Khemmis’ Ben Hutcherson Talks the Rise of Mile High Metal

In our August 2018 issue Khemmis guitarist/vocalist Ben Hutcherson walked Decibel through the origins and execution of the band’s next-level new album Desolation. During that conversation, we also asked Hutcherson about the improbable number of trailblazing extreme metal outfits that currently share Khemmis’ Denver home base from Blood Incantation to Call of the Void to Primitive Man to Spectral Voice to Dreadnought and beyond.

Here’s what he had to say…

Oh, man. The scene in Denver right now is just unbelievable. It’s tempting to say, “Must be something in the water,” right?

I think that because Denver has historically had a small scene — and it still does have a small scene, really — there’s less division. You know, there’s not a death metal scene and a doom scene and a black metal scene. There’s just the scene. It’s not uncommon out here to see a grind band and a doom band and a blackened death metal band all on the same bill.

And so as a result there’s never been the expectation or requirement that I think happens in larger cities with larger scenes where if you want to be taken seriously in this corner of the underground, you have to adhere to whatever genre guidelines exist. People in Denver simply don’t give a shit. The musicians just want to do what feels natural and create art they find compelling. We’re in this really exciting moment in Denver where bands are free to explore and find whatever is the most authentic version of themselves and swing for the fences with it.

There’s a healthy competition insomuch as, “Man, did you hear the new whatever album? We got to kick it up a notch. Did you see Primitive Man last week? Goddamn, how can anybody follow that? We got to bring the thunder next time we play live” — that kind of stuff. There’s no room for half-assing it, because the bands that are doing it are busting their asses, are getting out on the road, are writing these albums. There’s no time for this weekend warrior bullshit. If you want to do it, you got to do it and you got to bring your A game. But there’s no sense of competition outside of the music: It’s not like, “Oh, well, if this other band gets this show, what are we going to do?”

That said, we couldn’t have all this happen without a city that has a scene filled with people who will go see shows any day of the week, that will support bands, that will be there and make it worth doing.

The best part is, it all happened so organically. It just felt like all of a sudden all of my friends’ bands were getting better and better and finding these new sounds.

I remember when Primitive Man started playing some of the material that wound up on Caustic during that tour they did with Dragged Into Sunlight. That was a Holy shit moment — that material didn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard before from any other band. And there have been moments like that over and over during the last few years with Denver bands. It’s basically the norm these days.

You asked before if early on there was ever this feeling that there’s something happening that the rest of the world wasn’t paying attention to. Well, yes — but I don’t know that that’s super unique. I think people get excited about their scenes, about the bands in their scenes, wherever they may be. We all probably say, “Hey, why isn’t everyone paying attention to what we’ve got going on?” So I don’t want to diminish that talking about my city. People have got awesome stuff going on in a lot of places.

At the same time, it is very satisfying that people are paying attention to Denver — we’re not a small town, but we are kind of the middle of nowhere. It’s amazing to me that Denver now is this city that bands always stop in on any large U.S. tour. Twenty years ago that wasn’t the case. Which is great, because, honestly, there’s still so much more going on here than people even know about — so much more for people to discover. I’m definitely very happy and grateful to be where I am, creating in the middle of all this.

Check out Khemmis at Migration Fest this weekend.