I met Matt Honeycutt at a hardcore show in Sherman, Texas; it was the first time I saw Kublai Khan. I wasn’t blown away musically, but what Honeycutt said between songs made me love the band. He openly stood up for human rights. He spoke out against racism, kids piling on top of Honeycutt and each other during the show to scream, “F-ck you, bigot!” into the mic.
Five years of hard work, touring and maturing later, the band has finally seized their first break, signing to Artery Recordings. Their music is a better breed, now, and I still enjoy talking with Honeycutt. Talking to the vocalist recently, it’s clear Kublai Khan still has a number of chapters left to be written.
HM: You guys have been DIY for the past four years?
We were DIY for a really long time. We had some help from my buddy Daniel as far as booking, about the past year, year and a half, two years. Other than that, we never really had a team behind us. We printed all our own merch, did most of our own designs. Our buddy Chris, from Houston, did a lot of them.
We tried to keep everything in Texas as far as where we would get help from. It was pretty rough for a while because we were doing it all ourselves, but at the same time, we got some good experience from it, as well as the satisfaction of knowing we can’t just have sh-t handed to us. Looking back on it now, I wouldn’t change it. I would have kept it the exact same way we did it because I feel like it helped bring us up right in the music community, as far as paying our dues, as far as eating sh-t at shows.
It’s tough to do it all yourself. When you do it yourself, it is what is. If it goes well, you can be proud of it. If it doesn’t go well, at least you know you can try harder next time.
You’re one of those bands who were constantly on the road. Every time I looked up, you were always on tour, out there with somebody. A lot of people saw the hard work you guys put into your band; now, you guys are signed. How does that feel?
Yeah, it was an incredibly good feeling, and for the last five years, nobody in our band had any expectations as far as (being signed). It started out as fun, and then it became, “Hey, let’s keep doing tours. This is enjoyable.”
It made us feel alive for the first time in our lives, and it’s the kind of thing people would always ask, “How come you guys aren’t signed?” We never really had an answer for them. We were just like, “We’re just doing what we want to do.” It had never really come to our attention — except for about the last two years — that we might need a label backing us because it was getting to the point where we were constantly out. We were playing festivals and slightly bigger tours than we had been before, and we had also been turned down for a lot of things because we didn’t have a label backing us. We’d been turned down to do several bigger tours. I say bigger, but I mean bigger for a band our size. We started to see that it was kind of… We were only getting as big as we could in the circle we kept traveling in. That was the first time joining a label had even really come to our attention.
We probably could have kept going DIY. I think that any band in the world could be DIY. It’s just a matter of how much you want to push yourself.
A lot of those Christian bands that are friends with us, they’ve never once judged us. They are accepting of us, and I feel like that is the most Christian thing you can do, to be accepting of others who aren’t necessarily exactly like you. That gives me a lot of faith.
But it’s a good feeling, because (now) we don’t feel so alone. We have a team. We have people that are out there to help us, push us in the right direction, can help us do a lot of the stuff that’s over our heads, bigger than us, that we can’t do on our own. We’re very proud of it. We’re honored to be a part of a label now, especially one that is taking good care of us.
We’re not really used to it yet, just because it’s real new, and — I’ve got to be honest with you — I’ve always been a little bit guarded to the idea. You’re putting your child in someone else’s hands and just hoping for the best, but I’m happy it happened.
After five years of getting turned down, getting shot down and just having sh-t shoveled in our face, it’s kind of nice to have some people want to help us out of the trenches a little bit, so we’re really, really honored to be a part of that.
Talk to me about this new record you guys are getting to put out on Artery. I listened to the record before this interview, and there are a couple of songs I recognize, ones I’ve seen you guys play at shows for the past couple of years. How much new material did you guys have to write for this record, and how much old material did you guys finally get to record?
It’s pretty evenly split. There’s more new material than old material, but all the older material, a couple of them were singles that we put out, even up to almost three years ago. We didn’t put out our EP except about three or four years ago. We’ve kind of been floating around, doing all this on empty.
We’ve been playing singles and (songs from) an EP released four years ago, (but) it was good for us to write new stuff because we’d always been in the position that, right whenever we’d sit down and start to write and get something cool going, we would have a member leave or something bad happen or we’d have to leave the tour or do whatever. That’s not an excuse, but we would always just kind of put it off.
It never really bothered us too much, because, like I said, we didn’t ever expect stuff to kick up as quick as it did within the last two years. It went pretty quickly, as far as we actually were not getting stiffed at shows. We couldn’t keep playing the same areas, playing the same stuff. The majority of this album is all new stuff, and our newest guitar player is actually the one who wrote it.
It’s pretty cool to me because it seems pretty seamless with the old material. The whole album was kind of written as… The people who listened to us before, they’ll realize that some of it is old, and then for those people who have never listened to us before, it’s all new, but it all blends. It all sounds like it comes from the same source, and it all sounds like it’s Kublai Khan.
That’s how we want to sound, like it’s Kublai Khan.
For the people who have never heard us before, I’d be excited to see what they’d say, (see) what they thought was new and what they thought was old. They might be surprised because it blends pretty well, and that’s something we’re happy about.
Who did you guys get to record this with?
We recorded it at Catharsis Studios with our really good friend Ron Harvey, and there was no other choice as far as who we would have gone to. We love him to death. He’s one of our best friends, and it’s important to us to get a producer that understands us, that doesn’t just sit us down and, “OK, here’s a quick track. Let’s do this album.”
We planned it ahead of time, and he would throw in all these ingenious little ideas, just little stuff that I feel like really made the album come to life more so than we could have done ourselves. It’s good to have somebody that understands.
We’ve loved all his work before. It’s kind of funny. We’ve talked to him about it several times, but he’s gone even outside of just recording us. He was the one who originally showed our album TO WHAT which eventually led to that full U.S. tour on their first U.S. headliner. He’s been our Guardian Angel, looking out for us for a long time. He’s showed us nothing but love, and we show him nothing but love and respect. It’s deeper than just what kids are going to listen to on an album. It’s built on a good friendship, and some people may think that’s lame, but I think that’s the best way to create anything.
It’s when there’s some kind of bond to hold it together deeper than just what you’re going to hear or what you’re going to see. I would encourage any band to listen to what he does or work with him, because he’s good. He’s going to be great. He’s going to do good things in the future.
You talked about things going deeper, and what I admire about you personally is not being afraid to touch on subjects and talk about things nobody really talks about. On your last record, you talked about racism and bigotry, and on this record you talked about being raised by a single mom. Why do you think your lyrics are so unique compared to other vocalists in this scene?
First off, I appreciate that. I’m glad you think my stuff is unique; that means a lot. It’s the kind of thing I just pull from my life, which I feel like, at the same time, is pretty normal. It’s not too unique. But I remember going to shows, and I remember listening to bands like Bury Your Dead and Remembering Never and stuff, bands that, at the time, I didn’t realize would have molded me so much. Not even just as a musician, but as a human being. I would listen to that and be like, “These guys are saying stuff that is…” I’d never heard stuff like that. I’d never heard people talk about real life problems, out of just, “Oh, man, my girlfriend left me,” or, “You’re a backstabber, you’re going to get what you deserve.” It was real deal sh-t, and whenever I became the vocalist of this band, I remember telling the guys that if I could help it, I never wanted to write about anything that didn’t mean something.
I see it as I have 15 minutes to push back at a world that’s been pushing me for 22 years. I have this one small chance to let everybody know exactly where I’m coming from, exactly what I’m about, exactly what our whole band is about and where our whole band comes from. To not take that by the horns and take full advantage of that opportunity would be, in my opinion, disrespectful to the people who come out and see us, the people who need it. I was one of those people.
I needed that. I needed to hear that from somebody that I looked up to, that sh-t’s not that bad. And it’s just like, it’s not that bad because you’re able to talk about it. If you’re able to express it and get it off your chest, you’d be surprised. There are people you’d never expect will relate, and you can build friendships and relationships off the stuff that, at face value, you would’ve never thought you’d have in common.
I’m just talking about stuff that’s relevant to my life, and if it means something to other people, that means everything to me.
You said that you have 15 minutes on the stage to talk about where you’re coming from, and came from, and where the band comes from. Talk about that for a minute. Where do you come from?
Like me personally?
Yeah. The stories behind the songs, like behind the song you guys always do that kids just go crazy for. It’s about racism, and how you talk about…
That song is very impactful to a lot of kids because you say no matter what you are — black, brown, yellow, straight edge, Christian or not — you have a home within a group of people that are also diverse. Why did you want to do that?
I feel like, at the time, writing it, I was just mad. I would go to shows in particular, and I’d see people that really didn’t have that much in common coming together and being friends, but then also other people that had a lot in common that just were being ignorant about stuff. They’d say the littlest sh-t just to get in the way of being with each other.
I see it as I have 15 minutes to push back at a world that’s been pushing me for 22 years. I have this one small chance to let everybody know exactly where I’m coming from.
It’s like, “You’re going to the same show, you’re standing 15 feet away from somebody you don’t know, but they’re there for the exact same reason you are.” But you choose to treat them differently because they aren’t straight edge or because they are straight edge or because they might be black or they might be Hispanic? Whatever. It’s like going back to the whole 15 minute thing: I have that microphone in my hand, and that’s something that bothered me, and it’s something I wanted to bring to people’s attention. It’s not just at shows. It’s very evident nationwide; I firmly believe that racism is deeply ingrained.
Prejudice in general is deeply ingrained into human beings. I feel like, in some ways, it’s a survival mechanism, but at the same time I don’t see the purpose of it anymore. We don’t need to have separate groups so much anymore. We don’t need to have clans and tribes and sh-t. We’re all, for the most part, part of the same group.
We’re pretty integrated, so to let the color of somebody’s skin interfere with how you view the human race, I feel like that’s pretty bothersome. It’s always bothered me because I’m mixed. I’m half white and half Filipino, and I grew up in an all white family. There were a lot of places I would go within my own family where I was met with a little bit of — I don’t necessarily mean hatred, but was met with misunderstanding, and that hurt.
It’s something they didn’t understand, that misunderstanding me was the most hurtful thing they could have done. I’d hate to see that happen to anybody else — and I don’t necessarily try and prevent it with other people — but I want to open people’s eyes to it, at least. Because it’s not worth it. It’s really not worth tearing others down.
What kind of issues did you want to bring to the table this time around?
It’s all little pieces of my life that I’ve wanted to talk about. The second song, “Come Out of Your Room,” is literally about… The whole song is written about a 10- to 15-second span of time when I walked in on my mother’s suicide attempt. It relays everything I felt, everything I thought, everything I tried not to feel within that 10 seconds.
The whole album itself, everything takes place in a house. Everything was written in the same sense as a concept album, not so much as everything lyrically, but each song takes place in a different room of my house. Whether people realize it or not — and that’s the thing; it’s all the stuff I grew up with. Everything you grow up with is a different room. It’s a different doorway you open up, and you don’t know what you’re going to see when you go through it. For instance, “Dropping Plates” is about waiting tables, and how I’ll be the first to tell you I’m thankful to have a job. I don’t want that to be misconstrued that I was ever bitter at the fact that I had a job. That would be really ignorant of me. But I am bitter at the fact that I had to do it with assholes all day, that I wasn’t seen as a person, I was seen as somebody’s servant.
Everything is an outlet, and I feel like that’s the perfect place for music. It’s all the stuff you can’t say on a regular basis. The stuff I wish I would’ve said to my boss. The stuff I wish I would’ve said to my customers.
I’m able to say it there and be 100 percent listened to. It’s not falling on deaf ears, for the most part, and those kids come out to that show to see us. They’re there to hear what we have to say, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s mind blowing to be able to go into a room full of strangers and scream. You just go out there and you just yell your heart out about all the shit that pisses you off, and you’re perched.
It brings you together. It brings other people together. It’s a beautiful thing. I don’t really know if I answered that question too well, but I kind of go off on tangents.
I remember when you guys came out with “The Guilty Dog” a year and a half, two years ago. There is a story behind that, and one line that… I don’t know if I can remember the exact words, but you’re basically telling God to eff off.
With that, I’m guessing it’s the line that says, “God, if you’re up there, send me down someone who gives a f-ck.” It’s written as one person saying it. I remember thinking it to myself. I remember the exact situation I was in on the day when I thought that.
I never, ever thought I would put that into a song, but I remember thinking that in the back of my head and my face went hot. I was tired of getting pushed around by the people that were supposed to love me. I was tired of never getting listened to, never getting a chance that I thought that I deserved, especially as far as my right to having a happy life.
But if you listen to it in the song, Nolan is saying the first part: “God, if you’re up there, send me down someone who…” Then I say, “…gives a f-ck,” because, at the same time, it’s everything. Every situation, every feeling you have is a double-edged sword. As much as I prayed to God and hoped He would send me down someone who is actually going to care about me, at the same time, who gives a fuck. I’m one person. I’m one of billions on this planet; why the f-ck should my problems have to wait for anybody else just because they’re my problems? That whole song is just back and forth. The whole thing takes place in my head as far as how I feel, and I’m sure there are people who are going to listen to that be like, “Oh, man, what a bummer. They’re a band that bashes God.”
But I want to tell them that’s not the case. I hope to, one day without a video or even just to type it out, and break down each song and explain to people exactly what I thought. Nobody’s even asked for it, but I need to get it off my chest, as well as everybody in my band wanting to get out there what (Kublai Khan) is about, to give people better insight to exactly where were coming from.
That’s the line that kids remember at shows. That’s the line, so far, that has stood out the most. I feel like if that’s the case, I feel like for some of those kids it may just be a fun thing to yell at the top of their lungs on Saturday night whenever they’re out of school or whatever. But I feel like for the other half of those kids, that’s how they feel.
I felt like that. I feel like everybody, at some point in their life, has felt like that, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. I couldn’t keep it in. It’s a pretty vulgar way to go about it, but at the same time, sometimes the only way to be listened to is to be vulgar.
The funny thing is, that one line is answered with your good friends like the guys in Gideon. I like that you guys are really embraced by the Christian metalcore community and to see other people that actually care about Kublai Khan, and have wanted to see Kublai Khan be something. Even for you, how does that feel to have those kind of people back you guys?
It’s a good feeling. The guys in both Gideon and Leaders are some of our really, really good friends. There have also been plenty of Christian bands who have spoken up about how they feel about us. There have been a couple of dates on tours where we’re playing churches, and we’re not allowed to play. I remember one of the times we played, they were nice enough to let us set up merch and that was about it. We have been met with both sides, but the love far outweighs the hate as far as the Christian community, especially with the bands. Not necessarily with individuals. That’s the thing with Daniel. I remember he was one of the first people ever to take notice or give a sh-t about anything we did.
At the same time, I guess it could be said, “God, if you’re up there, send me down someone who gives a f-ck,” and he gave a f-ck. Other people started giving a f-ck, and I feel like if you scream loud enough, eventually somebody’s going to hear you. A lot of those Christian bands that are friends with us, they’ve never once judged us. They’ve never once said, “Hey, you guys need to think about this or do that.” They are accepting of us, and I feel like that is the most Christian thing you can do, to be accepting of others who aren’t necessarily exactly like you. That gives me a lot of faith. It gives me a lot of hope, not just in the Christian community, but to myself and other people in general.
I know the Christian community is met with a whole lot of prejudice and a whole lot of misunderstanding. Don’t get me wrong; I grew up in the Bible belt. I grew up in the Catholic church. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I’ve been told a lot of stuff. The only people that really understand what we’re going through, the other people out there grinding, they see past any issues, they accept us and we accept them. We’ve never once told them that, “Hey, you guys maybe shouldn’t be a Christian band,” because every man is his own man, and I feel like every band is their own band. However you want to do it, do it.
I feel like that’s the beauty of music, being able to go against the grain and say exactly what you want to say without being completely judged for it. There are going to be the people who do judge you for it, but it’s just good to know that on both sides of the spectrum, both secular and non secular bands have supported us over the years. It really does a lot for morale.
You guys have (a solid following), but you guys are just putting out your first record on a label. That doesn’t happen because people hate you, it happens because people love you, and Kublai Khan has been able to get fans from all over. Do you know why that (is)?
To be honest with you, I don’t. The only thing I can think of is just love and respect. You don’t go to another man’s house and eat out of his fridge before you introduce yourself. It’s the same kind of thing at these shows. We didn’t necessarily tiptoe around, but everywhere we went, we tried to let people know that we are there with an air of respect.
I thank whoever came out for allowing us into their home. We’re guests. We come from a little Podunk town, that’s our town. We don’t live in these major cities. We don’t come from the same place as a lot of these kids, but I feel like, at the same time, that shouldn’t separate us.
Everybody who has ever come up and talked to us or watched our band, f-ck, I try and tell them thank you — and a genuine thank you — because it doesn’t happen all the time. The fact that anybody cares about what we’re up there doing, in my opinion, is a complete milestone for us, because the rest of the world doesn’t care. Outside of the walls of those venues, nobody really probably cares what we’re doing or what we talk about. Those people that give you the time of day, you got to hold them close. You have to show them respect, because they’re worthy of respect. They’re not there to spit in your face and tell you how crappy you are. If they come out to see you, and they legitimately want to see you, you should never, ever, ever, ever take that for granted.
You should always be thankful for that because it has a shelf life. I have no thoughts in my mind that this band is going to last forever or that we’re ever going to be metalcore legends. I’m trying to love everybody I can in the time I’m given, and the rest of my band is, too. We’re just trying to live in the moment and understand what we are there for, and be thankful for the people who really do care about us. It helps a lot in everyday life. It makes me thankful to be alive. It helps us really want to keep going with our day and with this band in general. The fact that if it’s a hardcore kid or a metalcore kid or anybody straightedge, not straightedge — we embrace them with open arms because we would literally be going against everything we preach about on stage if we did. Music should never be for a select few. It should never be for the elite. If they don’t like it, that’s awesome, thanks for giving us a shot. If you do like it, f-cking come on the ride with us. It’ll probably be a fun couple years.
What is the scene doing right, and what are we doing wrong?
I think I’ll go with the positives first, because I know that so many people are so quick to point out the negatives. If you look around, the positives are the fact that people come out, the fact that people find themselves, they find a place where they belong. That positive alone I feel like completely outweighs any negatives. The fact that there’s a whole bunch of great bands out right now, the fact that kids, for the most part, support you and they’ll give you their left leg if they you’re in trouble. It’s a beautiful thing, because at the end of the day, a lot of those people are complete strangers, they only know what they hear about you and what they see, so it’s a really humbling feeling, the love that can be shown with that.
As for the negatives — there’s always going to be negatives — but some of the negatives we’ve seen, there’s always going to be violence. We’re a heavy band, but we don’t necessarily want violent things to happen; they just kind of do, sometimes, at shows.
If it’s all in good fun, if people are out there f-cking banging their heads in, like do it. As long as you’re not insanely critically hurting other people or ruining the show for other people, then f-cking go for it.
Like that Festival in Ohio.
I heard about that. That’s a shame that had to turn out like that. I’m sure there were people there that just wanted to just enjoy the show, but I don’t know too much information about that. I just heard there was a stabbing or a shooting or something.
Both. There was both.
It’s tragic that it happens. It gets tied with the music, they become one. People feel that violence and heavy music are a couple. I think there’s a difference between violence and energy. We’ve played plenty of shows where there’s a whole lot of both. We’ve also played shows where there’s none of both.
It’s a toss-up. It’s a gamble. Different cities do it differently, and like I said, as long as people aren’t getting their necks broken and sh-t, have fun. You want me to keep going with the negatives, or is that probably good?
Whatever you want to point out.
One other negative that really bothers me is something — I feel like I’m not at liberty to tell people, “Hey, this is wrong,” but I feel that it is wrong — but it just sucks when bands don’t support other bands, especially when they’re in the same scene. In other towns, you see so much drama between bands, and it’s all like, “Literally, you play 10 minutes apart from each other.”
I know that doesn’t make you friends. I know that doesn’t make you the same people or that you have the same values or morals or anything. But it’s rough whenever everybody’s living in a fishbowl. The world is such a large place that I feel like sometimes bands and people in the scene don’t realize how small it actually is what most of us are doing.
Not all of us, but a good percentage of bands that are starting out or up and coming, they get a chip on their shoulder and the feel like they can do it alone, that they don’t need anybody. That they can treat people however they want, and talk to whoever they want, trash any band they want. It’s your right as an American to do that. Freedom of speech, you say whatever the f-ck you want, but at the same time, should be held accountable.
I’ve seen plenty of bands talk sh-t on promoters, other bands, the scene, the kids. Especially kids that even come out to see them, and then they wonder, “Why the f-ck can’t we get booked here? Why the f-ck don’t we have a turnout? Why are people not coming out to see us? Why aren’t these bands letting us borrow their rigs?”
Because you’re not showing respect, man. We’re all f-cking here. We’re all losing sh-t to do this. You’re not the only one out there. It’s kind of a bummer. It’s rough to see bands go at each other’s throats. It’s rough to see kids go at bands’ throats. It’s just the name of the game. I know that it’s going to happen, but it doesn’t take the sting off any less.
That’s just something we try to encourage through our experience at shows. It’s really not that hard to just be nice. Being nice, it can get you far. Honestly, it can do a lot for you. It can really help your situation as a person (or) as a band. I would just encourage people in the scene to just slow the f-ck down a little bit. Take a breath. It’s music. It’s not World War III.
I very much appreciate your time.
Dude, no problem. I’m glad you even f-cking bothered to hit us up about it, man. It means a lot dude.
Kublai Khan was posted on May 7, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by Rob Houston.