I was fortunate enough to Interview my good friends and one of my favourite bands, Haken, at the October show at The Garage in London. I decided to make them uncomfortable by using a floret of Broccoli as a pretend microphone. But I balanced that out (or made it worse) by giving them all free Freddos.
This is how our meeting went…
In the last few years you’ve been on a couple of tours and have played some interesting places around the world. What was your favourite show, and why did you think we wanted you back?
Richard (Guitar): [Awkward Giggling]
Diego (Keys): Probably Progressive Nation at Sea… the first show. The second show was a nightmare for me! The keyboard stand I was using broke in the middle of the set, so both of my keyboards just fell on the floor in the middle of the set. I panicked! The guy from the staff came on and tried to put it on again, but it wouldn’t work, so they gave me another keyboard. Half way through the set I was not playing with them… half the crowd started laughing!
Richard: “It isn’t a comedy show! This isn’t part of the set!”
You guys did come on stage with Mario at one point, so maybe they were expecting something quirky…
Richard: I’d have to go for the same show, really: The first set of Progressive Nation.
Richard: I’m constantly copying Diego. But being on the ocean… playing on the gig. It’s a weird feeling!
So you guys are touring with Leprous and Maschine. Are you fans of the bands?
Richard: Yes – massive fans! Especially Leprous. I love “Bilateral” and “Coal” – really cool albums. And we actually played a show with Maschine a few months ago and they blew us away. That was at the Borderline – great band live… incredible musicians!
So you guys are releasing your new EP pretty soon…
Diego: Today! Today we’re selling it at the gig. I did the homework. Otherwise it’s out on the 27th.
You’ve premiered two tracks already – “Darkest Light” and “Crystallised”. Tell us about the concept behind this EP?
Richard: Basically we had a demo from years ago. Diego, Connor and Charlie weren’t part of the band. We thought it would be cool to rework the tracks through the eye of the new line-up and give it a more modern edge.
Diego: The material as well. Back then, when those songs were written, the band was not so mature. We’re not mature now, but we’re getting there, so…
Yeah, you’re not mature.
Diego: Exactly! We’ve had more experience now with The Mountain and Visions, and we’ve tried to have that approach of… not methodical but… more precise and trying to make it as concise as possible. So trying to have that mentality now with those songs, and trying to bring everyone on board. It was really good fun.
One thing I wanted to comment on is that you can see a progression, musically, through the three albums, but I think personally one thing that stands you guys apart from some other bands in the genre is that your albums are all very thematic, or the songs seem to be very consistent with each other. When you’re writing your music is that something that’s in your mind – do you want each album to have a theme or a signature?
Richard: I think with Aquarius and Visions in particular we had the idea of having recurring themes – almost like a suite of music from a classical viewpoint. [Extremely loud bang from somewhere on the left field of where we were, rudely interrupting Richard’s flow] With The Mountain I think we wanted to go for more of an approach where each song was an individual and could stand in its own right, and it’s the same I guess with the EP. Each song has its own character. Who knows what will happen on the next album? We don’t really want to force it… we’ll write and see where it goes.
One of the other themes of your song writing, especially on your earlier albums, is that you often introduce different genres into the mix – obviously the Charlston style section of Celestial Elixir or the Vocal Canons on the Mountain – what is it that makes you want to bring these different ideas in, and can we expect that on the new release?
Diego: It just happens naturally. We’ll be listening to a tune we’re writing and we’ll think – this section will sound really good in a 70s sound or a 80s sound. It’s not really conscious – it just comes naturally.
Richard: Yeah, we listen to a lot of music. We just want to enjoy it, not force it. If we think it needs to go down a ragtime route, why not?
I’m sure going down the ragtime route is a common thought… I have one every day…
Richard: Most bands think it at some point. So we think why not go with it, have fun it with as well as being serious. We try to find a balance between the two.
Listening to “Crystallised” I noticed that you’re increasingly incorporating the sort of sounds and riffs that a lot of the Djent/Tech Metal bands use… is that again natural or something more deliberate?
Richard: Yeah, I think that’s a natural process again. Personally I love Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Tesseract… bands like that. Also Squarepusher – a really big influence on all of us.
Diego: I think now that you both have 8 strings, too… on the last album only Charlie had one but now you both have them!
Richard: Yeah, we’ve got these new Strandberg guitars so we want to make the most of the 8th string.
Diego: You can’t have an 8 string and not play and Djent Riffs! I think it’s illegal.
It’s in the Warranty of the guitar when you buy it.
Diego: “I want to return this guitar… I’m taking it back.” “Did you play any Djent riffs?”
“Well then you’ve gotta keep it! It’s the law!” What seems to happen with the quirkier moments of the music transpire elsewhere – like your ‘Cockroach King’ video. How on earth did that come to you?
Richard: I think Charlie was the mastermind of the video. He’s a massive fan of Queen and he loves Puppets…. He has a thing for puppets. Here he is!
[Charlie (Guitarist) looms ominously out of the darkness and comes and sits with us silently]
Richard: We were just talking about your genius on the Cockroach King video.
Charlie: Sorry am I ruining the interview?
Richard: No you’re making the interview!
Richard: Charlie designed and built the puppets himself.
Oh really? That’s fantastic. I didn’t know that.
Charlie: Come on mate… get with it. Get with it!
You learn something every day… I need to brush up on my puppet-based Prog Metal Trivia…
Charlie: It was only because they were all out of the country. I wanted to do a video but they weren’t there so I…. I made them.
You’re like Buffalo Bill. A tamer version… “They’ll love this…” [I fumble around with my papers trying to find what question I’m on…]
Charlie: Number 7, mate!
There actually isn’t a number 7… that was one of the many mistakes I made. You have a guest on your new EP, which you had a competition going. I’m in the competition… so don’t tell me the answer – but can I tell you my guess and you tell me if it’s right?
I think Portnoy is playing something about 12 minutes in…
Diego: Completely Wrong
Charlie: What did you think it was?
There’s like this Marimba/Xylophone unison solo with the guitar…
Charlie: Oh yeah that sounds like a drummer played that… [Drowning in sarcasm]
Diego: So precise… So tight…
Richard: So metronomic.
Diego: I did that (on the keyboard) with two hands… the “Zappa” solo.
I’m interested to find out what it is!
Charlie: You’re going to be so disappointed.
I’m hoping it actually is the Alpine Horn solo you joked about… When “Aquarius” first came out was when I first got into you guys. At uni we pioneered a leisure activity called the Hake’n’Bake. Any idea what that’s about?
Charlie: Yep I’ve heard of it.
Richard: The Haken what?
Diego: Is that drugs involved?
Charlie: No it’s cakes. All about cakes.
Or you can have the Wake’N’Hake’N’Bake. You wake up… Whack Haken on… make yourself a Battenberg.
Charlie + Richard: [Laughing] I think I’d prefer that one. I’ll have some of that…
Charlie: What do you think of the, err…
Richard: The weed? We’ve got some on the merch table…
Charlie: No. I assume you’re a fan of “The Great British Bake off?”
Oh yeah! The whole farce with the person throwing the stuff away… Heathen.
Charlie: Where do you stand on it? I don’t think enough was done about it.
I’ve lost all respect for the show for even broadcasting that kind of filth.
Charlie: Yeah. I think the right person won.
This is as controversial as it gets in my interviews. Bakery based disputes.
Charlie: She clearly took his baked Alaska out of the oven, and put it on the side and it melted. The ice cream melted.
Diego: Was this in the Final?
Charlie: This was in like episode 6.
[To Diego] I thought you said “Was this in the Weimar?”
Because that was the worst of their problems…
Charlie: The guy got his Baked Alaska and just chucked it in the bin and stormed off.
Richard: Yes! What a Rockstar, Man…
Charlie: Something happened to the lady that did it and she had to leave the show. She had a fall. She fell off and lost her sense of smell. Her olfactory senses disappeared completely.
[Richard lets out a cruel, menacing laugh at the woman’s expense]
Back to something marginally sensible. I heard you guys have some ideas for the 4th album already. Is this true?
Richard: Yeah. It’s very early days, but we started bouncing some ideas around about a month ago. In terms of concept and theme, we haven’t gone in to depth with that as of yet, but there’s a few ideas…
Charlie: Just musical things. We just got together and went like this. [Charlie starts mashing his fists on the table and knocks over a pint] – “Fuck…”
Diego: “That’ll do…”
Richard: “That’s how we write music. Just hit it.
Charlie: After this tour that’s how we’ll continue… Hitting tables.
What is the writing process like for you guys? Do you have individual contributions, or do you jam in a room, etc…?
Richard: Actually now we’re going to adopt a different approach. And –
Charlie: [Interrupting] To what, though? What was the first approach?
Richard: Before I’d write a MIDI arrangement and send it to the guys. Then we’d jam it in a rehearsal room and make it better.
Diego: Or worse.
Richard: But now we thought it would be cool to get together and bounce some ideas around as a band. Hopefully that’ll give us a different sound and we’ll have an equal input.
Oh, Charlie! You joined late so you missed out on your present. Here you go – a Freddo. I’ve been reading a book on grooming.
Charlie: Is this the sweet of choice for paedophiles?
It is recommended in the instruction book, yeah.
Charlie: I’ve got that book too – “Scouting for boys!” Thanks for the Freddo!
[Morally questionable laughter] Did you guys hear from Ray about the whole debacle with me and the mail? Remember when we played a show with you guys at the Borderline?
Richard + Charlie: Yeah! We’ll never forget it…
Well Ray bought a shirt from us… but we didn’t have his size on us.
Richard + Charlie + Day: [Burst out laughing]
Richard: Oh god yeah, that’s what it was. I saw him post about this.
So I sent him one first of all but the mail lost it. I had to send him another one but I kept forgetting. It got to the stage where I made this reminder my desktop wallpaper – my phone background, everything – it just said “Mail Ray’s shirt, you useless fucking Gimp!”. I still forgot. Two years later I finally remembered.
Diego: TWO YEARS? Jesus! Alright…
To make up for it I put in 2 shirts, more CDs of our band than anyone should ever have forced on them. A drawing of Moat that I signed and a Chinese takeaway menu from my local.
[The band laugh at me, not with me]
Diego: That’s very good of you! Very considerate.
One last question. If I had, hypothetically speaking, accidentally reanimated the corpses of a bunch of unsuccessful Oscar nominees that had resulted in a murderous rampage somewhere in Shoreditch in a search for their missed chance of recognition… Could you guys help out with either a Visa to Australia or a strong drink?
[The band look at each other silently for about 10 seconds whilst contemplating why they agreed to this interview]
Richard: Yeah…. Err…
Charlie: It would be difficult. Off the top of my head I couldn’t tell you any Oscar nominees that didn’t win. I’d have to have a list.
Just look for well-dressed people in Shoreditch.
Richard: [I look at Richard to Contribute] Err… Sorry. [Chuckles out of bemusement] I have no idea… we can’t do it!
Charlie: Cos you might see, say like… “Oh look, there’s Clark Gable”
Diego: What about Leonardo DiCaprio? He hasn’t won…
Richard: I’d just sleep with him. [Somehow this hilarious comment gets buried in the conversation and goes completely unnoticed]
Diego: Wait a couple of years and then we’ll track him down… When he’s dead…
Charlie: It would be too difficult. That’s my answer.
Last bit… tell us any links you’d like people to visit [Prompting them for their own facebook, website etc…]
Charlie: Bleeding Oath
Richard: If you want our EP, just google it.
Charlie: Is it on “Ask Sherlock?” (sic) Do you remember that?
Do you mean “Ask Jeeves?”
Charlie: Oh yeah, haha. That was before Google was around. Wasn’t Sherlock an apple thing?
Lastly, your new EP is on Vinyl isn’t it – there’s no CD-Only release?
Charlie: I kept on at the guy at the label, saying people wanted CD, but…
Diego: [In low, Ominous Voice] No!
“Zis is not ‘appening…” – Just assuming your label guy is French, for some reason. Thanks for your time, guys – it’s been awesome! I’ve been Devin Bellend.
Diego: Devin what?
Here are pictures of the Desktop wallpaper I was talking about as well as the facebook post by Ray when we finally received the package!