Interview: IKILLYA

Since their initial formation in 2005, New York metallers IKILLYA have strived to gain renown whilst having to overcome obstacles such as line-up reshuffles and the pitfalls of being unsigned. However, with new release ‘Recon’ attracting the attention of a wide range of fans and critics from the metal fraternity, not to mention endorsements from some of their most esteemed peers, perhaps the band’s luck is set to change. I recently interviewed vocalist Jason Lekberg, discussing the history of IKILLYA, the latest album, and much more.

For those who may be unfamiliar with IKILLYA, could you please give us a brief history of the band?

Jason Lekberg (vocalist): IKILLYA has been around in one form or another for the past six years. I joined the band in October of 2005 when it was under a different name. Shortly thereafter the guitarist quit and Mansa [Gory, bassist], our drummer 7 and I continued on. Dave [Kerr, guitarist] joined the band 2 years ago, and 7 left just as we were beginning the recording process for Recon. Jeff Gretz [Zao/Austrian Death Machine] finished the album with us and he and Matt Zebroski [Alex Skolnick Trio] rotate as our live drummers.

I have noticed that, in the past, you have described the style of music you play as “street metal”. From your perspective, what exactly does “street metal” entail?

Jason: Street metal is a term that I stole from my friends in the band Demiricous. I’m not really sure what it meant to them, but to us it carries two meanings. One, that we’re just normal guys making metal, and two, that we’re very inspired by the city we live in, which is 98% streets. NYC is almost like a living being. It has a pulse you can feel and that groove is something that I think comes across in our music.

Given that metal is in such a strong position in 2011, in what ways do you feel IKILLYA is different to the other metal bands of today? Ultimately, why should people check out your band?

Jason: That’s a tough question to answer. We write music as our own sonic therapy so we’ve never really focused on making something that is different from another band. We write what moves us and challenges us as musicians, and we can only hope that it will move other people. We all come from different musical backgrounds and draw inspiration from those genres so we try to incorporate styles other than metal into the theory of our songs, but that’s really for our own amusement. I’d like to think that we write songs that are unique and different from other metal bands but at the end of the day, it’s ultimately up to the listener. We’re too deep in the music to be objective judges. All we can ask is that you give us four minutes and listen. You can download one of our songs for free from our site and stream them all on all of our sites so please feel free to peruse and form your own opinion.

There is no doubt that there has been a huge increase in the popularity of metal over the last decade or so, and there are similarities in your own work with the work of the likes of DevilDriver and Lamb Of God. Would you say you have been influenced by bands such as these more or less than, say, the important thrash acts of the 1980s?

Jason: I definitely hear the similarities to both bands, and especially my vocals to Dez’s. Believe it or not though, I’m not a fan of DevilDriver, and don’t even own their albums. I don’t have anything against them. They’ve just never moved me to buy. The similarities between Dez and I are purely genetic. Haha. As a band I would say that we are more influenced by newer bands like Lamb, Gojira, The Haunted, etc, since those are a few of the bands that we all collectively love. Individually though, it’s very different. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I grew up on thrash and Testament and Megadeth have as much influence, if not more, on me.

You worked with producer Josh Wilbur, who has previously worked with Lamb Of God, on your new album ‘Recon’. Was the recording process a good experience for you, and if so, what were the most enjoyable aspects?

Jason: The process was amazing. We got to work with a whole crew of talented people. Josh produced two songs and mixed the whole album, but we also tracked with Paul Suarez, Ryan Kelly, and Armando Subero who were a huge part of the finished product. There were a few disagreements here and there, but overall it was an amazing experience. It’s a real pleasure to work with a crew who know exactly how to get the sound you’re looking for and push you to deliver your best performance. The most fun was tracking at Nova Studios in Staten Island because it’s a house converted into a studio so we got to spend two weekends there doing nothing but music.

You appear to cover a wide range of subjects in your lyrics on ‘Recon’, such as oppression, violence and fantasy. Were these the ideas you hoped would come across when writing, and where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to lyrics?

Jason: I would say that the overall message I have is to believe in yourself and never give up. I really love the phrase “fail harder” which doesn’t appear in my lyrics (yet) but to me means if you’re going to do something, commit 110% to it and if you fail, fail as hard as you possibly can. Then pick yourself up and do it again. Some of my lyrics are angry but almost all of them end positively. I wrote a lot of just straight angry songs when I was younger but that’s not how I live. I’m not defeated, and I don’t want others to be either, so I write from my own experience and from the things I see around me. I’m not sure what you’re referring to in regard to fantasy, but I always write about real things. I just can’t get into singing about dragons, etc.

IKILLYA, like most bands, has a strong Internet presence in the form of a Twitter page, a MySpace profile, an official website and other such things. Do you think it has become crucial for bands these days to utilise these tools in order to gain success?

Jason: Absolutely. There is no avoiding technology so bands should use it to help them as much as possible. I think overexposure takes some of the mystery out of a band, but if you don’t put yourself where people can easily listen to you then they’ll listen to someone else. There are lots of great tools out there that make it easy too. Reverbnation powers almost everything we do and that, along with Twitter, help us update all of our sites at the same time so we don’t have to log into 90 different sites.

You recently tweeted that you were hanging out with Chris Adler from Lamb Of God while he was tracking drums for future LOG material, and he has publicly endorsed IKILLYA in the past. How does it feel to have one of your most successful peers firmly in your corner?

Jason: Humbling. We don’t hold a candle to LOG and having him be supportive, and others compare us to them, is mind blowing. For those that know me, my tweet of “no big deal” was my way of saying “HOLY SHIT!!”

You have a number of shows on the East Coast of the US lined up throughout July and August. Excited?

Jason: I’m very excited! We’ve taken the last two months off so the other guys could deal with some family stuff, and I am itching to get back on stage. Our first show back is July 16th at Rebel, which is the largest venue we’ve played in NYC, so I’m also scared stiff that no one will show up. Ha! After that though, it’s full steam ahead! I’m booking every open date I can and we’re in talks to make our way across the US very soon. We were discussing coming across the pond to see you as well since Dave is Scottish, but so far the cost has been prohibitive.

You recently shot a video for the track ‘And Hell Followed With Him’. How did you find this experience, and do you think the role of the music video has changed over time?

Jason: That was amazing. I just got the first cut two days ago and I can’t wait to see it finished. We were really fortunate to work with one of my favourite directors Frankie Nasso [Nova Entertainment] who not only makes gorgeous videos, but he’s also awesome to work with. It was the hottest day of the summer and I thought I was going to pass out several times, but it’ll totally be worth it. It’s really surprising how much harder it is than I thought it would be. Trying to stay in time with a song being played from speakers 50 feet away while rocking out harder than you ever have before is not easy at all. I think the role of videos is exactly the same as it’s always been. It’s the visual interpretation of the song and a visual representation of the band. People access them in different ways and it’s harder to get one you’ve made seen, but they still serve the same purpose. I love them. If any of my favourite bands put out DVDs of their videos, I buy it immediately. Even if no one watched them, I’d still want to make one.

Being an unsigned band brings obvious difficulties, such as struggling to gain publicity for your work. What are the less well-known problems that this situation brings, in your experience?

Jason: I don’t know from experience, but it seems that it is much harder to keep a band together at this stage than once you’re making steady income from it. We’re constantly having to make sacrifices in our personal lives and that takes a toll on people. When you don’t see progress being made, and you have to find money to keep pumping into a project, it’s hard not to fall apart. Sometimes it’s that those stresses make other problems seem bigger than they are and fights happen, and sometimes people just decide that they don’t want to let their life choices be regulated by “but what if we need to tour”. I’m sure the stress of the food you put in your mouth being based on whether or not strangers like your music is horrible, but at this stage, most bands are just trying to hold it together to get to the next level.

You are, of course, from New York City. Is there a notable metal scene in The Big Apple that people in other parts of the world might be unaware of? If so, can you recommend some bands to us?

Jason: It’s a VERY exciting time in NYC metal right now. I feel like there has been a lot of action in the more sludgy/stonery/noisy metal scene here for a while but the more straight ahead bands have been pretty silent the past few years. That’s all changing though. The shows are starting to get packed and there are more and more great bands coming out. My current favourites are Hung, Alekehine’s Gun, Resolution 15, Borgo Pass, The Judas Syndrome, Fall of the Albatross, Krystaleen, Turrigenous, Ashes Within, Demilitia, Eyes of the Sun… there are so many. It’s an awesome time to be a metal band in NYC. If you’re in the area, come see for yourself. It’s not hard to find a good time here.

Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, and best of luck!

Jason: Thank you for the second coverage!  It’s above and beyond and we really appreciate it!  Please let us know if you ever need anything.

Check out our review of ‘Recon’ here: http://espyrock.com/reviews/album-review-ikillya-recon


About JJPorter

JJ is a 20-year-old student hailing from Scotland, who lives and breathes music. His favourite genres include a variety of styles of metal, as well as hardcore, punk, and just about everything in between. Contact JJPorter on Twitter or via Email.

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