Hemina – Thinking Forward Part IITuesday, 10th January 2017
Click HERE to read Part I.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you define progressive metal – considering the broad scope of what is considered progressive metal these days, as you can have everything from Devin Townsend and Periphery to the normal Dream Theater, Symphony X, Pain of Salvation sound?
Skene: I guess there’s progressive metal kind of as a collective right now and that’s coming from that whole Dream Theater, Symphony X type sound. For me I try to think about it… and it seems this is how it’s getting applied to more blankly today- it’s where metal is trying to be progressive and you are just applying a progressive rock ethos in a way to it all. You do forward thinking things- you are trying to explore rhythms, harmonies in a different way than other people. You are exploring conceptual things with new ideas- you are doing it with the sound palate of metal which is usually going to involve pretty loud drums and a lot of distorted guitars.
Dead Rhetoric: Opening for acts like Queensrÿche and Kamelot, you’ve mentioned in other interviews how well-oiled they are in terms of live performances and being on top of their game. How would you describe Hemina’s live performance- and what have been some of the best shows in the band’s career?
Skene: Some of those support shows have actually been some of our best shows- I think we’ve had to have our performances to a certain level that day, and that has a lot of pressure to be right. We had a pretty tough (gig) actually opening up for Apocalyptica recently- I had lost my voice the day before the show. Miraculously I had some voice to sing the show. I think we try to play heavy and progressive music but we also try to have a lot of fun on stage- I don’t like seeing bands on stage that are just statues on stage, not moving or getting into the music. I find that doesn’t keep my attention live, so I find we are better off being the band that I’d want to see on stage. Some bands really do that well- Voyager from Australia is another band that you may have heard of – they are pretty much the apex of stage performers. In some ways we aim to be like that- make it fun, make it good for the audience to watch, have a few jokes and still kind of keep it serious- and perform our music tightly, The music is hard for us to perform, there are some shredders that would look at it as not as much of a challenge but for us it’s hard to play, and we put a lot of time into playing the songs well. We do this to quench that creative yearning inside, but also just to have fun because it’s not a money making career, that’s for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: How is the Sydney scene support for metal in general? Do you find it’s difficult to fit in given the niche market appeal of progressive music – or does this set you apart in a positive manner?
Skene: I guess progressive music is always a niche but for Australia there seems to be a growing progressive music channel of support. There are a lot of post-rock bands in Australia, and there are bands similar to Karnivool, where it’s like alternative rock with a few progressive tendencies. In Sydney itself, there are not very many progressive metal bands, in the sense that we are. There are bands like The Helix Nebula, and some instrumental, technical kind of metal bands. Not really too many progressive metal bands with singers. It’s very niche, sometimes you rely on having a good show by having out of state bands- our show with Caligula’s Horse the other day was quite good- a sold out show in Sydney. There’s been a recent festival in Melbourne, one of the capitals for our kind of music in Australia, and they had Progfest. There were over 1,000 people at that, there were 10 bands that are going all day. That happens yearly. It’s kind of growing, but it’s very hard to motivate people to come out of their house and see a show. Gig attendance is up and down. Everyone likes to Netflix and chill, but I very much like to go see live music as well. I love going to see bands play, I make sure and buy music of the bands that I love- I spread the word. I don’t want to be someone who only talks about my band, I like spreading the word about other bands.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of the best shows that you’ve taken in from a fan perspective?
Skene: For me, the best show ever was seeing Remedy Lane performed in its entirety by Pain of Salvation at ProgPower Europe. I was in Europe for my honeymoon just after I’d gotten married, I got to see Pain of Salvation twice in two days, that’s pretty much as good as it gets for me. Some other good ones- the first time I saw Dream Theater was pretty good, their new material though doesn’t really do anything for me. A small show I saw earlier this year in Sydney, Voyager and Leprous played together and that was amazing. Jolly also at ProgPower Europe, that was another highlight for me. 10 years ago Evergrey came to Australia, and that was amazing. Also recently there is a jazzy fusion / soul band called Hiatus Kaiyote they played a place called the Sydney Opera House and it was a part of lighting festival that happens here yearly called Vivid, so it was a spectacular light show paired with this spacey, dreamy music. That was incredible.
Dead Rhetoric: What ends up being the priority between Hemina and your role in the progressive band Anubis that you’ve been a part of for over a decade?
Skene: Anubis, yeah. We all play a big role in Anubis, David and Robert are the biggest contributors in terms of songwriting and conceptual stuff there. I think my guitar contributions and backing vocals, that kind of stuff are a big contribution to that band. Obviously what I do with Hemina, doing most of the mixing, a big bulk of the songwriting, arranging of the music- I have a really big role in terms of the direction of the band. It would be impossible for me to do the same level of that in two bands.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to have your wife Jessica also in Hemina- do you believe friendships are important to the consistency and overall output of the band?
Skene: Yes, I think that was kind of the problem in the past. We always were close friends, when we were doing Synthetic the band was very tight. I think the second album was able to be done because we did stay friends- there was a couple of issues with our keyboardist at the time, he wasn’t able to give us the level of commitment that we needed at the time. And one of the drummers between those two albums, things did not end up panning out very well. That was quite a toxic relationship for a period of time right there. Bands don’t make you money these days- it’s all about enjoyment and being creative. I’m not going to play with anyone I’m not friends with anymore. I wouldn’t do that to myself with the limited amount of time you have in life- I choose to spend my time with people who build me up and make this a happier place. I don’t have time for toxic or negative influences anymore. Definitely without having that (friendship), there would be no productivity in the band at all. Nathan joining Hemina has made such a great impact, he’s such a hard working person, he’s helped out with the songwriting and mixing in terms of the drums. He’s a very level-headed and wise sort of guy to have in the band.
Jess and I we’ve known each other for probably 20 years now. We met each other when we were like 7. We’ve been long-time friends, I knew I could rely on her because she’s a good player and a good person. She’s very smart in terms of money, keeping an eye on the band’s finances. She brings a lot of skills, and it’s very easy to play with your wife in the band if you make time to spend with each other not doing band related things too. You still have to have a relationship as well.
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