Grindcore, hardcore and an obsession with giant monster flicks yields brutal and radioactive results for Kaiju Daisenso. Uniting former members of Helen of Troy, Gospel and others, Kaiju Daisenso crafts a raw, crushing sound that’s as heavy as a certain giant, green lizard. Their most recent effort, Radiation Scars, showcases their sound at its most visceral and aggressive; weaving together bludgeoning, mosh-worthy riffs and atomic fire breath. Grind fans and Japanese monster film geeks can finally come together and mosh gleefully, thanks to this irradiated quartet.
Svbterranean recently caught up with vocalist Matt Gordon and guitarist Gabe Saladino to discuss the new record and nerd out over kaiju films.
Could you please introduce yourselves and your roles in Kaiju Daisenso?
Matt: My name is Matt Gordon. I am the main vocalist of Kaiju Daisenso and co- creator of the project along with Gabe. I contribute music and most of the lyrics and themes of the songs. I also run TokyoFist records and am responsible for getting our music out to the world. I do all the promoting and I do all the behind the scenes stuff like mailing out records ,emails etc.
Gabe: My name is Gabe Saladino and I am the guitarist, backup vocalist and co-creator of Kaiju Daisenso. I handle most of the songwriting and day to day aspects of the band, ie. rehearsals, tablature, demoing etc. I also handle most of the album art and layout design.
How did Kaiju Daisenso get its start?
Matt: I had wanted to start a grindcore project for sometime. I met Gabe at work and we quickly became friends and bonded over our love of metal and music in general. Then I found out he was a Godzilla fan as well. It made perfect sense to combine a brutal style of music with my favorite subject matter. I called up my friend Jay Newman (Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path) and asked him if he was interested in playing bass. Unearthly was on a hiatus of sorts. Jay and I have been friends for a really long time and always wanted to do a project together. So that made sense as well.
Gabe: Matt and I met at work and quickly found common ground in all manner of extreme music. We batted around the idea of getting a grindcore/powerviolence band off the ground for a while, but had a lot of difficulty finding the right people to participate in the project with us, until we just said fuck it and started recording a handful of songs I had written with a drum machine. Although we toyed with more serious subject matter, we landed on the kaiju theme as we are both big fans of Godzilla and old-school monster movies in general. Matt brought in Jay on bass, which was awesome for me, as I’m a big Unearthly Trance fan as well.
Compared to previous acts you’ve been involved with; how do you approach writing and recording for Kaiju Daisenso differently?
Matt: Well first would be the subject matter. This is the first band I have done where I can be very creative and angry but have so much fun doing it in a lighthearted way. I come up with song names, subject matter etc. Although I want the music to be brutal, it’s a lot of fun to “nerd out” and write about the giant monster movies I loved as a kid. Also, the overall vibe of the band is short to the point songs. Brutal, attack mode. The other guys definitely contribute to the overall final song, but it’s pretty much the partnership of myself and Gabe and we come up with the main ideas. I recently moved from the NY area to Austin Texas so Gabe and I have to do a lot of demos back and forth before we can go into the studio and record it proper.
Gabe: I’ve played in a bunch of bands with a wide range of styles, from Sabbathy doom, to prog-leaning death metal to weird alternative, and as such I’ve tackled a few different writing styles. The biggest diffrence with Kaiju is that the songs have to boiled down to the absolute essentials: maximum impact, zero breathing room, all sharp edges. It’s at once challenging and liberating, as you don’t want to let up the attack, but you don’t have to temper the aggression whatsoever.
Do you feel the immediacy and more “playful” nature of this project, as well as releasing it through your own label imprint (Tokyo Fist), to be creatively liberating in any way?
Matt: It’s definitely fun to do this project for me. To my knowledge, there aren’t any other bands doing anything like this. There are bands that have kaiju names like Gojira or Gigan. There have been bands that have named songs after Kaiju monsters, but I think we are in our own category. It’s a brutal style of music but the subject matter is entirely about Godzilla and the kaiju universe. That in itself is liberating. I have loved these movies since I was a kid and now I get to sing about them. I started Tokyo Fist as a way to release this stuff. Some people find the subject matter weird or don’t care for it so I figured that I would just put it out on my own imprint. Its pretty much just the Kaiju Daisenso stuff but I do put out other bands sometimes. Such as the Supertouch live on wnyu 1988 LP and an upcoming Hellbent 1983 demos discography. Hellbent was Vic Venom of Nausea (Nyhc) first band.
Gabe: As serious as we are about creating brutal, aggressive music, we are equally as serious about capturing the weird, spacey and and frequently hilarious aspects of kaiju movies. The sometimes terribly translated dubs, zany sound effects and lo-fi sound quality of the movies allow us to grab some ridiculous samples that bring some levity to what could otherwise be generic “extreme” subject matter (which Godzilla dealt with metaphorically anyway). Having a focus on encouraging this atmosphere, rather than spilling your guts lyrically or writing a correspondingly emotive piece of music, gives us a lot of freedom to simply make the end result as “Kaiju” as possible.
What was your first exposure to the kaiju film genre and what is it about these giant monster flicks that keeps drawing you back?
Matt: When I was 4 or 5 years old my mother let me watch Destroy All Monsters when it was on TV and that was it. Changed my life. What kid doesn’t like dinosaurs, and here was a whole movie with them. I just grew up with them. Collected and watched the movies my whole life and still do every chance I get. Over time you learn to like them for different reasons. Some are fun to laugh at. The movies themselves are timeless and are fun to watch even as an adult.
Gabe: The first toy I can remember getting was a giant vinyl Godzilla figure. This was soon followed by a VHS of “Godzilla vs. Megalon” which I watched the shit out of. Soon I had a decent collection of VHS tapes, including a collection of 50’s-70’s kaiju monster movie trailers called “Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies” that really ingrained in me the sense of wacky wonder juxtaposed with catastrophic violence these movies were surrounded with, dramatic voiceovers, gaudy fonts and all. My steadfast interest in dinosaurs in general kept me connected to the kaiju world over the years and, with the release of new movies like Godzilla 2000, Shin Godzilla, Pacific Rim etc, my interest has been refocused. Sure, some it is corny and dated, but that’s all in the charm. There’s nothing quite like the absurdity of some weirdly-delivered, poorly lip-synched dub line to get a laugh or a blast of atomic breath to some dickhead alien bully to get a cheer.
What is your absolute favorite kaiju-related film and why?
Matt: My favorite would have to be Godzilla vs The Smog Monster and Godzilla vs. Megalon. Although both of them are pretty fucking bizarre and out there for even a Godzilla movie, they were ones that I saw so much as a kid and have a special place in my heart. Close runners up would be Monster Zero (or Kaiju Daisenso, its proper Japanese name) Godzilla vs Mothra (1964 version) War of the Gargantuas and the original 1954 Gojira.
Gabe: My favorite is definitely “Godzilla vs. Megalon”. It’s over the top weird and at times surreal, has an awesome car chase, a fantastically muddy dub and one of the best Godzilla songs ever in the end scence. Other favorites include “King Kong vs. Godzilla”, the original Willis O’brien “King Kong” (colorized, sacrilege I know), and “Shin Godzilla” is a recent addition.
Though the genre originated in Japan, it has spread to countries. In the case of American giant monster cinema, with our various Godzilla remakes and original attempts like Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, what do you think we succeed and fail at when it comes to creating these types of films?
Matt: I will let Gabe take this one since we have the same mindset on this after talking about it.
Gabe: There are definitely a whole bunch of American monster movies I love, especially anything involving Ray Harryhausen, that play into Kaiju Daisenso’s aesthetic. Remember, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” inspired the original “Gojira”! In terms of more recent releases, there are some hits and some misses. I definitely dug Cloverfield and Pacific Rim for capturing the size and scope of a kaiju attack, especially how Pacific Rim nailed the lumbering weight of the combat. A lot of movies have missed, however because they failed to instill the same sense of wonder, weirdness and savagery the originals delivered, mostly due to a Hollywood push for pointless human drama and theatrics. No one gives a fucking shit about the human characters. We’re here to see giant irradiated monsters beat the shit out of each other.
How do you feel kaiju/giant monsters fit into the realms of hardcore and grind?
Matt: I think most metal and punk fans have an exposure to the movies, Sci Fi and Horror in general. Like I was saying before, I think the subject matter is timeless. Everyone knows who Godzilla is and alot of harcore and metal people grew up on the movies as well. Also, Godzilla at one time was actually looked at in a political way, a symbolic threat from nuclear weapons. Today the metaphor could still be used.
Gabe: Hardcore, grind and extreme music in general deal with some bleak subject matter most of the time: war, destruction, atomic fear, fear of the unknown, environmental concerns, etc. Kaiju movies, Godzilla movies in particular, deal with these issue through metaphor. Godzilla himself was initially a symbol of the terrifying nuclear power wielded against Japan in WWII, while later in the original series he became a champion of the environment against pollution. These themes are the bread and butter of extreme music, so we’re just shooting it through a kaiju filter.
What can you tell us about the writing and recording of your most recent release, Radiation Scars?
Matt: I had some ideas and riffs for a few songs and Gabe had some ideas and we started to demo them. Around this time Unearthly had gotten back together and Jay with his limited time, couldn’t commit to Kaiju anymore as Unearthly Trance is more his baby. I asked my good friend Sean Miller (Gospel, Helen of Troy) to come on board and I am so happy with this as Sean is an amazing musician and great guy. We used to play together in Helen of Troy. He came right in with a new song and added a lot to the dynamic of the band. We also got a new drummer Mike Castillo. He is great as well and adds so much to the sound.
Gabe: Even before Radiation Scars was brought into being, we had incorporated Mike into the band on drums. Mike and I had been playing in bands together forever, so it was a natural fit and really helped us fully realize our pursuits. After we released our split with Conjurer, Jay needed to focus on Unearthly Trance again, which I was ok with, because we got the excellent “Stalking the Ghost” out of it! Matt brought in Sean and we clicked right away, as Sean is a prodigious talent on bass, completely revamping the lines I had written for the better, and all around good dude. From there, we got to work on some songs Matt and I had demoed together, along with some older ones from earlier in the band’s history. Sean contributed the fantastic “Nebula Space Hunter M” and we all collaborated on the instrumental “Oxygen Destroyer”. After some vigorous rehearsal, we headed over to My Low Studio to record with another all around good dude, Steve Johnson. Steve helped us realize our goals and produce a killer-sounding recording while keeping the atmosphere light and the band focused.
How do you feel it compares to your previous self-titled release?
Matt: I like it better. The previous release was not recorded as well but was still fun to make. I think the songs are stronger on the new one. On the previous self titled record, I think the idea was just more BAM BAM!!! Hit them in the face as hard as you can and then when the blood starts to trickle out of their nose, it’s like what just hit me? cause its done already. The songs on “radiation scars” as well as the recording was more thought out, I think.
Gabe: It’s still an extreme recording, but you can actually hear everything clearly! The self-titled EP was recorded by Jay and I using only our own home studio rigs, and as such, especially on my side of things, there are some really rough edges. Recording with Steve allowed us to focus more on the performance and overall sound, rather than be mired in every aspect of the process, for better or worse. The songs on Radiation Scars are probably more true to the style we’ll pursue on future releases.
What is next for Kaiju Daisenso in the near future?
Matt: I have a bunch of songs and riffs that I would like to be transformed into the next recording. I know Gabe has a bunch, so hopefully we can make a full length this time around. I also want to finally record a cover of “Biotech is Godzilla” by Sepultura. A Lot of Megalon on the next one. Gabe has a song written for it and I have the lyrics. It will be called “Rise of Seatopia”. I also have another one written called “Jet Jaguar punch punch”. Lots of cool, fun shit. Maybe revisit an old one and beef it up. I think the Sepultura cover would be great as the music fits our band and the subject is already there. We will do some more playing out as well. Hopefully some more out of state shows with the new lineup.
Gabe: We’re gearing up for something, an EP, an LP, I don’t know. Definitely something new this year. I’ve got a massive backlog of songs of all types ready to be applied to the Kaiju formula. I’ve got a couple that will definitely be Megalon-themed and another that will tackle”The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”. I know Matt and Sean have some ideas brewing too, so I’m looking forward to more collaboration between us. Hopefully we can coax Mike into bringing some of his synthwave abilities into play for some more weird sci-fi atmospherics. We’re looking to play a show or two this summer as well, which is somewhat difficult as Matt lives in Austin and the rest of us schlubs are still on Long Island. But we’ll make it work, as we always do.
One last question: It’s been debated for years but I think we should settle it here. Who would win between Godzilla and Gamera?
Matt: Godzilla for sure. Godzilla is the King of the Monsters. That Atomic Breath is unstoppable. If we are talking Gamera from the trilogy films a few years ago, I think we might have a good match but I still think the victory would go to Godzilla.
Gabe: Godzilla hands down. Gamera is “the friend of all children”. A real derp. Come on. He’s a spinning turtle. Godzilla’s only friends are other monsters, and even those friendships seem more like uneasy alliances, as Godzilla has battled with all of them on at least one occasion. Maybe that makes Godzilla a sociopath…but as recent events have shown, you don’t have to be mentally sound or capable of maintaining healthy relationships to come into power and wield nuclear weaponry!
Thank you for your time, take care!
Matt: Thank You
Gabe: Thanks again
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Read our review of Radiation Scars here.