New, old-school band Kontusion is no stranger to the scene. Guitarist/vocalist Mark Bronzino is an underground, hardcore-punk pioneer from New Jersey who played in a slew of bigger metal bands—Mammoth Grinder and Iron Reagan, just to name a couple. He’s even collaborated with underground hip-hop weirdo Ghostemane.
In the early pandemic days of 2020, he teamed up with his old friend Chris Moore, drummer of Repulsion, Magrudergrind, Coke Bust, and many other bands, to start the old-school death metal band they’d been dreaming of for years … and Kontusion was born. We chatted with Bronzino about his history in the scene, his love of cannabis, and that one time he tripped in the woods.
Tell us more about your background in punk, hardcore, and metal, and your collaboration with Ghostemane. How did you get where you are today?
There was a thriving hardcore punk scene where I grew up at the Jersey Shore in the late ’90s. Kids were putting out their own records, booking their own shows and going on tour, and they weren’t much older than me. I had to be a part of it. My first records and tours were a part of this international DIY scene. It was a lot of fun, and I met lifelong friends in the process, including Chris.
There was no money in hardcore back then, I would support myself through a series of odd jobs: pizza delivery, screen printing, taste tester, etc., quitting when it was time to go on tour, or if lucky, getting the job back when I returned. Eventually I started getting offered paid gigs, playing lead guitar for metal bands and as a hired gun in the studio for indie rock and pop punk bands.
The non-stop touring and recording eventually caught the ears and attention of a simultaneous, but very separate underground scene sometimes referred to as “soundcloud rap.” After meeting Eric (Ghostemane) via FaceTime and countless discussions about hardcore, goth, and extreme metal, he invited me to play guitar on his next LP, which would become the N/O/I/S/E album. On that album, my guitar riffs referred heavily to my New Jersey hardcore roots.
Kontusion seems to be somewhat of a supergroup—can you talk more about how the band came about?
Chris and I met in our early 20s, and our bands would play together all the time. We both lived in DIY show houses, so we would be playing each other’s houses on tour, which became a regular stop over on the road. When we had extra time, we would jam on some Napalm Death-inspired riffs and talk about how cool it would be to play death metal the way we wanted to hear it. With gigs disappearing from the planet, we both found ourselves with more time and finally were able to get Kontusion off the ground.
Chris, our live bassist Matt, and myself have been touring and putting out records for well over a decade; if you think we are a supergroup and you wish to give us free weed and mushrooms, we will humbly accept.
What are some big plans you all have coming up in terms of records and touring?
We are in an extremely deep dive writing our first full-length, which we’ve been working on since before we released any music publicly. We wanted to get our ideas together and define our band and our sound before anyone has the chance to tell us what we are about. But most importantly, it sounds brutal as fuck.
We have a tour coming up in late April, and we’re looking to do a lot more touring nationally and internationally.
How do you advocate for weed and psychedelics, and why is it important to you? How do you highlight them through music?
If you want to smoke a joint, you should be able to smoke a joint. But it’s more than that. Legalize everything. The “War on Drugs” was a disaster; it destroyed communities by filling for-profit prisons disproportionately with people of color. The history of prohibition in the USA is the history of racism.
Music can be interpreted differently depending on the state of mind or experiences of the listener. If you turn up our EP really loud and hit the bong, the blast beats and distortion will wash over you in a singular cleansing wave.
What’s your favorite tour story surrounding either cannabis, psychedelics, or both?
Years ago, my D-beat hardcore band was touring the East Coast into Canada, and we were invited to play a festival out in the woods. There were mostly crust punk and grind bands on the bill, but there was still some of that train-hopping folk punk going on as well. The crowd consisted of decked out spiky punks, traveller kids, crusties, grind freaks and people looking for a good time.
We were getting ready to take the stage, which was crudely constructed out of what appeared to be two-by-fours, scrap wood, and held together by the spirit of DIY. I was approached by my friend SJ. “Hey bud, there’s some acid going around REAL cheap, and it’s really good; you want any?” After brief deliberation and taking inspiration from tales of Jimi Hendrix, we decided to all dose ourselves and get on stage.
None of us had ever tripped on stage before; we thought, if nothing else, it would be a good learning experience. We started the set: so far so good. “No problem,” I thought, “Probably won’t kick in ’til later.” The more I played, the more the hot sun beat down on the ramshackle, outdoor stage.
I looked down at my hands. “I” was still playing the guitar, but it was on some kind of alien-controlled autopilot. It reminded me of an experiment I saw on the internet where they gave a spider LSD, and it spun a new type of web formation. My guitar solos were like a new web. Leads and bends that I had never done before, phrasing I never even considered playing. A whole different guitar player standing on stage, performing our entire set.
When we got off stage, we could not stop laughing for the rest of the night. The festival became a camp-out when the sun went down, with bonfires and punks actually being nice to each other. A very positive, social, tripped-out experience.
What would you like the future of psychedelics legalization to look like?
I would like to see people freed who have been incarcerated for substances that are now (or will soon become) legal and reparations to families and communities of individuals who have lost years of their lives over prohibition. I would also like to see more funding for scientific research regarding psychedelics as mental health treatment. And personally, I would like to return to the Gathering of the Juggalos and smoke blunts, maybe do some of that clown acid.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Chris is sober, and I’m a space cadet. We’re a regular death metal odd couple over here.