The Netherworld beckons… Kota Kira is an electonic music produer whose music forms a binding thread, linking the worlds of hard Eurpeaon techno and heavy metal. The gates to her world open where the dancefloor crashes like a tidal wave against a mosh pit’s wall of death. The momentum of her tracks are both terrible and compelling and with a beat that could raise the damned to their feet in a swell of emotions that would make them forget the conditions of their internal torment.
Kota Kira’s sound is influcned not only by metal and dance music, but also the world she has constructed around it. A realm of fantasy, dark forces, and malevolent characters. One of her guiding mantras is to learn to dance with ones demons, and it is very appropriate that we have a soundtrack like the one she’s provided to put this concept into practice.
Many of you, myself included, probably never realized there was so many points of exhcnage between black metal and electronic dance music, but if there was ever a time to grapple with this dark interpaly of sound, now is the time. Below is an exclusive interview with Kota Kira about her music, inspiration, and what else she has in store for us in 2021. I hope you’ll enjoy this small glimpse of the Netherworld she provides.
Interview conducted over email on Feburary 24, 2021. The transcript has been lightly edited for the sake of clarity.
Where are you based out of?
I am currently based out of the Seattle area.
When did you start producing?
The first song I ever produced was back in middle school! It was called “Don’t Leave Dead Roses on My Grave.” It was this edgy, emo song that I only shared with a few friends on MySpace. After that, I didn’t really come back to producing until I was 18.
How did you get your start?
I always knew music would be the career for me, I just didn’t know that I’d be so into producing. Most of my focus had been primarily on writing with guitar and piano, specifically extreme metal.
I spent a lot of years really building those songwriting skills with my black metal band Dekira before I started taking producing seriously.
When I started going to EDM shows I knew that I wanted to produce music, not just write it. Before that, I was content with just being the frontwoman for a black metal band.
I became heavily involved in both music scenes and couldn’t really pick one over the other so I decided to combine the best of both worlds to create this project.
Do you DJ live or is that not your scene?
Absolutely! I can’t wait for the venues to open again. I was actually supposed to start playing live events back in April 2020, but that obviously got put on the back burner.
The live sets are going to be a big part of the Kota Kira experience! I want to provide a unique live experience that you can only get at a Kota Kira show.
Tell us in your own words what “Occult Dance Music” is.
Occult Dance Music is a vibe.
Mysticism and atmosphere take the forefront to create an ominous yet tantalizing, hypnotic experience.
The goal of the music is to makes you feel like you’re dancing with your demons, coming face to face with your true self. It’s hard to put all my music into one genre and I don’t want to be limited by anything.
Occult Dance Music is 100% me and I love the freedom that it gives me!
What made you want to work with Ziiri for your “Candlelight” single, what was that collaboration like?
I thought she was a perfect fit from the start! She was from the Deep South, just as I am, and had those moody vocals I was looking for. There is so much passion in her voice!
She actually reached out to me first. It was before I even released “Witchcraft.” All I had was a 10 second preview of that on my Instagram. She asked if I was interested in working with her based off of the 10 seconds she heard of that track. It was meant to be if you ask me!
We actually started this track together a long time before it actually came out, like almost a year before. The song transformed quite a bit throughout the process. She’s an excellent songwriter and really pushed me to my limit with this one.
I can’t wait to share some of the other tracks we have in the works. At the moment, we have a few more tracks together, most of which are for her solo project.
Your single “The Temptresses” seems to embody a lot of what you’re attempting to capture with this project in terms of sounds and themes. Would you mind expounding on it a little bit for our readers?
All of my songs are part of a bigger story revolving around The Netherworld, where demons come out to play. The Temptresses are creatures of The Netherworld who lure you in with your deepest, darkest desires, just as a sailor is drawn to the call of The Siren!
Once lured into The Netherworld, one must face their true self and learn to dance with their demons. It’s either that or The Temptresses will feast upon your flesh and soul! They prefer the latter.
This is the back story for all of my tracks. I really want people to feel like they’re dancing with demons. A big message I want to convey with my music is that you can be anyone you want to be, as long as you accept who that is.
Concerning the sound, I want to find that perfect blend of epic atmospheric black metal, intense European techno, and bass-heavy EDM music.
“The Temptresses” is a good example of that sound! It has my harsh vocals in it, ominous witchy whispers, crunchy bass with some guitar and extreme metal drums thrown in there. I love how hard this song hits while still being extremely danceable!
What do the goth and metal DJ world look like from your vantage point? Do you find it easy to navigate and very welcoming?
Honestly, I am kind of disappointed at the metal in the dance music world. That’s a big part of why I started this project. You got big dubstep artists like Excision making songs with people like Sullivan King that people are calling metal meets EDM. Nothing against that music, but I know it’s not even scratching the surface! There is a hole and I’m here to fill it!
The goth dance scene is always evolving and I like that. There is your typical industrial and EDM goth scene that’s been around forever, but you also got a new genre that’s really been taking off called Witch House!
Though I don’t consider my music Witch House, a lot of people in that scene are really into what I’m doing.
I’ve also been really into the hard techno scene which has been very welcoming as well! My tracks have been getting played by DJs across all these scenes which kind of blows my mind!
A huge surprise to me was how supportive the extreme metal community has been. I remember sharing my black metal album with an underground metal community on Discord and they liked it. Shortly after sharing that, somebody asked me what Kota Kira was, so I shared “The Temptresses.” They were freaking out about it! They told me my metal was good but my dance music was where it was at. Funny because I hear the exact opposite from good friends of mine who are into the dance scene but haven’t been exposed to metal yet.
I feel like I’ve been able to share my love of black metal with the dance music scene and my love of dance music with the black metal scene. This really makes me happy!
Where do you go for inspiration when you are in the mood to create?
When I am in the mood to create, I’m usually down in my studio. I’m really into meditating before I start writing. I find that my best ideas come after a great meditation session.
I try to create everyday. I used to wait for inspiration but now I know that behavior precedes inspiration. 9 times out 10 if I open up Ableton and just start recording guitar or piano, then inspiration will quickly follow.
I also get a lot of my inspiration from ancient stories and folklore. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. Taking a walk out in nature and really getting in tune with the subtle changes of the seasons can be really inspiring as well.
What does your process look like?
I love my studio a hell of a lot. I try my best to spend as much time as I can in there every morning. When it comes to writing tracks, I like to start out with writing on guitar or piano. Once I have a basic music idea down, I’ll write out a full story that I want to tell with this song. After that, I actually build out the track to tell that story. This is the best part to me! I spend a long time building these worlds musically!
When a release is ready, I work with my artist to get the cover art done. They’re also my photographer! I really love planning these photoshoots and working with my Temptresses! They all work very hard to help tell the story.
What kind of a studio set up are you working with (in terms of gear and software)?
Huge fan of Ableton! Been using Ableton for years and never looked back.
I have an 88 key weighted keyboard and a Jackson electric guitar that I use to write. Most of the instrumentation in my tracks is played through my piano as MIDI. For synth sounds, I love using Serum and Omnisphere! Those are my go-to software synths.
I recently moved into a new place last year around the holidays and now have a really great studio in my basement. About a month ago, I set up a little corner in my studio to record vocals and soundproofed the majority of the room. I’ve been really into adding my own vocals lately.
I try not to collect too much hardware because I know that’s a slippery slope! It’s just hard to find the room for all these things.
I’m also a huge fan of the Valhalla plugins and Superior Drummer. I own a lot of other plugins but I find that I mostly stick with the stock ones in Ableton. You can get the best sounds without over complicating things. That’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way over the years.
What can you tell us about your work with RE:Mission Records?
Re:Mission has been amazing to work with. I reached out to them shortly after I released “The Temptresses” and to my surprise, they were very interested in working with me. They’ve been a lot of help, setting me up with virtual festivals and getting me on the compilation that was put out by El Cuco Recordings last Halloween.
They’ve also connected me with so many amazing artists that I was a fan of before. I never thought I’d be friends with Sidwalks and Skeletons or SET, just to name a few. I honestly can’t thank Re:Mission enough. They work very hard to promote my music and to get me out there. I plan to keep releasing through them in the foreseeable future.
Who are some of your favorite goth and metal DJs and producers, who should people be keeping an eye on?
I’m a huge fan of Sidewalks and Skeletons!
Everything CASHFORGOLD touches turns to gold, no pun intended. I wouldn’t consider her stuff metal, but it’s definitely goth with dark, mystical vibes!
Other artists worth shouting out:
Badass Wolf Shirt
There’s so much out there, it’s really hard to narrow it down to a select few!
What are your plans for 2021 in terms of releases and events?
This year started off really strong with the “Candlelight Remixes” released on January 31st. That was incredible. I asked 6 of my producer friends if they wanted to remix Candlelight. I thought for sure that only half of them at most would actually follow through. I was blown away when I got all of them back and ALL of them were amazing! Lindsey Herbert’s tripped-out techno remix even got featured on Amelia Len’s BBC radio show. This was a HUGE deal for us, especially since we are both a huge fan of Amelie.
In the next few months, I have a full-length album coming out called The Netherworld Beckons. That will be released through Re:Mission Entertainment. I plan to follow that up with an EP and a few singles. I have a lot of music coming out this year!
In between all these releases, I have some songs coming out that I produced with ZIIRI for her project. Those are going to be different than my usual Kota Kira music but I’m hoping my fans will appreciate the dark vibes injected into her indie pop music. There are also some collaborations in the works that I can’t speak about yet but it’s a big deal for me! Can’t wait to talk about those publicly.
There is also a remix I did for SUFFER RING coming out sometime in early Spring as part of a Remix Compilation they’re putting out.
No release dates for any of the others yet.
Unfortunately, no events scheduled due to COVID, but fans can expect a few live DJ videos this year to make up for that. I’m really stoked for this year! The music I’ve been working on is better than anything I’ve made before! Seriously can’t wait to release these tracks, but all in due time! This is going to be a really good year!
Photos by Kelly Mason, unless otherwise indicated.