INTERVIEW | Zuma of Kruelty
by Jeremy Duke
Tokyo’s Kruelty was one of the brightest lights for Asian representation in heavy music in 2023. Their instant classic set at Sound and Fury, solid gold content provided by vocalist/guitarist Zuma’s appearance on the HardLore Podcast, and newest showcase of their crushing blend of hardcore and old-school death metal Untopia each had a huge impact.
Thanks to the efforts of workhorse local booking agents, Backroom Productions, Kruelty was able to visit Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the first time on January 18, 2024 during their first tour of the Southwestern United States. Playing on top of a dream lineup that included PeelingFlesh, Agony, Cell, Khasm, and Sledge, Kruelty rained ferocious riffs onto an audience that will remember the show for ages.
Before they took the stage, I had the opportunity to talk with Zuma about performing far from home, what makes Untopia special, and other highlights from the road.
Photo Credit: @bitedownimages Bitedownimages.squarespace.com
UA: How’s the tour been for you so far?
Zuma: It’s been it’s been pretty nice. We have never played the Southern US, other than some cities back in August. We played Arizona for the first time on Sunday. There were like 240 people, which was which is pretty nice to us. And then also last night there were like 270 or something. People went pretty crazy. I know a lot of Japanese and other Asian bands have toured the US, but just West Coast. I don’t think hardly any hardcore bands from Asia are making it to the South or Midwest. So, we’re pretty honored to be doing what we’re doing.
UA: We’re honored to have you here. This is a part of the country where it’s hard to get the bigger American bands to come sometimes, much less a band we love from Japan!
Zuma: It was a horrible drive from Denver. (laughs) It was more than ten hours. But we appreciate having an opportunity like this. No other bands are doing this. So, we’re proud of ourselves and what we’re doing right now.
UA: How do you feel like audiences have been responding?
Zuma: It’s pretty good! I feel like people have been waiting for us for a long time. In each city, you know. Like, the energy is crazy.
UA: I told my friend Steve (Agony vocalist and cofounder of Backroom Productions who booked the show) that every part of the flier for this show is kind of hilarious: Kruelty in Oklahoma City for $12 in 2024. It really shows how committed he is to DIY and keeping shit like this going.
Is there a song from Untopia that you’re most proud of?
Zuma: I think “Harder Than Before” might be my favorite song on Untopia. It’s because I just put the biggest energy into it, for the longest time.
UA: It’s a very emotional song, to me.
Zuma: You know, I love many kinds of heavy music. Not only hardcore. I mean we have a bunch of sub-genres in metal. I’m into death metal, black metal, grindcore, mostly old school stuff. I’m still into much of that heavy music. And that song “Harder Than Before” has a bunch of elements. It’s not just hardcore or metal.
UA: I wanted to ask about that too. Because like I’m a person who loved metal before I loved hardcore. And I love all the Swedish and Finnish death metal influences in your sound. How did you got into that music? Did metal come to you first as well?
Zuma: I started getting into heavy music from thrash metal when I was 15. Then it was onto death metal. It’s kind of like a normal route, I guess.I started going to hardcore shows in Tokyo when I was 17. I grew up listening to different types of metal music, but I never really into those shows. Because the vibes are, like, people just standing there and watching the set. And then they just clap their hands and they go away. That’s what I don’t enjoy. So when we when I started going to hardcore shows, things changed for me. So I’m more into going to hardcore shows. But musically, I’m a metal guy. That’s why we listen to and use a lot of Finnish stuff, which not a lot of hardcore bands are trying to do. We hear a lot of bands combining hardcore with brutal death, which I also love. But I just want to do it a different way.
UA: I did want to ask about hardcore shows in Japan. How does it compare to like what we have here in the US?
Zuma: Good shit. Crowds in Japan listen to the music more than American people, I guess. Some people I meet here seem to enjoy the show more than the music. In Japan, it seems like people will listen to the music for a long time and then decide, “I’m gonna go to the show.” So, it’s a bit of a different vibe. I enjoy both sides of it.
UA: Have you heard any new bands or music on this tour that you think people should check out?
Zuma: Last night, there was a band called 10 TO THE CHEST. Yeah, they were fucking insane. Like I told you, I’m into many kinds of heavy music and they were a band I really enjoyed. They do THAT SHIT. They have some powerviolence, some grindcore, with some New York hardcore. That’s a band I really like.
UA: What do you want people to take from your music?
Zuma: I just keep doing what I want to do. Because I am doing everything. I write the songs and lyrics. Pretty much running this band. So like if you enjoy any part of us, I’m just super happy. I just super appreciate it.
UA: I saw your HardLore interview. You’re becoming kind of famous for your food opinions! So, I was wondering what’s what’s the best and worst thing you’ve eaten on this tour so far?
Zuma: (Laughs) It’s a tough question because we don’t really have time to enjoy food because of the long drive every day! I didn’t fucking realize how far apart the cities in this area are!
So, I just got a sandwich at a Casey’s gas station today and it was horrible! Just pickles and chicken. No sauce. I was like, “You’re gonna take five bucks from me for this?!”
The best one was a local taco place in Las Vegas. Tacos El Gordo!
Huge thank you to Jeremy Duke for taking the time to conduct this sick interview and publishing it on Unite Asia!