Haken interview (05/2020)


With: Connor Green
Conducted by: RaduP (skype)
Published: 21.05.2020

Band profile:

Haken


[Main photo by Anne-Marie Forker]

At this point you probably know that Haken are releasing their upcoming album, one with a name that sticks out for all the wrong reasons. I always appreciated Haken, but had friends who were really into them. Like REALLY into them. So I did find myself as somewhat of an impostor having to interview Haken. Well, not "having", since I chose to do it, but I was curious for a change instead of interviewing the obvious candidate, I would go for the least obvious one. In this case, Connor Green, who not only is the newest Haken member, but is also unfortunate enough to be a bass player. Turns out it might've been the better option, but also the one with the best change of not having all its interview slots busy.



Virus, no, not that one


Radu: So you've had a lot of interviews today?

Connor Green: Me? No, I'm usually not the interview guy.

Radu: I could tell.

CG: I only did one yesterday.

Radu: That's why I picked you.

CG: Ah, okay. Yeah, Rich [Henshall] usually does a lot of them, Ross [Jennings] does a lot, Charlie [Griffiths] does a lot. I'm not much of a talker, to be honest.

Radu: (talkingly) Ooh.

CG: But I can try. [Ed: You're doing great.]

Radu: Yeah, well, you're also the bass player.

CG: That's true.

Radu: If only you were the bass player and the lead vocalist, maybe you would have something.

CG: Yeah, aren't there bands that have that, bands that have bass and lead vocals at the same time? Who's the band that has that? I think it's a metal band. I can't remember.

Radu: Motörhead?

CG: Well, Motörhead, but, like, a modern… Not Trivium, but someone like that. I can't remember. Who cares?

Radu: Most of them, probably. Well, let's get into it.

CG: Sure.

Radu: Okay. Do you really expect us to believe that the album's name is coincidental?

CG: Well, I don't "expect" you to believe anything, but all we can do is say… it is. I mean, truthfully, we knew people wouldn't believe us, but we have proof. We have the e-mails from 2017 or something that first mentioned the Vector/Virus idea. [Ed: #hakengate2020 #releasetheemails]

Radu: Oh?

CG: Although we did discuss briefly the possibility of changing it just because of that. We thought, "Well, okay, people are probably gonna think we're somehow making light of the coronavirus or somehow mocking it in some way", so we just didn't really - we wanted to avoid that, but at the same time, it's like, "we're not doing that, so let's just keep it and if people want to think that we're trying to take advantage of the situation, fine", but, yeah, it was just all coincidental, believe it or not.

Radu: I'm starting to think it's not just opportunism, but causality.

CG: Whoa! Say that again?

Radu: It's not opportunism anymore; it's causality.

CG: Yeah, really, it's like, what were we gonna do? So a pandemic happens and we're like, "Oh, we gotta call our album 'Virus'!" Isn't that just a weird - why would we ever do this?

Radu: No, no, it's the other way around. The virus is out there because you called your album that!

CG: Oh boy, well, I'm not gonna say that. That would get me in trouble.

Radu: Well, at first I thought it was because of Cattle Decapitation with their song "Bring Back The Plague", but now I know it's you who did it.

CG: Yeah, see, why aren't people going after them? They're the ones who - they started this whole thing, not us.

Radu: Oh, yeah, of course. Well, this is almost as ironic as that one time people thought you called your new album "Verbatim".

CG: Oh, I know. That was a funny one because that was so obviously a joke - we thought - but apparently not. (laughs) We had certain publications picking up on it like, "Ah, yeah, Haken's next album!" We thought it was just obvious. So that time it was a joke, this time it isn't. It's like, we can't win.

Radu: (snorts winningly) Well, I still think you have a hidden Verbatim album somewhere.

CG: (suspiciously) Weellll, we might… I mean, that would be the ultimate irony, I guess, if we ended up calling it - because that would be a cool album title. "Verbatim". That's kind of fun.

Radu: Yeah, well, it's still something with "v", so it fits.

CG: It fits. I guess we'd have to - there's no Roman numeral "VE", so we've already missed that. I'm not sure what we would do that for. Hm. We'll have to work that one out.

Radu: So you have a new album coming in the future. Tell us about it.

CG: Well, let's see. Obviously we came out with a record called Vector in 2018 and the whole idea was to have this sort of big, double album idea but to not tell anyone about it. I guess lyrically the story is connected, the themes are all connected, the motifs, musically it's connected; we call back to Vector quite a bit on Virus. We started writing it essentially right after Vector came out, and we even used some ideas from Vector that we ended up - well, not… ideas for Vector that we ended up not using for Vector, if that makes sense.

Radu: Ah, so it's a B-sides album.

CG: Oh, no! Our drummer said that once and we were like, "Oh, man, maybe it sounds like we're just using a bunch of old ideas", but truthfully the main part I'm thinking of is a part in "Messiah Complex," the long song on this album, and it was a section towards the end -

Radu: A bit more jazzy.

CG: Sorry?

Radu: I remember there was a section that was a bit more jazzy. It really reminded me of "Host."

CG: Oh, right. Well this, the part I'm talking about - I know what part you're talking about - but there's this part right after the part you're talking about, kind of a heavy, almost dubstep-y kind of breakdown riff that was meant to be for Vector and it was my favorite part, or my favorite riff, from those writing sessions, but we ended up not using it because we just couldn't make it fit. We were supposed to put it in "Nil By Mouth" and we just couldn't make it fit so it's like, I guess you could say it's a B-side, but at the same time it's still my favorite part. But most of the album is brand-new material that we came up with after the fact, so it's a combination, I suppose.

Radu: Is this why both albums are shorter?

CG: Yeah, I guess you could say that. I remember when Vector came out, people were like, "Ah, 45 minutes, that's so short! Haken usually writes 70-minute albums!", which I understand.

Radu: It was actually the reason I liked Vector so much.

CG: Yeah, I mean, most of the albums I listen to are shorter, because I like to listen to albums in one continuous listen, one kind of flowing - I don't like to listen to tracks individually that much, so if you write 70 minutes of music, that's great, but that doesn't mean it's good. And it's the opposite: it's like, you write 45 minutes of music, just because it's not as long as you want, does that mean it's not good? I don't get it. But yeah, it's kind of funny, because truthfully the album, speaking of Vector and Virus together are like 100 minutes, so we got an even longer album than you had expected, I guess.

Radu: As long as you keep roughly the same run time in the future, I think it's going to be beneficial, in a way.

CG: Yeah, that's the plan.

Radu: I rarely feel like putting on a 70-minute album. If I'm gonna listen to some old Haken, I'm gonna listen to "Celestial Elixir" and that's it.

CG: Yeah, that's the thing - we have such long songs. I'm not really a "quantity over quality" guy. I like the long tracks - "Messiah Complex" is one of my favorites on the new album and that's cool, I get it - but at the same time, you could listen to Vector by itself, you could listen to Virus by itself, or you could listen to the whole thing, so hopefully we're pleasing most everybody with their preference in run time of an album.

Radu: At least try to displease everyone equally.

CG: Yeah, exactly. We're trying to make everyone pissed off.

Radu: Well, I haven't tried listening to them side-by-side yet, but I think that's an idea.

CG: We might even do that live one day. We'll do a Vector/Virus combination show, which would be a lot of notes, a lot of songs, but it would be pretty cool, I think.

Radu: Why exactly was "Messiah Complex" split apart?

CG: Good question. I guess the idea was - we've always been fans of Dream Theater, bands like that, and they've done that before -

Radu: I could tell that you've been fans of Dream Theater.

CG: Yeah, of course. Anyone who listens to us knows that we love them; we're in the same genre, and they're kind of the godfathers of the genre. So like with "A Change Of Seasons", how that has, like, five movements, although that's one continuous song, I guess, and we've done it before with "Falling Back To Earth" - well, I wasn't in the band at the time, but the guys have done it with "Falling Back To Earth", "Streams" has that kind of thing, so it's like, okay, we've got five parts, five movements of this song, and they all feel like they could work on their own to me. We all just thought it works. I don't know. I guess just having another 18-minute piece - you know, we've done it so many times, we were like, "Eh, we wrote a song that sounds like five parts; let's just put it out as five songs and people can - what's the difference, really?" I guess.

Radu: Yeah.

CG: The answer is there is no real - there's no concrete reason, we just wanted to do it, which is a boring answer, but it's true.

Radu: It really felt like one song to me. I just listened to it and I couldn't really tell "Oh, the song changed; it's another movement now". It's probably different for you because, well, you've probably listened to it a lot more than I did.

CG: Yeah, I mean, the idea is to make it one continuous song, of course, but since it does work as these five songs, five different songs - I don't know, if someone likes one part more than the other, they can just go listen to that part. I think it works best, obviously, if you listen to it continuously as one piece, 'cause, like, if you listen to a classical album, a classical piece of music that's written in five movements, I've seen CDs that have it as one 30-minute-long recording or broken up into each movement, so I don't know.

Radu: I think this is beneficial especially if it's a long song, but live you're only gonna be playing parts of it. Yes I know has those really long songs but they only play one part of it.

CG: Oh, right. I think - oh, sorry.

Radu: Yeah, yeah, in those cases, I think it's beneficial to break it up, but if - well, when you're gonna be playing live, will you be playing the entire song, or…?

CG: Yeah, I would say we'd probably just play the whole song. It would be weird to release it as "Messiah Complex" I, II, III, IV, V and only play IV. I think that would be strange. We don't know, but in my view, I would like to play the whole thing.

Radu: Well, bold of me to assume that anyone is gonna be playing live anyway.

CG: Well, that's a good point. Who knows? We could be stuck at home until next year at this point.



Photo by Max Taylor Grant


Radu: Yeah. So how is everybody holding up there?

CG: Good. I'm doing well, just practicing, learning the new songs, doing session work, and all of the other guys are teaching a lot, and yeah, we're making it work. It's not ideal; obviously we all love touring and being on the road and that's mostly how bands make their living, so it's a little bit of hard times here, but we're making it work, but yeah, mentally I'm doing fine. Watching movies, keeping busy. I mean, if you play music, you can fill your entire year up with projects and writing, learning, getting better, so yeah, I'm doing fine.

Radu: It's mostly just the cut of the tours that no longer earn income.

CG: Yeah, exactly. That's the biggest…

Radu: That's probably gonna fuck a lot of people up.

CG: Yes, I would say so. We're not alone, so we're not gonna sit here and say we deserve sympathy, because millions and millions of people are in the same position, so what're you gonna do?

Radu: Yeah, but at the same time, you kind of do, because a lot of people look down on artists as them doing not really something that's not essential to living and it's not important, but try living in the quarantine for so long without watching movies and listening to music. I think you're gonna go crazy.

CG: Yeah, I think people - I take things for granted a lot and everyone in the world does and I think people are probably realizing a bit more that art is important in that way. I'm not saying it's more important than anything else required in everyday life [Ed: I am. Everything else sucks.], but life is definitely less colorful without music and film and art and all that, so, yeah, I think people probably realize it a bit more now, in the same way that they realize that friends are important and seeing people and being outside and all these things, so it's not just art. I guess it's a lot of things we don't think about day to day. [Ed: No. Being outside is not important.]

Radu: It's kind of like that scene from Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams where he said that "Science, law, and things are noble pursuits, but it's art and poetry, these are the things that we do things for". [Ed: More or less.]

CG: Yeah, I would have to agree with that wholeheartedly. I'd say about 50% of my day is consuming art in some way, if not more.

Radu: We are privileged.

CG: I would agree with you.

Radu: I admittedly didn't have a lot of material to research for interviewing you, as I couldn't find much of what you did before joining Haken. How did you manage to join one of the biggest names in prog metal?

CG: Good question. That's because I wasn't doing anything before I joined Haken, ironically. I was 20 years old at the time and I was just in school. I was going to a school called Indiana University here in the States and I was going to school for jazz, so I was playing in restaurants and -

Radu: Oh, so you were actually doing music.

CG: Yeah, I was trying to see what kind of musical career I wanted to have. I didn't know if I was going to teach at the university level or if I was just gonna move to New York and become a jazz nightclub bass player; I just didn't know, and about a year and a half into school I was getting tired of the bureaucracy of it, I was taking all these classes that I didn't want to pay for, and I saw that a band I listened to a lot in high school was auditioning for a bass player - I was a pretty big fan of theirs before I joined - so I thought, "Well, why not? I might as well try. I've never really played electric bass like that before, but I'll try it." I kind of taught myself how to play that style over the course of a couple of months and I recorded their audition tape thing - I played "Because It's There" and "Portals", and I had to make my own bass line for "Because It's There" - and I sent it to them and got to audition for them. I guess they liked it. It was a "right place, right time" kind of situation.

Radu: Okay. Tell us a bit about "Jazzfinity" and the Cockroach Relief Fund.

CG: Wow, both?

Radu: Yup.

CG: (laughs) Okay. Well, "Jazzfinity", that was… Oh, good question. Whose idea was that? I think it was Charlie's idea, our guitarist. He thought, "Well, we're stuck at home; let's make something interesting". And so he thought that would be a cool thing, 'cause that section of "The Architect" is very - you can approach it many different ways. We've always kind of wanted to do acoustic renditions of our songs. We did that once in Tel Aviv years ago. We played "Shapeshifter" and "Cockroach King" and all these songs with acoustic guitars and… yeah, so we've always wanted to do it, so Charlie was like, "Yeah, let's try it", so they recorded their guitar parts and I played upright bass on it, which I hadn't done in years. I don't know. It was kind of fun to see what these weird electronic sections sounded like in a jazz setting, I suppose.

Radu: Yeah, it was.

CG: And the Cockroach Relief Fund, now that's a whole other thing. That was set up by fans, I believe. Yeah, it was set up by a couple of guys that we know, just fans of ours that have been fans for years who we've gotten to know a little bit over the years, and they were just like, "Hey, Haken's a band we like and we want to raise some money for them", which, obviously, we're eternally grateful - we weren't planning on asking for any money, of course, because, as I said, so many people are in the same position we are. It was just something that a couple of fans of ours started to raise some money for us to get through these months of no touring.

Radu: That's cool. Also, for "Jazzfinity" it was cool seeing you play the upright bass for Haken. [Ed: No, it's pronounced "bass".]

CG: Yeah. We actually recorded something recently that will be released I guess in a few months where I played upright bass again, which was fun. Yeah, I kind of enjoyed it. That was my main thing when I was growing up. Not "growing up", but I went to college, that was all I did, play upright bass. It's interesting - it's so much different than electric bass. Obviously it's another instrument, but the technique is different, the way you play is different on that instrument… Yeah, so I'm happy that we did that.

Radu: And also for the listener it's different.

CG: Yeah, I would assume so. There's no heavy distortion on the bass; it's just literally an acoustic instrument. I like the punch that it has - you know, because the notes don't have as much sustain to them, it's a bit more punchy-sounding, which I like. That's why I kind of like those old Fender basses with flatwound strings on them. It's just a different sound, and I use an old Fender Mustang on the single we released today, "Canary Yellow". I used an old short-scale Fender bass with flatwound strings on it to record that. Yeah, I like that old-school punchy sound.

Radu: Do you see any situation where you'll play it again for Haken?

CG: The upright?

Radu: Yup.

CG: Yeah, probably, depending on what we do for the next album, which I'm not sure when we'll start on that, but now that I've reintroduced myself to the instrument, I think I should probably explore that a bit more, especially for certain sections. Obviously not the heavy, "Prosthetic"-esque metal songs, probably not so much, but if we had something a bit more subdued and mellow, yeah, I think I'm going to.

Radu: Those subdued parts, like the one in "Host" and the one in "Messiah Complex", I think those were the ones that I found most memorable about the recent two albums.

CG: Oh, interesting.

Radu: Yeah, I like hearing jazz influence in metal, generally. It's usually - before this, when I heard it, it was in technical death metal, those really [blubbery sound to indicate technical wankery] parts -

CG: Sure. Yeah, like Rivers Of Nihil, things like that.

Radu: Yeah, stuff like that. But also recently - I mean "recently" like the past 10 years, or more recent - there's been a revival of putting jazz into metal and in all different areas, so obviously there's you in the progressive metal part, and also a lot of black metal bands have had saxophones in their music.

CG: Mhm, yeah, I've noticed that, and Richard - our guitarist, Richard - had saxophone and jazz influences on his solo album he released recently, so it's a big thing.

Radu: Yeah, I remember that. And also a lot of the biggest names in free jazz, like Colin Stetson and Mats Gustafsson, one of them collaborated with a death metal band in a drone album and the other one started his own metal band.

CG: Oh, man, I love Colin Stetson. He played saxophone in a band that I love called Bon Iver for years. [Ed: He pronounces Bon Iver correctly, which makes him a snob.]

Radu: Yeah, yeah.

CG: He played that massive - it was, like, bigger than a bari saxophone. What do they call it, a bass saxophone? I don't know. But yeah, he's amazing, and I kind of like it. It's fun. It's kind of nice, having those really sophisticated harmonic approaches mixed with the brutality of a death metal band. I like that juxtaposition a lot.

Radu: Yeah, and, actually, recently it kind of became a cliché to have a saxophone. "Oh, so this is jazz, it's just adding a saxophone in there!"

CG: Yeah, I kind of noticed that. A lot of bands were doing that, and not many bands using trumpets in the metal world, which I think is a problem. We used one on "Host". A friend of Ray's that he went to school with played the flugelhorn solo and… What other jazz instruments are there? We got upright bass, piano… You don't see a lot of soprano saxophone, maybe that's something. The trombone…

Radu: Alto saxophones, I suppose?

CG: Yeah, I see a lot of alto out there. That's mostly what people seem to be using in the death metal world. Trombone could be cool in a metal band. I don't think I've seen that yet.

Radu: Or a tuba.

CG: Yeah, oh, tuba - our drummer plays tuba, so that could work out pretty well.



Photo by Lim Sang


Radu: Okay. A lot of people think of progressive and technical music as favoring the showcasing of skill rather than actual songwriting. Why do you think that is? [Ed: OMG, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're prog]

CG: Oooh, boy, that's a tough question to answer. Why do I think that is? You know… I couldn't tell you. I'll tell you my view. When I was growing up, I was learning guitar and I loved Dream Theater and I loved John Petrucci's approach to guitar-playing, and the showcasing of the technical skill was something very attractive to me at that age. I think sometimes when we're growing up we see something we like and we don't really dig any deeper than that. The thing about Dream Theater that they were so good at, and still are, is they've got the skill and they know when to show it off, and they know how to write a damn good song, too. I think a lot of times - I don't know why it is, I couldn't tell you - but sometimes people like the analytical-ness of it. They're attracted to the speed and the technical prowess, for whatever reason, and it's metal, so it's fast and it's aggressive. I don't know; I think sometimes, especially in this genre, people gravitate towards that. Now, I listen to a lot of pop music and indie music and music that showcases almost zero instrumental, technical - there's no guitar solos, there's no crazy unison runs, so it's all about the songwriting, right? So the flipside is people that like that kind of music, they're attracted to songwriting and the vocals, whereas some people in metal are attracted to the really fast guitar-playing and whatnot, the double-bass kick. I don't know; everyone's got their own thing, but I think, to me, a lot of the magic in Haken that I think works is I guess we're trying to marry those two concepts. We want to have the technical ability mixed with the good songwriting like Dream Theater did, which maybe helps us stand out, maybe it doesn't. I know that we're trying to go for that, like in the new album, "Messiah Complex" is very technically challenging, it's almost impossible to play on our instruments, but we worked so long on making the song work, making the arrangement as good as it can be. Yeah, I don't know; I'm rambling now.

Radu: This is more of an e-mail question than a live question.

CG: Yeah, maybe, but I think a lot of times when people are fans of progressive metal, a lot of times they're musicians, and musicians like crazy musical things like the jazzy influence in progressive music or crazy John Petrucci solos, so I think that's a big part of it. A lot of musicians listen to this kind of music and a lot of nonmusicians maybe listen to more pop-oriented stuff… And, you know, there's nothing wrong with either one. I think it's kind of fun to blend the two ideas.

Radu: Yeah. The way I see it, the technical prowess is a tool that you can use - like a painter, the better you can paint doesn't necessarily mean that your painting is gonna be good if you don't put any heart in it, but with better tools you can do more things.

CG: Yeah. If your entire reason for making a song is to showcase your technical ability, well, I don't want to listen to that. Like you said, it's a tool, it's just another compositional tool. That's a good way to put it.

Radu: You can do more things when you can play more technically.

CG: Yeah. I think you're 100% right.

Radu: A lot of people circulate that quote - I don't know who said it or if it's misattributed - but it's like "I would rather have David Gilmour touch me with one note than have Petrucci play a hundred notes and not touch me at all". [Ed: I would rather not have David Gilmour touch me with anything, thanks.]

CG: Yeah, I mean, I think people go too far the other way, too. I see a lot of people saying, "Oh, there's so many notes in the song, there's no heart!" Like, that's not necessarily the case either, you know? It's a balance, just like anything else. It's like if you listen to… What's that Dream Theater song? "In The Name Of God" from Train Of Thought. Okay, there's some crazy guitar- and keyboard-playing in that song, but it's a killer song. It's so good! You can't tell me that there's no heart in that song; that's ridiculous. So people go crazy, but there's validity in the David Gilmour solo and a Petrucci solo. I don't see why people have to pick one or the other.

Radu: Honestly, I'd rather have Dream Theater get overly technical than write "Wither" again.

CG: Well, I'm not commenting on that. You know I can't do that.

Radu: (laughs witheringly) Okay. Is there any song you loved before, but now since you've started playing bass professionally, it has tempered your enjoyment of it?

CG: A Haken song?

Radu: No, any song.

CG: Any song?

Radu: A song that you have loved before, but now that you know how to play bass and you have accustomed your tastes to playing bass, you cannot enjoy it as much anymore, maybe because you realize the bass-playing either sucks or was produced in a way that you can barely hear it.

CG: Ooh, interesting. Well, I'd say it's the opposite. I'd say that learning bass has made me appreciate more different types of bass-playing. I couldn't tell you one song that I loved as a kid that I learned to play bass and I was like, "Ah, that's not good". But I can say that I've learned to like a lot of different types of music because of learning to play the bass. I can appreciate country music now. I listen to a lot of country/soul bands, like John Prine or guys like that, where the bass-playing is really amazing. It kind of helps you appreciate the music more. I can listen to some pop music. It's hard for me to get into radio pop music; I've tried and sometimes you can pick out a tune, like a Bruno Mars song, for example, that could be cool. Those have a lot of great bass lines. But, yeah, I'd say it's the opposite for me.

Radu: I did find a lot of great bass lines in recent music, like that Dua Lipa song.

CG: Oh, yeah, yeah, I've seen a lot of people covering that, like, bass players. Jacob Umansky I think did one recently; he's Intervals' bass player. Yeah, so if anything it's opened my eyes to different types of music. I've never been one to discount a type of music based on the bass-playing. I used to love, and still do, Killswitch Engage, and the bass-playing on those albums, I never really paid attention to them when I was growing up; I was always listening to the guitar parts. But now I go back and listen to them and I'm like, "Man, he's killer!" He's got a great sound, he's not crazy high in the mix, he's not very present in the mix, but if you know what you're listening for as a bass player, you can hear little things that I didn't pick up as a teenager. It's helped me enjoy the music even more.

Radu: I suppose now you have the ear to listen to those parts especially.

CG: Yeah, speaking for myself, I've tried to work on my ear just as much if not more than my actual instrument: hearing certain chords, chord changes, not only the chord changes but the actual notes in the chords - like the alterations, you know, is it a major 7#11, is it a dominant 7#5♭, whatever -

Radu: Okay, so music nerd stuff.

CG: Yeah, nerdy stuff that I like. I like all that really nerdy jazz stuff. (laughs)

Radu: Okay. I am someone with entry-level knowledge of jazz music and especially very limited knowledge of modern jazz. What would you say are the most essential jazz albums released in the past 30 years?

CG: Ooh, great question. Let me pull up my iTunes here. I've got a few modern jazz albums, but I've also got old-school, like '50s jazz albums that I think are equally valid. Okay, as far as modern jazz goes, I've got a couple guys. I've got Tigran Hamasyan, which maybe you've heard of?

Radu: Who?

CG: Tigran Hamasyan. He's an Armenian pianist.

Radu: No, no, I haven't heard of him.

CG: He's got two albums that I love: Shadow Theater and Mockroot. Those are two albums he's come out with recently - well, not recently, but the past 10 years. That's kind of like a blend of Meshuggah and jazz at the same time. He's great. I love - oh, this guy, Mark Guiliana, drummer. He's played with Avishai Cohen, Shai Maestro, Donny McCaslin, all these modern guys. He's got his own project called Beat Music, which is kind of centered around beats and improvisation, which is cool.

Radu: I thought it was about beating people.

CG: Oh, good. That'd be fun. I'd listen to beating-people jazz. Let's see, we got… Oh yeah, Ari Hoenig, another drummer. New York-based guy. These are all modern guys - I wouldn't say these are, like, "essential listening"; these are just guys that I like a lot. Ari Hoenig's especially a master at metric modulation stuff, really getting the most out of a tempo of a song, so if you're into really nerdy drumming stuff, I'd check him out. Let's see… As far as older stuff, I like Charles Mingus's music a lot.

Radu: Of course.

CG: He's pretty ahead of his time as a bass player and as a composer. He's got a lot of great music. I guess he kind of bridges the gap between free jazz and traditional jazz. Obviously Bill Evans is something you have to - that's definitely "essential listening". My favorite Bill Evans album - let me find it here. Sunday At The Village Vanguard and the Waltz For Debby album; those two albums are, I think, from the same recording session. And then the final one I was thinking of was The Oscar Peterson Trio, We Get Requests album from 1964, which I realize is a bit older than what you were asking, but…

Radu: Yeah, but I think I listened to one of those songs. You did name Ray Brown as one of your upright bass influences.

CG: Oh, yeah, I mean, Ray Brown's the man. He's the most musical upright bass player from that era I can think of. His time is impeccable, the way he feels time and tempo and his sound - he had the entire package. He'll always be my favorite upright bass player, I think.

Radu: That's good to hear. Honestly, other than when you started going back to the past, those are all guys I have never heard of.

CG: Oh, good.

Radu: I'll try to pretend that I'm actually gonna listen to them.

CG: Well, if you don't, it's your… it's your… uh…

Radu: Loss.

CG: Loss. I was gonna say "funeral". That doesn't make sense.

Radu: (laughs sensibly)

CG: Yeah, you're gonna die! (laughs menacingly) [Ed: The views presented in this piece do not reflect the jazz-related opinions of Metal Storm as a whole and Radu alone should be held accountable for his indiscretions.]



Photo by Joel Barrios


Radu: Honestly, I don't actually listen to a lot of jazz from a bass perspective like you probably do, so a lot of times it's going to be a jazz pianist or a jazz saxophonist or something, hence why most of the modern jazz that I listen to is either, like those free jazz musicians I mentioned, like Mats Gustafsson and Colin Stetson.

CG: Right.

Radu: Or there's a really great scene in London right now centered around Sons Of Kemet, if you've heard of them?

CG: Hm, I don't think so.

Radu: There's a lot of horn players and there's a tuba player that has his own album. I think I reviewed it for our website as well.

CG: Hm. Yeah, you should maybe type it into our Skype chat here.

Radu: Yeah, I'll have to find it. Each time I look for new jazz albums, I see that, oh, another affiliate of this band has released another album, and they're all very tribal and still very urban in a sense. They're both modern and tribal in a really cool way.

CG: I know what you mean. I actually listened to this guy from England the other day, a saxophone player you might like called Alabaster DePlume. He released some sort of instrumentals album the other day called To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 and, man, that's become maybe my favorite record release this year. It's kind of got almost an Eastern feel to it, kind of sounds like - oh, okay, Sons Of Kemet, interesting - yeah, this guy, Alabaster DePlume, he's from Manchester in England and if you're into saxophone, modern stuff, you'd dig that.

Radu: I also noticed that jazz music is very fragmented in its regions. I found a lot of really great Arabian jazz, some African jazz…

CG: Yeah, that's the thing about jazz. Obviously I guess it started in the US -

Radu: The thing about most music genres, but I think it's felt stronger with jazz.

CG: Yeah, I think so. I don't know why that is. Obviously it's not as big in the States these days as it used to be back in the '40s and '50s, but I've heard that it's pretty big in Tokyo, in Scandinavia, in a lot of parts of Europe, so naturally that - because it's less modern, I guess that there's a bigger history to it, it just evolves regionally, like you say, and more so than rock music has.

Radu: Yeah, I honestly have more incentive to listen to a jazz artist from some place than a rock artist.

CG: I can see that.

Radu: Especially if they're very centered around having an original sound.

CG: Yeah, I'm always looking for that anyway. I don't listen to music by genre. I usually listen to music by - like you say, an original, someone who sounds like themselves, who sounds undeniably original. That's usually it, so I don't care what kind of music it is - country music, hip-hop, jazz, doesn't matter.

Radu: And country music is also another thing. A lot of it gets a lot of flak because, well, a lot of it is mass-produced shit -

CG: Right.

Radu: - coming from the Nashville scene, and it kind of has a bad effect on all the great country artists that are actually out there doing actual good stuff.

CG: Yeah, man. I've been listening to this guy called Hiss Golden Messenger from North Carolina. He's like a country/soul singer-songwriter type and he's the one that really got me into country music for the first time, you know, because, like you say, we just hear the country music that's on the radio and we're like, "Eww, guh, that's pretty horrific" [Ed: Pop country is inarguably the worst genre of music.], but then you do some research and you realize that there's so much good stuff out there. I mean, literally every single type of music out there has something good in it [Ed: Except pop-punk]; you just have to find it. It's not the '60s anymore; you can't just turn on the radio and hear Led Zeppelin. That music's a product that's on the radio now, so if you're a music lover, you have to put the time in and research what's good.

Radu: Yeah, but even online it's kind of hard to get a hold of where's actually the good stuff.

CG: Yeah, it's so saturated. Especially in metal, too, like progressive metal, it seems that a lot of times the guys that get big are the guys that are really good at social media, which is tough. So it's not necessarily the best music, but…

Radu: It's tough for us as well to use social media to actually get our stuff out there. [Ed: This is a direct attack on how poorly and irregularly I update the MS Facebook page.]

CG: It's a different time. It's confusing. I'm not a big social media guy; I don't promote myself on social media. I just post pictures of ducks, pretty much.

Radu: Oh, yeah, same.

CG: (laughs) Yeah, it's just like - in Haken, we write music and hopefully people like it, but as far as spending a bunch of time promoting yourself - which is good, those people putting in all that time, it's commendable, it's impressive, but it's just not for me, and I don't want to look at my own face that much.

Radu: Me neither. Well, that's about it. Thank you for the chat.

CG: Yeah. It was fun. It was unique, a unique interview. It was more relaxed, which I enjoyed.

Radu: I try to make my interviewees regret having to leave for an interview that says, "What are your influences? How would you describe your sound?"

CG: Right. You know, I don't mind discussing that stuff, it's fun, but usually my influences - every time I list them in an interview, the interviewer's like, "Well, I'm bored now, because I don't know who any of those people are".

Radu: Why can't you just say Dream Theater?

CG: Yeah, Dream Theater, they're my only influence! Never heard any other band.

Radu: And Black Sabbath.

CG: Yeah, Black Sabbath and Motörhead.

Radu: Those three big ones.

CG: The "Big Three".



Photo by Max Taylor Grant


Radu: Well, thank you again. Do you have anything else to add to our readers?

CG: Hm… let's see… Oh, boy, you put me on the spot with this one. Anything to say… Hm. What do your readers like? [Ed: Opeth memes and arguing about review scores.]

Radu: Oh, I doubt they will read this far.

CG: Ah, damn it! Well, in that case… No, I have nothing. (laughs)

Radu: Okay.

CG: I have no unique thoughts. I'm a robot.

Radu: You're a nonplayable character.

CG: Yeah, exactly. I'm a cyborg, so I have no - I'm off script now, so I'm malfunctioning.

Radu: Well, okay. I hope you have at least one more person who was kind enough and humble enough to go for the bass player.

CG: Whoa, what do you mean? (laughs bassically)

Radu: (laughs sadistically) Well, I had to choose between the five members.

CG: Yeah.

Radu: Admittedly, you were not my first choice.

CG: Oh, well, yeah, no one wants to interview the bass player first. Unless they are a bass player themselves, which I don't blame them.

Radu: Of course. Well, thank you.

CG: Yeah, man. Thanks for talking to me.

Radu: No problem. See you.

CG: See you, man.

[Ed: Did we make it through an entire 43-minute interview without any substantial discussion of movies? This is stupid. I'm not doing this anymore.]

Thanks to SSUS for transcribing this and for the snarky comments. Sorry for not talking about movies this time, so I'll make it up by pimping your review of Eraserhead.


 



Posted on 21.05.2020 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments

Comments: 10   Visited by: 89 users
21.05.2020 - 18:20
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
You guys spent more time talking about jazz than about Haken. It was cool, though, because it really felt like you guys hit on a good subject and just went for it, even a little more so than your other interviews. Perhaps that's another benefit of interviewing somebody who doesn't often do interviews. I'd rather read a mutually interesting conversation than somebody just describing their new album that I'll get to hear for myself in another two weeks anyway.

I'm not the biggest Haken fan either, but I generally enjoy them and this talk of "Messiah Complex" does make me want to listen to Virus when it comes out.
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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21.05.2020 - 18:22
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 21.05.2020 at 18:20

I'm not the biggest Haken fan either, but I generally enjoy them and this talk of "Messiah Complex" does make me want to listen to Virus when it comes out.

Implying you don't have the promo in your email.
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Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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21.05.2020 - 21:47
nikarg
Mod
I personally loved all the talk about jazz. And the bass is a fantastic instrument, it's good you went for the bass player, even if he wasn't your first choice.
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21.05.2020 - 22:30
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by nikarg on 21.05.2020 at 21:47

I personally loved all the talk about jazz. And the bass is a fantastic instrument, it's good you went for the bass player, even if he wasn't your first choice.

It wound up being the best alternative indeed
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Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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22.05.2020 - 10:19
dammage11
Great interview, I've only ever listened to metal "jazz" but I'd be keen on trying out some of the artists that Connor suggested
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22.05.2020 - 10:31
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by dammage11 on 22.05.2020 at 10:19

Great interview, I've only ever listened to metal "jazz" but I'd be keen on trying out some of the artists that Connor suggested

Go for it, I'd say Charles Mingus is a good place to start.
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Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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22.05.2020 - 13:26
Ivor
Staff
Can vouch for Tigran Hamasyan. Have seen him perform live and that's pretty intense what he does. Admittedly, I'm not too much into jazz but live shows by Hiromi Uehara and some time later Tigran Hamasyan I've enjoyed quite a lot.

I.
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No friends for playing games
No foes who scorn my name
Computerized machines of steel and rust
/---/
No friends in my house on Mars
No foes in my house on Mars
I was born in my house on Mars
I will die in my house on Mars
-- Ayreon - My House on Mars
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22.05.2020 - 13:51
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Ivor on 22.05.2020 at 13:26

Can vouch for Tigran Hamasyan. Have seen him perform live and that's pretty intense what he does. Admittedly, I'm not too much into jazz but live shows by Hiromi Uehara and some time later Tigran Hamasyan I've enjoyed quite a lot.

I.

I'll leave this here for our viewer's convenience:



Also make sure to make your 5000th post count.
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Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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23.05.2020 - 13:47
musclassia
"Radu: It was actually the reason I liked Vector so much"

Review rating for Vector: 7.5

"So much"
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23.05.2020 - 21:00
tintinb
Screaming Steel US must accompany Radu for all the interviews. This was hilarious and a genuine pleasure to read.
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