Haken interview (08/2012)
|With:||Richard "Hen" Henshall, Raymond Hearne|
|Conducted by:||Ivor (in person)|
Recorded at Night of the Prog 2012, Loreley, Germany, 08.07.2012.
It took a bit of juggling, arranging and re-arranging to finally find a bit of time with the band for the interview in between the sets, the setting up and taking down the stage. Around the second half of the The Flowe Kings set we found a place at a table at a café with an amazing view of the river way down. Having talked with Tom, Diego and Charlie initially in the interview negotiation phase, I eventually ended up talking with Ray and Richard.
So, you've played here for the second time now. How come second year in a row?
Hen: Yes. Well, I think Win (Winfried Völklein) - the organiser - must have liked what we did last year and obviously invited us back. We're obviously completely chuffed to be invited back. It's a complete honour to be playing in such an amazing setting. So, yeah, it's been a pretty good experience for us.
Ray: Well, Win has recently sort of joined the band as our manager. So, that could probably have something to do with it. But I don't know, you've got to keep it fair at the same time. So, he must've just really liked it, must've just really wanted to ask us back.
So, how do you now think that your show went today?
Hen: I think we all loved it on stage. There's a great energy. And the crowd reaction was amazing which is great because we feed off the crowd when we're playing. Generally, I think it went really well.
Ray: Yeah, this is the only open-air place we've done, isn't it?
Ray: And so it makes a really nice change and obviously it's an amazing location. And the crowd is just great. In Germany in general. We always just love playing in Germany. It's just the best country for us so far.
Hen: Yeah. I remember last year - it was our first time in Germany - and it blew us away. 'Cause the whole row of people in the front is singing the lyrics back to our songs and we were, like, "Wow!" We weren't expecting it at all. We didn't even realise we had any fans over here. So, obviously this year few more fans have come along. So, it has been great for us.
What about your stage show? The antics with Super Mario. Was it the first time?
Hen: (Laughs.) We've actually played the medley once before at The Borderline in London. But the actual costumes - this is, yeah, exclusive.
Haken with Mario and the Princess
Ray: Yeah, I suppose it would've been nice if we had managed to rehearse something. I suppose. Because I don't know how... Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe the audience just love the fact that we are playing the music. But we'd originally planned to have a proper big like a mascot costume that covers the whole body. We should've been a bit more convincing. But then I think the company pulled out a couple of days ago, or something. We couldn't... I don't know, we just lost the order, or something...
Hen: Yeah, we had to kind of settle for the smaller costume.
Yeah, but it still was a nice touch, actually. Unexpected.
Hen: Yeah, a lot of people were laughing in the crowd. That was the main reason we did it, really. Just for a bit of humour during the set.
Your second album (Visions) was released rather shortly after the first one. Do you think that you might have rushed with it? Or not?
Rich: No, I don't think so. 'Cause basically we'd finished recording the Aquarius about 6 months before we released it. So, by the time it was released I'd kind of already started working on a lot of the ideas. So, by the time it was released we'd almost decided kind of rehearsing some of the new ideas. Anyways, we spent about a year working on it. So, I think we spent the same amount of time as Aquarius on it. Personally, I'm really content about how it came out. So, I don't feel we've rushed anything, really.
Ray: I think as well. What we've found from making two albums now is that there's a huge process that goes on after we've done everything we need to do. So, as Hen said, we did actually have a lot of time to work on it. More so than it maybe appears.
Rich: Basically we just wanted to keep on moving, the momentum. 'Cause the reaction was great from Aquarius. So, we thought let's just keep moving as quick as we can, keeping momentum going. So, we just worked really hard, just putting in hours. I remember during the rehearsal stage we were meeting up, like, five times a week some weeks. Just, like, constantly going over the songs.
Ray: Sometimes just with three members, or two members, or four. Often not even the full band. 'Cause we were just keeping it.
So, are you keeping up with the momentum and are trying to push for the third album?
Hen: Yeah. I mean, it's hard because the more we play live the less time we have to focus on the music. Which I fear is a case for a lot of bands. They're touring the world. They lack the time to record new material. So, I've started writing three songs, I sent them around to you guys, and we're going to start to rehearse them during the summer. So, hopefully by early next year, maybe March or April, we'll have an album three. Maybe...
Will you be doing a live test run of the songs before they are released?
Hen: Oh yeah, definitely.
Ray: Yeah, we've done it with the first two albums and it has worked really well. Certain songs just need it as well. Like the song "Insomnia," for example, on Visions went through countless versions, really. I mean, we really struggled actually with that song because the original ideas that Hen had turned out to be completely transformed and we ended up rewriting that song much more as a band.
Hen: Yeah, like a complete collaborative effort that one song. And that song we actually played here last year. And "Nocturnal Conspiracy."
Ray: They were the two that we played here last year before the album was released.
Hen: So, I think it's really important to, you know, gauge the reaction from the crowd. You can tell that certain sections in certain songs, the crowd are going crazy, you know - that's the section you should keep and develop. Hopefully we'll have a lot of time to play some of these songs live before we record them.
In what way has the band changed now from the first to the second album, and going on?
Rich: I think once we had completed the Aquarius, we kind of made a conscious effort to make Visions a bit more brutal, a bit heavier, a bit more guitar driven. But also, like, with orchestrations from the keys. Just to give it overall a thicker texture. So, I think all in all we've built on everything that we've laid down on Aquarius. But with the third album, I think perhaps we're going to go down a proggier route, maybe. And get maybe some rawer production, get a different guy to produce it...
(At this point we all have to run for cover as suddenly skies have opened up and a heavy shower is coming down.)
So, you're planning to go in a bit proggier direction then?
Hen: Yeah, maybe, from the initial ideas that's where it seems to be heading.
Does it mean that you are going to have longer songs now?
Hen: (Laughs.) Yeah, that'd be not necessarily that. But I reckon just the actual ideas that get in the songs are going to be a bit more syncopated, perhaps. But it's still early days yet. So, we have to wait and see. But we want to keep it fresh, keep it exciting. And we're just going to work hard to build on what we've already laid down.
So, a long song is not an aim as such but just happens?
Ray: Yeah, you can't just force it. Well, I mean, I don't write any of the songs in full but you just have to sort of... I mean, it has to be planned, doesn't it? Writing a song. If you do want it to be long and it's not maybe turning out as long as you'd planned you can't just do it for the sake of doing it just because it's prog.
Hen: Yeah, I totally agree. I think sometimes you get like a theme that just needs to be developed. And sometimes like a ten minute or a five minute song is not long enough. And you just need to keep developing that theme. So, it just feels natural to extend the length of the song.
OK, let's change the subject a bit. How are your relations with the management and the label? Do they tell you what to write or how to write, or something along those lines?
Ray: What to write? Oh, I see. With the first album the label weren't really an influence on the writing. I don't think. We sent them early mixes and we got positive feedback, so we just kept doing that. And it was pretty much the same with the second album. Do you think that?
Hen: Yeah, I reckon we got complete creative freedom.
Ray: Yeah, we're quite free to do whatever we like. But I think for the next album, now that Win is on board he has given us some ideas and some things that he thinks we should consider. Not necessarily, you know, develop but we need to be clear on what direction we want to go in. And whatever direction we choose we need to know exactly what we need to do to achieve that. And he's just made us aware of that and given us some things which he might like to see happen. But, no, I think we're quite free.
Hen: Yeah, I think so.
Richard "Hen" Henshall
OK, 'cause I remember talking to Julie from To-Mera and she said that - (to Hen) you're also in To-Mera obviously - as a band you kind of felt a bit tied up there.
Hen: Yeah, with To-Mera with the first two albums we were on label Candlelight. It was a label we were with. And I think it's basic stream metal label. And we were like an extreme prog band. So, we were not really seen eye to eye. I guess there were constraints there. But I think with our record label Sensory Records it's very open. There's such a variety of bands on there. Plus, Ken (Golden) signed us on the basis... well, he'd only heard the demo, hadn't he, at the time?
Ray: Yeah, exactly.
Hen: And he just said "If it's going to be anything like that I'm going to be happy." He just let us do what we want to do. So, we've got a lot of freedom.
This sounds excellent. Talking about To-Mera. Are there any ideas flowing back and forth between the bands. I mean, obviously you (Hen) are tied there, and Tom is also there. Or do you have some sort of clean separation in writing (the music)?
Hen: I think Tom is basically the principal composer for To-Mera. And he's got a variety of influences. He's heavily into jazz. When you listen to To-Mera you can hear a lot of jazz harmony appearing every now and then. But I guess when we've both played so much of each other's music, naturally some of our ideas creep into each other's music.
Ray: Actually, To-Mera have been working on a third album recently. And it's coming out pretty soon.
Hen: Yes it is, we've just finished mixing.
Ray: Yeah, and before, I think in the writing process for that Tom sent round a song to us, to the Haken guys saying "Here's a song that I've written for the new To-Mera album. I just want your permission for us to develop it because I got the impression that it was almost like ripping off some Haken stuff. And don't want to risk, sort of, going down that route." And we all listened to it and thought "No! This is definitely To-Mera sound. Go for it. It's fine with us. It doesn't sound like we're ripping each other off at all." But there's definitely that element of cross of influences. We are aware of that.
Hen: I think we've both got our distinct sounds. But there are definitely similarities. I guess that's why Tom plays in Haken, 'cause he likes the music, and I play in To-Mera because I like that music. So, naturally when we write stuff there's going to be similarities.
How do you get your music out there to the fans?
Hen: (Laughs.) I don't really know. I mean, we kind of recorded the album, gave it to our record label and they kind of dealt with everything. Ray here deals with the Facebook page and we're in constant contact with our fans. It just all happened so quickly, really.
Ray: We've got a... One our fans from France has designed and maintained our website.
Yeah, I was curious why your homepage had a .fr.
Ray: It's a .com now but initially it was a .fr.
Yeah but both work I see.
Ray: Basically he contacted us and said "I've made this website for you. You don't have to pay me but I'd really like to keep it up." And we're just pretty much "OK! Well, if that could be our official website it'll take a load off our chests." 'Cause, you know, it's a pretty good website, really.
Hen: Yeah, amazing. He's name is Richard Jouen by the way. We were completely amazed by what he's done purely for the love of the music.
Ray: And it's an absolute honour, really, to have someone do that with, you know, no questions asked. He just does it. We haven't met him yet. We're going to meet him in France in August when we play a festival in France called Crescendo.
Hen: So, I think having the website and the Facebook page is really crucial for getting our name out there and for spreading our music via the internet.
But when you were starting out as a band, how did you get your demos out?
Hen: We just kind of played gigs in London. Some local gigs. And we burned about 500 demos and we just handed them out for free.
To the crowd?
Hen: Yeah, to the crowd. And we made sure we could have as many people as possible. And then we sent it out to the record label and stuff. But we were just kept on at it for about three years.
Ray: We were on MySpace before our first gig. We had songs on there. Had we recorded the demo by our first gig? At least like "Snow" and "Souls?"
Hen: I think so, yeah.
Ray: So, people knew our first two songs. There was other stuff before then but when I joined the band "Snow" and "Souls" were like two brand new tracks. And we had them on MySpace. People did know about us before our first gig. I think a guy came down from Nottingham to see us. But then, someone else came from Germany?
Hen: Yeah, I vaguely remember that. It was strange how it all happened.
From Germany to see you (at your first gig)?
Hen: Yeah, I think so, at our first concert.
Ray: First ever.
Hen: It was amazing. It blew us away.
Ray: And all we did was play three songs.
Hen: (Laughs.) Yeah, I think so.
Ray: We played those two and we played "Manifolds."
Hen: Yeah, I think so. (Laughs.) That's still one hour worth of music. (Laughs.)
Three songs, one hour. (Laughing.)
Hen: About 40 minutes. True prog. (Laughs.)
Ray: 40 minutes. Yeah, it looked really promising from day one, from our first gig which went really well. I know it was quite a big crowd out there. I mean, they were probably mostly family and friends, though.
Yeah, it probably is for the band starting out. As you said, family and friends, and maybe a couple of bystanders that happened to be there.
Hen: That's the way you've got to do. You've got to get support.
Ray: By the time we had that show booked we'd already been asked to support Riverside at The Underworld (London).
Hen: Yeah, that was amazing. Great opportunity for us.
How did you get that opportunity?
Hen: I think it was Tom. He knew someone from The Underworld, knew the promoter from playing with To-Mera. And they contacted Tom and I think Tom said, yeah, Haken would be ideal for this gig. And he asked us. That's how we got it. And it was before we had released Aquarius. It was around the time of the demo. And it was such a great opportunity.
Ray: Wasn't that our second gig?
Hen: It was our second gig.
Ray: Second show, supporting Riverside. So, we're pretty happy with that. (Laughs.)
I'd say that's a very steep climb!
Hen: Yeah, we won a lot of fans out there.
Are you going to tour as a headlining show?
Hen: Yeah, we're talking about that actually for the third album. Now that we've got Win on board we're talking about arranging a tour for early next year to support third album. Maybe March or April. It'll probably be focused around Europe, Germany, Holland, Italy. We've not played Italy yet. That's one country we've really got to go to.
(Here we drift off on the topic of Northern Europe and Estonia and what, if anything, we get over there.)
Ray: But we are doing, like, a co-headlining tour in September. Around a few countries in Europe with another band called Headspace. Are you aware of Headspace?
Damian Wilson, yeah!
Ray: I suppose they are relatively small but because they are kind of almost a bit of a supergroup, they seem to have got members who have just done a lot of things. They're well known in their own fields.
Hen: Adam Wakeman, Rick Wakeman's son.
Ray: I think they're picking up really quickly.
OK, so you'll be touring with them?
Ray: In September. I think what will be doing? Seven or eight shows?
Hen: Yeah, I think so. It's a double headliner shows. We're going to play our album Visions and they are going to play their album I am Anonymous.
Hen: Yeah, we're going to do that. I think we're playing Holland, Germany, Belgium, and 2 shows in the UK. Figures about 6 shows in total.
We'll have to keep an eye on that.
Hen: Unfortunately not Estonia.
I get that a lot. (Laughing.) OK, talking about live performances. How do you get prepared for a live show? Earlier when I arranged for the interview I met Charles and he said "I've got to practice, man. I've got to practice before the show." So, what's your deal?
Hen: Yeah, I think for at least an hour or so we spend warming up, getting our fingers ready. Sometimes I have an iPod, so I play along to the songs with the iPod. Charlie does the same as well. And what do you do?
Ray: Well, today I could've done a bit more stretching, I suppose. I knew my shoulder... Well, I didn't, I forgot about my shoulder. Even if I stretched it, it would've still gone bad.
What exactly happened with your shoulder?
Ray: I don't know! It could've been brought about from our show last week. Because the thing about drumming and Haken is I don't really... When you play live, it's nothing like how you do when you practice. It's much more physical. And it's difficult to prepare for that. Unless you've got an audience in front of you and the rest of the band on a stage it's difficult to kind of replicate it.
So you might say drumming is a straining work.
Ray: Yeah! And the worst thing about it is not having a place to practice, where you don't have someone coming to your door threatening to call the police. It's quite depressing, really. I'd like to have a bit more money where I could buy a space, or rent out a space that isn't in a residential area and you can just practice till your heart's content.
Don't, you like, practice for example on electric drums?
Ray: No. Well, I don't own any electric drums. And I think electric drums are too overpriced. They're so expensive. And I've played on pretty much the best electric kit you can buy and I wasn't really that fussed. It just doesn't feel the same.
Hen: Hard to get out a natural live response.
Ray: I mean, it is as with acoustic and electric guitars. They are completely different instruments. You have to realise that. But, I don't know, I'd rather just... I've got my pads and things like that that I work with. But it's still not the same. It's just difficult.
Hen: Before a big show, we usually have about three rehearsals. That's the chance with Ray to get crazy. Like in rehearsal room. But that just seems like enough. Just three rehearsals, then we're ready.
I seem to be slowly running out of questions. Do you have any last words that you'd like to get out there to your listeners? Or potential listeners?
Hen: Ah, you know, we're just overjoyed that people even listen to our music. Let alone come to see us live. So, we just want to thank everyone for buying our music and coming to see us.
Ray: Yeah, that's very, very nice. I like that. Very nice.
OK, give advice to a new listener concerning Haken. How it sounds? What to listen to?
Hen: I'd say don't have it as background music. So, perhaps get some headphones and just listen to it and try to immerse yourself within the music. And what we're you saying favourite tracks?
I don't know. What would be good to start out?
Hen: I reckon "Visions" maybe.
Ray: Yeah, if you've got 20 minutes to yourself - "Visions." If you've only got, you know, six minutes or seven minutes - "Insomnia." They do a lot. Well, "Insomnia" does a lot in short space.
Hen: They kind of describe our sound, really. They go different shades and colours.
So, six minutes - "Insomnia," 20 minutes - "Visions." OK, perfect.
Hen: Yeah, sums up nicely.
Posted on 18.08.2012 by
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