Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Among the collection of local creatives and sound is a name not many have heard yet but it’s starting to grab the attention it deserves, we’re talking about Louisville’s three man riot Hazelfire. Hazelfire, which was originally Khalifah Harper alone, has molded itself into a collaborative effort bringing in Cesar Garcia on drums and Jake Nevitt on bass. These three spend a significant amount of time experimenting and enhancing their crafts to bring new and interesting sounds to the public while twisting and redesigning the music originally produced by Khalifah whose sound takes inspiration from punk and psychedelic themes alike with a few hints you may not have been expecting. Austin Lee sat down with Hazelfire to hear more about their process, creative works, and the musical experiences these three will bring to us, which has us all excited.
Austin: As we know, and as a lot of Louisville has likely found out by now, you are the new bassist for Birddog and his Coyote Gospel Choir Khalifah: Yes, yes I am Q: So how does it feel to be a fellow Coyote?
Khalifah: Oh god it's fun it's so absurdly fun I think being on stage with Birddog is just so refreshing because we get to feedback off each other so much whenever we're pretty much doing anything; whenever something bad happens at random or something really good happens and the fact that I'm not really the front man for that band, which is great, kind of allows me to randomly do whatever I want and people are cool with it
Q: How did each of you start creating music?
Khalifah: I started playing guitar when I was a kid, originally I wasn't supposed to be the one playing guitar it was my younger brother my grandfather gave him an acoustic and he never bothered to touch it so you know what one day I got curious and said "You know what I want to mess around with it" and I thought it was cool it was like "Oh I'm doing notes now" and I had a neighbor at the time who played a lot of guitar so he taught me the real basic chords and that was pretty much how it went off. When I got to high school they had a guitar class and I decided to take that the first year of high school and pretty much understood the basics by then. After that it was pretty much me figuring everything else out. Doing all that sometime my senior year I started to become more acquainted with people who play music then I played few talent shows. Sometime after that fast forward about a year and a half or two years I'm now in Louisville and throwing myself out there and doing whatever I do a matter of fact the first a little over a month after me being in the scene is when the first Hazelfire demo came in then in January I put out Pandoras Box. Sometime after that I'd say about somewhere in the middle of February that's when we all came together and here we are
Cesar: So I actually started playing because of you Austin. Do you remember that?
Austin: Yeah I do remember that
Cesar: When you were thirteen years old was it? We were thirteen years old and you wanted to start a band because you wanted- I don't know what you were gonna do, you were gonna be the guitarist and me drummer. I've always been playing drums and at the time I was alright so I begged my mom for a shitty kit that was less than two hundred dollars and I tore that shit apart for five years and like destroyed it and I learn- I got really choppy- and I learned by putting just hours and hours and hours into that basement. Then I decided to start playing guitar around fifteen or sixteen in high school that really reinvigorated my love for music so after that it was just back and forth with guitar so it's been like seven years with drums nearly five with guitar. In 2017 I did a little bit in the local music scene but dropped out of that real quick and kept practicing and learning as much as I could, then last summer I was like you know it's time to put this out there so I got really involved in the local scene without being a musician I just wanted to get to know everyone. Now that I know a lot of people and have alot of these connections now I've like started to get projects together and I hit Khalifah up since he was the only one in his band so I was like "You want me to be your drummer?" he said "yeah let's do it"
Khalifah: I can’t wait to tell the story of how we came together
Cesar: He had to do college shit and then after that it was around February it was like let's do this again I was talking with a friend at a house show and he was like "Yeah I know this really good bassist named Jake" so I asked "Oh hey is he good?" "Yeah he's like a jazz major" "Oh dude for sure!" then we just copped jake and the first time he played with us we were like "yeah this is it this is for sure it. Mans got chops."
Jake: So I think a lot of people like me start off with piano lessons. My sister took lessons before me, I started when I was like five. That didn't really go anywhere it just became this thing where I would dupe the teacher into thinking that she hadn’t assigned this one song that I totally didn’t learn and it just went nowhere for I'd say eight years or so. Toward the end of those years when I was about eleven or twelve I took up guitar lessons just because I wanted to do it and then I didn't practice that I just wasn’t into it, it was a rough start it took a while to realize that music was something I actually wanted to devote myself to but then one day I pulled out a bass guitar and I never even had heard of a bass guitar so-
(Jake reluctantly inserts drum stick into Cesars t-shirt sleeve upon Cesars’ gesture that he do so)
Jake: -so I had no clue what it is or what sound it made but I got the hang of it eventually and it was pretty clear what it was eventually. I tried playing it and I was like "god this sucks this thing is so big like I can’t even, like, jesus christ" but then after that you know I went online and I listened to like the Chili Peppers and stuff and I looked up like all these guys playing bass solos and I noticed that this was actually really cool and how it was different.
(Cesar pulls drumsticks tucked under his arm pit out of t-shirt sleeve)
Jake: So anyways I uhm I just like, my Uncle Paul had a bass and didn’t use it I got really into it and started playing it my dad got me lessons with somebody I taught myself some and my instructor taught me some and then after a while I was in this shitty cover band and after that I went to highschool and played in a jazz band then figured that jazz would be kind of like a way to learn how to be really good at bass so up ‘til now I’ve been honing my chops trying to start things with friends in highschool like Brett from Zerg Rush. Q: How did the three of you meet and how did the band form? Khalifah: Naturally me and Cesar met each other in the scene likely at a pelican kingdom show. One time before we had even considered forming the band Cesar was like: “Hey man do you want to jam for a bit?” because Brian from Mosquito was twittleing around with the guitar and Cesar had hopped on the drums since like nobody was in the basement but Brian wasn’t feeling like jamming so we just got into it and we accidentally formed a crowd Cesar: Yeah we got a crowd going and so I was like “Let’s do hendrix” Khalifah: Then we covered Pharaoh and Love You ‘til the Cows Come Home by Birddog and that really grabbed Birddog and Evan and Spencers attention like “Are they playing our song?” so like Spencer came up and said “That was a surprise performance by Hazelfire” and Cesar and I just looked at eachother like yeah man it was destiny. Sometime later we brought Jake into it cause we heard about him. Jake: I was just like a very unnatural addition to the band I didn’t know these guys and we came from completely different circles Austin: I love the clear blends of psychedelic and classic rock with the inclusion of punk and contemporary synth-pop sound that you’ve blended together quite methodically Q: Now that it’s the three could you each tell us more about your musical inspirations? Khalifah: I listened to whatever my dad listened to so I grew up on Foo Fighters, a little bit of Nirvana, some Chili Peppers here and there, Biggie,and then sometime in middle school I started to really just explore. A lot of my friends were like hey you should check these bands out so I got hooked up on Tool, A Perfect Circle, Rage Against the Machine and I’ve been stuck on them for a long time. Sometime after highschool I was like you know what I want to dive in a little bit more and see what else I’m really into. For a time I got more into the thrashy stuff like Metallica, Megadeath, Antrhax, Overkill uhm even like some doom bands like Candlemass, The Evil a band from brazil, then of course classics like Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, Misfits. There’s some electronic stuff too of course like Deadmau5. Traditional Japanese music actually has a huge impact on how I play lead, like it’s always random but it still works. Cesar: Well starting on drums it wasn’t until I was fifteen or sixteen until I started exploring styles so of course I started using like pop-esque shit that was easy to learn like Green Day or like some of the White Stripes then I looked deeper into it and stumbled onto Nirvana which as a beginner Dave Grohl's foot to snare shit fucked me up. So while I’m not as into Nirvana like I used to be they were still fundamental to getting me where I am as a drummer. I stumbled upon John Bonham from Led Zeppelin and like he was just humongously exceeding what I knew so I spent working on Zeppelin for a whole year of my life. Jake: I liked a lot of whatever played on the radio but I guess at a certain point I decided that I would listen to everything that I can, I first got into basic rock music, blues then after that Gorillaz then it kind of went everywhere when I opened my horizons. But once I started listening to music as music I kind of detached it from what I do on the bass so I guess as far as bass related inspiration Jaco Pastorius was a really big inspiration for me. A lot of the stuff that really appeals for me is the stuff that- I really like have been drawn to aesthetics and the actual fun that I can have with creating music and the sounds I can get out of the bass, it has little to do with uhm I guess I wish I could be more focused on what it would actually do for the music and I’m constantly like fighting with myself over what exactly I should play to support that. Of course in a power trio I have to be a little bit more busy but anyways I’ve always been really from an emotional and aesthetic reference, attached to, and this is kind of recent, darker stuff like uhm everything that grunge wasn’t but took and popularized it like noise rock and like all the weird depressed and angry hardcore punk going on around that time. Like Fugazzi and Slint and Unwound. I’ll say right now my favorite bassist of all time is the dude from Unwound, the sounds that he could make along with his tone and sense of timing, two of the most frustrating aspects of bass, the stuff that keeps me awake at night, he had that on lock down and he was untrained Q: Could you go into your creative process as a band for me? Cesar: The thing I find super interest about this trio is that previously Khalifah was using a drum machine for Hazelfire and half the shit on there is literally impossible to play without my lims flying off so I’ve had to drop the speed and change so many things about the drum tracks from the bandcamp version to what we do live. Khalifah: I have noticed that my music is very energetically demanding Cesar: Songs like fucking Sharkbait, like it was my idea to be like hey I’m going to spend all of my daily calories on this thirty second solo so I’m gonna hit this snare then go fucking insane which is completely different from how it’s recorded.
Jake: Yeah because on bandcamp that’s just Khalifah, like our identity live versus online is completely different
Cesar: Jake like you changed alot of the bass you never really checked the source material or listened to the songs you’ve just reworked the bass when we play and it works Jake: Yeah I never even listened to the source material
Q: Do you all have any plans to re-record and release the albums previously created?
Cesar: Maybe not the all of the albums because if you listen to all of Hazelfire there is SOOOOO much material that Khalifah can’t even remember but yes
Jake: I’m actually completely foreign to recording
Cesar: It’s hard
Khalifah: It’s really hard
Cesar: There’s no room for all the shit we do on stage you have to start at the exact same time and there’s no room for air.
Q: What are your biggest goals as musicians?
Khalifah: I think my biggest goal is to travel around the world to play my music, I want to be bigger than Metallica, which was the first band to play literally all over the world including antarctica. The fact that they’re still playing today and people still lose their minds over that shit like I want to go be on what Metallica did. I also just want to master the guitar really.
Cesar: So for me on the personal I would say my real dream and goal in music is to just make a living in music, I just want to pay my rent, buy my food, buy my pets food because that’s possible but it takes so much goddamn work it’s insane and I love it.
Jake: I mean I have a bunch of different goals, I mean the complexities of like I mean there’s so many different goals you can have. I don’t know. I mean I want to be happy I’m not very satisfied yet If I could find a way that music could fit into my routine I mean just to be happy is what this all boils down to unless your goal is to like change the world I mean it’s weird. I dunno I mean I’d like to make music be known and get good reviews put on great shows be healthy write my own music be apart of something and like make sounds I enjoy and not only that but sounds that are weird and different or maybe not even weird but like something else, new. I mean it would be really cool to have some sort of cultural impact. You’ll come across these things on the internet like some old record which everyone finds themselves attracted to aesthetic of this new record when it wasn’t that popular at that time so who am I to say that whatever I make won’t have an impact on somebody down the line. It’s weird to talk about goals because like I don’t know.
Q: What do you guys hope to bring to the community through your music?
Jake:... Did you say this had to be like one word?
Austin: No no
Khalifah: That’s kind of how it just worked out-
Cesar: Yeah I thought it would be funny if we all just said one word.
Khalifah: But if you want me to go into more depth about it I can. When I say Anarchy I don’t mean the stereotypical misbelief of everything in constant chaos that’s not what anarchy is about, Anarchy is the absolute liberation of your mind. Just being completely your own person, just completely free of any sort of power that’s over you whether it’s social, mental, or emotional. Just you being you entirely individual in your own way whatever you want just be your own person.
Cesar: The local scene has done a lot for me like having this sense of community and being able to walk into a room and like ten people come up and hug me like this positivity and happiness I want to keep that going strong like I want to make people happy with our music in general, I want to keep people comfortable like they can be themselves. I just want people to feel happy and have fun and be safe and respectful when they go to a show like peace and happiness and serenity among us all and that can be found through beating the shit out of each other in the pit.
Jake: It’s so easy to go down a whole of why’s like I can say I want to do this but like why do you want to do that? It’s so hard not to get wrapped up in the whole question but Khalifah what you said about like liberation and all that bullshit I like that from like an artistic perspective when I hear good music like you need music not just well crafted music like stuff that envoces something that I’m not familiar with like an emotion or this new horizon of what that sound feels like, like all this hard to explain stuff.
Q:Is there any significance behind the names Hazelfire & Pandoras Box? Khalifah: So Hazelfire comes from a time when I was going to therapy and my therapist would always ask me to pick three to five things I like about myself and I could never do it, because oh my god i hated myself so much I could never even come up with three things that I really like about myself because self loathing and what not. So one day I decided to twist this in my own way who cares what I like about myself what do other people like about me? And I’m like okay this is a different question with a different approach that I feel like I can answer much easier. Well usually the first thing that people notice about me are my eyes and my eyes are pretty much Hazel, the next is that people usually say I have a fiery personality so like alright I’ll use that as well. I just kinda slammed those two factors together and I was like alright Hazelfire I can work with that. Pandoras Box alludes to the story of Pandoras Box with the chest containing all these crazy things and that’s what the main track is pretty much all about, that idea except instead of Pandoras Box it’s pretty much god creating life on earth and him constantly trying to put himself in the situation to fix it but each time he would do something it became a domino effect of things getting consistently worse by opening this can of worms or Pandoras Box and putting your head into business that wasn’t years in the first place. Or Just things where you just do something and then suddenly things just unintentionally happen because you do that one things. That’s one perspective of what Pandoras box is about but the second perspective pertaining to the album as a whole so the actual box itself when there’s so much stuff in there with the box just being cluttered with stuff and whatnot it is focused on I guess you could say negative topics in a way like there’s still some positive light there in the box with hope. There’s so many weird things and off the wall styles and aggressive sounds in there but there’s still a light of positive there in the music and it stays there the entire time so like yeah there’s still hope. Q: You produced this album individually correct? K: Yes Q: Did you collaborate with anyone on this? Khalifah: In the song Outbreak you ca briefly here Zonny Mondo from Zerg Rush in there so that’s awesome. Shout out to Zerg Rush you guys are awesome we’ve got to collab soon if you guys are hearing this, or reading this whatever it is. Q: Now my personal favorite Songs were probably the Wizard, Sharkbait, and To Go Even Further Beyond but are there any tracks that hold a special place in your heart or that you would call your favorite? Khalifah: Yes I feel the most important song in the album is the very first song The Message which talks a lot about individuality and being yourself and creating what you want just independence and anarchy, I would also say Sharkbait, Sharkbait is easily the most fun song on the album but I don’t think a lot of people completely know what Sharkbait is about. So Sharkbait is about a kid that I decide to let one of the other characters in the song name Sharkbait, which sounds cool but is slang for a very naive person who is very easily fooled into bad situations. He leads him to his home which is a bad idea sharkbait cause the character ends up capitalizing him and leaves him in a dumpster. All of that song is really just about how shows are fun it’s a place where we should all be a community and what not but there are weirdos out there, there are predators, abusers, and rapists all these very very bad people out here so it’s a cautionary tale to the listeners to be aware when they’re out at shows, be around the people you know who can look out for you. Like Outbreak is strictly about bad people and how there are some messed up people out here who try to twist the story to make good people look like the bad people and it’s not any better when those people twisting the views run parts of the scene right now, it’s an awful thing. What I like about this song it’s very vague about who I’m talking about so it’s easier for the listeners to put it with whichever group of people that fits with like if the shoes fits I’m talking about you. I would have to say that my personal favorite is to go even further beyond and obviously this one is about drugs so here’s my take on drugs: one of the things that I think is extremely important for people to find is some sort of inner peace or enlightenment even and there are a lot of times where people relate drugs to “I gotta smoke to survive or function” like weeds in there, acid, cocaine even, opiods that whole things but like I also hear this argument all the time “You don’t need drugs to have a good time you don’t need drugs to do this, you don’t need drugs to do that” and to that I say yes you’re absolutely right we don’t need drugs to get to that state but god damn do they help us get there. I know that’s not all of em but those are the ones I feel are most significant when it comes to the meaning of the album. Oh Soul Rocks important too because you know love yourself. Q: What messages do you want listeners to take from this album? Khalifah: There’s three. 1. Love yourself be who you are, and when it comes to rt be and anarchist about it 2. Uh I think number two is really just you know when you’re in the scene do whatever you want but be careful there are some people out here who just want to hurt others. 3. I think the third is if you want to do anything really just grab at whatever you can especially when it comes to writing lyrics because the lyrics in Pandoras Box are like all over the place. But yeah do whatever you can in order to do what you want.
As you can see the power trio has a lot to say and thank you so much Khalifah, Jake, and Cesar of Hazelfire for taking your time to share so much detail with us you can expect to hear more from them. To hear more of Hazelfire and Pandoras Box you can find Khalifah’s music from his time as a solo musician on Bandcamp & YouTube. Please consider making a purchase if you’d like to keep the creative juices flowing.
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzbnf936Dr7Ry7A_B4V0u4g To get the full experience of these three artists go see one of their live shows which you can find more information on shows, merchandise, and other projects here at Hazel Fire on Facebook & hazeey_flaamey on Instagram.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hazeey_flameey/ Keep your eyes peeled for more from Hazelfire in the coming months and remember to support your local artists!