KUBLAI KHAN TX’s MATT HONEYCUTT Discusses Emotional New Material, KATE BECKINSALE & Planning For Life After Music
If you’re not angry in the year of our lord Ronnie James Dio 2022, are you even breathing?
There’s plenty to be pissed about, and Texas metalcore stalwarts Kublai Khan TX (same band, same big Texas heavy!) channel rage and harness the power of metal in their latest whopper of an EP, the emotionally resonant yet blisteringly heavy Lowest Form of Animal.
Never lost for words, frontman Matt Honeycutt caught up with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the band’s impactful new music, including a truly heavy backstory behind the single “Swan Song,” the bands’ A-list fan and the curiousness of social media, preparing for life after music and much more!
Coming off of Absolute in 2019, critically things were going really well for you. You’re hopping on some of your best tours of your career. Is there kind of a frustration factor in terms of start-stops with momentum?
Oh yeah. I mean, I suppose so. It’s one of those things, at least from my perspective, we were ready to go from the get-go. We were just kind of having to play by everybody else’s rules here, you know what I mean? So we kind of stayed busy, just kept working, kept doing our thing and just kind of waited for everybody to come around. And I mean it took about two years, but here we are hoping that things don’t crack off again and everybody goes downhill with it. I don’t know, I think that we basically just did what we could. We didn’t really have a whole lot of control in this situation. So it’s best not to get angry about it and just kind of roll with the punches. And when it comes back don’t take it for granted, you know what I mean?
Was the plan following Absolute to always do an EP, or is this kind of an appetizer for fans ahead of a follow-up record?
I mean, it was one of those things. We wrote it and recorded it when touring still wasn’t necessarily a thing. So we decided to do an EP because we wanted to put something out. But it didn’t make a lot of sense to put out a full record that you can’t even tour on when we didn’t even get to tour really off the last record, you know? So we decided to just go with some quality over quantity and just put out five tracks that we can just integrate into the set and just come back with a bunch of heavy hitters, because it’s like you said, these tours we’re doing now are a huge leg up from where we were at when we left off. So it’s kind of crazy how things turn around, even in the absence of actual live music.
Yeah, it’s unbelievable to think it’s been, what, 10, 12 years for you guys? What do you consider to be day one of this band?
Our first show was the first weekend of my second semester of my senior year of high school. That’d be a pretty good benchmark right there. Started out doing that, hit the ground running and never really stopped. It’s been a slow burn the whole time, but I feel like that’s what’s helped us build such a strong foundation that we have now and kind of helped us stay through the years. We’ve seen a lot of bands pop and a lot of bands come and go and it’s been nice that we can kind of remain a little bit more steady in this shit, because it’s ever changing. And we just kind of kept doing exactly what we do and stuck with the formula that we’ve created for ourselves and it hasn’t really shot us in the foot yet.
It feels like every second band that I’m interviewing these days is from Texas. There’s something going on there, whether it be death metal, metalcore, or groove, it’s like there’s something in the fucking water. In your formative years did it feel like there was a lot happening in the Texas metal scene?
It was kind of a weird thing for me because I didn’t really have a different point of perspective because I grew up there and I started going to shows there. And the more that we started getting out of the state and started touring, we started realizing that Texas is kind of an island. Culturally it’s so vastly different than anything else, even around it. It’s so unique and just has its own kind of culture that is very, very preserved and that a lot of people fight to preserve. The way I explain it to people is being from Texas isn’t necessarily a location. It’s an attitude. And it’s just different kinds of folks, man. Like you said, I don’t know if it’s the weather. I don’t know if it’s water, but it just breeds a lot of good shit and we’re very fortunate to be from that homeland. Always be proud of Texas, man. We put it at the end of our name. Not necessarily by choice, but we embraced it nonetheless. Long as motherfuckers know.
Do you remember going to a show in those early days, whether it be a local band or band traveling through? And it was like, Holy shit, this is what I want to do with my life. Just a game changer moment.
My first show was what really kind of turned things around for me. It was in a place called The Pit in the basement of one of the churches in town, and our town at that point, was only about 18,000 people. Pretty small situation, you know? But I remember going to that show, and that’s where I met a lot of my buddies that I ended up starting Kublai Khan with and met all the straight edge dudes. A lot of older fellows kind of took me under their wing and it really kind of just put me in the pocket.
I was always decent at making friends. I was always decent at understanding what was going on around me. So being put in a situation like that where it’s just a whole heap of organized chaos, it really kind of set the tone for what I wanted out of my life, because I felt that way too. I felt all that kind of angst and not wanting to be home and just needing something and it really provided that shit. I would say nowadays it was pretty positive looking back on it. People look at it from the outside and they think it’s real negative and I can understand that. I can see why. And there are elements of negativity to it, but those elements are very important.
You guys really wear a lot of emotions on your sleeve. You aren’t writing bullshit lyrics that might sound catchy… You’re taking from real life situations, sociopolitical happenings. And it’s a lot of music with a message. Has that been a conscious choice, something you kind of grew into? Or was it natural?
I would say it was the natural conclusion, but it was one that was direct at the same time. I remember the first practice that I ever went to for Kublai Khan. I had always played drums in bands before that. Kublai Khan was the first band where I was just the sole vocalist, and I told the guys I was like, “If I’m able to do this, if you guys want me to be a vocalist, I want to write about shit that I want to write about,” because that was in a time where a lot of bands are just talking about murdering women and just corny shit. You know what I mean? Stuff that’s very outdated now and honestly not a good piece of lyrical content, if we’re getting down to it. I understand if it’s just people singing about what they want to sing about. But there was a time when there weren’t a lot of bands, especially in our area, that really had much to say.
I’ve always been the kind of person anyways, like I really don’t give a fuck. If people don’t like what I have to say don’t hang around me. It doesn’t bother me at all. I lose no sleep over it. And I’m going to say what I say because I’m fortunate enough to live in a time and a place where I’m able to say what I want and it can be respected and understood by other people. And that’s not something that I take lightly. That’s something that’s extremely important to me. So I don’t believe in bending down or doing anything for anybody. Like I said, if people don’t like the lyrical content, then the beautiful thing about music, go change the fuckin’ radio. There’s all kinds of shit to listen to.
And for us it’s always been about what’s important, always been about being very firm and direct and not beating around the bush and doing a bunch of kind of theatrics when it comes down to the lyrical content. It’s pretty much just bare bones, what you get is what you got. And I think that that honestly over the years kind of played to our advantage, unknowingly. But it’s just completely natural to who we are. It wouldn’t matter if I was talking to you in person at a restaurant or if I was up on stage saying it into a mic. I’ll say whatever I want to say, you know?
With “Swan Song,” you’re getting into some particularly heavy content, detailing the sex trade in the United States and how folks get beaten down from that entire system. Can you take me through the genesis of where that idea came from? From the presentation of the video to the entire way this song has been presented, there’s a definite care to the subject matter while also keeping the track ridiculously heavy.
There’s definitely a finesse to it, you know what I mean? The song is taken from two different perspectives, as far as my personal perspective and a wider kind of societal perspective. I mean, a lot of the stuff that is mentioned in this song is about my own mother. I mean, she was part of that whole kind of negative situation. Even as a young girl, she was abused and stuff like that. And as a young child when she would tell me stories about it, I couldn’t wrap my head around it, couldn’t understand why anybody would want to do that to my mom.
But growing up and then being on the road and like I say in the song, stopping at rest stops and just seeing women out there tricking, it’s just like damn, world really doesn’t give a fuck. I thought that my mom was some real unique special case just because she was my own mom. She was just another motherfucker out there just hitting the pavement, you know? And it sucks. And it’s a brutal fuckin’ thing. This song has caught a lot of, I hate to use the word attention, but it’s got a lot of attention because people are like, “Man, it’s crazy. You’re talking about stuff like this.” I shouldn’t be the only fucker talking about this shit and that’s kind of what’s crazy. We don’t need a pat on the back. We need some help. This is a real deal issue that shouldn’t be so goddamn taboo, man.
That’s what I reference in the song, talking about how people will see a woman on the side of the road like that. And I’m a hypocrite. I do it myself and just say, “Oh well, that’s her life. She made her decisions that got her to that point,” without understanding that goddamn, that’s just painful to look at. It’s painful to see, painful to witness and understand that we live such privileged lives, most of us, that we can’t even imagine having to do that for two hours, let alone a lifetime. It’s kind of my personal interpretation of just how fucked it is, man.
If we look at the last decade or so, everything is so divisive. It’s one fucking thing after another and you can’t help but be mad. How can you not be inspired to get angry right now about a lot of the things that are going on in the world and have that naturally bleed through into your music
Even outside of this realm of music, just in the day to day man, I firmly believe that the anger is strategically streamlined and curated to keep everybody angry and keep everybody distracted, you know? I firmly believe man, that the human mind was never built to withstand the amount of negative media we consume on a daily basis.
You open up your phone and you get five different apps, all of which show you everything horrible and everything amazing and everything envious within a matter of moments. And that to think that that doesn’t completely damage the human psyche, it’s fucking absurd. And this is one of the first times where war and injustice and everything that is negative in this world is just televised and put all over everything for everyone to have an opinion. And if you don’t have an opinion then you’re a piece of shit. No one can just sit quietly and live their lives anymore, and it’s so just damaging and hazy and everything is just upside down.
Like I said, to think that that’s not by design I think is a little bit obnoxious. Too many people in too many places are making money off all these narratives and agendas and things that just make people mad. If you can keep people angry and keep people confused, keep people at each other’s throats, then a lot of the bigger problems that could unite us all can just get swept under the rug.
And I’m not trying to discredit anything that happens in this world or any of the negativity. A lot of it’s real. But I think the big lie is that you have to be a part of all of it. That you have to eat it all up, you have to have an opinion, you have to be an activist, you have to go fight. It’s like the older I get man, the more I look around and I’m like fuck all that shit. What’s it doing besides just churning the pot even more? And you’ve got a lot of these younger kids, especially in this scene, that don’t even have jobs. Their job is to be an activist and to tell everybody else what to do, think and say. Even within the short amount of time that that kind of ideology has ramped up, it doesn’t make much sense to me man, and I’ll never pretend it does.
A weird pivot, but thinking about the Kate Beckinsale thing. That was all over the internet for a while: Kate Beckinsale listening to Kublai Khan. Fantastic for the band, great promotion in an odd way, but also a strange headline. A strange thing to even care about. Where are you on something like that?
That situation in particular was extremely peculiar to me because watching the video and trying to understand the context, I still don’t understand what exactly is happening. I think it’s cool that her and her friend are enjoying our music. That’s obviously a large portion of why it was written is for people’s enjoyment however you see fit, and I’m perfectly cool with that. To be honest with you I remembered her name. I knew Kate Beckinsale. And whenever people were texting me about it, I was like wait, whoa, shit. That’s actually pretty crazy. That’s pretty cool.
It’s one of those things, man. In a week nobody’s going to remember. That’s just the way that media flows now. So while you’re in the moment man, just live it up. Those couple of days are pretty cool. A lot of people were talking about it and it probably gained us some fans that probably would have never seen us otherwise. And if I could shake her hand and say thanks I would, cause that definitely is cool. I’m glad that she enjoys it. I’m just glad anybody enjoys it, like you said. So it was peculiar, but cool. I’ll put it that way.
You have this pretty hardcore run of shows with Knocked Loose coming up. How much does it meant to you to be able to get back in the saddle and perform live after the unthinkable downtime we’ve had?
I mean, I think it’s been great, man. Like I said, I don’t want to take it for granted anymore. There’s definitely a silver lining to the pandemic for me personally. For all the people that lost their lives and lost their jobs and their businesses and shit like that, I’m sorry. I can’t do shit about that. But as far as my life man, that was one of the better years that’s ever happened. I got a career out of it. Approaching another career now because we’ve never had this much time.
Like I said, we started this band in high school and committed pretty much all of our time and space and energy to this band. So it was kind of nice to have a fucking break and to be able to be like, “Okay, I’m going to get some trades under my belt.” And that way, when this shit turns sour and the band is done, I’m not out of my ass. I can have a career. I can keep working, keep moving, keep motivating myself to just do better. Because at the end of the day the band isn’t my identity. The band is just an element of something that I do and that I enjoy, but I’ll never let it become my personality.
So that was extremely important to me that we got to kind of have that time off and do that, but with that being said, yeah, the fact that it’s back now, that’s spectacular. That’s what we did it for, that’s the whole purpose for planting the seeds is trying to eat the fruit, you know? And if that’s not happening, it’s kind of a lost cause. But these shows coming up, they’re going to be great. Everybody that’s coming out, extremely appreciative, extremely supportive. So I’m just glad to be here. Glad to still be doing it. Glad that none of us got too deathly ill that we couldn’t continue on and same thing for our team and everybody that helps keep us in line.
3/31 Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl
4/1 St. Louis, MO @ Red Flag
4/2 Joliet, IL @ The Forge
4/3 Columbus, OH @ The Athenaeum
4/5 Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage
4/6 Reading, PA @ Reverb
4/7 Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa
4/8 Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
4/10 Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
4/12 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
4/15 Austin, TX @ Emo’s
4/16 Ft. Worth, TX @ Ridglea Theater
4/17 Oklahoma City, OK @ Beer City Music Hall
4/19 Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
4/20 Tucson, AZ @ Encore
4/22 San Diego, CA @ SOMA
4/24 Pomona, CA @ Fox Theater
4/26 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
4/27 Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
4/28 Des Moines, IA @ Val Air Ballroom
4/29 Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave II
4/30 Ft. Wayne, IN @ Piere’s Entertainment Center
5/1 Grand Rapids, MI @ The Intersection
5/3 Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom
5/4 Albany, NY @ Empire Live
5/5 Providence, RI @ Fete Music Hall
5/6 Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
5/7 New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall
5/8 Huntington, NY @ The Paramount