Sweden’s Khoma is probably best known on this side of the Atlantic – assuming they’re known at all – for being the side project of Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg. Au contraire. While they may not have been as on the radar of metalnerds as Cult of Luna, Khoma has existed in some form or fashion almost as long as CoL has and are hugely popular in their homeland to the tune of mainstream award nominations and victories as well as having their music appear in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie. Pelagic Records has just issued All Erodes, a new album that’s not exactly a new album but still an enjoyable spin if you like your Isis and Neurosis cut with Radiohead and Coldplay. We tracked down vocalist Jan Jamte via email for the scoop and virtually watched him squirm as he avoided answering most of the dumber parts of our interview questions.
OK, first thing’s first: introduce yourselves, tell us what your role is in Khoma and what you had for breakfast?
So, I´m Jan, the singer of Khoma. I just woke up and haven’t eaten yet, but like most days it´s going to be a lot of different grains and seeds, soymilk, raspberry, mangos and bananas. It´s hell of a good way to start the day. I´ve eaten something similar for over 30 years. I was raised on oatmeal.
Khoma has existed in some form and fashion since 2004 or so. How would you say the band has changed stylistically and operationally between then and now and what happened the last time you drank too much?
Two different questions – I’ll address the last one first since it´s easy. I don’t drink. Never have. Regarding Khoma, it´s obvious a lot of things have happened in almost 10 years. Actually some of us have played together since we were 17 – that´s more like 15 years in different projects. Many of us grew up in Umeå, Sweden during the 90´s playing hardcore. Umeå was one of the central hubs for the European hardcore scene and we all got to know each other through music or political activities. When we started Khoma, it was a way to create something new. We wanted a space where we could be creatively, emotionally and politically free. There was no plan or idea of how Khoma should sound, we just wanted an outlet for ideas and emotions that we couldn’t express in our other bands, which were more connected to specific genres. In Khoma, we gathered friends that came from very different musical backgrounds – hardcore, punk, emotional pop or metal – and just started working without borders. From the beginning you could definitely hear more input from the music we came from; the music was more guitar driven, more pounding riffs, but as Khoma has evolved I´d say the music has become more focused on getting certain kinds of emotions across – adjusting the instrumentation and melodies to that. Looking back with perspective on the last album, A Final Storm (2010), for example, you could definitely hear that it’s a darker, harsher album then the previous two. It doesn’t carry the same hooks or dynamics as The Second Wave (2006).
Being that you guys are in other bands, how does Khoma differ from those other bands; not necessarily in the way the bands sound, but what Khoma gives and provides for you that your other outfits don’t?
It´s like I said before. Khoma was created as a breathing space. When starting the band we never even had a plan of releasing a record, we just wanted a place for ourselves. The first record (Tsunami, 2004) was actually a demo we had recorded trying to capture what we had been doing together the last year. And then some labels picked it up, and that records caught the eyes of Roadrunner, which led to The Second Wave (2006).
Do you find it difficult to make time for Khoma in light of other projects, life and basic responsibilities and where was the last vacation you took and how was it?
Khoma has the same priority as any of the other bands we play in, so all who are involved just have to plan things carefully. But it can be tricky trying to schedule album releases or tours when there are so many different bands you have to consider. It´s the same with other responsibilities – families, work etc. All of us have other things beside music. We´ve wanted it that way. I feel not being dependent on the music gives you more freedom do to whatever you want, both when it come to creating music and to say no to things you’re not interested in doing (tours, commercials, media etc.). We´ve never have to think about if this record is going to sell or not, if we like it we put it out. We´ve never cared if it will sell 1000 or 100000 – “making it” has never been a driving force. [shit, he totally ignored the vacation part of the question…-ksp]
Tell us about the new album. I understand it’s a “cleaning out of the vaults” type of release. Why do this instead of writing all new songs?
When doing records we have always recorded a lot of songs, which has meant that many never ended up on record. Some were left out because we felt they didn’t work dynamically with the other songs, others because we didn’t have time to finish them and yet others because we couldn’t get them right. We´ve always been an “album” type of band, which has meant that we´ve kept really good song out that we thought wasn’t working in the overall scheme. When we realized we had so much material in our drawer, we felt we really wanted to do something with it, so we decided to pick some up again, finish some and re-record some. All Erodes became an epilogue, a way to close the chapters that consisted of Tsunami, The Second Wave and A Final Storm – not a new album. It’s not a way to try and find new listeners, but a limited release mainly dedicated to the ones who have already discovered us.
Is there a particular theme to, or story behind, the title of the new album and where does one go to get good food cheap late at night in Umea?
For me All Erodes signifies frailness, vulnerability and destructibility. That nothing lasts forever. On the covers and logos we´ve used Morse code as a way of sending out a “last message.” A natural way of communication after “the final storm” – right? And regarding going out in Umeå. You don’t go out late night during winter. It´s really dark, and often cold. The sun sets at 2pm and we often have -20c. In summer, it’s the opposite, the suns never sets. Then, I’d say just a regular bar.
History has told us that playing live can be an arduous process for Khoma. Have you managed to simplify this side of the band and what do you think still needs to be done so that getting together to play live isn’t so stressful?
We really love playing live, but as I said above it can be hard to fit the schedules of everyone. From this release I hope things will go smoother. One of the reasons is that Khoma no longer is a three-piece, we’re six (or eight depending on how you see it…). The people who have played live with us the last two years have now become full-time members which means it will be easier to focus on Khoma for them.
Rumour has it that you’re gearing up for your first tour in something like five years. How does the pre-tour feeling now differ from the way you used to feel pre-tour a decade or so ago and what is your favourite out-of-town sightseeing attraction?
That’s not true. We played a lot of shows on A Final Storm here in Scandinavia. We decided that A Final Storm should only be released here since we felt we didn’t have time to back it up properly. So, this will be the first European tour in five years, but definitely not the first live show during this time. But it feels great. I´m really looking forward to play the songs, for many in Europe it will be the first chance too hear both songs from A Final Storm and All Erodes performed live. [what, no sightseeing to speak of? –ksp]
I understand you’re fairly well-known in your homeland, winners of a national radio award and Grammy-equivalent nominations. Can you please elaborate? Have you noticed any benefits from this sort of recognition?
Khoma won the Swedish national radio award for ”Best Rock/Metal 2010” and was nominated for the Swedish Grammy and Manifest award the same year for A Final Storm. We can often be too hard on each other, so the ceremony’s was a chance to actually stop and appreciate all that had happened after A Final Storm.
How did Khoma end up being associated with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie?
The national award came at the same time The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was shot here in Sweden. Johannes (guitars) coordinated extras, so they asked him to send all our music. One day, David Fincher just walked up and said that he and Trent Reznor wanted “The Guillotine” (from The Second Wave) for the film. So it was great fun. I think they work well together, they’re both really moody, dark and rainy. I grew up with Fincher films and Reznor’s music, so it was an honour.
How has the meaning and significance of Khoma changed for you personally over the years?
I feel that Khoma has grown in importance over the years. Moving over 30, I sometime feel our personal ways of expressing our disappointment/anger/sadness or whatever has become narrower. A part of growing older means dealing with expectations on you to control your emotions – to “grow up”. For many I think this leads to a feeling of alienation. The things that pissed us off/made us sad as youths has not gone away, but it´s harder to use the same channels to express our emotions and thoughts. Given this Khoma has become even more important. Here we can think, feel or say whatever we want.