Hexis interview (03/2023)
|Conducted by:||X-Ray Rod (e-mail)|
Hexis is surely becoming one of the most well-known names in the blackened sludge/hardcore scene. One of the key elements for their fame are their insanely long tours. Lasting many months and covering so much ground you'd think the band could work an extra gig as cartographers. Oddly enough, Rodrigo here has managed to miss them every time they swing by close to his town of Helsingborg. But in mid December 2022, Hexis showed up in his backyard: The Danish Helsingør that is just a 20 minutes ferry ride away from Helsingborg. With no excuses, he went to the concert, had a blast and exchanged contact info with singer and founder Filip Andersen. If you wonder why he didn't do the interview right then and there... Well, he had a few beers too many and was too shy!
Rod: Hi Filip! How are you doing? How are the preparations for the upcoming tours? You guys are going to hit Oceania first and Asia will follow immediately afterwards. Any places from that tour you guys haven’t visited before? What are you looking forward to the most?
Filip: It’s going well. A lot of work to do for sure, I’m pretty much spending the majority of my time in front of my computer planning for all this. Yes, we are actually visiting a lot of new places on this tour. Both New Caledonia and French Polynesia are our first time going there, it’s also gonna be our first time playing the Northern Territory in Australia, like going to Alice Springs and Darwin. After this then we have Asia, where we will start out with a show in Timor-Leste, we are the first metal band ever to play over there and people seems insanely stoked about we are coming over, so I have a feeling that show could end up being the most crazy one on the whole tour. We are also playing Hong Kong and Laos for the first time. I kinda have a feeling what to expect from Hong Kong, since I know a lot of bands who have been going there. Laos is a little more rare, so that one is gonna be more of a ’surprise’ I guess. We have also been to Japan a couple of times in the past, but this will be our first time heading all the way over to Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Okinawa. There is actually more shows going to be announced for this run soon, including a few more new spots, but I guess I will have to wait a little longer before I can talk about these.
Rod: What's the process behind scheduling a tour in a place that isn't used to metal shows constantly?
Filip: It usually takes more time to work out. Since you have to dig a lot deeper to find contacts. Like that Timor-Leste show etc. I was pretty much just hitting up random people who I have seen going to shows over there or have some kind of interest in metal, if they had any leads to who to contact about playing a concert.
Rod: At this point it’s becoming increasingly hard to figure out which places you guys haven’t visited! But South America springs to mind. Is it correct that you haven’t been there before? What are the main reasons for this gap? I’m aware that you finally have 3 days for Chile, Argentina and Brasil alongside Amenra. It looks to me like a perfect duo. Not only musically but also because you both share an eye for intriguing visual aesthetics. Have you played with them before?
Filip: Yes, we never played there before, which I also find weird, considering we have been to so many places around the world haha. We tried to go there a couple of times in the past, but it just never really worked out for whatever reason. We finally had something pretty solid lined up for 2020, but of course covid canceled that plan. Now we have the Amenra run, which seems like the perfect first visit over there for us. We never played with them before, but it’s a band we always have been looking up to and I also think it’s a perfect fit for sure. I’m really excited about playing with them!
Rod: So tell me Filip: What is the driving force behind wanting to play in every venue under the sun?
Filip: I will not say that I necessarily want to play every venue which exists hehe. Maybe I felt that way when we started the band a long time ago. But I think how I feel now is that I still want to constantly be on the road, but I want to make sure that it also makes sense for us to do so. Like we wanna make sure that the shows we take in, most likely gonna turnout nice and be fun to play in the end.
Rod:Have you guys ever considered an African tour? Or India? That’d be quite something!
Filip: So we actually tried to book Africa back in 2018, but it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. We are now looking into some options of going there next year instead. About India, we are going there the day after playing Bangkok on this upcoming tour, that one was some of the not announced shows I talked about hehe.
Rod: A bit of a touchy subject but I’m curious: Is there a place where you wouldn’t want to tour?
Filip: As it looks right now, then no Russia. I guess the chances of us going to North Korea anytime soon is probably also pretty small haha
Rod: Filip, why do you think other bands aren't as ambitious with their touring locations as you guys?
Filip: I think there are a couple of different reasons for that. Like it obviously costs a lot of money to travel to many of these places and the economic situation over there is not as good as many of the normal touring destinations. So probably if you are a relatively unknown band, then you will lose tons of money on going to some of these places. If you are a medium size or bigger band, then you are probably not gonna lose money on going there, but you are probably just breaking even or coming home with very little money in your pocket. So I guess if you are trying to make your band your fulltime living, then it doesn't make a lot of sense to go to a lot of these places. I will say, we also started to care a lot more about the economic aspect of doing the band, because we realized that will have to be done, if we wanna continue to tour as heavily as we do now. So even if we still play a lot of crazy places around the world, which might not make a lot of sense economically, then we still try to plan it the best way possible.
Rod: You guys truly pour your hearts out for this busy tour life. How does the financing work before and after the tours?
Filip: So last year was actually the first year we started to pay out money from the band, like after being around for 12 years or so. Before that then only enough came in to run it into zero all the time or very early on then a lot of minus all the time. But how we usually do it when we tour Europe now is that each person is getting a fixed amount paid out from each show, then when we tour outside of Europe then it’s more like we split all money which is left equal between each of us when the tour is over, since Europe is a lot more safe to do for us money wise, because we have less costs touring here. But most money coming into the band is being invested into different things like recordings, music videos and all that kind of stuff. We are definitely not getting rich from doing this band, but we somehow make it work. But it still feels nice that the band is slowly going in a better and better direction economically, since it gives us less sleepless nights haha.
Rod: The pandemic must have been hard for you. How long were you guys inactive tour-wise? Were you able to do any shows at all? Is there anything that has permanently changed for you after the pandemic and the current economic climate?
Filip: So we did one show in 2020 and a few shows in 2021, some of these were sit down shows and were kinda weird, but after not playing for some time, then I guess that was better than nothing haha. Our last tour before covid ended in November 2019 and our first tour after covid started March 2022. So it was close to 2 and a half years without touring. So I’m seeing a lot of bands complaining that they are making less money from touring now because of a lot of different things. As I just mentioned in my other answer, then last year was the first year for us seeing any money from this band at all, so it’s not like we are struggling more economically now, than before covid. But also we always try to tour as cheap as possible, since we rather live a little less comfy on the road and come home with some cash on our pocket, rather than touring more fancy and coming home with nothing. Also we haven’t experienced any of these venues that everybody is talking about, that take a cut from the merch sale etc. So I guess that is one of the ‘good’ things about playing smaller venues
Rod: Let's go back in time. How was the band formed?
Filip: So my old band broke up and right before that happened, then we just got a new drummer. So me and that new drummer wanted to start a new band together. He knew a guitarist, I knew a bass-player and we found a second guitarist on a forum for musicians, so that was kinda the start.
Rod: By the looks of it there was a reset, the beginning of a new era, around 2015 with everybody leaving except for you. How did you manage the band at the time? How did you find new members and session musicians? How was the process of composing new music during that period and has there been any changes in songwriting style between then and now?
Filip: So it was obviously very tough to stand alone with it from one day to another. But at the same time, I spent so much time already on building it up, so I didn’t want to give it up + I knew whatever music I wanted to do next will be the same style as Hexis, so it also felt a little pointless to call it something new, when the sound was going to be kinda the same. When I was searching for new members then I hit up a few people I wanted to work with + I made a Facebook post that I was searching for new members, actually a pretty good amount of people contacted me, so I picked the persons which I thought will be the best fit. It was kinda weird to start writing music with new people at first, like after doing it for many years with other people, but after some time everything kinda fell into place and it just felt normal to write with these new guys. I think for every time a new person got involved with the songwriting in the band then something had changed, because you know each person have his way of doing stuff, so even if somebody is trying to do something which have to sound ‘Hexis’, then it will never be the same as the person who did it before him or after.
Rod: How did you start your work with bassist Luca Mele? Also, Dalle Oldman and Felix Kothe are the latest additions to the band, performing guitars and drums respectively on Aeternum. How did you all meet and are they official members of the band now?
Filip: So our bassist back at that time couldn’t make it for a tour we had planned around Asia, so we needed a stand-in. Our drummer at the time was a friend of Luca, so he asked him if he wanted to do it. While we were on the tour, our old bass-player gave us the news that he was going to leave the band, because his girlfriend was pregnant, so since the tour with Luca had been going well, we asked him if he wanted to be a new member of the band. Dalle and Felix have never been permanent members of the band, we have been without a guitarist and drummer for a long time now, so we needed some people to help us with the song writing and these instruments on the record. Dalle I know mainly from the local scene in Copenhagen, he plays in a band called TRWLR, which is kinda similar in the style of music as Hexis, so I thought he would be a good fit for it. Felix I know because back in 2014 then we did a tour and we ended up with a stand-in drummer who couldn’t play our songs at all, it was a really shitty situation and we were about to cancel the full thing after playing the first show, but the band we toured with back then knew about a person who will be able to jump in last minute and they said he was a really good drummer. So we took the chance and the next day then we drove a lot of hours to a city in Germany, to meet up with a person for the first time, that guy was Felix and he nailed all the songs. We have been staying in touch since back then and every now and then we need a stand-in on tours or in this case, for recording, then we hit him up.
Rod: Let’s talk more about Aeternum. While unmistakably a Hexis album, it does carry a different tone. Somewhat of a slow-burner compared to your previous works. The heavy drumming really stands out with its near-ritualistic sound and the vocal work seems much more varied. What do you attribute these changes? Is there a gradual shift of style in the works for future releases?
Filip: I think there are a couple of different reasons for this, as mentioned earlier then every time when there are new people involved then that changes something in the sound for sure, this record not only had new people writing, but we also worked with another producer than the previous albums. Also we wrote Aeternum on a computer, like with programmed drums etc. before we recorded the real thing which allowed us to work a lot more on details in the music, compared to the old Hexis music which was just full on jamming, not even recording demos or anything like that. About my vocals, I think the biggest difference here is that I actually learned to scream with some kind of technique on this record, on the old stuff then I just tried to scream as loud as possible and most of the time then it didn’t work out super well I think. We actually started to work on a new record now, it’s still very early in the process, so it’s kinda hard to say where it will end. But the plan is for sure to take it in a new direction. Like we are trying out a lot of new things at the moment, which we never have done before. Also I’m working on varying my vocals even more for this next record.
Rod: Was there anything new you guys did with the drumming though? It just sounds so much more muscular than on previous albums. It was a huge highlight for me and definitely set it apart not only from your previous works but also from other bands of similar style.
Filip: If I remember correctly, then on a lot of the more slow parts then what the producer did was to pitch down the drums a little and put under the real thing, so there is kinda an extra layer in the background, to kinda make it sound more massive. I think Felix suggested doing this, since he had done it with another band before. But I guess what the good production mainly comes down to is that the guy we recorded with (Fredrik Nordström) has been doing what he is doing for 30+ years. That guy is just super talented and can make every band sound good. Like he recorded everything from more clean stuff like Bring Me The Horizon, Architects etc. to more dirty sounding stuff like Skitsystem, The Psyke Project etc. Probably not gonna be the last record we will do with him.
Hexis' 2022 release "Aeternum"
Rod: Many aspects of your band revolve around a very solid DIY-Philosophy. Aeternum was released through Debemur Morti which is a rather big name in the extreme metal scene. How would you describe your experience working with them? Did the partnership extend only to Aeternum or will there be more releases in the future coming out from that label?
Filip: So we actually ended up splitting with the label, because of personal reasons. So we now own the rights to the Aeternum fully by ourselves. When the current stock of CD’s and vinyls is sold out, then we will probably repress the next pressing by ourselves. So at the moment we are not signed to any label and I guess when we get closer to finishing the writing of the next record, then we will figure out what we're gonna do. I will still say that I appreciate a lot what Debemur Morti did for us and they are probably the label who have pushed us most so far, so I’m happy about that.
Rod: After traveling all around the world, I can’t imagine all the stories you have. Let’s go through some highlights! Which have been your craziest shows? Your funniest experiences? Your most dangerous ones? Any particular shows you regret and would like to try and do over again?
Filip: I think some of our most crazy shows and most fun experiences were on our tour in Asia back in 2017, which is why I’m also super stoked about going back again soon. Everything over there is just super wild and completely different from what you experience here in Europe. About shows I regret, I definitely feel like we did a lot of shitty performances with the band, especially in the early years, but at the same time, I guess that is a part of playing music, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Like our first big show ever was Roskilde Festival back in 2014, honestly non of us had any fucking idea what we were doing on that big stage, since we only had been playing a couple of small punk DIY shows before that, so to stand on that stage was completely different. I am 100% sure I could go back now and do it a lot better, but it’s what it is, you have to start somewhere.
Rod: And more importantly: Which places have the best food? Which ones have the best drinks and beer?!?!
Filip: For me then Italy and the US win, because of their pizzas. Vietnam has some good stuff as well. I am also excited about trying the food in Mexico when we finally go there. I don’t drink alcohol, so I guess I’m not the right person to answer this, but when I was drinking then my favorite beer was this cheap danish one called ‘King’ haha.
Rod: How do you recharge your batteries after every tour? Any activities that you partake in that help you cool off?
Filip: I usually don’t really get to recharge, I’m pretty much coming home from one tour and then starting the planning for the next one right away. But when I do take some time off, then I usually play on my PS5 or Nintendo Switch. I love to play video games!
Rod: Besides music, is there any other artistic medium in which you or your other bandmates work with?
Filip: For me then it’s pretty much just music. I wish I knew how to do artworks or something like that too, if I someday get the time, then I wanna learn how to do it. Luca has a million different music projects going on, so as far as I know, that is also all he does.
Rod: I’m quite the fan of the aesthetics you present with Hexis. There is a strong visual presence in all your works which I can only compare with acts like Amenra and Celeste, who are also very selective with their visual art. Hexis’ style is quite minimalistic yet it carries rich and deeply dark religious themes. All artwork seems to be made exclusively for each release. How is the process of conceptualizing these works? Are you solely responsible for the concepts or is it a group effort?
Filip: Usually I come up with the ideas for the artworks, I then send them to Luca and if he agrees that it’s a cool idea, then we look for the right people to make the ideas a reality.
Rod: You are obviously a huge fan of scary movies judging by the visual and lyrical aspects of Hexis. Could you mention some of your absolute favorites? (BESIDES The Exorcist and other religion-related movies haha!)
Filip: Probably my all time favorite movie is Se7en. I know it’s a thriller and not a horror movie, but I wanted to mention that one anyway, I guess it’s still scary. It’s honestly pretty hard for me to come up with scary movies which are not based around religious stuff, because they always seem to be the most scary ones haha. Anyway, movies in different genres that I love: American History X, Joker, Hostel, Paranormal Activity...
Rod: Haha ok that question was just me trying to be a smartass. Could you tell me which horror movies with religious themes are among your favorites? After all… Quite a few of them had an impact on Hexis!
Filip: I guess the one which we took most inspiration from is the movie The Last Exorcism, the demon in that one is actually called 'Abalam' (the name of our first album). About other movies, now actually nothing is really coming to my mind, sorry about that haha.
Rod: On behalf of Metalstorm, its staff and users, I thank you for the opportunity to dive deeper in the inner workings of Hexis. Good luck on the road, Filip! I hope to see you perform again. I leave the last words to you.
Filip: Thank you for doing this!
Filip and Rodrigo after the concert
||Posted on 19.03.2023 by|
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