Exclusive Interview: Kaali talk writing and recording “Alone”!

Proving – as if there was ever any doubt – that Metal is truly a global force, Chi Minh City in Vietnam is home to a Blackened Hardcore outfit by the name of Kaali formed by Rich Peto (Guitar), Sergey Bochenkov (Drums), Cerrin Hendricks (Bass) and Viktor Nagradic (Vocals) in August 2020. The quartet have been on the rampage with their debut 5 track offering “Alone” which appeared back in November so naturally we had a chat with them about it…

Your new EP “Alone” was mixed and mastered by Serbian Producer and multi instrumentalist Sava Tomic (Keni nije mrtav); how did you go about choosing him and how did you find working with him?

Cerrin: “Sava did the last LP of my Serbian band (Suffering’s the Price) and instantly bought me with his knowledge, attention to details and his ideas overall. I’ve mentioned him as a possible producer we could work with before we even started recording. After our first live material was out on social media he (Sava) pinged me and offered to do one track for us as an “interview” and that was our first single “Alone”. We loved his work and agreed to work on the whole EP with him. He also recorded a couple of my vocal tracks too while I was here in Serbia. Sava has become a part of our band in a way and we’re looking forward to working with him on our future releases”

Rich: “It felt natural to work with Sava because he shared our vision for the EP. Because of that he was also able to contribute creatively. A good example is the electronic intro/bridge section of the Alone single”

Viktor: “We were lucky that Viktor had worked with Sava before, as I think it would have been difficult to find someone who shared a similar vision to us. He really helped us flesh out the sounds on Alone and without him the record would be a completely different beast. His approach to music is very modern and has definitely enhanced our sound”

How does the writing process of a new Kaali track start? Melody, riff or rhythm first?

Viktor: “It usually starts with Rich’s riff, melody, section and we build the songs from there. Right now we’re trying different approaches and trying to mix things up. In a way we’re still figuring out what works best for each of us and provides best results”

Rich: “Usually a guitar or a bass riff. Reborn is a good example of a song that was built around the latter”

Cerrin: “It all starts with a riff usually and then evolves from that point, but we are now experimenting with changing this method up. I am interested in writing some more songs from a symphonic point of view as opposed to building up a riff”

Paper God” surprises with fleeting moments of orchestration in the mix; how did the idea for adding something out of the ordinary to Blackened Hardcore come about?

Viktor: “I think we had that idea at one rehearsal… not sure… or Sava just figured it would sound more ominous with the orchestral part and we liked it. We don’t want to stay in one genre to be honest. As mentioned before, we’re still searching for the KAALI sound. This said, everything goes as long as we like it and it fits our vision”

Rich: “All thanks to some 11th hour creative inspiration for myself and Sava. I wanted to intensify that section a little more and sent a few ideas over for feedback. We ended up going with the orchestration”

Cerrin: “Many of the best ideas seem to come at the final hour for us and this was no exception. Sava and Rich came up with the idea when trying to fatten up the tremolo section. There were actually a few other ideas at the time, but orchestration made sense given the epic feel of the part. We are all big fans of symphonic parts, so I am sure there will be more moments of orchestration in future records”

If you had the chance to bring a guest on board next time around, who would you like to work with and why?

Viktor: “Uhhh this is a tricky one for sure as there are so many great musicians right now. As a vocalist I’d definitely like to work with Einar Solberg (Leprous), Loic Rossetti (The Ocean), Stephen Brodsky (Mutoid Man), Courtney LaPlante (Spiritbox), Will Ramos (Lorna Shore); to pick their brains and learn from them xD. Music-wise, I’d be open to anyone as long as we can create something great”

Rich: “Einar Solberg, for me, is the best singer in the progressive rock/metal scene right now. Bobak Raffiee, as Justice for the Damned, are a big inspiration for many of the guitar ideas. Kurt Ballou as i’m a big fan of converge and what he’s putting out via GodCity studio”

Cerrin: “I would love to work with Will Putney. He has shaped some of my all-time favorite records and it would be a dream to learn from him. Vocally, I would love to work with all the great artists Viktor has mentioned, but would add Chelse Wolfe to the mix. I think her sound is very unique and would add a new dimension to our music”

For us gear nerds out there, can you tell us what you’re using gear wise (pedals, strings, drums etc) to get your sound?

Viktor: “My home setup is Shure SM7B>Focusrite interface>DAW. For live I’ve been using TC Helicon Touch 2 vocoder paired up with the mick and megaphone. I’m looking to upgrade my live setup for the upcoming shows and already have some new things in mind tech-wise. We’ll see”

Rich “Recording: Balaguer semi custom > focusrite interface>  helix native or one of the neural DSP sims (mostly Gojira). Kontakt instruments for additional instrumentation like choirs, keys etc Live: Balaguer semi custom > helix floor > either front of house or through a power amp”

Cerrin: “Live and in the studio I use Marcus Miller jazz basses. In my home studio I simply run through a focusrite interface into helix native or a similar VST. Live, I use the following setup:  Tuner > Noise gate > Compressor > Boss ODB3 > Darkglass B7K > Sansamp Bass driver > Amp or front of house. For our bass sound, you need super fresh strings and a pick”

What difference would it make to you as a band if you could land an endorsement from a gear manufacturer?

Viktor: “Heh I think that would be huge for all of us since we’re all obsessed with gear and do use a lot of it both in the studio and live. It would help us both creatively and financially for sure xD”

Rich: “A Massive difference. I’d love the chance to represent a guitar company within the Vietnamese scene”

Cerrin: “It would be a complete game-changer for us. There are many companies I would love to represent, and it would be a great sign of growth for the local scene”

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