Steve Myles and Tom Brooke have been making music together as Khuda since summer 2009. Myles’ virtuoso drumming and Brooke’s ubiquitous use of looper pedal riff layering, giving the duo a distinct, dynamic and multifaceted post-rock/metal sound. Touring extensively around the UK and Europe, Khuda have played over four hundred gigs in more than thirty countries alongside the likes of Russian Circles, ASIWYFA, and Red Sparowes. Things have changed a lot for them in recent years with Tom moving out to Finland and (what turned out to be a slightly premature) final gig played in February of last year. With their third (and possibly final) full-length album ‘Molasses Constricts the Clinostat’ set to be released on the 9th, we caught up with Steve and Tom to talk about gigs, gear, recording, and the complications of living nearly one thousand miles away from your band mate.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer some questions, I really appreciate it. Firstly, could you give us a brief history of Khuda to date?
Steve: No worries at all, thanks for having us!
Tom: Yeah, thanks a lot! Well, we started out in mid 2007, with a different drummer and after gigging a bit around Leeds for a few years, Steve took over the drumming duties! From September 2009 onwards, we basically just toured around Europe as much as possible, released a couple of records, met some amazing people, saw some great places and broke a few vans along the way! At the start of 2012 I moved to Finland to be with my fiancée, and we made the decision to slow down with the touring and stuff later that year. At the start of 2013, we played a farewell show (albeit, shortlived in hindsight!) and recorded 6 new songs, which have become Molasses Constricts The Clinostat!
Tom lives in Jyväskylä, Finland, Steve lives in Leeds, how does the song writing process work with such a big geographical divide?
Steve: It doesn’t really! All the tracks were written before Tom moved out there and were honed whilst on tour. We had a brief period where we were trying to do the long distance thing but it’s difficult to keep the same sort of flow when you aren’t interacting with each other from week to week! Having said that though it has been incredibly easy to slip back in to the swing of things for these last couple of gigs.
Tom, obviously looping plays a big part in the construction of your songs and you’re layering very different guitar sounds to create a lot of depth, how did that come about originally?
Tom: Yeah! I love my loop pedal… I’ve never really been a particularly talented guitarist, and also never learned any chords and stuff, so looping was just the way I found to get the songs, and sounds I wanted to make out of my head! I just remember trying to loop things on an old boss delay pedal (that had some few seconds long ‘loop’ function) and having so much fun that I went out and bought a Boss RC-20. It gave me loads of options for building soundscapes and filling some of the space left with Khuda being a two-piece.
Can you give us a brief run-down of the gear you’re using live?
Steve: About the only notable thing I own is a mapex black panther 12” snare. My cymbals are interchangeable as they keep breaking and I sporadically use an iron cobra double pedal.
Tom: Steve’s bass drum also has a picture of Lemmy on it…. (it just appeared one night during a tour between soundcheck and the gig, and has stayed with us since…). I use Mac Amplification heads & cabs, which are awesome, and hand built in Leeds by a lovely man called Howard. I also really love my Digitech Bad Monkey and Boss RC-20 looper.
Steve, your drums often come across like they’re the lead instrument, or at least just as prominent as the guitar parts – is there a conscious effort on your part to switch roles and use the guitar as your backing, or is that kind of a by-product of playing with loops?
Steve: Working with loops definitely means that there is plenty of room for variation which does invite a slightly more restless drumming style. That being said though we have always felt that the texture of the music is cumulative and the idea of a “lead instrument” is kind of obsolete when you are just two people. Personally I’ve always just done what feels right at the time and although busier drummers like Zach Hill and Ben Koller are huge inspirations I haven’t purposely over played anything.
You recorded Molasses Constricts The Clinostat back in early 2013, what was the recording process like? How did it compare to recording your past records?
Steve: Well we did a few things differently, the spot that we used was a great big warehouse down in one of the industrial parks in town, we really wanted to have a large space in order to get a big live sound for the record. At the time the warehouse was being converted in to a set of rehearsal studios (Blueberry Hill) so we essentially had the whole upper level to play around with. As we have always been more interested in playing live than recording we had to make a few changes to the process in order to maintain clarity while capturing a little of the honesty.
Tom: We definitely paid a lot more attention to getting really good takes, and playing things super tight this time, and worked really hard during the sessions to make sure stuff was as well performed as it could be! The process was a bit stop and start after the original session, as we were split across three different countries, and there were a few complications which were out of our control, but it’s nice to be at this point now, and we’re really happy with the results!!
This was around the same time you decided that you were going to call it a day, can you tell us a bit about that and how and why you ultimately ended up not doing so?
Steve: It was in most part down to the distance thing, getting to and from Finland just meant that our overheads sky rocketed into a place where we didn’t feel comfortable shouldering that cost on to the guys who put our gigs on. Tom always booked our tours himself and we have a fairly strict ethos when it comes down to what we will and won’t ask for. You also have to bear in mind that at that time we had done a few years of intense touring and I guess we both just wanted to see what was going on in real life for a little while, we both have girlfriends who we were neglecting (despite them both being really understanding) and of course friends and family who we were losing touch with to a certain degree.
Regarding the back flip I guess it just felt after a while that maybe making any kind of resolute decision about these things is kind of naive, life isn’t always all or nothing and of course playing together was such a large part of both of our lives that we missed it horribly once the dust had a settled a little. We also had this album sitting in the wings for so long that it made sense to do a couple of shows around the release. Our good buddy Paul Priest at Kin Hell Fest really wanted us down there this year as a one off treat and it all just came together at the right time.
Tom: Yeah… at the end of the day, we have always loved playing together as Khuda, so while it was definitely the right decision to stop touring… (it just became too expensive, and too difficult to figure out the logistics of everything, and we didn’t want either of those issues to negatively effect the way we were playing or conducting ourselves), it was also a very easy decision to backtrack a bit and agree to play a few gigs here and there, if our schedules, time and money all fit together. We’re the best of friends, and will always have a lot of passion and love for Khuda.
What’s your personal favourite song on the new album, your all time favourite Khuda song, and your favourite to play live?
Steve: That’s a tough one, we haven’t played any of the older stuff for so long that I can barely remember what it sounds like. From the first album the end of Antaeus was always really satisfying to grind out and the more loop driven ones off the second album were really fun. These days though the last two tracks of latest album merge together to make this fairly long endurance test which is knackering yet invigorating to reach the climax of.
Tom: The new stuff from Molasses… has been really fun to play live, and the last song, Onward Planarian is really satisfying to finish with. It’s really hard to pick just one song though for either of those favourites though, as it’s all just a mush of riffs and stuff for us guys! I’ve always enjoyed playing Laleh (first song from Palingenesia) live, and it’s been fun starting with that again recently!
What does the future hold for Khuda?
Steve: Absolutely no idea in the slightest. We have the album launch on June 9th and we will play in our spiritual home town of Mannheim Germany over that weekend and then I guess we’ll just see what happens. We have been asked to play a few bits here and there which we haven’t ruled out, I guess we will just take each thing at a time and see where it lands us. Tom is building a recording studio out in the Finnish countryside at the moment and I’ve spent the last year building a tattoo expo so a lot depends on where these other paths lead. We will definitely be up to something at some point though, playing is just in some peoples blood and we are quickly realising that we fit in to that category whether we like it or not hah hah.
Tom: We definitely haven’t ruled anything out, and whilst we definitely won’t be actively touring, or writing new material, we might get tempted to play out once in a while!! But as Steve said, we’ll just take each thing as it comes… we’re both at points in our lives where we’re looking to lay some foundations for our future. I’m busy as hell here getting my recording studio (shameless plug: www.facebook.com/tonehavenstudio) up and running. And Steve has been doing some amazing artwork (shameless plug no.2: http://smylesscribbles.blogspot.com and been working himself like crazy to get the first ever Leeds International Tattoo Exposition off to a great start with a killer first edition!!!
And please use this space for any final words…
Steve: Thanks for chatting to us John, The Sleeping Shaman has always been a mint project, glad to see it’s still going! Keep an eye out on the internet for the new record and all the very best.
Tom: Enjoy life!!!
Molasses Constricts The Clinostat is KHUDA’s third full-length album which sees an official release date of 9th June 2014 via Prügelprinz Records while pre-orders for the vinyl & t-shirt bundles are available now from the bands webstore HERE.
Interviewed by: John Reppion