Ed. ~ We sent one of our intrepid photojournalists, Chad Kessler, out to do an interview with Columbus rock duo Iconolous, comprised of guitarist Mark Hill and drummer Matthew Kotaka. Here is what he found…
Wow. Thirty seconds into a rough cut of one of their new recordings and I’m already blown away. Despite being a genre of music I’ve never been deeply drawn to, I’m immediately hooked.
Listening to their first release, Easy Company (2019), it’s easy to see the progression from Led Zeppelin to Jack White to Greta Van Fleet. However, while Jack White feels more like an homage, GVF feels something like a facsimile of something left well enough alone.
But, these guys had the opposite effect on me and I immediately wanted to know more about them and their story as well hear what they were currently working on.
Upon first listen, I had absolutely no idea how old anyone in the band was. As it turns out, they are just 18 years of age. Am I that old or just not that young anymore? It’s definitely refreshing to see hope for rock music from a generation that seems willing to leave it in the past.
I went back and forth with front-man Mark Hill via email and this is what he had to say.
You both seem very mature, not just musically but also philosophically. That’s not something you encounter a lot with younger artists. Is there anything or anyone you can attribute that to?
Mark Hill: From a very young age, my parents always said that I was born in 1960. I honestly always showed interest in more adult topics, and was captivated by those things from very early in my life. Matthew and I both had role models who are very philosophically sound, like Neil Peart, Carl Jung, and particularly my father. As such, we both grew very quickly past the stage of being teenagers with a desire of messing around and embraced our burning desire for music, deciding that we have no choice but to force that dream in to reality.
After listening to another interview where you touch on classical music, are there any other bands or artists people would be surprised to know you’re into?
MH: My listening recently has been almost entirely captivated by the kings of prog: Rush, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, Tool, etc. Based off our first album, those things would certainly come as a surprise to most. Matthew’s average listening is far more broad as of late, covering everything from all of the band’s I just mentioned to Donovan and The Beach Boys. He’s also very entranced with jazz, like Krupa and Rich. Probably the most surprising would be both of our fascinations with classical music.
What’s the first first instrument you learned to play, and what is something you wish you could play?
MH: My dad had been supplying me with musical instruments throughout my entire life. He said from not long after I was born that he knew where my destiny lay. However, I had not shown lasting interest in any of them, whether it be drums or guitar, which were technically my firsts.
Really, the first instrument I knew how to play was alto saxophone in sixth grade. Matthew had been playing percussion since a little before that same time. I don’t actively play anything other than guitar and bass, and keys when something in our music calls for it, but really any stringed instrument is easy to figure out using guitar theory.
Matthew plays all different types of percussion, as well as bass (upright and electric), keys, and loosely plays guitar. We like to be jacks of all trades, although drums elude me personally.
Is there anything else you have time for, or is it just music 24/7? I feel like most artists are artists whenever they are awake. What are you thinking about when you are not completely deep in music?
MH: It really is just music. That is just about all we do or think about, from dawn until bed, and we dream about the stuff too!
We have other interests, for sure, like Matthew is in love with bird-watching and fishing, and I’m a huge fan of gardening, and hands-on work. And, there’s more spiritual pursuits we both share, such as meditation.
Matthew and I both like to set aside time to read every day as best we can, but in reality that is mainly just to serve our music lyrically and thematically. As of right now we don’t have any time for most of these other things. But we aren’t complaining, of course! How could we? We set it up that way!
After going back and forth with Mark, I can see these guys have their heads and hearts in the right place and it really shows through their music. I could ask them questions all day, but the best way to get a feel for them is to just jump right in.
Start with last year’s Easy Company because… well that’s your only option right now, but stay tuned for new material in the works. I got to hear some demos and have to say, they aren’t done growing as musicians and humans, and I’m excited to see where they go.
Columbus seems blessed with a lot of young talent right now and you can add Iconolous to the roster.
Iconolous – Maid