LOATHE
[Photo by: Feisal El-Khazragi]

To put it simply, Kadeem France is really good at his job. While performing with Loathe, his guttural screams and concussive growls reach into the human psyche to awaken something from our deep evolutionary past, something primal and aggressive. That voice, when combined with his commanding stage presence, turns France into a brooding, kinetic ringmaster for our inner beasts.

But in conversation, a very different Kadeem France emerges: easygoing, self-effacing, even downright cheerful. “When people speak to me offstage, they don’t expect me to be as outgoing as I am,” he says with a laugh. His musical influences may be dark, but he discusses them with a playful grin, clearly in love with what he does: “We’re big fans of horror and anything that shakes you to your core. But I’m numb to like 90% of horror films, so we try our hardest to really freak ourselves out.”

Read more: 40 new artists you need to hear in May

That being said, The Things They Believe, Loathe’s first instrumental album, doesn’t inspire gut-wrenching fear so much as an unnerving, reflective calm. The high-tech, synth-heavy ambiance creates a post-apocalyptic sense of melancholy, a soundtrack for wandering through empty streets and long-abandoned buildings. It’s as if the universe of Blade Runner or Cowboy Bebop has bled into the real, mutating the world into something dismal and strange—but kind of beautiful, too, if you know where to look.

Equally at home with both punishing breakdowns and cinematic atmospheres, France has cultivated a singular artistic sensibility. But what’s really going on inside his head? How has the pandemic changed the way he lives and creates? And what unique challenges does he face as a Black frontman in metal? We sat down with France to find out.

With song titles such as “Perpetual Sunday Evening” and “The Year Everything And Nothing Happened,” this album seems to reflect the isolation brought on by the pandemic. Was that part of the goal?

We’ve actually always wanted to do something like this, like a soundtrack to a movie with loads of different cool soundscapes. And once lockdown happened, it was like, “OK, this makes sense.” It just went with the vibe of what was going on.

Since The Things They Believe doesn’t have any vocals, how involved were you in the making of the record?

Well, from the beginning, we knew it was going to be Feisal [El-Khazragi, bassist] and Erik [Bickerstaffe, guitarist] who were mainly working on it because they’re the two people who do the ambient sounds for all of our music. Every now and again, we’d meet up, have a listen together and put our own little touch on it, but primarily, it was Feisal and Erik who did it all.

With all of the madness that’s going on, in a way, it feels like the perfect meditation album. I’m hoping it will be something to help put people at ease—we even released incense sticks and candles with it because we want people to just press play, light some incense and have some time for yourself.

Loathe
[Photo by: Feisal El-Khazragi]
I love the album title, The Things They Believe. What’s one thing you believe that most people may not?

I believe that everyone has a specific type of energy and that people who have certain types of energy gravitate toward each other. I don’t believe in a god or anything, but I believe in a higher power. When I was younger, I used to be like, “Oh, there’s no such thing as God.” But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the beauty in life and that there has to be a higher being for all this to be true.

I also have this crazy theory… It’s not something I believe, but it’s something I think would make a sick film. You know how every planet in our solar system is in some sort of extreme state, like you can’t live there because of this or that? My theory is that there were once civilizations on every single one of those planets—but they all got really advanced in technology, to the point where there was a massive nuclear war that exploded the planet and left it in that extreme state. And we’re the last planet to go.

As a Black artist, do you feel like the heavy music world has become more or less inclusive over time?

For me, the heavy music scene has always been very inclusive and welcoming. But with it being a white-dominated genre, I’ve still had my times of feeling uncomfortable—just being the only Black person in the room can sometimes make me feel on edge.

But now with artists like UnityTX, Nova Twins and Bloodbather, I’m seeing a lot of new bands that are either fronted by a Black person or have someone else Black in the band. It gives me hope for the future. If I wasn’t in a band and I was going to shows now, seeing so many Black faces would let me know that, “Yo, I can be in a band.” That’s always been very important for me, showing that Black people can do that. You don’t have to fit into this one thing that everyone expects from you.

Could you tell us about a racially charged experience that made you uncomfortable?

This one time we were going to play a festival in Europe, and we had just gotten to the artist parking area. We get out of the van and start walking toward the catering area for food, and there are these three security guards standing outside of it. As we walk past, one of them puts his fist up and goes, “White power!”

And at first, we all walk past and carry on, but soon it fully sinks in. Like, “We actually just heard that.” And then we all start freaking out like, “Yo, are we at some Nazi festival?” Erik is like, “We’re not playing. We’re going home,” and everyone else is like, “Yeah, this is too much.” But I’m like, “Let’s calm down. Maybe he didn’t say it. Maybe we just misheard him.”

So we eat and start walking back toward the security guards. As we walk past them, again he says, “White power!” So at this point, I’m like, “Nah, I didn’t hear him wrong. He definitely said that.” So I stop, and I’m like, “Yo, what did you just say?” And I don’t think he knew I was Black or something because his face dropped. And he’s like, “Oh, it’s a joke… I’m just joking around.” And I’m like, “Nah, that’s not funny. I don’t find that funny at all.” And then he shut up.

So then I storm off, and I’m fuming. I’m like, “I don’t wanna play this festival. I don’t feel comfortable here.” Now I’m looking around at people like, “Why is he looking at me so weirdly? Is that guy racist?” When you’re the only Black person around and that happens, it’s so hard to not be paranoid and think that everyone’s against you.

So we call our manager, and he gets in contact with the head of security. This 7-foot security guy eventually comes over to us and is like, “Is that the guy over there?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s him.” And he’s like, “Don’t worry, he doesn’t work for us anymore. If anyone says anything to you again, you come to me, and I’ll break their neck.”

We ended up playing the festival, and it was actually a really good day after that. But things like that have happened quite a bit—I just try to keep the right people around me. I know for a fact that anyone in the band would use their white voice to help me out if anything was to happen, so I’m glad to have the friends that I have.

What an awful experience—but it’s great that your friends have your back. With tours starting back up again, this feels like a potential reset moment for the music industry as a whole. How can bands and fans use this pivotal time to make the scene more inclusive?

Just make sure people know that where they are is a safe space—I’ve always felt like the heavy scene is very welcoming anyway, but just making that known. Bands like Stray From The Path will say stuff onstage like, “This is not a place for racism, so if you’re about that, there’s the door.” Seeing things like that makes me feel a lot more comfortable. Just preach love, not hate.





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