Meka Nism – Honoring the TribeWednesday, 13th June 2018
One of the great things about metal is that doesn’t have to be this superficial, ‘appeal to the broadest category of people’ type of music. Bands can use the format to craft deeper meanings and more elaborate listening experiences. Everything from conceptual albums to lyrics that make you think – and nothing is truly off the table. Meka Nism are a rising act which embrace shamanism and spirituality in their lyrics, as witnessed on their latest EP, The War Inside. There’s a deep connection that the band also portrays, not just in their music, but in visual aspects as well. We called up Ms. Meka, the band’s vocalist to discuss these topics, as well as how they relate to the band’s material, in addition to their ‘tribe’ of followers. What followed was a genuine discussion of those qualities and a discussion of metal itself, and what makes it great.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about ‘the tribe’ in terms of your followers and community around the band?
Ms. Meka: It’s definitely important to feel like we all belong. With the computer age, I feel like everyone is isolated. Music is sacred space to come together and celebrate our community. You really feel it in the metal scene – it’s some of the best people you could ever meet. No matter where we tour or go – it’s like family. I’m sure you feel that when you go to shows. It feels like a tribe, like we are all looking out for each other. The most pit scene, from an outsider’s perspective, looks like a dangerous place but it’s all about comradery and people looking out for each other. At the same time, it’s a safe space to display our emotions.
In metal, we aren’t afraid of our darkness. We actually have a place for it. We come angry but we leave really happy. We have our mission to come, not all giddy and polished like we have to show up for work or like we have to show up for almost anything else with our smile on – however anybody comes, they are loved and welcomed into it. If people are going through stuff, it’s honored. I’ve noticed that my whole life and I’ve felt that comradery in concert communities. You do feel like a family. But it’s more than a family – people are welcomed almost instantly. It’s a nice feeling to know that you are never alone. We want people to feel that, and offer that same comradery and support. Spiritually, if they just listen and connect to the music – that’s an entity all to itself. But when we all come together, we are a tribe.
You can tell when people are in the tribe – they come and they support. It’s all of us, not just the band, that’s making this scene. Yourself included – you are doing so much for the metal scene and musicians in general – that’s what tribe is all about. Bringing people together instead of the faceless Internet comments that people make to one another – we can really connect to one another through the music.
Dead Rhetoric: The world we live in today is so closed off. From my own perspective, as a middle school teacher, kids are so glued into their phones – they’d rather interact with people through the phones than be a part of interactions even within a class.
Ms. Meka: That’s where they develop their social issues. I’ve been a teacher at a few points in the past, mostly in Japan, but it was really striking to me that they are venting and expressing their social anxieties there instead of dealing with each other face to face. They are dealing with them on Facebook or other social media platform. So the bullying isn’t being confronted head on, and there are a lot of issues with that, because they aren’t really seeing how another person reacts and not seeing the compassion that’s necessary to feel heard, and to listen. Middle school is the microcosm of perfect example, as they are in transition from childhood into teenager – they are the most stressed. If they don’t have a loving support system, I can’t imagine how isolated they must feel.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of positivity within metal, the EP is called The War Inside. Without having lyrics in front of me, I’m assuming there’s some sort of push for that in the lyrical content?
Ms. Meka: Absolutely. The title track – when I was talking about it to my guitarist Bobby Keller, we thought it was perfect because so many people don’t know how to address them or how to face their shadow self. I do study the way of the shaman. I study not being afraid of your own aspects, and they are all beautiful – light and dark. We deal with anxiety, depression, addiction – screen addiction, if it’s not drugs or alcohol. The screen addiction of Facebook is still an addiction – you feel isolated and depressed and alone. The energy of our society has this weird vibe over it that people don’t think that they can get out of. They feel alone. Even last night I was at a show and I was talking to someone who told me that they feel alone. He said I was the first person that he had told it to. I told him he wasn’t alone – the door’s always open. Call us – let’s do a little healing circle. I read tarot cards and stuff, but that’s a way to connect to our higher self. Connect to your higher self any way you can.
“The War Inside,” if you watch the music video, there’s actually a shamanic/reiki healing going on in the video. It’s showing that healing is possible, and we are the ones that can save ourselves. The energy of our lives is just as important as the physical expression. I think that empowering lyrics, like not being afraid of the darkness – I’m sure as hell not afraid of looking at the darkness of things. I know a lot of other genres might be. I love metal because it’s fully permissive. It sees the beauty in everything and it fucking rocks it! If you are going through something, you have to look at it. You have to face your demons. Turn them into your allies. Your weaknesses are your strengths if you let them. You have to go through some sort of transformation. It’s all about how you use it.
The lyrics are about manifestation, empowerment, looking at yourself and acknowledging that this is your chance to live – so don’t live in regret your whole life. Deal with it, and figure out solutions. I think that’s one of the things that we can teach each other the most in everyday life. Every single person is going to make a mistake. They aren’t going to do the right thing – I don’t even believe in right and wrong completely – but there is a sense of that for sure. Instead of being afraid of ourselves when we make a mistake, instead go towards a solution. Try to work together for a solution – ask each other questions like “How are we going to fix this?” or “What can we do about it now?” “Where are we going?” When you program yourself with music, honor your dark sides – face them and look at them – express them and enjoy them so that they can become a part of your tribe too. Let all of your aspects work for you. When you are fully empowered, you aren’t afraid of those things. You work with it – you heal things, you find your pain/trauma and you work with it. Then you are free!
We hold so much trauma in our bodies when we walk, even from childhood, which we may not have a memory of. That’s why I love shamanism. It does some of the same things that psychology does, in a very spiritual way. There’s less chemical assistance. It’s about facing things, talking through and finding a path of healing, and the message comes out through the music. The next song we are doing a video for is “Trailblazer,” and it’s really heavy at first. ‘Rain beating my head, blame drenching the dead’ – that’s the first lyric. Are you going to live in your regret? Are you going to drown yourself in your agony and pain, or are you going to turn around and see that this is the one chance you have to live and do it fully? We actually set that video in Victoria Time, because it’s a cool comment on a time period that we remember vividly. All of their pain, regret, sorrow, mistakes – most of those things are forgotten. They didn’t deal with them in their own lifetime. It went with them to the grave. You might as well be alive when you are alive, because you only have a short period of time.
“Arrows of Alchemy” is about how you direct your thoughts. Any simple action you do, like laundry, could be “ugh, I have to do laundry” or it could be “Hey, I get to wear clean clothes! We have this great technology.” How am I going to focus my arrows/thoughts to reach my goals? How am I going get that warrior power and not be afraid of my strength or weakness, and turn it into creating your life? We are the architects of our lives. I think when we listen to music, we are programming our intentions, so absolutely the music came through us. I was very aware of taking that risk, lyrically, to make an opportunity for that message to come through – empowerment, self-healing, manifestation.
Don’t be afraid of your shadow self, live for the moment. We are all going to have horrors/terrors in our lives, but that can’t stop us. You have to get up another day and find the silver lining. Even more, have gratitude for what you do have, including your weaknesses, because they are just pushing you along in your life path. Life is supposed to be a multi-faceted, colorful experience, so you might as well work with it all to create your masterpiece.
Dead Rhetoric: As you were saying that, something clicked with me about light and dark – is that part of the reason you have the singing and harsher screams?
Ms. Meka: Absolutely! I am loud. I am very loud. It does take some discipline for me to not go crazy all the time, and embrace the gentle aspects of myself. We all have those too. If I’m honoring them, then I’m honoring both the gentle/graceful aspects and the more aggressive warrior/powerful aspects, it’s like I’m giving permission for everyone to have that full range of emotion. Both men and women. Men are given less permission to have a full range of emotion. The only emotion that they have typically been able to have in society for a few hundred years is anger [laughs]. And that’s not healthy for anybody!
Women get the emotive bit – but no, we all are. We are all complete packages of human. We have tender emotions and aggressive emotions. In order to honor that full range, I really wanted to be a bit more controlled on the clean vocals so that the contrast could be really honored, in not just the duality but the high-faceted beauty of the human experience.
Dead Rhetoric: I know you are from Florida, so what was the reason in going to Germany to do the recording?
Ms. Meka: Simply, it was a great opportunity to get out of our own comfort zone. It forces you to not fall back into going to the same places. It gives you a whole different energy. A different frequency to work with, when you step out of your comfort zone. You allow a different vibration to support you, and you focus entirely on the music. You have a time constraint as well – you have a deadline. You have to make it work. You can’t just rewrite a part next week. You just trust. Getting yourself out of your comfort zone makes you really trust and be present.
What a great experience working with Lasse Lammert. He is a genius, and he has a beautiful ear. It didn’t feel like it was a lot of effort…it was hard work, but it seemed very natural working with him. Our keyboardist is a genius, and he has many layers – Lasse worked with him to have him pick out the clarity in the genius. We had extra guitar riffs with Bobby, and the clarity of that – he really helped us enjoy and trust that. To know that it was just that moment that we were capturing, and nothing else. It didn’t have to be as forced as some music feels sometimes. It felt very natural, because we were in the moment in the process, and Lasse was a great navigator in that journey.
Dead Rhetoric: You are honed in – you aren’t distracted by the stresses that come when you record near home. You get done recording for the day, go home and find things to worry about. You go somewhere else, you can focus entirely on what you need to do.
Ms. Meka: Truly. You can also experience the energy. Those 13th century gothic cathedrals – we did an impromptu photo shoot in a 13th century gothic cathedral at midnight in medieval Northern Germany and we did our shoot for the album. It was really raw and there was this ancient spirit present in the midst of this really awe-inspiring architecture. It makes you feel different for sure. Luckily we had our photographer/documentarian right there with us so he could capture everything. How perfect – when you trust life, and trust the journey. Sometimes you have to take risks in order to do that.
Then we got to see Metallica in Cologne, Germany! The universe said, “There’s a hurricane in Florida and you cannot go back home yet.” We made a phone call and next thing we knew we were in the VIP lounge and our producer ended up showing up too. We were right in front of the stage – wow, what a blessing. I had never seen them before. It’s a band we all love, so it was really cool to see everyone enjoying that experience. One of my psychic friends had said to me that I would be staying in Germany longer than I expected, and then sure enough I called her and told her she was right. That was a cool moment – the cathedral in Cologne was one of the most awe-inspiring buildings I have ever seen in my life. It was truly like a skyscraper of gothic architecture. They took hundreds of years to build it, and it really hit me…even more than the ones in Lubeck. It’s so intimidating and terrifying – I loved it.
Dead Rhetoric: The band has done a few EPs, have you done a full-length yet?
Ms. Meka: No, it’s not financially sound to do a full-length. It really increases the amount of money. We are self-released. With the kindness of community, the tribe steps up. We have had a lot of contributions from the tribe for GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and that stuff. It really, really helps, but we are still out of pocket. We make what we can make and do the best we can do with it, with the finances we have. We have to make it work. These past three EPs, I had always envisioned them as a collaboration of a concept album together. It’s like a journey. It starts with The Dance at the End of the World, moves onto The Shift, and this one – The War Inside. They felt like they told a story together. I’m always trying to find higher self issues to talk about.
I studied meditation in Japan, I studied Shamanism with a Siberian teacher in Florida. That’s the type of things I do in my day to day life, but that’s where the music lives…in higher self. You want to be as authentic as possible. But with financial concerns, you’ve just got to do what you can do, and make the resources work. You can’t let it stop you from making what you can make. However, I’m very much looking forward to the continuous support that’s coming in, and some record label interest, and what could come out. If we can make a full-length, it would heighten what the music can do, and the quality it could reach. The quality that we could offer as musicians and artists.
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