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Tuesday 21 July 2020

The Spotlight: Interview With Haken's Richard Henshall by Alex Swift

Interview With Haken's Richard Henshall by Alex Swift

MoM: ‘Virus’ is the sequel to ‘Vector’. Was there a conscious decision at the time that there would be an accompanying record or did that decision come later, and what went into that thought process?
RH: We always knew they’d act as a double album and even had the title ‘Virus’ in mind as far as two years ago. Messiah Complex’, for an example, was a song we began working on during the Vector sessions. We felt it needed more time to grow into what it deserved to be, and I’m very happy we did as it ended up one of the most intricate and exciting pieces we’ve ever written as a band. I can’t wait to take that one to the stage!

MoM: On that note, in what ways do the lyrical themes carry across from Vector?

RH: The lyrics on ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’ tell the story of the protagonist from our song ‘Cockroach King’, which is a track from our 2013 album ‘The Mountain’. For me, it’s always been a song that stood out from the rest of the album, largely due to its quirky nature. The song contains musical and conceptual themes that we felt had potential to be revisited on a larger scale. On top of this, we talk about psychotherapy in a broader sense on ‘Vector’, and deal with the various negative aspects to human nature of society on ‘Virus’. ‘Prosthetic’ is the opening track on ‘Virus’ and acts like a summary of the story to that point, which helps bridge the gap between both albums. The protagonist in our works his way to his own destruction as the album progresses.

MoM: As you said pre-empting the promotion of ‘Virus’, you could never have anticipated that the world would be in the situation it is now, when you made the album. However, do you feel the album is arguably more relevant now than it would have been otherwise?
RH: What are that chances that we’d be releasing an album called ‘Virus’ at the same time as the only major pandemic outbreak we’ve experienced in our lifetime! It’s a pretty unfortunate coincidence. On our album, the virus is more of a metaphor for the sour aspects of human nature and society as a whole. Each song looks at different ideas based around this overarching theme. Since the “Virus” we’re talking about is not too literal, I’m not sure many people will see too many parallels with what’s happening in the world right now. Having said that, the recent events have definitely highlighted the fragility of society in a way, so maybe the album will resonate will people on a deeper level because of that.

MoM: You are often described as ‘prog-metal’. Is that a term you’d use to describe yourselves and what does the genre mean to you?

RH: I personally don’t feel like there’s much to gain by worry too much about labelling bands, it’s all just music at the end of the day. I just end categorising music into 2 groups, music I like and music I don’t like. However, if people feel the need to pigeonhole our sound, I would say calling us progressive band would be a safe bet. For me, the term “Progressive” covers a lot of ground and truly sums what we try to achieve in Haken. With each album we write, we like to explore new ideas and sonic landscapes and are always trying to grow as individual players and songwriters.

MoM: ‘Prosthetic’ is quite volatile and abrasive, while ‘Canary Yellow’, experiments with a lot of ambient, spacey textures. What were you hoping to achieve musically in writing ‘Virus’ and do you feel you’ve achieved everything you set out to do?
RH: ‘Virus’ feels like one of our most eclectic releases to date and strongly reflects the broad range of music we listen to within the band. ‘Canary Yellow’ and ‘Prosthetic’ highlight the two extreme ends of the sound across the album. As well as being diverse, ‘Virus’ also feels like our most cohesive effort to date, which is always one of our primary concerns when it comes to writing. There’s always a juggling act between eclecticism and cohesiveness, which a delicate balance we’re always striving to achieve.

MoM: You toured with Devin Townsend last year, and your keyboardist was also his. Do the bands you tour with influence your own writing style to any extent?

RH: Devin has always been a source of inspiration for me so it was such a cool experience opening for him the Europe and the US. I’ve been listening to his music since Terria and it still remains one of my favourite albums to this day. He’s such humble and down to earth guy to hang out with, which made touring with him incredibly fun. On a more general level, I would definitely say all the bands we’ve toured with in the past have influenced us. The likes of Leprous, Between the Buried and Me and Thankyou Scientist are oozing with talent, so it’s almost impossible not to be inspired by them. Another band that really stick out for me is Be t Knee. We took them out with us in Europe and North America and they blew me away. They’re one of those rare bands that have the ability of making their music sound better in a live context.

MoM: What music are you listening to in order to get you through lockdown?

RH: I’ve been digging back into Jacob Collier’s back catalogue in the run up to the release of his new album. His genius never ceases to amaze me. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Elbow too recently as I was supposed to be seeing them around this time for the first time in ages! It’s obviously not happening due to the lockdown but I hope I’m around for when they reschedule the show.

MoM: Any further quarantine tips?

RH: Eat good food, excessive as much as possible and exclusively watch kung fu movies.

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