INTERVIEW: Blackcat Manor

By Maddie Birkett

“Blackcat Manor is a hardcore punk band from Freeport, Illinois. Formed in 2013, Blackcat Manor’s music is a powder keg of raw emotion. Socially conscious lyrics set to blistering riffs and melodic breaks showcase the wide range of influences that pour out of these passionate musicians. They released their debut self-titled EP in 2014, followed by Relentless  in 2016. Their high energy live performances draw crowds all over the Midwest.”

Blackcat Manor is: Mike Hartwig (guitar), Jake Kayes (guitar), Lucas Keister (bass), Justin Luecke (drums), and Kris Valkema (vocals)



You’ve all had experience in the music industry before forming Blackcat Manor, how did this help when creating the band?

While growing up together as musicians in different bands, we always followed and supported  each others projects. Until one day the three of us(Jake, Mike & Kris) found the other two( Luke & Justin) were available and we all kind of seized the opportunity to collaborate. We found out early on that there is this unexplained energy that drives the five of us.

Where did the name Blackcat Manor come from?

The name came from our drummer Justin. Blackcat Manor is a metaphor for a place in all of us where there are no outsiders and everyone is allowed to be free, as opposed to an actual physical place.

Who are your musical influences?

Our influences include , but are not limited to 80’s thrash, Hardcore, and our love of 90’s Skate Punk bands like No Use For A Name and StrungOut to name a few.

Being located in North West Illinois, is it difficult to promote the band compared to being in a big city and doing shows in bigger locations?

As far as promoting from a small town goes, we rely mostly on the internet and word of mouth. We try and schedule as many shows out of town as possible because you can only go so far in a small town. WE do however have massive support from our hometown and will always perform in Freeport, IL.

I love that there’s such power in the music you play because you want the message you’re conveying to be equally powerful. What was the overall message in ‘Hellfire’?

HellFire deals with a lot of self esteem and confidence issues set inside an existential battle of Good vs. Evil in today’s modern society.



‘Hellfire’ was featured on the newest season of American Horror Story, what an achievement! How did this opportunity come about?

AHS was a total surprise to us. Our Drummer Justin, contacted an old friend.  He and his wife work on audio for movies and tv shows. His wife was looking for a song during the grocery store scene in season 7 episode 1. He suggested his wife take a listen. She enjoyed  it, and cut it to a sample clip to show her boss and possibly the creator. The rest is history.

How does it feel knowing that millions of people have heard your song?
The AHS Hellfire premiere was one of those surreal moments that you’ll never forget. The fact that millions of people heard something created by Blackcat Manor was a tremendous win for our band. So many people have reached out since the premiere. We make new friends every day, it’s great.

I Love the ‘Hellfire’ music video and how it looks like I’m watching a VHS. Where’d you get this idea from? And can we expect to see any more music videos soon?

The idea came from our Producer Adam Burd. Adam recorded and produced our last record Relentless. Adam wanted to go for a VHS feel, like an old cable access tv show from the 1970’s. Blackcat’s guitarist Jake wrote, directed, and starred in the finished video. This was our real first attempt at doing anything like this, but at a cost of $37 dollars we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Relentless was released at the end of 2016, do you have any new music in the works? Any details you can share?

We are getting ready to start production on our third release in August 2018. We are recording at the legendary Electric Audio studios in Chicago, IL.

We are keeping the same production crew (Adam Burd, Dan Barr) from our last record Relentless. The release date is set for very early 2019.

You’ve got a few shows coming up, what can fans expect when they go to a show?

New fans and old fans can expect a serious connection between the stage and the audience. As a band we like to focus on making our audience part of the show. Their excitement is our excitement. Nothing better than to have that human connection and experience of emotions flow through an entire room.

You can watch the ‘Hellfire’ music video here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. Or visit their website You can also find the band’s music on bandcamp! 

Let us know if you’re excited for new music in 2019!

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