If you are like me and grew up during the potent New York hardcore and crossover thrash scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s and you are looking for a newer era band that gets what that music was all about, look no further than Japan’s Rise Of The Northstar. Their debut album, Welcame, was released on November 25th through Nuclear Blast and it has been receiving the highest of praise from bands like Kreator, Agnostic Front, Biohazard and Madball. I also had the opportunity to check it out and I can confirm that it definitely deserves the hype. They blend this old school sound with new school hardcore hip hop intensity and Japanese manga (comics) lyrical subject and imagery. Aside from old school hardcore, the band’s sound should appeal to fans of rap, nu metal and metalcore as well.
Recently we had the chance to interview the band’s drummer, Hokuto No Kev, and it was quite the experience. This is an interview the likes of which you have probably never read before. At points, things get strange but then again these guys are a bit eccentric. We’re not even quite sure how true the band’s back story is and how much of it is influenced by mangas. The guys all grew up in Japan but are Caucasian and possibly of American decent. Other band members include Vithia (vocals), Eva-B (guitar), Air-One (Guitar) and Fabulous Fab (bass). There is no mention of real names and there is not much to be found as far as a detailed biography goes but it’s always great to see a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
Mike: As a newer act, many of our readers may not know a lot about Rise Of The Northstar. Can you give everyone a little history of the band?
Hokuto No Kev: The band started in 2008 but Vithia has had this concept in mind since he was a teenager, 15years ago. The story of how we all got together is close to the one in “Rokudenashi Blues”. In this manga about bad boys, there are 3 strong guys called “The 3 Kings”. The best moment of the manga is when the 3 kings decide to join forces with the main character “Taison Maeda” to make an undefeatedable dream team of bad boys!!! ROTNS is like that! Eva-B was leader of his own band, Fabulous Fab also, Air-One and I were in the same band which I was leading… We all left our respective projects to join forces with Vithia and to make this band that would mix up violent music and japanese sub-culture. This band has been named “Rise of the Northstar” in 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 why we have we chosen 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.
Mike: Your debut album, Welcame, has already received a lot of positive feedback from other artists, the likes of Mille Petrozza (Kreator), Billy Graziadei (Biohazard), Roger Miret (Agnostic Front) and Freddy Cricien (Madball). Were you excited to hear these comments? Are these bands that you see as influences on your music? Do comments like these from such well established artists help to validate everything you fell you have accomplished with this album?
Hokuto No Kev: Yes totally! We were so proud to see those comments from all these metal legends. Most of ’em have influenced us. It’s an honor and a big award. When you see this, all the work you did selflessly for the band makes total sense! And it shuts tons of haters mouths…
Mike: What was the writing and recording process like with the new album?
Hokuto No Kev: We locked up ourselves in the hyperbolic time chamber and we went out only after being totally satisfied with our 11 tracks. Then we recorded all guitars at home which was pretty comfortable. And drums and vocals were recorded in a studio in Paris. When everything was recorded we dropped all the material to Zeuss in the US, to get this fat American sound we always wanted to have! We discussed with about 10 big producers, and finally we chose Zeuss, for artistic reasons and mainly ’cause he really seemed to be motivated by the project which was really important. He was really cool and really understood the metal/hardcore/hip hop mix of the band. We are totally satisfied with the work he did, we sent him tons of e-mails, he probably hates us by now <laughs>, but we have the record we expected to have by working with such a name.
Mike: My introduction to R.O.T.N.S. came when I heard “Phoenix”, The Japanese bonus track on your debut album. It was so nostalgic and brought back memories of my time growing up in the early 1990’s during the potent New York hardcore and crossover thrash scene. How would you describe your music?
Hokuto No Kev: I’m pretty happy that you had this feeling! It’s really hard for me to say what kind of music we do, we never put a label on ourselves, we let other people do it. I would say that we are a crossover band and I think metal kids, hardcore kids, people who love fusion, crossover, nu-metal, people born in the 80s/90s, japan and manga lovers… all those different people can find interest in ROTNS.
Mike: After hearing “Phoenix”, I just had to check out the rest of the album. I can tell everyone that it is like a breath of fresh air. I thought crossover music like this was all but dead. What motivated you to begin making this brand of hardcore/thrash? What bands have been the biggest influence on R.O.T.N.S.?
Hokuto No Kev: Ahahah something fresh that makes you nostalgic, isn’t it strange? But it’s exactly what we wanted! Making a modern sounding record based on our 90s roots. Mainly, the band is influenced by what has paced our youth with bands like Rage Against The Machine, Slayer, Sepultura, Suicidal Tendencies, Machine Head, Biohazard, Pantera, New York Hardcore…But also hip hop acts from this era like Wu Tang, Onyx, Mobb Deep, MOP, NWA… We all share the same roots but everyone has their preferences. Vithia loves everything that grooves and raps. 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 bands like Behemoth and video game soundtracks…
Mike: To expand on the previous question, what is your opinion on the current state of the heavy music scene?
Hokuto No Kev: Do you speak about all those open ass bands, without any integrity, who are ready to do whatever the media, the bookers or the labels would ask them to do, to get their 5 minutes of glory? I’m not so much into this scene where being a pussy has become the norm…But I can tell you that the last big name of the metal scene is Slipknot and they became huge with their first album in 1999 and then? No more new huge bands, and still 15 years later… Something has to change.
Mike: Welcame will be released in North America on November 24. Can we expect a tour in support of the album? If so, do you have any details you can share? What can fans expect from an R.O.T.N.S. live show?
Hokuto No Kev: Nothing has been planned yet, but discussions with promoters are happening. Playing in America is the dream for most bands. We would really be happy to play over there but to be honest, we know what the touring conditions are in the US and they are awful…mainly, no food, no drinks, no hotels. When you are a band of our status you often have to be the roadie of bigger bands that you tour with <laughs>, even with Metallica we wouldn’t accept to do that! We recently cancelled a huge European tour because of similar terms and they said “You don’t know how this business works, thousands of bands would kill to play on this tour”… and I know that thousands bands would sell their mothers. It’s like I said previously, we are different from all the current bands, we don’t have the same values, we have our own ethics, our own rules, our own codes, and our integrity. But to answer you we will tour in the US as soon as we receive offers with acceptable touring conditions.
Mike: What do you do to get pumped up for a live performance?
Hokuto No Kev: 死ぬものに教える名などない。
Mike: Lastly, we write a lot of articles on underground metal music. What advice would you give to up and coming metal bands that are trying to break through?
Hokuto No Kev: First “Boys, be ambitious” then keep this sentence in mind “He never knew it was impossible, so he did it”.
Rise Of The Northstar’s new album, Welcame, is available now. We highly recommend checking it out for yourself. If this interview has peaked your interest in the band, you can grab a copy of the album HERE.
For more information on ROTNS, take a trip on over to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rotnsofficial/