Kini Fernández (Karonte): “I really hate Death Metal voices that don’t transmit a feeling of effort and suffering”
Talking about Legends, about vocalists that are still at war behind their microphones and still work restlessly is a privilege. During the writing of their new album, we’ve had the desire to know one of the mythical vocalists of Spanish Death Metal better. This is Kini, vocalist for Karonte.
Kini, welcome to Bloodfall. It is a privilege to be talking to someone like you, who has been so many years in the Spanish Extreme Metal scene. Since ‘94 at war with Karonte. How do you keep working on your project year after year?
Big pleasure, Albert, and I’m honored to be featured in the premiere of Bloodfall. The only key to keep the band going for so long and that we have never stopped touring, writing or releasing material is to never let go of the excitement to do so, be down to earth and aware of the reality of an underground band, have an urge to improve and show new things and of course, wanting to create new music.
Let’s be honest. In spite of such a long career, Karonte has become an emblematicband of the Death Metal scene in the north of Spain. In fact you’re a band that doesn’t move a lot (I’m sure there are many reasons to it); and if you do it is across the northern regions of Spain. Is it a matter of conformity and your being keen on paying the regional scene? Is it difficult for Karonte to cross borders?
Well, in fact Karonte has played outside the north of Spain; for example in Madrid or Aragón… But it is absolutely true that we don’t play as much as we would like to in places far from Cantabria, even if we have had good offers to do so. There are several reasons, mainly the incompatibility between making mid-/long-term plans and our jobs/duties, which is a strong limitation when it comes down to organising shows that require better infrastructure or booking venues long time in advance. But it’s also a matter of economic sustainability of the band. Playing the other end of the country is cool, but it results in expenses that must be covered and the vast majority of times one doesn’t even reach a minimum. The personal economy of the band allows us to do it from time to time, but not always. Besides, being as old as 44, there are “offers” that include sleeping on the floor of a rehearsal place that I don’t even take into consideration… Some will call me an elitist, but I call it dignity.
You’ve spent many years behind a guitar and a microphone. How do you feel after so many years of singing gutturals?
Years feel heavy, no doubt. When I was 20, I had no problem with screaming for hours without sweating, but right now I’m full of injuries, my back is fucked up, epicondylitis, 30 years as a smoker… But in the end experience is important and what helps go on. In fact in our 20th-anniversary show we played for two hours fifteen minutes to our fullest… I think I still have a lot of energy, but to be honest, every day is a bigger effort.
Regardless of any reasons, and the band’s work policy, the thing is you have been screaming since ‘94. Tell me a little bit about your vocal style. What do you try to transmit? What do the vocal lines in Karonte express?
Actually, my taking the role of a vocalist came up unexpectedly. The idea was to keep a band we had had since 1991, in which I sang, occasionally, some backing vocals. But when we formed Karonte and saw we couldn’t find a vocalist, I had to become the vocalist and guitarist. It took me years to take in that I was the frontman of the band. The vocal line is classical within death metal (as I know you like calling things by their name, I’ll say they are growls and mid-growls), searching for that point of aggressivity and modulating it to show rage, hatred and the dark and depressive touch our music must have. That’s what we try to express. I really hate Death Metal voices that don’t transmit a feeling of “effort” and “suffering”. For example, I feel pig squeal kind of vocals must be only an occasional resource. A whole song like that feels extremely boring to listen to. Some singers that have been a reference for me are, no doubt, Gorefest’s Jan-Chris de Koeijer, Entombed’s Lars G. Petrov, Masse Broberg as he was in Hypocrisy, Peter Tätgren or Paradise Lost’s first period.
Often, the tonality or multitonality that a vocalist offers in the band they are part of allows music to have certain dimensions or express certain concepts. When I listen to Karonte, I hear a predominance of deep voices. Why sing in that tonality? Is it to preserve the tradition and pillars of Death Metal or would having different voices spoil the artistic concept of the band? What is the intention?
In our case, voice is the instrument that must always stick to the same style. In Karonte we mix influences, we are not a Brutal Death band, or fill everything with blast beats; we are a band that usually works with mid tempos, based on power, also including many melodic fragments or even Doom fragments. So we can say that voice is what keeps it all together, what reminds you that, even if you listened to a Michael Schenker style solo a moment ago, you’re still listening to a death metal band.
Yes, we’re currently in the process of writing a new album, which, after having listened to the first pieces, is very promising! (No boasting intended)… We are very happy about how it is developing and the few songs that are written sound brutal and straightforward. As a sneak peek I’ll tell you that we are working on another edition: an extensive compilation (possible a triple CD) including all our demos, live shows and all of it accompanied by graphical material such as pictures, flyers and poster from back then. It’s been a long time since Paraíso sin fe. Since then we’ve been twice in the studio, once for Vivo y resucitado, an LP in which we re-recorded songs from the demos as well as including a footage of a live show; and then with our last album, Alliance for death domination, which is a 10” Split shared with Bloody Brotherhood, in which we included three new songs. With these last editions we could dedicate more time to record the vocals, which is very noticeable in the final product. There is nothing defined yet, but I guess we will follow a line very similar to these last songs.
If there is anything remarkable in Karonte, it is the fact that you have decided to sing in Spanish from the very beginning. What does Spanish offer, compared to English, as a language for artistic expression? Do Spanish and guttural singing belong together?
Singing in our mother tongue is a matter of pragmatism, so that we can express all that we want without having the limitation of a language we don’t master 100%. I think Spanish offers me more possibilities and allows me to go deeper than with English when writing lyrics. Even if it’s true that our hearing is traditionally used to the English language, and that it would actually be easier to sing in English, Spanish can be perfectly integrated, as well as sound more aggressive than others on occasion. It’s the same with Black Metal; languages such as Portuguese fit perfectly in my opinion. Nevertheless, the audience is still reluctant.
I don’t know to what extent Karonte’s songs could be a reflection of your own self, your life and your experiences; this is, of course, apart from the general social criticism that is implied in the lyrics. Do you use guttural singing as a sort of self therapy, this is, a way to unleash the frustration and helplessness about certain topics? Do you think guttural singing goes beyond a simple singing style?
Social criticism was the main topic in our demos. But virtually all the lyrics to our songs take other directions… they’re deeper, loaded with hatred, nihilism, negativity and naturally anti-dogmatic, mainly dealing with the relationship between God and Man and the vileness of the human kind. Everything I do in Karonte is a reflection of what I am and think of; I think that’s the proper way to transmit something. Otherwise the lyrics would be empty, without content or any possible form of representation
Don’t want to give offence, but let’s return to the fact that Karonte has a limited live activity. How does this affect your voice? How do you manage to perform your gutturals well without having a tight touring and rehearsal schedule compared to other bands?
We rehearse just once a week, but regarding what you say, we are an atypical band. In Karonte we hardly ever rehearse with vocals, they’re usually instrumental rehearsals 99% of the times. I really only get behind the mic when we are preparing a new setlist or new songs and I need to fit the voices in. Even though I must recognize that this is a pending subject, I would like to change this habit and start singing regularly. Not so much because of the vocals, but in order to bring together my playing guitar and singing. Practice is essential for that, both for the instrumental part and in order to coordinate my breath.
They say guttural singing is not like riding a bike, which you never forget once learnt. Instead it needs daily practice. What do you think about it?
Well, as I’ve already told you, I’m a living example of that not being true. If I’ve spent a long period on hold, I only need one rehearsal to feel fit again and so that my voice is “distorted” as expected, but I believe this depends on each person. I guess it depends to a great extent on your own natural timbre. My natural voice is pretty deep, and has that shade of huskiness typical of smokers; however, other people must “force” their voices a lot more to sing deep gutturals. I guess in that case it requires a bigger effort to scream properly.
Kini, I’m very thankful for your time, and because this conversation had been pending for long. I wish you the best of luck with your next album. The last words are yours
Thank you very much, Albert, for your time and bearing me and Karonte in mind. I find this new phase with Bloodfall extremely interesting and I wish you the best of luck. I encourage you to visit our website and social networks so that you can get to know Karonte better; and if you are willing to purchase a copy of any of our albums, both our label and we are more than happy to assist you!! Thank you for your time and interest. Cheers!!
Cover photo by Vanesa Arroyo