Mark Hensch: I'm glad you guys are doing this interview with me.. I can hardly think of another band more deserving of recognition! Quite simply, you've hit on one of the most unusual interpretations of doom that I've ever had the fortune of hearing. For those keeping score at home, Makahiya sound like a cross between 1970's classic Uriah Heep keyboards and thundering stoner/sludge of the highest order. Psychedelic and trippy, I honestly can't think of any other band that can adequately compare themselves to Hawkwind and Black Sabbath in the same sentence and still have it work! Major props dudes, and on to the questions!
HHH: First and foremost: What exactly in the blue blazes is a Makahiya anyways?
Makahiya: Thanks for the kind words Mark! Wish I could say there was a deep meaning behind the name, but it could just as easily have ended up being "Trouser Chili". Apparently it means "gentle flower" in Tagalog (spoken in the Philippines), though the name actually came up because folks in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago say it means "f*** you" in Chinese. Pretty much it was Tommy the drummer's idea, and everyone else just thought it sounded cool.
HHH: I first heard of you guys through the likes of Couldron and Trifog, both of whom have been featured in this here HHH column at least once. What is it about Chicago that has produced such an excellent independent doom scene, with bands like yourselves, Couldron, Trifog, Indian, and Salt of the Earth all being good friends yet retaining highly diverse takes on the genre?
Makahiya: I think that happens just by merit of people running into each other at shows, parties, and whatnot. Heavy/underground music in Chicago has always been sorta incestuous, even going back to the old hardcore and death metal days. The number of people into this sort of stuff is really not very many for a city the size of Chicago, so you're bound to run into the same folks with some regularity. The great thing is that everyone's got a common musical thread but not so much that anyone sounds like anyone else. We just played with Couldron, Trifog, and Salt of the Earth the other night, and what really struck me was that they all were real heavy but also completely different from each other.
HHH: Musically, your Attack of the Bridgeport Shaman demo is waaaaaaaaaaaaay-out there on the TRIPPY spectrum. What kind of techniques, thought processes, and equipment do you use to make everything so psychedelic?
Makahiya: I think part of it is probably due to each of us having done lots of acid so it's still stored up in our spinal cords like popcorn stuck in your teeth. We all like all sorts of music, but we come together on music with a hard edge and a pothead-friendly vibe. As for equipment, I guess we use the standard array of fuzz, delay, wah, phaser....we try not to overdo anything, but if it seems like a good fit to get the song where we want it to be we'll throw it on there. The newer stuff is far more psychedelic, so be forewarned!
HHH: Shaman is also quite the mental experience lyrically. You guys tackle such diverse subjects as religious hypocrisy, zombie plagues, tripping out, and purist emotion issues. How do you approach putting words to your music, which is already quite the aural standout?
Makahiya: It's usually something any individual is moved to write, there's really no primary lyricist. The zombie subject for “Night of the Living Dead” came up because we're all horror & sci-fi fans. “Serpent In The Holy Land” came out of Steve's firsthand experience with one of those insane megachurches, and it's directed at one very specific somewhat famous individual that that he finds to be full of s***. Lyrically we don't want to necessarily stick to the doom and gloom subjects, there's other folks doing it very well already. Pretty much whatever strikes one of us at the time.
HHH: Crossing blatantly 1970's nostalgia with modern doom is something no one else has really done. Where did such a novel idea first pop up?
Makahiya: That's just where the chips fell organically when we started playing together. The original loose idea was to meld the sound & vibe of old Sabbath with that of the first 4 or 5 Funkadelic records, with the thunder of modern stoner/doom…. and no rules.
HHH: Growing up, which bands influenced you? How about the bands playing nowadays?
Makahiya: Hell, we all were into heavier stuff growing up...hardcore, death/black metal, thrash, as well as bar rock like AC/DC and Cheap Trick. Nowadays we’ve all been spinning that acid funk that was mainly around between '68 and '74. Stuff like the Chains & Black Exhaust compilation, Betty Davis, Curtis Mayfield, Cymande, all sorts of obscure 45s and comps that we've been digging up. The real old stuff from The Temptations and Earth Wind & Fire is just f***ing stellar. Plus a lot of obscure 70s rock like Elias Hulk, High Tide, Mariani, Brain Police, Armageddon...so much great stuff flew under the radar even then. Not to mention later stuff like Kyuss, Place of Skulls, Down, Goatsnake, Trouble, Church of Misery, Dixie Witch....lots of great music out there if you look for it.
HHH: PURELY HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION----now, you guys could NEVER do drugs, as that would be highly implausible. Pretending for a minute that you did, what would you like to do and why?
Makahiya: If we theoretically were to do any such thing, it would have to be primarily the top shelf herb and mushrooms. Plus we'd be big fans of beer and good scotch---Hypothetically speaking of course.
HHH: As much as I like the demo, it goes by super-fast and definitely leaves me wanting more. What future recording plans are you guys looking into?
Makahiya: We're shopping the demo/EP a bit and writing a lot of new stuff. We lost Marc our keyboardist, so we've been concentrating on writing again as a three piece. Not a disaster, as that's how we played together before Marc's arrival. If anything, it's probably way heavier and more psychedelic now, plus the three of us have been playing together for a long time so there’s that unspoken communication. The newer stuff has more twists and turns in it, is more dynamic, and when it's time to move bowels we get REAL heavy. I think folks who like the first recording will probably like the newer stuff even more, and that’s no slam on the older stuff by any means.
HHH: What is a Makahiya concert like for those not in the Chicago area and able to see you easily?
Makahiya: Lots of shoe-gazing, irony, and sensitivity. Just kidding, we're probably a lot less serious up there than some bands. I mean, we're all business when it comes to our playing, but we joke around with the audience and talk a lot of crap just 'cause it's fun. Everyone's there to have a good time anyway, right? We're also working on having a visual element, projections and such. We know some video artists & film makers (Rob the bassist is one himself), so we could definitely come up with some cool visual stuff. Ideally we’d like to have one of those shows like Hawkwind or old Pink Floyd, give the fans on hallucinogens something to remember 20 years later.
HHH: They often say musicians are their own worst critics. What is the best song on Shaman and why? How about the worst song and why?
Makahiya: Wow, that depends who you ask in the band and when. We all like stuff about each of them or they wouldn't be on there. In my opinion, the best is “Night of the Living Dead” just because I really like the vocal performance and the vibe of it, and my least favorite would be “Whitebred & Populist” because...I dunno, it just bugs me sometimes.
HHH: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule and doing this interview! Last question: If you could say anything to the world at large reading this right now, what would it be? This is your chance to be heard!!!!
Makahiya: Thanks for taking your time with us, Mark! Cool that you’re giving some local folks some recognition! At the risk of sounding cliché, support your local music. The shows are cheaper, the bands are hungrier, the music’s at least as good as the bigger bands, and fer chrissake it’s probably a better time than a big national act gig. Plus you can actually get a beer when you want one. Hoist the horns! ..m/ ..m/