SPOTLIGHT BAND #5 KARMIKAZE
Karmikaze is definitely a band that stands out from the rest of the pack. They have a unique and diverse sound, creative songs and stage presence, and lead singer Kurt Reisig even plays the trumpet! I caught up with Kurt Reisig (Vocals/Trumpet), Nick Jennes (Guitar/Background Vocals), Patrick Schubert (Bass), and Robert Bradley (Drums) to dive a bit more into what makes Karmikaze who they are.
MBM MUSIC: I was recently at one of your live shows, and was impressed at the unique musical style of Karmikaze. How would you describe your sound to someone who is not familiar with the band?
KURT REISIG: It's a smorgasbord, or melting pot, so to speak, of different elements of different genres, usually under the umbrella of rock, including garage rock, punk, metal, funk, jazz, experimental, and various other musical forms. The intent is to meld our styles and influences together to always endeavor to create something different. This creates an openness within the creativity of the band that contributes to longevity. In addition, the lyrics emphasize characteristics and observations of human behavior, sometimes dark, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes self-deprecating to comic effect.
MBMM: Nick, tell me more about your background/training as a musician.
NICK: I began learning guitar around age 10 and taught myself riffs and songs from my favorite bands, ranging from my influences of classic rock, metal, classical, punk, and anything that sounded good to me. I acquired a wide range of guitars… I currently play a Dimebag Darrell Washburn that I won at a Battle of Bands contest we played a few years ago.
MBMM: That’s so great! What about you Kurt? It’s definitely impressive that you are the lead vocalist and you play trumpet too!
KURT: Thank you! The extensive background of Nick, Rob, and Pat, and how we fuse, gives us the privilege to demonstrate ourselves artistically.
I've been playing trumpet for 41 years, singing off and on (shy, at first) for 35 years, writing lyrics since junior high in the 80's, and started composing music between 1988-92 at USC as a music major, with an emphasis in jazz studies. At that time, I was singing with a band, named Faceplant, that was what you could call psychedelic punk metal. So I was studying jazz and writing words for this at the same time. I spent the next decades finding a group in which to fuse the two worlds. With this band, it exceeds my expectations to the point my mind is constantly blown away.
MBMM: You have some unique stage props while you perform live. What is the story behind the record you use during “Vivalavinyl?”
KURT: It's a cracked 45 record. About four years ago, at a show at Bar Hookup in Huntington Beach, a DJ named Armand had a melted pastiche of 45's behind his board. These were 45's of songs or artists he despised, which I thought was very funny.
MBMM: (LAUGHS) That is really funny.
KURT: I told him we have a song about vinyl, and he offered me some 45's for free. To open the second set, I started twirling the 45. Since then, the 45 is always a part of “Vivalavinyl!” The chorus pleads to “preserve your 33 1/3's for when it's too late, like now”. It describes how vinyl was the soundtrack of life, and how listening to a really amazing album on vinyl was a ritual and experience, and how that experience diminished over time. The song is a preservation and dedication to that time of innocence (somewhat!) lost, but still remembered.
MBMM: I love that! What is the significance of the bandana?
KURT: I apparently have had that bandana for decades. I started using it with this band because I sweat a lot while performing. Two years ago, at Malone’s in Santa Ana, I draped it over my face during a very energetic and spontaneous version of “Snakes and Bones” from our first release Just One Pulse. It was a spontaneous moment, and the words depict strangers ignoring someone being abused in public, and how they “look away” (thus, face covered). At the Doll Hut, a similar spontaneous moment happened during “Skin Machinery,” which depicts people using each other like machines, and the bandana is a shield. The bandana just happens.
MBMM: Robert, you even have a set up that looks like your bass drum is on fire at some point?
ROBERT BRADLEY: When I play fast and hard, sometimes my drums start to overheat and spontaneously combust so, for safety reasons, I always keep a fire extinguisher close by when I play! Just kidding… The fire is a fake flame inside my bass drum. My Spaun drum kit is one of a kind, clear red acrylic that glows and flickers onstage during our show. To me, live performance of any band is just as important as the music itself, so I'm always coming up with new and different stage visuals.
MBMM: And outfits too! Kurt, you mentioned that one of your songs, “Give Me Back What’s Mine,” is about a trumpet that actually got stolen from your car, without a mouthpiece even, so it was useless. What happened, and how did this incident inspire the song?
KURT: Well...First, I have to say, never ever leave your instrument in your car overnight, even if it's a gated apartment complex, even if you've lived peacefully there for over a decade. That Bach Strat was, as my son said, older than him. I usually kept my mouthpiece in my pocket, to keep it warm. I returned from a practice with a band named Etropol, and left it overnight in the trunk, in my carport. When I went to my car the next morning, it was gone. I filed reports, friends from childhood and present helped search, and it's still out there (probably sold for scrap). I was a wreck. I wrote this song, two days later, as therapy, about a conversation between the victim, a close friend, and the thief.
MBMM: Aww, I am so sorry to hear that. Music definitely is the best therapy. How did everyone in the band come together in the first place?
KURT: I met Nick at a Janes Addiction/Nine Inch Nails concert about nine years ago. We recorded and played during that time with drummer Mike Merz. Robert joined the band about two years ago. Pat and I played classic rock together ten years ago. I had been working on two tunes, and he had a very thick sound; he told me he liked the Damned and the Dead Boys. Nick and I met out of a mutual idea to create something different. Robert joined via a musician site over two years ago. At the audition, when asked what he wanted to play, Rob said he could play the whole first CD in any order. We played a newer tune over an iPhone into a mic. Rob closed his eyes and took it in. Then he played it the first time through, with time signature changes in the bridge, flawlessly. Then laughed. It was insane.
MBMM: Wow, that is really amazing about Rob. What is next for Karmikaze?
PAT: Hopefully, more fun shows, sharing the bill with cool bands, and new people coming to check us out.
KURT: More gigs, more recording, more merch, and continuing what’s happening now. We've been blessed by specific moments in many ways. We've worked with stellar engineers, club managers, and music communities. With Orange County Music League, we developed artistic connections with many promoters and bands; we played gigs with Spare Parts for Broken Hearts. “Veronica Stress” is now one of my all-time favorite tunes! MBM is a blessing in no disguise. We are truly grateful for what is happening right now.
MBMM: Thank you so much Kurt. We are really happy to be working with Karmikaze! What final words would you like to say to our readers?
NICK: Thank you for reading, and you can find out more about our upcoming shows and listen to our music on
our website: KarmikazeBand.com. Rock out!
KURT: Explore. Always explore. Endeavor to learn something new, always. Embrace possibilities. Embrace, learn, and explore. You can also hear us on Spotify, BandCamp, ReverbNation, iTunes, and on the MBM MUSIC LLC Playlist. Fire Underwater is available for online purchase.
MBMM: Well said. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, and congratulations on being Featured at MBM Music’s Spotlight Band!
Karmikaze Band Members:
Nick Jennes, guitar/backing vocals, from Seattle
Kurt Reisig, vocals/trumpet, from Whittier
Robert Bradley drums/percussion, from Huntington Beach
Patrick Schubert, bass, from Duarte