Hello, and thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. I’ve absolutely been loving Visions lately!
First off, for those unfamiliar with Haken, how did the band form? What were the early days like?
Haken was originally formed by Matthew Marshall (ex-guitarist), Ross Jennings and I about ten years ago, when we were just three friends, jamming in a bedroom, with lofty ambitions. We decided to put the band on hold until we completed our academic studies, at which point we could then dedicate ourselves fully to the project. In 2007 we went on a hunt for the remaining members to complete the line-up. We found Pete Jones (ex-keyboard player) on an internet forum, which in turn led us to meeting his close friend Raymond Hearne (drummer). At this point we had enough members to record a demo, which is exactly what we did. During the recording of this demo Matthew and I came across the band To-Mera, and were blown away. We decided to contact Tom Maclean, guitarist and songwriter for To-Mera, and subsequently he volunteered his services as our bass player, to which we, of course, said yes. This remained the line-up until 2008, when Pete and Matthew decided to pursue other careers. We then held auditions for new members, and found the acclaimed Linear Sphere/Anchorhead guitarist Charlie Griffiths, shortly followed by the gifted keyboardist, Diego Tejeida. This is the current line-up.Ken Golden (Sensory Records, Laser edge) got hold of our demo and liked what we were doing and things developed from there.
What does the name Haken mean? How did you choose it?
Haken is actually the name of a fictional character which a few friends and I created back in the weed-induced days of our teens. We later found out that in German it means hook and apparently in some ancient Scandinavian language it means ‘of the chosen’. I believe it also has something to do with knitting in Dutch, which is a wonderful coincidence as we’re all knitting connoisseurs!
Did the overall writing process on Visions differ any from Aquarius?
The majority of ‘Visions’ was written in the same way as ‘Aquarius’ – I composed the framework for the songs at home and we each added spice to the arrangements in the rehearsal room. However, a couple of songs on the album were more of a collaborative effort. The first being ‘Premonition’, which was written towards the end of the writing process, by Diego and I, and is the opening instrumental track that combines many of the themes that feature on the album. The other track is ‘Insomnia’, which was pretty much written entirely in the rehearsal room as a band.
What song from Visions do you feel best represents where the band is now?
I’d have to say ‘Visions’, which is the title track that closes the album. It’s a 22 minute beast which I can confidently say is our piece de resistance.; if someone asked me to describe our sound to them, I’d save my words and point them in the direction of this track. It has crunching riffs, Mr Bungle-like quirkiness and even a West End inspired theatrical section!
Can you elaborate on the story Visions tells? What inspired it?
Ross Jennings: The concept of ‘Visions’ spawned from a dream I had where I saw my own demise that felt insanely real! The idea of confronting one’s own death fascinated me, so that was the initial inspiration. Throughout the writing process it developed into a more complicated story exploring themes such as the nature of consciousness, the transience of life and a couple of the tracks on the album explore the concept of dreams within a dream (think ’12 Monkey’s or ‘Inception’). Our narrative is told through the eyes of an innocent boy, who has a nightmare in which he is murdered – it seems so real that he convinces himself that it was a premonition and spends the rest of his waking life trying to track down his killer, whilst mentally preparing to meet his death, perhaps leading to his psychological undoing. All is revealed in the closing 22 minute title track, but ultimately it’s up to the listener to decide how much was real and how much was imagined.
What led you start playing music? What led you to this style in particular?
My mum’s a piano teacher and my dad’s a music enthusiast so from a young I’ve been surrounded by music. This sparked my ambition and led me to start playing the piano at the age of 7. I also experimented with playing the drums and clarinet for a while until I discovered the guitar when I was about 11 and haven’t stopped playing since. I am always drawn towards playing the piano and guitar as they are both harmonic based instruments and therefore offer a vast array of colours and textures which help me with writing music.
I always try not to limit myself to one style when I practice, each different genre has something unique to offer. I have a similar mentality, when it comes to writing music. I guess that’s why I fell in love with the Prog genre, the fact that there are boundaries. With prog music it is perfectly acceptable to have bassoon playing a thrash metal riff, or even a 15 string guitar playing a drum solo!
What would you consider your overall favorite and most influential album musically?
That’s a tough question! It’s hard to pick just one as I love different albums for different reasons. One album that sticks out in my mind is ‘Remedy Lane’ by Pain of Salvation.
What albums have you been listening to lately?
‘The Five Deadly Venoms’ by ‘Shaolin Death Squad’ is a great album that was released last year, to me this band sounds like an interesting cross between Mr Bungle and Pain of Salvation. The album also shares its name with a classic Shaw Brothers kung fu film, that’s what initially grabbed my attention.
How did it feel to be a part of the Progpower festivals? How did your experience with Germany’s differ from North America’s?
We were extremely honoured to be invited to play at these great festivals. We were very lucky to share the stage with great acts such as Shadow Gallery, Therion and Leprous. Our appearance at Progpower Europe last year was actually our first gig outside of the UK so it was a big deal for us. The crowd were very welcoming towards us and everyone involved behind the scenes were amazing. Our trip to Atlanta was equally great, we had a blast on stage and the whole process was incredibly smooth due to the amazing crew! We even found time to watch a baseball game, unfortunately the Atlanta Braves got thrashed by the New York Mets. The common ground that both festivals share is the love for beer, the post gig celebrations, I can assure you, were extremely enjoyable!
What is your strangest tour story?
Well, we haven’t really done a huge amount of touring as of yet so I’m afraid I have nothing too strange to share with you.
Can we expect a full tour here in North America from Haken in the near future?
After receiving such a warm response from the PPUSA crowd, returning to America is most definitely on our ‘to do’ list. It’s without doubt a dream of ours to one day tour America but it doesn’t seem too realistic at the moment. When we’re able to quit our full time jobs, to focus solely on Haken, I’m certain the dream will eventually materialise.
If someone were writing a book based on you and your life what do you think the title would be?
What’s your favorite beer to drink while listening to or making music?
I’m more of a cider guy, beer has never really floated my boat, so I’ll have to opt for a pint of Magners. I’m slowly coming round to the idea of beer, but unfortunately it still tastes like stale water to me!
What is your favorite genre of metal? What’s your least favorite and why?
I do have a love for all styles of metal but my favourite sub-genre would have to be prog metal, purely because it is boundless. A good album from this breed of metal will have a variety of shades and moods which other varieties of metal sometimes lack.
What’s a little known fact about Haken?
Richard: Haken is actually pronounced ‘Bacon’.
Thanks again! We hope to see you guys back in North America soon!