Tuesday, 12 December 2017
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Interview: Jake Oni of ONI

Photo: Hristo Shindov

In Japanese folklore, the Oni is a malevolent shapeshifting demon, able to take on many guises as it spreads pain and misery. The constantly shifting, ever-evolving sound of Ontario, Canada’s Oni is no less elusive, though unlike their namesake, amidst the brutality and violence they weave great beauty, and a breadth of heartfelt emotion. Gleefully contorted, crushingly heavy and insidiously melodic, their debut full-length grabs you from the moment it starts, and over the course of nine tracks it holds you by the throat. “We want the songs that we write to not only move us but move our fans and give them the energy to break through another day, another challenge,” states vocalist Jake Oni. “And though our music is very technical, songwriting is so important to everything we do. The songs need to rock, regardless of how well anyone plays their instrument, and we want to write songs that people can bang their heads to, and have fun with.”

ONI were making a quick return to the UK, and Antihero Magazine‘s Mark Dean caught up with singer Jake Oni in Manchester before their evening show with Children of Bodom.

Oni
Photo: Hristo Shindov

Mark Dean: You’re out on tour with Children of Bodom, who are widely reported as being inspiration for the band. What have been tour highlights so far? What’s it like playing with your heroes?

Jake Oni: Hanging with the guys, they’ve been really cool to us. We’re going to hang out with them in Finland after the tour probably. They’re just a bunch of nice guys. Three of the guys in the band are huge Bodom fans. So, it’s just been a nice experience overall. They sell out in Europe pretty well, so it’s been awesome exposure for us, too.

Mark Dean: Have you been in the UK before with Oni?

Jake Oni: We did a tour earlier this year in the UK, played Manchester, all over, with Devil You Know.

Mark Dean: What is the Xylosynth and what does it contribute sonically to Oni‘s sound that maybe you didn’t have previously?

Jake Oni: It can choose a lot of solos and digital sounds and melodic sounds.

Mark Dean: Do you feel that it gives you a unique sound that a lot of other bands wouldn’t have?

Jake Oni: That’s a good question, I don’t know. I think bands that have keyboards can pretty much do similar things that we do.

Mark Dean: The video for “The Only Cure” featured Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, another band who you guys are fans of. How did you hook up with him and how was the making of the video?

Jake Oni: Yeah, we’re huge fans of Lamb of God. I’d say that’s one band that we all really get down on. Through our producer, Josh, who produced several Lamb of God records. I asked him if he would do it and he obviously said yes. He’s just a really cool guy.

Mark Dean: Did you get a chance to hang out with him?

Jake Oni: Many times, yeah, I’ve been on stage with him, hung out with him … He loves to give me life lessons.

Mark Dean: How would you market or sell your band to someone who’s not familiar with who Oni are? How would you describe yourselves?

Jake Oni: Very heavy and savage progressive metal, I would say. Like a more savage Between the Buried and Me. In every respect from like the shred … It throws back to some Pantera, Van Halen vibes at times. The heaviness, my vocals, very guttural at times too, so just savage metal in every sense.

Mark Dean: Both your music onstage and your schedule is pretty brutal. How do you guys unwind? What do you kick back with?

Jake Oni: Weed. Yeah, we listen to everything. I like to listen to a lot of instrumental music like Chon when I’m off stage just because hearing myself scream all day after a while gets really annoying, so I like to listen to instrumental stuff.  I unwind with video games, good food, I don’t know, everything man.

Mark Dean: Coming from Canada, how did you guys get started? Was it difficult to get gigs?

Jake Oni: We’re a band that didn’t really start off in Oni. A lot of the guys have played and have been successful in different musical ventures and stuff, so when this band came about, we started online. We just all messaged each other. It was my initial idea and no, it wasn’t hard to get gigs for us.

Mark Dean: Pros and cons of being a professional musician in 2017?

Jake Oni: Pros, you get to play, write, record music for a living.

Mark Dean: Playing with your heroes.

Jake Oni: You can’t beat that. Yeah, you get to meet a bunch of awesome bands. Cons, you definitely leave everything behind to go on the road.

Mark Dean: Personal high points and low points of your career to date.

Jake Oni: High point, that’s a good question. Highs, this Bodom tour is definitely a high. Recording with Randy is definitely a high point. Low point … I don’t know. I wouldn’t say there are too many low points, to be honest.

Oni
Photo: Hristo Shindov

Mark Dean: What in your life are you most proud of, as something like you created or just playing musically with a band or maybe something else?

Jake Oni: In my life, am I most proud of? Being a dad is what I’m most proud of. Yeah and the band stuff’s pretty cool too.

Mark Dean: What gives you inspiration for the band’s songs?

Jake Oni: Honestly, everything. I’ve been influenced by a lot of dark stuff, everything from Edgar Allan Poe to horror movies. I don’t know, that’s kind of a loaded question. Everything man, other bands.

Mark Dean: What’s next for you after the tour ends? Have you got more dates lined up?

Jake Oni: Devin Townsend in North America.

Mark Dean: Have you worked with him before, toured with him?

Jake Oni: No, I have not. But I’m a fan.

Mark Dean: Should be inspiring.

Jake Oni: That’ll be very inspiring.

Mark Dean: Who would you yourself like to sit down and interview? Maybe a personal inspiration, hero, icon, not even maybe a musician? Someone that’s inspired you?

Jake Oni: Who would I like to interview, that’s a great question … Be very cool to interview Cory Taylor from Slipknot.

Mark Dean: That’s great, thank you very much.

Jake Oni: Thank you.

About Mark Dean

I’m a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal – my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver – Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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