Interview: Kharma's Jordan Moten on Their New EP "Most Dangerous Game," Activism, Chicago Hardcore, and More

(Photo credit: Tony Truty)

Kharma are a band that needs very little introduction on this blog. We’ve featured the metallic hardcore quintet multiple times, and, as one of the most devoted and talented active Chicago bands - it’s well deserved.

With their newest release, Most Dangerous Game, Kharma have done it again, putting out another well-constructed EP that showcases their unique style. Blending inspiration from New York hardcore classics, as well as vocalist Jordan Moten’s signature hip-hop influenced vocal delivery, this release is a statement that is impossible to miss.

Check out the interview to hear Jordan speak on topics ranging from what went into creating Most Dangerous Game, anti-racist activism beyond protesting, coming up in the Chicago scene, and more.

AA: Introduce yourself with your name and what you do in Kharma.

JM: I’m Jordan, I sing in Kharma, we’re a band from Chicago.

AA: Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on you?

JM: The first show that got me into hardcore was… I forget who else was on the bill, but it was in Mojoe’s in Joliet, and Terror played. That was the first hardcore band I saw, and I was like… damn. That’s it right there. [laughs]

AA: Since the release of Moment of Violence, you’ve had a few lineup changes. How has that affected Kharma as a band?

JM: I think we’re the best lineup Kharma’s ever been right now for sure. We didn’t really get to play many shows with this lineup, we did like LDB and a small run with Madball, but it feels the best so far right now, especially after recording the record. It just has the vibe of, “this is the way it was meant to be.” 

AA: I know you usually tend to write all the music and lyrics for Kharma. Do you still do that, or has it been more collaborative with the new faces?

JM: Nah, I still wrote everything on Most Dangerous Game. It’s me writing everything and giving it to the guys, and they like, tweak it where they find necessary, that type of thing.

AA: What made you guys want to work with Flatspot?

JM: We recorded the record in January, and then we were kinda sitting on it for a little bit after, just trying to decide how we wanted to do it. We wanted to send it around labels, so we had [James] Vitalo, he sang in Backtrack - he got us in contact with a bunch of labels, and then Ricky [Singh] was the first one that reached back to us about it. Flatspot was always a label that I’ve been heavily into. So many bands that I love were released on Flatspot. So, once we started talking back and forth, me and Ricky did an hour long call, and after that, I could tell his vibe was really on point with how our vision was. So from there, I was like… Ahh, this is the right place for us.

Most Dangerous Game album artwork

AA: What was the writing/recording process like for Most Dangerous Game?

JM: The writing process was me just rewriting every song like 500 times, because I’m very specific on what happens in the Kharma songs, because… [laughs] I don’t know, I’m just picky I guess, but we probably had the songs written for like a year prior to recording it, or maybe even more. ‘Cause we played “Guilty By Association” at LDB… 2019, I think it was. So we've had that song for a minute.

It was just me rewriting all those songs and making sure they’re the best they could be, then we hit the studio with Andy Nelson at Bricktop [in Chicago]. He used to be in Weekend Nachos and a few other bands, but it was dope to work with him. He was very hands-on. He didn't just hit record, he really gave us input and ideas to make the overall product better.

AA: What kind of things influenced you musically on this EP?

JM: This sound, I really wanted to make it more of a straightforward, faster paced, more intense record. So, every song on the record is really fast paced, but still has that same Kharma vibe to it. I don’t know, I like a lot of heavy New York hardcore stuff… Everybody Gets Hurt, Billy Club Sandwich, Neglect, all that type of stuff.

AA: It looks like all of the songs are new, except for “Slave 2 Society.” What made you guys want to rerecord that one?

JM: So… I think we all wrote that song when we were, like, 17-18. [laughs] … And that was, like, the only song off that record besides “12” that really stood the test of time. Over time, we just started playing it so much differently live, and people still were going off for it, so we were like, [laughs] … might as well just record it the way we play it now and put it out on this record, because the song’s still dope, and the lyrics still ring true, so it just felt right.

AA: Right out of the gate, Kharma has always been a very politically aware band, even in a period when police brutality wasn’t really a hot topic of conversation to a lot of hardcore bands. What made you want to start speaking up about these issues?

JM: It’s like, I never actively chose to do that. It was just something that always was important to me, so it just kinda happened. Being a black man in the US, that's just something you see every day, and you can't get away from it, so when I write lyrics, it’s just me kinda stream-of-consciousness writing about what I’m feeling and seeing around me, so that just kinda naturally happens because it’s something that [I] gotta deal with every day.

AA: I think we can probably agree that there were some people participating in the movement when it was “trendy” to do so. Now that that period is fizzling out, what do you think people should be doing to keep that movement and conversation going?

JM: I think just staying involved and making sure it’s being handled correctly in your community first, and making sure that if things like that are going down on a grassroots level where you can affect it, that's where you should place your attention first, because that’s where you can make the most impact. There's [also] so many bond funds or community outreach programs around the country, [and those programs] will be just as much help as the bond funds and everything. … It's important to keep people in a good mindframe because, with all this shit happening, it's very easy to feel helpless,especially if you’re in a situation where the police are actively targeting you. So, [look for] anything in your community where there's a group. In the city of Chicago, there’s a group called GoodKids MadCity, and it's an organization that fights against police brutality and gun violence, helps single mothers, all that type of stuff, and that stuff is just as important as going out to a protest or posting about it online.

AA: Yeah! Helping out with stuff that’s in your community right now, versus waiting around for another protest to come.

JM: Yeah, for sure.

AA: What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the Chicago scene? What do you think of it in general?

JM: The Chicago scene is so dope. It’s been really cool to get to become friends with all the bands that I grew up looking up to in the Chicago scene, like Bitter Thoughts, all the dudes in that band, and everybody in MH Chaos now. I've been seeing those guys in bands, getting my ass beat by them [laughs] … Since I was like 16-17, having them mosh on me at shows and shit. So, to be older now and have those dudes as homies, it all came full circle kinda. And it’s cool to see - when shows were still happening - a lot of younger kids, younger-than-me kids, were starting to come out, so I feel like the Chicago scene is like a never-ending cycle. Like, it’s pretty constant with the support it gets, which is pretty dope.

(Photo credit: Tony Truty)

AA: If you could host a show post-quarantine with any 5-6 artists of any genre, who would play, and where would it be?

JM: Any genre… fuck, that makes it harder. [laughs] 

AA: [laughs] If you wanna narrow it down to hardcore to make it easier you can! But also the last band I asked this put Juice Wrld on a hardcore show, so… [laughs]

JM: I, no bullshit, DMed Juice Wrld like, 2 years ago, and was like, yo, play The Rumble. He didn’t respond. [laughs] But, uh, damn. Let me think let me think… That’s a hard question.

Alright, so I’ll do MH Chaos, Kharma, Purgatory, Enervate - that band from Milwaukee - them opening, and then … The Killer and Benny the Butcher headlining, because that’s all I’ve been listening to, that Benny the Butcher record. So, a little bit of non-hardcore. [laughs]

AA:  Where would you put it?

JM: Cobra Lounge, I guess! That's the only option that I think is feasible. [laughs]

AA: I know there’s not a lot going on with COVID, but I always ask this anyway - any other plans coming up?

JM: Uhhh… Nah, literally nothing. [laughs] I’m gonna punish everybody’s timeline reposting our record every day for the next, like, 6 months. That’s all I got.

AA: Anything else you’d like to say?

JM: Listen to Most Dangerous Game, shoutout Chicago hardcore, Indiana hardcore, Wisconsin hardcore, Milwaukee… Listen to Griselda, the best rap group out. Yeah, that’s it. [laughs]

Thank you again to Jordan for doing this interview! This was my first time interviewing the same person twice - the first time was in zine #1 in 2017 - and it was mad interesting to catch up and see how things have changed (and stayed the same) as they’ve matured as a band. Besides that, Kharma are one of my favorite Chicago locals, and it’s always sick to hear new music from them.

You can keep up with the band on social media by following the links below:

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Bandcamp

Additionally, you can stream Most Dangerous Game via Spotify below:



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