Khemmis Opens Up About New Album “Deceiver”, Mental Health, and What it All Means (Interview)
Some metal bands are awkward and bashful about their accomplishments, almost wanting to gloss them over in conversation. Others are braggadocious, layering on praise for their own work. Khemmis guitarist and vocalist Ben Hutcherson is neither. He’s happy to laud his own achievements, but also realizes that each achievement is personal.
“I’m feeling a lot of gratitude around the response that we’ve gotten from everyone, from press and fans,” he says of the new record, Deceiver, out now via Nuclear Blast [read our review here]. “And I say that with the acknowledgement that with this record, more so than with anything in the past in my life, the very existence is enough. One of the things I’ve had to recognize and accept is that it’s doing the work that matters.”
And the work has certainly been done. Khemmis have raised their status from local, albeit killer, Denver doom band to international doom sensation, moving from powerhouse record label 20 Buck Spin to the equally impressive Nuclear Blast, far exceeding the fame and status of “local band.”
With this new album, like most bands existing right now on this planet, there’s a special sense of pride, accomplishment, and joy when it comes to things that were once considered a given, like releasing albums and playing shows.
“Phil [Pendergast, guitar and vocals] has made a statement that I really like, so I’ll use his words. The record is not about the pandemic, but it is of the pandemic. The circumstances we had to confront were very specific. I never want to speak for anyone else in the band, but for me, it was about recognizing that I had severe mental illness and that it had gone undiagnosed, untreated, for too long. I found myself at a point where I was absolutely going to kill myself, and I wound up in a place where I was able to get help because of the pandemic, because I couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t run. I’ve been sober for a few years, so I couldn’t even hide in my own mind anymore.”
On Deceiver, it’s clear that Khemmis are holding nothing back. Among the doomy, melodic riffs and soaring vocals, there is a theme of redemption, of being pulled back from the depths.
“There’s this romanticized notion of the artists as tortured, and I’ve long had issue with that because I knew even before I went through what I did, the idea of creating more suffering for yourself or creating more trauma in your own life is contrived,” says Hutcherson. “That is the opposite of what we’re supposed to do with art, with anything. All of our pursuits should be as honest as possible. But it was really in coming through the darkest parts of my own mental illness that I realized suffering is omnipresent. Everybody suffers all the time. In fact, that’s the one thing that’s guaranteed. What you have control over is what you do with your time now. The work that we did to see this album through feels like it helped us reconcile a lot of things about ourselves. It helped me rediscover the power of joy and love and really sharpened my focus about what I’m supposed to do with my time on this earth.”
Of course, as much as we all wish this was not the case, one great metal album, no matter how truly great, cannot solve all the problems we’re saddled with—all it can do is serve as a release, or just a really great record to jam out to on good days and bad.
“I would love to say that this album is going to fix everything, that it’s going to change the world. What it might do is soften some people’s hearts, make some people feel less alone. It made us feel less alone to make it, and that’s work that I think matters. That’s certainly the message that I want people to take from it. But, if they just end up saying, there’s some cool fantasy stuff on the cover, and these riffs are bangin’, and I love the solos, that’s beautiful, and I’m glad they engage with it in that way. I don’t think you have to find intense philosophical meaning in everything at all times. But it’s there for the people who want to find it. And for the people who just want riffs, we made sure to stock the fridge full of them.”
Deceiver released November 19th via Nuclear Blast.