Rise of the Northstar is a Japanese-themed thrash metal act that blends many aspects of Japanese culture into their full-on neck snapping assault. The band has just released their new disc, Welcame, and I was able to catch up with drummer Hokuto No Kev to chat about the record and the group. Here is how the conversation went.
Now that your new record, Welcame, is complete and due for release next week, how do you feel about it and are you satisfied with the outcome?
Hokuto No Kev: Yes of course! If we weren’t satisfied we wouldn’t be releasing it. You know for Demonstrating My Saiya Style, when we received all the CDs, the green on the cover wasn’t the one that we expected. Did we release it like this anyway? No man, we reprinted all the fucking booklets and changed them all. It was only released once we were totally satisfied. But I’m sure if I show you the 2 different booklets you’ll think we are crazy… the difference is so thin but it’s like that, we always do our best to offer quality stuff with whatever we produce, no matter if its pictures, music, videos… We are totally satisfied with this new record, we have the fat American fat that we expected, we love the cover that Vithia created, and I think that all the tracks are as rich as we had imagined them.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort, or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Hokuto No Kev: I’m sure we have the most unique way! We lock up ourselves in the hyperbolic time chamber. Do you know about it? It’s a huge room and it’s really useful! Inside, spending 365 days is equal to spending only 24h in the outside world! We can take all the time we need to create the album we want. We can’t go out before everyone has increased his Ki to the next level. No choice, everyone has to take part and give his best!
Check out the song “Dressed All In Black”
How does it make you feel when the energy and power you envisioned in the studio comes to life in front of a live audience?
Hokuto No Kev: It’s the greatest award! Most of our tracks are created for live, we are not a studio band, we are a live band. And when we see people reacting to the music, headbanging, jumping around, moshing, putting all hands in the air, singing… At this moment, all the work you did selflessly for the band makes sense and it’s a great feeling.
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
Hokuto No Kev: Mainly, the band is influenced by what has paced our youth. So most of our influences are drawn from the ’80s/’90s through bands like Sepultura, RATM, Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, Machine Head, Pantera. But also hip-hop acts from this era like Wu-Tang, Onyx, Mobb Deep… We all share the same roots but everyone has its preferences. Vithia loves everything that grooves, Eva-B comes from the technical death metal scene but also like bands like Periphery, Fabulous Fab is more into hardcore youth crew, Air One into thrash metal, and I listen to lots of video game soundtracks.
What is the story behind the name of the band, Rise of the Northstar?
Hokuto No Kev: “Rise of the Northstar” is a reference to the Japanese manga “Hokuto No Ken.” The American name is “Fist of the Northstar.” In this manga the main character Kenshiro is the fist of vengeance and this band is for us a revenge on our past. And we decided to transform the US name instead of the Japanese one ‘cuz it was a good way to portray that our band plays American music using Japanese imagery.
What is the story behind the name of the record, Welcame?
Hokuto No Kev: Welcame is a reference to the Manga “Rookies.” In this Manga one of the main characters welcomes his new teacher by throwing a baseball in his face. On the ball “Welcame” is written ‘cuz he’s a fuckin’ dunce who doesn’t speak good English. We also don’t speak good English; we know it and we live with it. Also, this is our first album; we consider that the first album is the year zero for a band, so this is our way to say welcome to our new fans.
Any rituals before you hit the stage? If so what are they?
Hokuto No Kev: Out of stage we do not exist.
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
Hokuto No Kev: The studio is one of the hardest moments for a musician; this is where you have to face your flaws. It can be frustrating but it’s in the end very rewarding. The toughest thing we’ve learned on stage is: “No guys you do not play on your own backline you have to use the one already on stage”…. This is sometimes really horrible especially for me… Sometimes the drum kit is totally different than mine and I have to change my style… The worst is to play after a lefty… I really hate this; this is something that can really compromise your show.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have 3 records for the rest of your life what would they be?
Hokuto No Kev: Welcame for the memory of my previous life, Evangelion from Behemoth to pump me up if I have to hunt or face an enemy, and the Final Fantasy VII original soundtrack to remind me that nothing is real, just a stupid magazine question.
What is next for you guys?
Hokuto No Kev: Keep spreading the Furyo style worldwide!
Check out the song “Phoenix”