Hessian: Schooling Old MetalTuesday, 16th September 2014
Dead Rhetoric: You made a video for “Funeral Disco” that is highly entertaining. How do you feel the shoot went, and where do you view the medium in comparison to the MTV heydays of the 80’s and early 90’s? What have been some of your favorite heavy metal videos by other artists through the years?
McFarland: The shoot was great, it took place right downstairs from our practice space, where there is a real pro soundstage. We went in to get the atmosphere of the Old Grey Whistle Test or Top of the Pops videos, where it is about watching the band play, but with some atmosphere. I love to watch those old Thin Lizzy or T-Rex BBC videos, they had so much personality. MTV really made it about telling some kind of story that was more or less related to the song. I think bands from that era almost got more defined by their videos than by their albums, which I guess worked in some cases and not really in others. There were a lot of great videos, but these days I never really pay attention to that era. If I’m on YouTube I am watching Sabbath in Paris or something like that.
Dead Rhetoric: In September, Hessian and Blood of Kings will be together crisscrossing the United States on tour. What can fans expect live, and how is tour life for Hessian? Do you try to take care of yourselves as best as possible considering the long drives, lack of proper sleep and down time from town to town?
McFarland: I am actually on a plane right now to Seattle to kick off the tour, we are really pleased to be here doing our thing. It is a great opportunity to bring our live show to the people across the US. We do our best to stay healthy and sane on tour, which can be difficult! But we have done it so much on the East Coast that we know how to work together on and off stage, so I think it will not be too hard. But we give it our all when we play, so wish my neck luck! Bring Icy Hot to the gigs! We bring a lot of enthusiasm to the stage, and I hope that infects the crowd.
Dead Rhetoric: Hessian has dual vocalists who also double up on guitars – do you consider this an added advantage in terms of melodies, harmonies, and emotions you are able to put across dynamically when it comes to your style?
McFarland: Absolutely. Just vocally, having a male and a female vocalist opens up a lot of doors creatively, and allows us to come from more perspectives. Also Salli’s voice and delivery style are really different from mine, so we can split up material according to who it suits best. When we do Sabbath tunes I do Ozzy stuff and she does Dio. And the twin lead guitar thing is essential, when you have someone who you can play off of like we can, it’s like magic. You can trade off, play in harmony, thicken rhythm textures, it really lets you develop your riffs in a lot more ways.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to not only gain attention from the fans through the years, but also your peers, such as Fenriz from Darkthrone making you one of his band of the week features?
McFarland: It’s a trip! When that Fenriz thing happened it was so exciting, “the dude from Darkthrone is listening to Hessian right now!” you know? I have heard people talk shit on Fenriz, like he’s trying to be a tastemaker and all that. But man, he has done so much for so many bands, he basically gave his life to underground metal, and that deserves respect. And people listen to him because he is right a fuck of a lot of the time! To be recognized by someone whose work I love and whose opinions I respect is great.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your views on the New England heavy music scene, as well as the heavy metal scene in general? Do you find that you are gaining a buzz here, considering many of your influences are of a NWOBHM and European variety?
McFarland: The New England scene is pretty healthy, there are some great bands here, and a lot of talented people. It’s mostly known for thrash these days, I think, but there are good examples of pretty much everything here. Seax is great speed metal, Shabti is great for death/black, Falls of Rauros, Lich King are the thrash masters, there’s a lot more. But it’s hard to break out of your local scene. There is kind of a lack of a good infrastructure to push bands into the next phase, labels and promoters and what-have-you. But there are some people who are working really hard to make it happen, so I am hopeful for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: How much importance do you place on imagery and visual elements within the Hessian framework, both from a lyrical and presentation perspective?
McFarland: Well, obviously sound comes first. In the end, if your riffs are not righteous, no amount of cool album covers or clever lyrics is gonna save you. But the extra-musical stuff is great, and can be important too. Most of our lyrics tell a story of some kind, and I think that adds a layer of interest that wouldn’t be there if we were doing “I Wanna Rock” or whatever. And we are way too much metal nerds to forego sweet album art, posters and the like. It adds to the experience. And on stage, we follow the philosophy that if you’re there you are a performer, and don’t wear your goddamn sweatpants. Give the people something cool to look at, as well as listen to.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of the best fan encounter stories that have happened through the years? Do people ever ask you for advice, and if so what do you tell them to focus on?
McFarland: We were playing at the House of Vans in New York with Yuppicide, and it was kind of a weird gig, the stage and lights and system were all super top-notch, and all the people there were really cool, but it was basically an event for Vans to give away promotional shit, and a lot of the audience there were really focused on getting free stuff, even while we were playing, so it was kinda stupid. But afterwards this kid comes up to the merch table and starts telling us that he is a huge fan and he has been trying to see us forever, but he wasn’t 21 so he could never go to a gig. And he said he didn’t have any money but would we trade a t-shirt for a Rainbow record? It was Rainbow Rising, which is pretty much the best record ever, so we traded him one of everything for it, and I still listen to that record all the time. He ended up doing some t-shirt art for us later in, and he creates the Edge of a Knife Zine, which is great. It’s always kind of mind blowing when we go to a new place and there are people there who have been waiting for us to come to their town. I guess that’s the internet for you.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, how would you say the next 12 months are shaping up for Hessian? Have you started the work to compile riffs and parts for the follow up album?
McFarland: Yeah, we’ve been writing the next album all along, so as soon as this tour is done we can really get stuck into it, hopefully to record in the spring. With a little luck it won’t be another 5 years before we release it! So that’s coming up, and we also want to do some singles and splits in the meantime. We are playing Ragnarokkr in Chicago 2015, and working on a few other festivals, which is what we want to focus on this year. So look for us to keep refining, keep making better records and shows, and keep moving forward.
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