The Niagara music scene is a tight-knit community full of musicians and bands. On the punk rock side of things, Niagara is home to Well and Wasted, who put together shows chock-full of local talent at The Geekery Pub in Niagara Falls. March 11 saw four killer acts (not including Well and Wasted) from around the region including Trigger Warning, Synergy of the Fallen, psychedelic doom rockers Slumber Dust and the progish hardcore punk band, Inhalants.
Inhalants play fast, precise and heavy, which creates harsh yet beautiful tapestries of music, rife with interesting lyrical themes and writing conventions. They are an example of what hardcore music has to offer the world, starting right here in Niagara. The self proclaimed “pretentious” members of Inhalants consist of singer and bassist Julian Özkur, guitarist Amir Bukhari, drummer Jordan Baum, and guitarist Jordin Borbely, who was sadly unable to play the Geekery show.
Özkur, a Brock student somewhere between Film Studies, Philosophy and Business Communication, says that his lyric writing takes a lot from his philosophy readings. Specifically, he references Professor Rajiv Kaushik’s Philosophy of Literature class which introduced him to Stéphane Mallarmé, a French poet who is one of Özkur’s favourite writers.
“A lot of it is based upon philosophy that I read: Nietzsche, Merlo-Ponti, a lot of phenomenology and philosophy of literature is really cool and is also something that was really captivating to me.”
“Also I tend to write a lot about music, because I just assume that’s what every lyricist is writing about. I’m always trying to express the images I get from the songs, because we always have the instrumentals first, I adapt poems that already exist to the songs” he adds.
Özkur says that his lyrics are mostly impressionistic with heavy doses of surrealism. Even though many of the bands that Inhalants are inspired by write very literal lyrics, Özkur says that he tries to find more creative ways to express himself, lots of which is inspired by psychedelic literature.
Bukhari, a recent graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programing program, is one half of the guitar work for the band and his chemistry with Borbely is unmatched.
“It’s crazy how well they fit together, they are like two puzzle pieces, we got really lucky,” notes Baum.
“I try to make visuals in my head and then I try to write guitar parts that fit those visuals in my head so if I want to write about me sitting on a cliff or something, I’ll try writing a guitar part that gives me that feeling,” says Bukhari.
The members of Inhalants have been working on a full length, 10-song LP for three or four years now (depending on who you ask), and will soon be embarking on a 45 date tour of the United States mid-West Rust Belt region in support of its release, going all the way from Syracuse to Chicago and back again.
The album is a long-time in the making and Özkur says that the band works slowly to ensure perfection. “We have a lot of conflict and discussion about how things should go, and it takes us a long time to really internalize a song that’s been around for a while and we’ll still be adding stuff. When we play live it’s totally different from the way we recorded it because we still change the songs we have.”
“I’m not comfortable putting out anything I’m not satisfied with,” adds Bukhari.
The band came together partially by accident in high school but have been close creative partners ever since.
“I took guitar in 12B because I needed a class to fill up my schedule so I just ended up taking guitar, and then I ended up having it with Jordin and I invited him over one day and was like ‘yeah, we should jam’, and I forgot I invited Julian over on the same day and then we all just ended up jamming together on the same day by accident,” says Baum.
Inhalants is a band with ideas and projects on the go.
For example Bukhari says, “Julian had this idea of having visuals behind us on stage, so he figured out that with a Sega Genesis you can glitch the visuals that are coming on the screen by just messing around with the Video RAM chip on it, but then we had this awesome idea of hooking our guitar into the Video RAM chip and having the guitar trigger those glitches, and we have it working and it’s awesome … sometimes we’ll play a note, and you can see the frequencies on the screen and it’s just Sonic running with these weird-ass glitches and stuff overtop of him.”
Although admitting, half-jokingly, that it sounds pretentious to say the band has a “diverse skill set” Özkur does so anyways because it fits their hardcore band image. Özkur does some LSDJ music which is similar to chip music like that of Anamanaguchi on top of some experience in hardware hacking. Partnered with Bukhari’s programming skills the band can actualize just about any project idea.
“We have a lot of these ambitions projects, we broke four Sega Genesis consoles so far and it’s ended up costing us $300 for the project for materials and then we’re still having to learn how to build circuits properly because that’s where we have been having the most issues. We also have plans to develop a video game and then remix the whole album on my Gameboy and stuff like that. Basically we just work so we can finance the stuff we want to do, which is play music and be creative.”