’ll enter Flatline Audio with Dave Otero at the end of July and are tentatively eyeing a late October/early November release date. I’m actually out on the road with GT now, and we’re road testing a four of the songs that’ll be on the record.
Is it difficult balancing schedules with two bands?
The last couple of months have been pretty intense, to be honest, but I would rather be insanely busy creating music that means so much to me than with almost anything else in the world. I wouldn’t be able to pull it off without my incredibly badass wife, who always pushes me to be better at anything and everything I do, as well as my brothers in Khemmis and Glacial Tomb.
How is the metal scene in Denver these days?
Denver is on fire right now, and we’re so proud to be part of this scene. Wayfarer and Of Feather and Bone both just released killer albums through Profound Lore. Spectral Voice has a new 7” split with Vastum that is insane and suffocating. Primitive Man’s most recent album might be the heaviest collection of songs in existence. Regardless of your preferred style of heavy music, I think Denver has something for almost everyone. It’s a really exciting time to be a musician in Denver.
Seen any good movies/DVDs lately?
Black Panther was phenomenal. I also just watched Sunshine for the first time when we were flying back from Germany in April, and that movie blew me away. I don’t know how I missed that one when it came out, but I’ve been pretty obsessed with it for the last few months.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
At the Gates – To Drink from the Night Itself, Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms, Wayfarer – World’s Blood, Wormed – Exodromos, Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness.
Anything else you’d like to add or promote?
I hope everyone will take the time to check out what’s happening in Denver. There’s so much great music coming out of this city right now. Thanks for all of the support, and we can’t wait to share Desolation with everyone!
(interview published June 22, 2018)