Do you love metal?! Do you love comics?! If you answered “yes” to both of those questions then you’re awesome, and you’re also in the right place right now! Check out our interview with Aub Driver, lead vocalist for Portland metal band JAHAI!
4LN – Do you remember when you first got into comics?
AD – Totally. It was 1992 and I was 8 years old. There was this little corner grocery called Calise’s down the street from where I grew up in Connecticut. I used to go there with my Dad and beg him to buy me the “Death of Superman” issues. Then I got hooked on the Ghost Rider “Spirits of Vengeance” story, and shortly thereafter the Spider-Man “Maximum Carnage” storyline. Terribly convoluted crossovers really seemed to resonate with my young mind. I can hardly read them now. I was always more a fan of the art. In fact, I used to trade the collectible Marvel Masterpiece cards with friends on the playground and eventually got all comics/cards banned in school. Too many bad trades, man. Then along came Pogs…and Yo-Yo’s with brains…and Tamagotchis and whatever other pop culture flavors of the week happened in the 90’s and I just went straight into music.
4LN – If you had to pick an all-time favorite comic series or graphic novel, what would it/they be?
AD – My all time favorite comics character is Ghost Rider (The Dan Ketch/Howard Mackie years). I liked the origin story well enough, but his character design was just metal to the extreme. A close second would be Deadpool. And when I say Deadpool, I don’t mean the wildly popular shit that everyone is jumping on now (though I have hopes for the film…we shall see). I mean Deadpool circa 1993 Circle Chase. My mom hand-sewed me a Deadpool Halloween costume in 1993 — so I feel safe in saying that I was cosplaying way before it was cool. I was the coolest 3rd grader, or so I thought.
4LN – Let’s chat for a minute about the band you’re in, JAHAI. How did you guys first get started?
AD – I actually joined the 3rd generation of the band. I’d met lead guitarist (Nikk) at a pop punk show. He was playing bass in another band and we got to talking – he needed a vocalist that could deliver, and I told him I could. That was in 2012. Here we are in 2015, just released our first EP called “Death and Entrances.”
We’re a 5-piece melodic groove metal band from Rose City. Nikk, Jon (Drummer), Loyd (Bass) and Jake (Guitars) had all been jamming for a year before I got in the picture. Nikk & Jon have been playing together since 2002.
And of course, you want to know about the name… Word on the street is Nikk & Jon were working late one night at the steel mill (yea, they made bomb proof steel plating and shit) and they were trying to come up with a band name – so they asked the asian cleaning lady and she said “JAHAI!”
That’s one version.
The other version is that the Jahai are a native tribe of nomadic shaman hunters in Malaysia. I think in a way all the dudes in this band are some version of nomads, shamans or hunters. A few are all three.
4LN – Growing up, what bands would you say had the biggest impact on shaping your love of metal?
AD – My love of metal is a weird story. In fact, I think most metalheads have weird origin stories of how they eventually go from nursery rhymes to loving, say Cannibal Corpse (which incidentally, I began listening to because of their appearance in Ace Ventura)
In 1994, My mom worked for Time Warner and used to bring home boxes of CDs (Compact Discs, if you remember) and she would let me go through them and take what I wanted. Well, I swiped the entire 27-volume Guitar Rock Time Life set (the one you could order on late night) and listened to every CD from the 60’s up to the late 80’s and was totally loving all the variations of music. I really developed a respect for generational rock.
In 1997, I was on a YMCA swim team. I was in the locker room and there were all these extra refrigerators and freezers that weren’t in use – like the sliding kind you get ice cream from. I looked inside one fridge and pulled out a frozen Metallica Black Album on cassette tape. It was King Arthur finding Excalibur. I brought it home and played it immediately. Life was never the same (talk about trapped under ice!)
The “metal switch” came about in 2000. I had a friend tell me about Meshuggah’s Destroy Erase Improve, which I went and ordered from Sam Goody (R.I.P.) immediately. Changed my life forever. I also was working in the stockroom at Barnes and Noble and met a couple dudes who introduced me to In Flames Clayman. Boom. Life changed forever – again. Now that I understood that Sweden was the answer to every musical question, I couldn’t turn back. I had a radio show in college where practically all I would play was Swedish Death Metal.
4LN – In addition to being the vocalist for JAHAI, you also do PR for Dark Horse Comics. What Dark Horse books we should be reading right now?
AD – There are so many great books out on comic store shelves now, it’s kind of unreal… At Dark Horse I’m personally a fan of Cullen Bunn’s Harrow County (super creepy southern horror) and Ryan K Lindsay’s Negative Space (Suicide suspense story with some Lovecraft). Paul Tobin’s Colder has been one of the best cerebral horror books I’ve read – and the last series begins in September. And I should call out Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal’s The Paybacks – because it is damn funny and superhero’s getting their gadgets REPO’d is a hilarious premise. That one also begins September.
4LN – Finally, anything we should be on the lookout for from JAHAI in the next year or so?
AD – We’re headed to Seattle Hempfest this weekend to play in front of a couple thousand stoned metalheads – I think that will be pretty beneficial for us. There’s a a few local shows that are coming up with some national acts. Following that we’re looking at a couple mini west coast tours. And then we’re back in the studio to record our next EP…which hopefully will be released early next year. And new EP means new tour…Good things come to those who wait. Stay metal.
Album cover for JAHAI’s EP, “Death and Entrances”.
My thanks to Aub for chatting with us! Make sure to check out the band’s website, JAHAI.net
, and watch their video for the song Pandora’s Box below!