Any band hailing from Hawaii is going to grab your attention, right? But if it’s a raw black metal/punk band that’s—upon initial listening—actually quite riff-filled and energetic and intelligently composed? Well, to put it succinctly, demos like Kūka’ilimoku’s don’t come around very often.
Behind Kūka’ilimoku is one person who goes by Huaka’i Pō. Kūka’ilimoku didn’t need to be a one-person band, but it feels right that they are.
According to Huaka’i Pō, their name means “Night Marcher.”
“We as Hawaiians grow up with these legends,” Huaka’i Pō writes from their home on Hawaii. “They are ceremonial marches that happen on the new moon at night. Spirits who march to announce a royal presence, for ceremonies and funerals, before battles, etc. They are accompanied by primitive drumming, chanting, and rows of torches. To lay eyes on them means death unless you have a blood ancestor marching in the procession. He will point you out announcing your safety. We are told these stories as kids and to me is a source of fear.”
As far as the band name Kūka’ilimoku—which, when you break it down syllable-by-syllable, isn’t so bad—Huaka’i Pō explains how Kūka’ilimoku, or just Kū, is the name of an Hawaiian god.
“We learn about him at an early age as well, although he’s most often referred to as Kū. He’s the only god where human sacrifice is necessary for his worship. Entire heiaus (temples) are built for his honor and sacrifices. He is the god of war, farming and fishing, amongst many other things. As with Huaka’i Pō, it’s another name that strikes fear and respect in the hearts of Hawaiians.”
We get to talking about their influences, and Huaka’i Pō says: “Punk was definitely first in my life way before I even knew what black metal was. It just makes sense to mix the two, if done right. Primitive and raw. Furious and snotty. Ildjarn is beautiful primal emotion and I would never compare myself to him as he is held on a level supreme, but it is material like that that pushed me in this direction.
“I appreciate the Volahn comment,” Huaka’i Pō says in regards to me telling them that their demo reminds me of early Volahn. “Although they haven’t influenced me personally, they also use single coil style guitars. I love the shrill and shriek of their tone. I actually hate Black Flag haha. I don’t get it. I would’ve told you the same 15 years ago. As far as punk goes I like a lot of the early 80s American stuff like Void and YDI. I’m a huge fan of the 2nd and 3rd wave punk and hardcore shit that happened through the 80s in NY. I can say even if it doesn’t sound like it, a band out of Spain Uruk-Hai and a dude I know nothing of out of Sweden under the name Drux has influenced me on the BM writing side as far as slightly more current BM sounds. As well as a project out of Finland, Uskonrauha. Other than that, I can talk about late 70s/early 80s reggae all day. True reggae is and will never be about smoking weed and fucking on the beach. True reggae is oppression, poverty, famine and death.”
Now we’re beginning to tap into the heart of what inspires and brought Kūka’ilimoku into the public in the first place. You’ll notice on their Bandcamp page that this band stands for “boundless disgust and hatred of all who leech to sacred lands of Hawai’i.”
“When I say people who ‘leech,’ I mean people who come and disrespect our way of life, land, and above all, culture,” says Huaka’i Pō. “People who come and purchase land along our oceans and forbid us to fish and swim there. People who come into the mountains where we would play as kids and leave their trash all over the place and bring hordes of people every day. I can’t even walk around places we would dwell as kids. It’s as if someone caged places where only good memories are created, and put them on display for us to see, but not feel and interact with. We see it but it’s out of our reach. People who treat nature and culture as a commodity. I’d love to go over the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, but you can learn for yourself. We love visitors coming to Hawaii and experiencing our culture. We love to share our Aloha. Everyone is welcome. But don’t forget to go home.”
This sense of disgust seems best conveyed with an ugly and inaccessibly raw sound. When asked about their gnarly guitar tone, Huaka’i Pō says: “I’m a single coil guitar into a pushed single channel amp person. I don’t give a shit about full stacks, heavy gain and EMGs. There are no characteristics in ‘em. I think the most ferocious tone you can get is through a pushed and peaking single channel amp.”
“I started with drums on an electric kit through an overdrive pedal into an amp. Used a 10$ karaoke mic from target plugged into my amp for vocals. Somehow, it ended up sounding pretty much like how I expected it. This was a learning process for me. It probably took 10x longer than it does compared to someone who’s versed in recording.
“The songs on this demo are basically just Hawaiian legends and stories,” Huaka’i Pō continues, discussing the demo itself, and the individual tracks. “You gotta understand I had no intention of anyone ever hearing it. No intention of it being on a tape. I was just tired of playing live and arranging a practice with a full band so I needed something to do at home on my own time. I didn’t put too much thought into the lyrics. The next EP will have a very strong and obvious lyrical theme. ‘Puowaina’ means ‘hill of sacrifice.’ It was a place where people who had broken the law or ‘Kapu’ were taken to be sacrificed. I was born and raised about 5 minutes from it. Lived there for over 20 years. My mom’s still there. ‘Ancestral Fog’ is about ancestors and family long gone. I appreciate the Darkthrone references. I know it’s mad corny but they’re def my favorite as far as overall feel and vibe in the genre. Nobody riffs harder in my opinion, and their song compositions are in my opinion the best. Composition is very important to me in any genre. I wish I wrote ‘Kathaarian Life Code.’”
Thank the fat god of commodity, Kūka’ilimoku will see imminent physical manifestation. “John at Knife Vision emailed me asking if I’d be interested in putting out a tape with them,” says Huaka’i Pō. “I thought it was someone fucking with me. A couple of labels then followed. A couple from Europe. All this shit has been so wild to me. Like I said, I just intended to write and record and that’s it. Put up a song or two every couple months. Pre orders for the tape go up on June 28th through their bandcamp. Digital pre orders are up now. Check out knifevision.bandcamp.com for that and other releases in the similar vein. Everything he puts out is gold.”