About Kaala

The dark alleys and basement bars across Japan play host to a thriving extreme music underground

Japan is a country of immense cultural resources.

But lately, select motifs have been receiving a boost from a variety of beneficiaries, not least of which is the Cool Japan fund. The now relatively familiar themes of the anime-centric Otaku and the soft & saccharine Kawaii culture (spearheaded by the likes of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) are a big part of big biz's push to promote "Japanese culture" to a wider, international audience. The tried & true images of samurai, geisha, robots, and sushi also feature prominently in this effort to boost Japan's soft power, but there are some amongst us who would rather not be spoon-fed an image of Japan that ignores a vast swathe of the very real creative strains active today that aren't picked up by mainstream efforts.

The underground, that esoteric and mysterious place that houses all varieties of eccentrics and vagabonds.

But this is only the urban legend version of what goes on down there. The members of Japan's underground, be they in the audience, performing, creating, or facilitating, and the community that they've created is, once accessible, outstandingly open, fastidious, and curious, not to mention it produces some of Japan's most creative material - no small feat in a country that is also known for stamping out creative tendencies, as one proverb would have it.

True to form, the underground of Japan is rather difficult to gain access to.

Communications between separate communities tend to be sluggish, and venues can be expensive and bands hard to contact; but despite the difficulty surrounding entry, the underground world here is phenomenal. That does not, however, mean that its perfect... far from it. Kaala's role in all of this is to support and to document Japan's underground, beginning with its music scene, but expanding out from there into the social constructs that form. Punk, Hardcore, Noise, Grind, Doom, Thrash, Black, Heavy, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Psychedelic, whatever your pleasure, Japan has a scene for it with multiple players. Get to know them and get involved through Kaala.

Staff

Matt

Matt Ketchum left his hometown of Pittsburgh and arrived on the shores of Japan in the fall of 2009. He quickly formed a short-lived metal project before the Tohoku earthquake changed his life forever. After assisting in frontline relief efforts he was transferred to Tokyo where he became involved in various projects concerned with Tohoku, including a crowd-sourced photography initiative aimed at raising funds, and a media distribution platform.

Before becoming a founding member of Retch and starting the now-defunct event production group Blood Rite, showcasing bands from Japan's extreme music underground, he was the guitarist for Tokyo black metal band Darkcorpse.

At the moment, he's back in Pittsburgh working at getting Kaala off the ground there - international metalheads unite!

Aaron

Contributor to Japan Times, Kansai Scene, and various other publications, Aaron Krall came to Japan in the fall of 2012 and quickly became enamored with the Japanese extreme music scene. After exploring the punk underground in Osaka he moved to Tokyo and experienced a "Road to Damascus"-style conversion and now preaches the gospel of extreme metal.

He currently spends his time playing bass for black/death metal band Retch, writing about the US presidential election and the Japanese underground for Disinfo.com, and exploring 7-11's extensive wine collection.

Jharrod

Jharrod Meade-Frazier was born and raised in New Hampshire. He joined the US Army Reserves when he was 20 and spent the next 8 years living in Boston in between tours. In the Summer of 2012, he moved to Tokyo to finish his undergraduate degree. Currently, he is studying for his Master’s degree while spending his free time carousing around local shows.

Christian

The only Norwegian member of Kaala and the resident photographer, Chris is also the only one in the group that fits the metal look. Chris loves his childhood memories of cold Black Metal, but after he arrived in Japan in 2005 he has been getting into the Doom scene, and he won't ever stop searching for the slowest bands in the underground. In the daytime he is a fashion photographer, a job which pays surprisingly little, but he also works the brutal farmlands in rural Miyagi, Japan, at the family farm together with his wife and a cute bulldog. Chris likes to curse at disgusting bugs that disturb him while he works the rice fields. Little bastards. He also likes to curse at the snow when he has to wake up at 4AM to remove it from the porch. Chris is a masochist.

Guest

A collection of authors who've written for us. If you're interested in contributing, get in touch!

Jordan

As a Tokyo resident of almost 10 years, Jordan Anderson's subculture interests are all over the place. From Taisho period Anarchists and sleazy Showa Ninkyo Eiga to Umezu Kazuo and Nakano Broadway, Jordan spends much of his time in Tokyo checking out as many strange and esoteric aspects of Japan's past and present media as he can. He loves punk, but has a soft spot for many of the female vocalists of the 60s. He also occasionally likes to read Jitsuwa Knuckles. Spirit Animal: Bill Murray

Jim Broadly

Jim Broadly, Kaala's two-fisted editor-in-chief, can drink more than you, smoke more than you, swear more than you, and to date he has thrown up in toilets in over seventy different countries. He speaks four languages, but all he does is order drinks. On the run from debt, he crash-landed in Osaka where he first met Aaron. Later the two reunited in Tokyo where Jim reluctantly accepted his current thankless assignment.

Jorge

A restless amoeba, Jorge moved to Tokyo in October 2015 after living in Germany for almost 15 years. He's a software developer, filmmaker and fan of music. In the 90s he helped organize concerts of local bands in Merida, Mexico. Later on, he helped organizing small film festivals in Hamburg, Germany.

Audrey

Mathieu Sauve-Frankel