“In Japanese folklore, the Oni is a malevolent shape-shifting 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.”
Taking form in 2014, Jake Oni pulled together a group of heavy hitting musicians to put together a band that sounded like nothing he’d ever heard before. A sound that combines multiple aspects of all metal genres to create something that’s unique in the greatest way possible. It’s a sound that will move even the heaviest hitting of metal heads. With Jake Oni handling vocal duties, Martin Andres and Brandon White on guitar, Chase Bryant on bass and Joe Greulich on drums, they are also perhaps the first metal band to feature a Xylo-synth player, in the form of Johnny D, which adds an intriguing dynamic to the band’s sound. Last November, ONI released their debut album, “Ironshore”, and they’ve been flying high ever since. This summer they’re booked to play multiple European festivals and are embarking on a tour with metal legends, Gojira. Dylan Lyles of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Oni’s Jake Oni to discuss the band’s passion for music, love of cinema and video games.
We always like to learn where a musician is coming from. Take us back to your earlier years. What are your first memories of music?
My first memory, I think being interested in live music. I went to see Linkin Park when I was about 12 with my best friend. Things obviously changed but from there as I got into heavier and darker music.
What types of music or bands had a big impact on your in the creative sense early on in life?
I’ve always been a Slipknot fan for as long as I can remember. The first couple of Linkin Park records were something I gravitated to as a kid and really enjoyed the clean singing. Killswitch Engage was another band I listened to a bunch.
What was the moment like when you discovered, this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve always loved the arts and being creative. I studied film at university but after I got out, the band kind of happened just went with it. I came up with the concept and worked on the edit of “The Only Cure” video. The moment never really happened – this was a part of me from day one.
What brought you guys together as a band?
I hit up two of my best buddies who are no longer in the band anymore and then hit up Martin and Chase over Facebook. Brandon came in a little later. Chase hit up John D and Joe. It was a no-brainer bringing John into the mix, the rest is kind of history. I forget sometimes how the band was formed- It feels like it’s been so long and many things have changed since the inception.
The “oni” is a well-known demon in Japanese folklore, and is even represented on the cover art for your debut full length, “Ironshore”. It’s obvious that this mythology had an influence on you guys as a band, but how did this come to be? Was this something that was stumbled across, or was their always an interest in Japanese Mythology?
I watched a lot of anime as a kid and one program that was always a favorite was ‘Veroni Tension.’ My favorite was a character by the name of Hania, who is the first hyper Japanese demon dude I’ve ever seen. Hania and ONI are not the same thing but they have a similar look. I wanted to use that as a symbol in the metal world because it is such a dark and deep visual. I think the colors are very similar to metal music and I remember mentioning it to the guys and we all liked it. We all thought a short name would be better rather than a long name. An oni is a demon/devil and I always thought it represents the sound and show we put on out on the stage.
I’ve been listening to “Ironshore” non-stop when I was turned onto it. While the entire album is fantastic, “Spawn and Feed” stands out as my personal favorite. Your sound is incredible. The mixture of all things heavy with that prog sound, it’s extremely impressive. What are some of your personal influences and what influenced your sound as a whole?
We all have different musical interests and when we come together there’s a clash of those differences which is what gives us our sound. The xylosynth is our secret weapon – if you haven’t seen John play it, it’s a sight to be seen.
We’ve talked about the debut album, “Ironshore” a bit already. It’s definitely in regular rotation for me. However, for our audience who may not have heard it for themselves, how would you describe this record?
I always wanted ONI to be the band I never got to see or hear and Ironshore represents that. I would like to describe it as an eclectic mix of all of our styles and a great start. I am so happy that people like it as much as they do. I like to think it’s a good interpretation of whom we were at that time and who we are now. I definitely put a lot of my soul into the lyrics.
Switching gears a bit, let’s talk touring. You guys have a bunch of shows coming up in both Europe and America, including The MAGMA Tour with one of my all-time favorite bands, Gojira. What are some of the band’s goals as you finish out these summer shows?
I am a huge Gojira fan myself. Our goal this year is to play as much as possible. We don’t know how long this could last and we are so lucky to be in the position we are in today. We are enjoying it and want to keep pushing the envelope and hopefully leave something behind that could stand the test of time.
Continuing with “tour talk”, how do you guys prep for a tour and get in the mindset of traveling the land for weeks and months on end?
We all try to enjoy the time off when we are home with family before we go back out. I am in lucky position to be in a band with 5 of my good friends but time away is important. We usually rehearse for a week to 3 days prior to a run.
Now you guys have been around since 2014, what is the wildest thing that has ever happened to you guys on tour?
That I can say in print? Hmmm…. getting body slammed by Howard Jones.
Have you guys ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where something completely unexpected happens on stage?
There is always those Spinal Tap moments on stage. Touring seems super fun but it’s a lot of work and it’s easy to lose track of time and location if you don’t make a point to know.
You guys have a lot of hours to kill on the road when not performing. I’ve heard you guys, both on the road and at home, are avid movie watchers and gamers. What type of flicks do you guys gravitate towards?
I have a huge collection of films and always watching them and I always have something on often in the background. John is a huge movie buff – he loves it all: rom-coms, horror, drama, hockey highlights. We try to catch all go to the movies together when we have days off on the road.
As hard of a question as it may be, what are some of your favorite films of all time?
Favorite movie of all time would be ‘Lords of Dogtown.’ it’s about skateboarding in the 70’s in California and Heath Ledger is in it. Those dudes were so sick!
How about the opposite? Any movies you guys despise that everyone else seems to love?
I like most movies but I fucking hate ‘The Avengers’ but everyone seems to love them. They fucking suck. Also, I’ll go on record and admit I did fall asleep in ‘Rogue One.’
Let’s move into gaming. What genres of games do you guys like to play?
I’m a big fan of first-person shooters like ‘Destiny,’ ‘Halo’ and ‘Call of Duty.’ I also can get down with a good RPG. I’m a huge Pokemon head but then there are times when FIFA and some hockey games are fun as well.
What are some of your personal favorites and the collective favorites of the band?
All ‘Pokemon’ games, original red and blue and X and Y. ‘Destiny,’ I’ve been playing since it came out a few years ago and I’ve put many hours into that game. On the road we play ‘Mortal Kombat’ since we often don’t have WIFI on the bus. Also, I recently got back into ‘Showdown’ online.
Most gamers have that one game they always go back to, no matter what. What is that game for you?
It’s usually between ‘Destiny’ and ‘Showdown.’ I’m always taking breaks and coming back to them. I am usually one of the last guys left on the server when everyone has stopped playing it. ‘Destiny 2’ is about to be out on July 18th and I’ll probably go get on that motherfucker!
Moving back to music a bit. I know that “Ironshore” just dropped last November, but is there anything you guys currently have in the works?
When we get off tour this summer, we meeting and starting the writing process. We should hopefully have something for you guys in 2018.
What can we expect from ONI in the not to distant future?
We will be in Europe playing some of the festivals there this summer then we have a few dates in the U.S with Gojira. Knotfest (US) just recently announced which we are a part of! We’re going to do a little more touring then taking some time off to continue writing.
Looking back on everything that’s taken place these past few years, what can you say stands as your creative milestones?
Creatively I have many, but to list a couple: Working with Josh Wilbur on our debut album and writing and scripting “The Only Cure” music video. We are always working and there are more exciting things on the forefront.
Thanks for your time guys, where are the best places for us to follow your bad ass adventures online?
Thank you for the support and interest in our band. For more information check out our website — www.theoniband.com. We are also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can find our record online on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music.