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HAKEN (2019)


Type:
INTERVIEW
Genre:
PROGRESSIVE METAL
Meeting with the English progressive metal band in vogue during their concert at the Parisian concert hall of La Maroquinerie!
DARIALYS - 05.04.2019
Created about ten years ago, Haken has evolved from an emerging band to a leading progressive band. The sextet has just released its fifth album, "Vector", and was stopping in Paris that evening to defend its new opus on stage. Shortly before going on stage, the two virtuoso guitarists Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths gave us an interview. The perfect opportunity to review this new album!

We like to start our interviews on Music Waves with the following question: what is the question you have been asked too often?

Charlie Griffiths: I think that's the one! And I think it's a shit question! It's laziness! You're the one interviewing, you're the one asking the questions! No, I'm kidding, don't worry! (Laughs).






The "Vector" tour is almost over. How do you view this tour? Are you satisfied with the rendering of the new songs on stage and the response of the fans?

Richard Henshall: Yes. I think this is our most successful tour to date. This is the first time we have a lighting program in Europe, so production has reached a new level. The new songs sound great too.

Charlie: I think we had 13 full shows.


And how do you explain that? Tonight, it's still full (we interviewed Haken the day of their concert at La Maroquinerie, in Paris), while you're a progressive metal band and this style is not very well known in France. It's not the kind of music that's in vogue!

Charlie: I think there have always been fans of progressive music in every country.


So tonight, you expect to see the same people you saw two years ago?

Richard: We've been trying to be as consistent as possible for a long time now. We release an album every two years. Little by little, things are starting to come for us.

All this means you have to choose a bigger concert hall next time!

Richard: Yes, that would be great!

Charlie: Three years ago, we played at the Divan du Monde, it was a good venue!


There are even bigger concert halls, like the Olympia or the Elysée Montmartre!

Charlie: Let's do it! Is it too late to play there tonight? (Laughs).




And soon, you will be playing with Devin Townsend, at the Pleyel Hall!

Richard: Yes, it's going to be the biggest thing we've ever done! We grew up listening to his music and he represents a huge inspiration for us. Being with him on tour is just incredible! It will be by far the most incredible poster we've ever seen!

Charlie: We can't wait! He's a guitar hero. I remember this album by Steve Vai ("Sex And Religion", released in 1993). I went to see the concert in London.

So do I! In Paris in 1992. I was at the concert, it was incredible!

Richard: "Terria" is my favorite Devin Townsend album. The compositions are excellent.


It's my favorite too, but "Ocean Machine" is very good too. With this tour, you will take another step forward...

Richard: Who knows? That would be great!


Of course, it will open new doors for you and you will touch new fans!

Charlie: Anyway, being the opening act for Devin Townsend will be the most important poster we've ever done. It's even beyond opening for Between The Buried And Me which was the biggest band we had played for in the first part.


Between The Buried And Me played with Devin Townsend, but they played a lot of old death metal-type songs that are far from the progressive repertoire and music of Devin Townsend.

Charlie: I think a lot of Devin fans are very open-minded. He played in Strapping Young Lad, it was very brutal music! I'm sure the fans liked Between The Buried And Me!

Richard: I also think that a concert should be contrasted. If people hear the same style all night long, it's too much. Tonight, for example, Bent Knee opens the evening and they have a very different music from ours.

Charlie: And you can't help but love Bent Knee! That's excellent!

Richard: It's the same for Between The Buried And Me. I think they play very good music and people liked it.

Charlie: I'm for diversity. When I go to see an evening with three groups, I want to hear three different groups.


Let's talk about your latest album, "Vector". First of all, the album was shorter than the previous ones, which surprised a lot of people.

Charlie: Great! We want to surprise people!


But on the other hand, it must have disappointed some people who are used to Haken's long albums...

Charlie: We didn't want to disappoint anyone. We saw it that way. The album is finished after 45 minutes. Did we have to add 20 minutes just because we did it before?


The songs being heavier, did you think that the album should be shorter than usual?

Richard: No, it has nothing to do with the heavy side of the songs. We listened to the songs, we thought about it, and we thought that the album should have that length. You write what you want to write. We were happy with that time.

Charlie: What matters is that you feel like you've said everything you had to say. I always compare it to a movie. Why would you compare "Schindler's List" to "Jaws" in terms of duration when they are both Steven Spielberg movies? No one wonders why "Jaws" is shorter than "Schindler's List".


You had the feeling that in 45 minutes you had said everything you had to say.

Richard: That's the way it worked for us, yes.

Charlie: It's not a conscious thing. This does not mean that people's expectations are ignored. When you create something, it's like being in a bubble. We don't care what people say about it.

Yes, and you'll have to defend your songs on stage, so if you don't trust what you're doing... And on the other hand, it's better to have a 45-minute album that's consistent than a 60-minute album with things to throw away.

Charlie: Many of my favorite albums are rather short: Megadeth's "Rust In Peace", Cynic's "Focus", or Death's "Human". When I was growing up, these were my favorite albums, and they're albums that don't even last 40 minutes!


In the case of Haken, things are a little different. You are a progressive metal band, and the bands you mention are death metal bands.

Richard: To come back to "Schindler's List" and "Jaws", I like them both just as much. It is my state of mind that determines which one I will look at. I think it's the same for music.

Charlie: And I don't think it's valid to say that an album should be long if it's progressive, because if you take Gentle Giant's albums, they last 35 minutes! They don't play long songs.

Richard: And they're one of the best progressive rock bands of all time!


When you look at the content of "Vector" and read the lyrics, this album seems to be a concept album. Is that the case?

Charlie: Yes.


In this case, is there a chronology with a beginning and an end to the story of this album?

Charlie: Yes, because if you look at the booklet on the record, there is a very clear chronology. The events are dated. We know when the story begins and when it ends. It is very clearly defined.



And how does the story end? Because on the last track,'A Cell Divides', the lyrics are very abstract.

Charlie: We never say what our songs are about. You choose what you want to understand! It's all in the lyrics and the artwork.


That's a good answer! There are many references to your previous albums on "Vector". In the artwork, we see a cockroach in a kind of fossil, which is an obvious reference to the song'The Cockroach King'. You created The Mountview Institution in relation to the album "The Mountain". And there are still many references of this kind. How does the story of "Vector" relate to the other albums?

Charlie: The story takes place in a psychiatric institute in the 1950s called "Mountview Institution". You have to imagine that it is located in the same area as the one of the album "The Mountain". If you look out the window of this institute, you can see the mountain that gives the album its name.


Musically speaking, you had stopped writing instrumental songs a while ago, and this time you composed one of your craziest songs with'Nil By Mouth'. How did you come up with the idea of making another instrumental song?

Richard: Actually, we wrote the song, and it didn't seem necessary to us to put lyrics in it. The first two minutes of this song are the heaviest two minutes we've written so far. It's a mixture of Machine Head, Fear Factory and Meshuggah. All these groups are an influence to us. This beginning of the song is certainly the part we prefer to play on stage together. It's really cool to play. It's a fun song in general.

Charlie: All our songs start out as instrumental. This is the turn of music that inspires the lyrics. On this track, it seemed more logical to us that it should remain instrumental, otherwise it would have been too much.


Did you want to write a reference song with'Nil By Mouth', a bit like'The Dance Of Eternity' which is a cult song from Dream Theater?


Charlie: We played'The Dance Of Eternity'!

Richard: Maybe we had this idea unconsciously. Anyway, we didn't think we wanted to write'The Dance Of Eternity 2'. We've always been fans of Dream Theater.

Charlie: Together, we played two hours of Dream Theater songs! I think we're in a good state of mind to write technical songs right now.


There is gutural vocals on two songs from your first album, and there is also some on your fourth album, "Affinity", on the song "The Architect". It's interesting because for some, like us, the arrival of the growls is the most intense moment of the song, while for others, this part ruins the whole song.

Richard: We write the song we want to write. On this section, it seemed to us that we needed gutural vocals. We consider the growl as an instrument that we have in our palette, and on that part, that's what the song needed.

Charlie: Sometimes you want there to be lyrics on a passage, but you don't want there to be melody. You're just looking for something rhythmic. But in the end, all these are opinions. One will say "I love growl!", the other will say "I hate growl!". All we can do is satisfy ourselves!


And it is your answer that is the best. When I first heard Opeth, I wasn't listening to this style of music, but the growl is well adapted to their music. As you say, it's like an instrument!

Richard: Yes. I don't really listen to groups that use growl today. But Opeth is a perfect example for me, like Meshuggah.


But on the album "Vector", there is no growl. Was it a will on your part from the beginning?

Charlie: It just depends on the section itself. We see this on a case-by-case basis.


The "djent" side of your music is not new. There were already omens of djent on your first albums, and especially on the first album, "Aquarius", with the song "Drowning In The Flood".

Charlie: What do you mean by "djent"? For me, all this is metal. If djent is the sound that makes "dj dj dj dj", I can already hear it on "Master Of Puppets" (from Metallica, editor's note). (Laughs).

In any case, it seems to us that the djent has taken a more important place in your music on this album. Why is that the case?

Richard: I don't think we really got the typical djent sound back.


No, it's not djent strictly speaking, of course. It's just an influence. Maybe the fact that you worked with Nolly (Adam Getgood, his real name, editor's note) who himself worked a lot with Periphery, had an impact on your sound?

Charlie: The fact that we worked with Nolly had no impact on the writing of the album. We met him after we wrote the album. We only worked with him to work on the sound of this album. For me, all this is metal!


Haken has always evolved. What could be the evolution of your sound on the next album?

Richard: Who knows?

Charlie: We don't know yet. We don't write on tour.

Richard: We don't know which way the group is going. We're a progressive band, we listen to so many styles of music! Who knows how the next album will sound? When we started writing this album, we shared our ideas, and it turns out they were gravitating towards a heavier sound. But for all we know, the next album will be more jazzy! This will depend on our state of mind at the time of writing. We have some ideas that we left out, so maybe we'll start writing this year and plan a release next year.

Charlie: Things never go as planned!


And that's what's so exciting!

Charlie: Yes, that's the fun part!

Richard: It's exciting, yes! You never know how it will end, you don't have a specific objective.


If you don't know what your next album will look like, does that mean that your label, InsideOut, gives you creative freedom? They don't have an impact on your writing?

Charlie: The first time they hear the album is when the album is mixed.

Richard: They give us a date and ask us if we can produce an album for them for that date. That's all they're asking us for. Creatively speaking, they give us all the freedom we want, which is great!


Today, you are considered as one of the major groups on the progressive scene. How do you explain this? Do you think that your collaboration with Mike Portnoy during the tour with The Shattered Fortress helped you to raise your level of popularity?

Charlie: That's for sure. Mike and Jordan (Rudess, Dream Theater's keyboardist) have talked a lot about us in the press. Today, we are friends. We learned a lot from them, just by talking to them. Shooting with Mike was a real learning experience.



How did he meet you?

Richard: I think he made a top 10 of his favorite albums of the year in 2013 and put "The Mountain" in it. Then we went on tour in the United States and he saw us that night.

Charlie: I think we first contacted each other in 2013 or 2014. He first wrote to me personally. I have no idea how he got to know my e-mail, by the way! I received an e-mail from Mike Portnoy asking us if we wanted to come and play at the Progressive National At Sea festival, which takes place on a cruise. I thought it was a joke! That's crazy, he was our hero, and all of a sudden we entered his universe! It's an incredible feeling.


We were talking about Periphery earlier. We interviewed them a few days ago. Misha Mansoor said the group did not have the popularity it deserved and that they did not earn much money. What is your vision for Haken?

Richard: Personally, I consider myself privileged to be in our situation. There are so many groups that would like to be in our shoes but have not had this chance, so I consider myself privileged. When I see this tour, it's even more so, with these full rooms and all the people who come to see us.


Do you make a living from your music today, or do you need to work next door?

Charlie: We work in music, but at different levels. Students are taught music. I teach guitar lessons for example. It would be nice if Haken could become a full-time job. We are working in that direction.


Maybe your tour with Devin Townsend will help you achieve this!

Richard: This will help us! With each new album, we get closer to this goal. Playing with Devin is the next step. We're happy to be able to do this.

Charlie: You have to be patient and move forward gradually. We'll keep it that way.




Finally, we began this interview by asking you what the question you had been asked too often was. On the contrary, what would you like to be asked?

Richard: "What is your favorite novel?"


And what is your answer?

Richard: I don't know! (Laughs).


How about you, Charlie?

Charlie: "What do you want for Christmas?" (Laughs).


Thank you very much!

Both of you: Thank you!




More informations on http://www.haken.fr/
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LINKED
DERNIER ARTICLE
Meeting with the English progressive metal band in vogue during their concert at the Parisian concert hall of La Maroquinerie!

Read the article
Read all articles regarding HAKEN
 
DERNIERE CHRONIQUE
Vector (2018)
"Vector" is one more stone in a monumental building that actively participates in redefining progressive metal.

Read the review
Read all reviews regarding HAKEN

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