Hardcore Keem Talks Racism in Metal, Addresses Irate Festival, and Shines a Light on Up and Coming Bands


Sterling Stetar

Keem at Sunshine Studio, Co

Keem at Sunshine Studio, Co (Sterling Stetar)

Hardcore Keem is a metal musician and content creator. He has streams on Twitch and is an official member of The Browning.

Joaquin: When did you first start getting into metal?

Keem: Back in like 2009, the first real metalcore song I heard was The Devil Wears Prada, “Still Fly.” It was like a cover song they did. It was like a rap album, it just covered it into a metal version. And that’s when I fell in love with metalcore and that’s really what started the heavier side of music for me.

Joaquin: When did you start making content and then when did you start making metal-related content?

Keem: Back when Vine was like poppin’ I always made content, but I always made funny videos. I did a lot of Batman videos because I’m a huge Batman fan and I did a lot of Batman-related videos. I still have them archived on my Instagram. And then back in 2018 I was like, “You know what, I want to, you know, make a YouTube channel.” So, with that, when I first started, I didn’t want to do reactions. Because I was like, “People do reactions,” but I wanted to do something else. So what I did was I used to go out in public and like mosh to bands, until I started getting kicked out of places and I’m like, “Well, I really can’t do this long term.” I think I posted my first reaction in either June or July because I created the channel in June or July. So it was like a month after that. People started to like it so I just kept going.

Joaquin: How do you feel about racism in metal?

Keem: I mean, it’s definitely there. Especially some shows. Because, you know, when I first started going to shows, it was me and one other colored person. So it’s definitely there. You definitely see it and like when you’re pitting sometimes like there’s targeting or sometimes you will feel like such an outcast. Let’s say you fall, nobody picks you up. That definitely has happened to me before. It is like “yo, like, what did I do? You fall down, everybody helps you up. I fall down and no one helps me up.” It’s changing though, which I absolutely love, there’s definitely more inclusiveness now then, you know, say 10 years ago. But a lot of [people of color] go to shows and we decided we’re gonna stick together. At the end of the day, we’re just all there to have a good time. So let’s just rock.

Joaquin: What are some ways to combat racism in metal?

Keem: Stomp it out really. We’ve been doing it and we gotta keep on doing it. I just feel that the people that are just being racist need to grow up. If you really hate somebody and you don’t even know their name and you just automatically hate them, grow up. Like hate on something that’s worth hating on.

Joaquin: How did your feature on the song “Eradicate The Klan” by Kind Eyes come to exist?

Keem: They messaged me, I think at the time I had like a manager and he told me about it, and I had never heard of them and when I heard the song, I was like “Yeah, this is fire I gotta do this,” because I’ve never heard a band so blatantly be like, “Yo f the Klan.” They embrace themselves like, heck yeah, I like it and especially Murphy being like a black front person. I was like “Oh yeah, there’s no way I’m turning this down.” Shoutout to Kind Eyes.

Joaquin: When did you join The Browning?

Keem: I officially joined The Browning in March but it wasn’t announced till like, I think April or May. Me and Johnny have always been talking because I went on his podcast two years ago. That’s how he had my number. We always just talked here and there. But like, in the beginning of the year, we really, really started talking. He was like “Hey, The Browning is gonna do a tour in July and we don’t have a bassist, would you want to play?” and I’m like, “Are you serious? I’ve been listening to The Browning since I was in middle school, of course!” And I asked “Is this like a permanent thing or what?” he’s like “Yeah,” and I said “Oh sick.” It’s still surreal to this day. We did the tour and it’s still surreal to me, I loved every minute of it.

Joaquin: Do you have any new information to share with us about The Browning or any festivals you are MC’ing?

Keem: So as far as The Browning he writes on Twitch and he has people put input. That’s how he does it. So music is being written. As far as MC’ing, I’m trying to get on Blue Ridge, Furnace Fest, you know, I’m ready to control the reigns of the crowd, let’s go!

Joaquin: Can I ask what happened with the Irate Festival?

Keem: Absolutely, that was a dumpster fire from the beginning. When we first got approached about Irate I was totally on board, but, you know, once we start seeing all these bands being confirmed, it was like “there’s something up,” like all these huge acts all in this one place. It started to look a little suspect and then it really got suspect. I was like “Yo, this is kind of weird,” and when I saw the live video of where everybody was going to be, where we were going to be playing everything. It was so small for the amount of people that were going to be there. I think it was like a week before the festival was going to happen, that’s when the festival went crashing so, so fast. It was crazy because when that happened, I didn’t even know because I have all my socials to post and then I usually get off them like, I have kids so, you know. I remember I was on stream and people said “Are you still hosting after what happened?” I was like “What are you talking about? What happened?” People told me what happened. Like there were some allegations and stuff like that. I was like, no, I can’t tie myself to that. I was hosting and they thought I was the one who put it together. They didn’t know I wasn’t the person who actually put it together. So some people were blaming me. I had no idea. I was like “Wait a minute. I’m just hosting.” Like, I was just going to show up. I had no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. So yeah, that crashed and burned real fast and as crazy as it was that was the most I had seen the scene come together.

Joaquin: You are one of the biggest names in the scene, you have accumulated over 100,000 followers on instagram, and you are followed by some of the most famous people in the scene. How does that feel?

Keem: It feels weird. It still feels weird to this day because like, I don’t let that get to me. Fame gets to people and I will not let it get that way to me. I have so many people coming up to me and saying “Hardcore Keem can I have a picture?” Like yeah, of course! I will never take this, where I am, for granted. I always will take a picture with somebody, always show love, but I don’t want to be put on a pedestal because I feel like it’s not really me. I think I’m just a middleman for like the smaller bands because 99% of my content is underground bands. I’m just that middleman. So I’m glad to be that middleman. I just shine lights on smaller bands. And the fact that these notable people with huge bands follow me and see these up and coming bands, that’s how connections start, the Hardcore Keem channel. I absolutely love it.

Joaquin: What is your biggest inspiration?

Keem: So right now it’s my kids. I want them to grow up and be proud of me, but before I had kids, my biggest inspiration was just getting to the next level and not wanting to be stuck in this mold. I want to bring positivity to what people assume is a negative space. You know, because when somebody listens to heavy music like deathcore they automatically think “Oh, it sounds terrible.” But if I can put a positive spin on it hopefully they think “this actually does sound good.” It brings in more people so that’s also a huge motivation for me to keep on going.

Joaquin: Do you have anything to say to people who love metal but are super insecure about it or are not into it?

Keem: Oh, I completely understand because when I first started telling people about metal, first thing they would say was “white boy white boy,” like what? What does that do? Just be yourself. The best thing you can do for yourself is be yourself because as soon as you start being insecure about it and as soon as you’re like “Do I really like metal?” Or like as soon as you try to put it away, that’s you letting other people tell you who you are. So as long as you be yourself you’ll be so much happier and will have fun. Think about it. Who cares? At the end of the day when you die there’s no bunk bed caskets. It’s only one, so who cares. So, you know, just have fun. If you don’t like metal it’s not for everyone, we completely understand it’s different but the umbrella is wide you could like the softer stuff, the heavier stuff, and everything in between.


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