Haken – To Affinity…and BeyondSunday, 27th March 2016
Dead Rhetoric: Is song flow, order, and dynamic contrast a part of the final process when it comes to piecing together outstanding records like Visions and The Mountain?
Hearne: Yes, absolutely. We were kind of stuck when we were writing Aquarius and Visions, because they were so narrative based, by the time we were so deep in the songwriting process we knew which song had to go with which part of the story. With The Mountain there was definitely a bit of shuffling about, what order would be best, and again with Affinity it’s the same. It’s definitely something we take a lot of consideration for- we think of our albums as one set work. It needs to be something coherent in itself, the songs can be individual but as you said it’s a dynamic thing more than anything else. You can’t have a set of 5 really heavy songs followed by a set of 5 really light songs- it makes for a slightly strange format. Finding the balance with all the albums has been interesting- with this one in particular was quite different from our other albums because we have a centerpiece track that is over 15 minutes long slap bang in the middle of the album whereas in the past we have saved those kind of songs for the end of the album. It’s got a different feel in comparison to the previous albums.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess each of the albums and EP in Haken’s catalog – as in what you enjoyed and what you feel maybe could have been improved or modified in retrospect?
Hearne: The longer we write for Haken and the longer we go on as a band, you’ll always find faults in some of your earlier work. For me personally, there is a lot on Aquarius I’d like to improve, and to a certain extent on Visions as well. It becomes less and less for The Mountain and Restoration EP, because they are fresher in my mind. Not to say I am not happy with Visions or Aquarius – they represent a different stage, a much younger and perhaps more naïve stage where we were writing music that was even more varied or too varied at times. There is stuff on Aquarius that goes from really light stuff to really heavy, harsh vocal stuff. If it’s done well you can feel it after playing it for years. We try to release the best products that we can do at that particular stage in our lives, move on and hopefully the next work we do will be even better. Not just musically but also technically, we are all as musicians constantly looking at our own skills and instrumental abilities. If I look back at my drum parts for Aquarius, I would have chosen now so many different ways to play the songs- I change some of them live to reflect how I would play them now versus how I played them then. It is always an evolving process.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve made steady in roads in a lot of markets over the last few years touring-wise – including a headlining jaunt to North America. Where do you see the differences between the studio and the stage for Haken- and what have been some of your favorite memories/ stand out tours or festivals?
Hearne: We love doing both equally. The writing and recording process is incredibly intense and very life-consuming. If I look back to the last half a year we were sort of really, really at it, spending all of our time writing, recording, re-arranging, showing demos, a never-ending process. It’s always exciting to check your e-mails and see a new idea for a certain section. Playing live is a completely different thing- you finally get the chance to showcase this music for your fans who are there to see you, they bought your CD, they bought their ticket, they buy your merchandise. It’s amazing to have this outlet and perform this music for people who are there because they just love it. To be in that position is such an honor, and we only hope it’s going to continue with this next album.
Favorite moments… there have been so many. A couple of years ago, Progressive Nation at Sea in February of 2014. An amazing experience for us to be on a boat with a lineup of pretty much all of our favorite bands, to be put on that lineup and have several months listening to these bands and finding out we are going to be joining these bands on a boat plus fans who are mad enough to come see us. To be invited by Mike Portnoy is just unreal, having his support and influence is great for us. There were a few shows in the early days I’d rather like to forget, but all in all it’s been a really great thing to play live. I can remember most shows and love every minute of every one.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see your role as Haken’s drummer – and did it take a little time to gel with bassist Conner Green who entered the band in 2014 for previous long-term bassist Tom MacLean?
Hearne: The first bit first. As a drummer in a really sort of technical at times, progressive band – it’s really important to things simple. Having Conner join the band is awesome – even before he joined us I was glued to his YouTube audition. I just couldn’t wait to play with him- he’s got it down, he looks like he would fit straight in. He flew all the way over to London from Indiana just to play with us for 20 minutes. He hadn’t even flown before- let alone in the United States. Just for the sole purpose of playing with us in the hope that we find him suitable. A pretty massive ask and he couldn’t have done a better job. He’s slotted in perfectly and there hasn’t been any question as to whether he works for us or not. I feel challenged and pushed by his playing, and that’s all I need as a musician.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of goals does the band set – either in the short term or long term – as to how far you think you could take Haken in terms of a full-time entity? Is reaching the level of say a Yes or Dream Theater attainable in your eyes?
Hearne: I think it’s important to be realistic, definitely. If you take Dream Theater for example, I don’t know how quickly Yes developed or progressed in their early days. As far as I’m aware, Dream Theater weren’t at a level where they could make a full-time living until 10 years down the line. I think comparably we are still at a fairly early stage, but not too far off either. Speaking more generally, it is something you have to be patient with. From the very early days, before the first album, the plan was always to make it a full-time thing and do whatever we could to make sure that Haken is a full-time thing and not something just for fun. It becomes more difficult when people get married and start having kids, and that can put some obstacles in the way and hold things back, limit how much we can tour but it’s really exciting to have this new album coming out soon. Hopefully it will help us reach the next step- it’s better to think we are at this level now, we will reach this level next year, taking it in small steps. It’s looking good, we are really hopeful and think the fans will love it.
Dead Rhetoric: Hearing that you are a proper Iron Maiden fan in another interview, which era do you prefer: Di’Anno, Dickinson, or Bayley? And as far as drummers, do you find Clive Burr more to your liking than Nicko McBrain or vice versa?
Hearne: I love it all to be honest. I’ve kind of lost track of Iron Maiden over the last few years. I’m not a huge fan of Bayley’s vocals, because if you look at Di’Anno and Dickinson they have a comparatively higher vocal range. Bayley’s is more or less an octave lower, so it’s a different sound listening to those albums. I really love the early stuff, the Di’Anno stuff is great- and the Dickinson stuff, I can’t get enough of it.
Comparing the drummers, Nicko McBrain is one of my all-time favorite drummers. He’s just great- he’s one of those guys that defines the idea that I spoke about keeping things simple where possible. He’s just so great about laying down a groove, and he has this heavy feel. I can’t say I’ve seen footage of Burr play live, but for me Nicko took on the perfect replacement. I can barely tell them apart, he drums in such a similar way.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for the next 12 months in Haken?
Hearne: Obviously the album coming out, I can’t wait to see how that does. We will start touring at the end of May, to almost the end of June. We have a couple of shows in Israel. The tour is all over Europe with some really cool bands, Rendezvous Point, Special Providence, and Arkentype. Two of those guys from Norway and Special Providence is from Hungary. A couple of festivals in the works as well. We will probably have July-August time off, and we are going to try to pull a tour together surrounding our ProgPower USA appearance in September. The plan is tour around the USA… other than that, I can’t think any further ahead. We will want to start writing the new album as soon as possible, we have loads of ideas and a nice theme we want to work with. The sooner the better for the next album, as it’s just going to help the momentum. If it gets quiet on the touring front then it’s going to get busy on the writing front.
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