INTERVIEW: Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keogh and Holding Absence’s Lucas Woodland on How Anime Inspires Heavy Music
Music is an important part of anime and the love goes both ways
Article written and interview conducted by Crunchyroll Title Marketing Manager Alex Lebl.
Anime and heavy music have long gone hand in hand. Whether it be Maximum the Hormone’s absolute ripper “What’s up, people?” from Death Note, the more recent sensation that is “The Rumbling” by SiM for Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2, or even the OST from SABIKUI BISCO, anime has continually pushed the boundaries of heaviness emotionally and musically.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many musicians making rock and metal music are influenced by this medium of storytelling. I had the pleasure of sitting down with two such musicians, Lucas Woodland of Holding Absence and Lochie Keogh from Alpha Wolf, to talk about their latest split EP, The Lost & The Longing, and how anime and manga help to guide their creative process.
Crunchyroll: Could you please give an introduction and a brief description of your bands for our readers?
Lucas Woodland: My name is Lucas Woodland and I sing for Holding Absence. We’re like an emotional rock band from the UK, but we dip our toes in loads of different genres like metalcore, post-hardcore, emo, and all that kind of thing.
Lochie Keogh: My name is Lochie Keogh and I sing for Alpha Wolf. We’re more like an emotional mosh band that is half as pretty as Holding Absence, but on the angrier side [laughs].
So we’re speaking on the heels of the release of The Lost & The Longing (released August 15)! You don’t see too many split EPs like this, so I would love to get a sense of how that collaboration came about.
Woodland: Yeah! It’s kind of crazy how easy it was to get it all lined up. Both our bands released albums at the beginning of, or during, the pandemic, and I think we were both super proud of those records and we didn’t want to move on because we hadn’t really toured them very much? But at the same time, we knew we had to get new music out there. So it was a case of how we’re two bands that really try to do fun new things often and this felt like the most fun, most exciting new thing we could do.
Keogh: The amount of time had passed that you’d start writing and releasing new music, like a whole album package, but we were like, “We haven’t actually played these songs live yet!” When you put out an album, you want to get as much as you possibly can out of it before moving on to the next body of work. It was almost more personal.
As a fan of both of your bands, it’s so exciting to see you working together like this!
On this EP, there are tracks where you both feature on each other’s songs. Was that something that pushed you outside of your comfort zone a little bit more? Since your two bands are so different.
Keogh: Not really, although I was a bit nervous to be on something that is less low-end heavy and gnashing, so I had to adjust slightly for that. But at the same time, I trusted Holding Absence to utilize me well in their music.
Woodland: This was the first breakdown we ever wrote! (both laugh) We knew Lochie was coming on board so we knew we had to do the right thing.
I grew up listening to metalcore and it’s my favorite genre. All my life I wanted to be the singing guitarist in a metalcore band. I felt like this feature was really natural because this is something I’d been listening to my whole adult life.
Keogh: Yeah it’s in his bones.
The features definitely felt totally natural. And obviously, you’re both huge anime and manga fans. Was that something that came up early in conversations?
Keogh: We actually didn't speak about it at all because a lot of it came together with the business heads of our band. And then once we got our hands on the music, we were almost more focused on that. If it wound up sounding like it, it’s just because we’re weebs I guess (laughs).
Woodland: It was funny, though, because I didn't realize Lochie was into manga and anime at all until he posted something about Chainsaw Man and I’d just started reading it. So I was like, “Yooo!” This kind of extends to loads of different things, you know, for example, I really like football (or soccer) too, and I think when you're in an industry full of passion and then you see somebody has another passion that's the same as yours, it's like doubly cool because it's like you like music AND you like anime and manga as well.
Keogh: I didn't realize until you posted some Black Clover or something like that and I was just like, “Let’s gooo,” like, and it just made so much sense.
Ah I see. So you didn't talk about anime and manga early on, but since then have you talked about it more? Giving recs, talking about favorite shows and the like?
Keogh: Lucas actually put me onto a manga store in my own country that I didn't even know about. Then he got to go to when I was there. I think just in passing it's been like replying to stories like, “You should check out this,” or “Have you seen this?” or “Yeah, yeah. You'd like this.”
Woodland: It’s a weird one because there's SO much. And that's kind of why I love it because, like the chat, like the challenge is so exciting for me. Like, I've just started reading Dragon Ball Z properly, you know, and I'm on Cell now, and I know Majin Buu is coming and Frieza’s just happened. So I think it's one of those things where you can recommend 10 shows to somebody and they can recommend 10 completely different things back to you. And chances are you won't even read half of them or have the time to watch them. But I think that's kind of the fun of it is how much is on offer, you know?
Keogh: Yeah, it's so daunting because someone will tell you five manga you've never heard of before and say that they’re best, the best ever. And I still haven't read Dragon Ball or One Piece and all the big ones like that. And it's just like, “I'll get to that after this somehow.” I don't think I'll ever get through One Piece though.
Woodland: I can't even begin to look at One Piece. It feels like required reading, like when someone talks about Hamlet or something. I'll read One Piece someday, but at the moment, it’s just too heavy for me.
Keogh: I really almost feel like a fraud for having not read it (laughs). It's like that staple, I feel like if you read or watch one of the big three and you're in the clear.
Yeah, I’m going through One Piece now and there’s a lot of decisions being weighed up. But spending all that time with a title, you really get to feel it deeper than something that is one and done.
So this next two-part question is more about songwriting and how anime and manga kind of works its way into your kind of creative minds as well as your personal fandom.
Lucas, your lyrics are more introspective and about tapping into your own emotions and feelings. Has anime and manga kind of helped you get into a deeper layer of understanding of that approach and getting to know yourself a little bit better?
Woodland: To be honest, it had quite a profound effect on me and, I need to word this right, because it might seem really confusing, but when I read manga, I know that it's translated. So I know that it's not word for word what the author originally intended to be said, because obviously, the translation is always a bit subjective.
But it makes me think a lot about the way some things are worded, what they're actually saying underneath. So now when I write, every word really matters to me. And then the thought of those words getting translated and meaning something completely different to someone else.
It really makes you think about the message still, even if the wording isn't exactly the same. So it's kind of this weird thing where now I've started to think about, like, the sub-meaning of my lyrics because the words might mean something, but what does the actual meat underneath those stupid specific words mean?
Keogh: Yeah, like what is the essence of it?
Woodland: Another thing for me as well, and this is something that I've kind of realized that I've always gravitated towards, but because manga is so on the nose with its character arcs, and watching something go from A to Z and how they get there. I think that's something the people don't really value in Western culture quite as much. I think the point of a lot of manga is for a character to evolve, and I look at our music or albums or whatever and I think to myself, you know, when you look at Dragon Ball Z, you've got Frieza and then you've got Cell and then you got Majin Buu and there's this constant kind of change in how things are, and I think to myself, how can I apply that as an album?
Yeah, totally get that. You can definitely tell that, like from album to album, from song to song, the progression and the leveling up that you’re going for.
Lochie, same question but with a different approach because a lot of your lyrics and a lot of Alpha Wolf’s music is so in your face, does reading and watching titles like Chainsaw Man and JUJUTSU KAISEN feed that fire a little bit?
Keogh: I feel like I'm constantly trying to capture the hype and that viscerality in our music that I read and see in those two titles especially. There's something so chaotic but badass about Chainsaw Man. Like it makes no sense, but it makes total sense. But it's a dude with chainsaws flying out of his arms, like it's ridiculous, but it's the coolest thing you've ever seen.
I really love that over-the-top absurdity of manga a lot of the time where it's like, when you're so into the story, you don't care about how ridiculous things are getting or you don't care about this ridiculous thing I said because it makes total sense in context for the music. And if there's a blistering riff or breakdown happening and I don't just want to do some crazy scream, I want to say something that makes you go, “Whoa, that’s hype! That's crazy!”
There's so many lines and moments and fights that I literally stand up out of my seat and lose my mind, and I want to be able to just capture some of that electricity.
Especially lately, that's just something I've been trying to do more and more without literally just referencing the things that I've been reading and watching. So, it can be difficult, but at the same time, I think that's what I got with it. It's on the nose, and a lot of these stories are, and a lot of these moments that happen in the story also. I'm always trying to wrangle that in.
Woodland: Quick sorry because I can't do this right, but Alpha Wolf lyrics read like manga transcripts sometimes. I feel like if I said some of the lyrics that you guys say or just sounds so crazy (laughs).
Keogh: You see it in speech bubbles (laughs).
Woodland: That's kind of what I like with your music so much is that every line feels like some sentence screamed by some character as they put the sword in.
What do you think it is about heavy music that really kind of unites fans of anime and manga? Are they all chasing the same feelings you are?
Woodland: Seeing anime and manga and listening to music, the two things that people are drawn towards is emotional connection, for many different reasons. You could be emotionally connected to Holding Absence and Alpha Wolf for very different reasons. The emotion is still the important part and I think exactly the same with anime and manga where it's like there's always an emotional purpose underneath everything and I think that's a really important strand.
But then I think the people like us who listen to hardcore and read anime, there's never too much. I could listen to a hundred breakdowns a day and I wouldn't get sick of it or read 100 manga a day, I wouldn't get sick of it. And I think those are the two main things.
Keogh: And there's that there's so much of either that it's like, how could you get sick of it? You just find that you could just find something slightly different to what you've been consuming. And it's just like this is a whole new thing.
Woodland: It's the same whether you're watching slice-of-life or if you're just watching some crazy chainsaw getting ripped out someone's skull, you know, it's like it's the same format, but it's just very different emotions. And you can’t get sick of different emotions I don't think.
Anything to add to that, Lochie?
Keogh: I was going to say the same thing. It's just that feeling in your belly when something hype is happening. That's the emotional connection, I guess, whether it's just like anger or excitement or something going on. I don't know how the Japanese do it, but they've always had this craziness to their art forms, like even their music especially.
You see it in their manga and their anime. It knows what to do to get you like, “let's go!!” and then they'll pair the music with it too. But yeah, growing up I realized that it was predominantly a heavier genre and it was like some band with screaming in it or just like there might be a breakdown in the intro or some plot that's happening and it just makes sense.
It's loud and in-your-face and exciting, so it does that, and it's the same with any other genre. I know, not, like, not every slice-of-life has, like, post-hardcore playing behind it, but whatever the music they do have is marrying whatever emotion is conveyed to match the visuals.
Plus, anime intros are so hype themselves.
Woodland: Like you can't—it's like the one type of intro you cannot skip!
Keogh: Yeah, like it’s sacrilegious to skip this particular one, you gotta listen to the whole thing. Like there was one of the many anime Naruto openings and it was a band called Asian Kung Fu Generation. And to this day it is one of my favorite songs ever. Outside of the anime Naruto context, like it bangs, like it's so sick and the idea that they just, they just hit the nail on the head with the—the hype aspect of it.
Well, we’ve reached the end of my questions! Any final thoughts or any messages to the people that will be reading this interview?
Woodland: If you dig heavy music or whatever and anime, big love for you. I think there's nothing cooler than connecting with somebody over something you love. But connecting with somebody on two things that you love is just—like it is just rare as hell, you know?
Keogh: Yeah, anybody who happens to be checking this out and doesn't know either of our bands give us a spin! Put us on while you’re reading manga or something. Because that's half our incentive when we're writing!
Alpha Wolf & Holding Absence’s split EP, The Lost & The Longing, is out now via Sharptone Records.