London has long been a breeding ground for quality progressive rock and metal bands over the years, and that trend continues with the release of Aquarius from the band Haken. This new signing to The Lasers Edge/Sensory label brings all the tools to the table-adventurous instrumental passages, plenty of crunch, powerful vocals, and most importantly, memorable, catchy songs. Guitarist & keyboard player Richard Henshall took some time out of the bands busy schedule to speak with Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo to talk about Haken's exciting new album.
SoT: Congratulations on the fine debut album "Aquarius" ! Seeing as the band is pretty new, can you give fans some history of the group, such as what you were all doing prior to the formation of Haken, how you got together, and the events leading up to the debut CD?
Richard: Thanks a lot. Haken was originally formed by Matthew Marshall (ex-guitarist), Ross Jennings and myself. We 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 to us 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 Mathew 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.
SoT: Ken Golden of The Lasers Edge/Sensory has a way of always bringing to his roster excellent progressive rock & metal acts-how did you happen to meet up with him?
Richard: We are very lucky to be working with Ken, who certainly has an excellent ear for fresh progressive metal acts. We are honored to be on the same roster of so many great bands. We were brought to Ken's attention through Lee Barrett (founder of Candlelight Records). Tom and I played with Lee in To-mera, and this is how he became aware of Haken. Lee passed our details on to Ken, who then contacted us requesting a demo.
SoT: "Aquarius" fits firmly in the modern progressive rock mold, though there are certainly plenty of heavy metal influences going on-can you talk a bit about some of the bands musical influences, and how you would describe the music of Haken to a brand new listener?
Richard: I would say our sound is built upon progressive rock foundations but certainly has a modern metallic edge. On the new album, we have riffs with Meshuggah heaviness, but we also have a Dixieland section, so I suppose we belong in the common ground between those two. Many parts of the album were inspired by film score composers like Danny Elfman and Alexandre Desplat. As a band we have a diverse range of influences, and I think the album reflects this. A few of our main influences are Pink Floyd, Yes, Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, Opeth, Gomez, Radiohead, Debussy, Bach and many others.
SoT: Ross Jennings is a powerful vocalist, and he has a unique style for this type of music. How important was it to have a singer that didn't fit into the standard prog or metal mold (Peter Gabriel, Jon Anderson, Bruce Dickinson, Tim 'Ripper' Owens, James LaBrie) when putting the band together?
Richard: Ross does indeed have a unique voice, and it compliments our music very well. His voice plays a huge part in defining our sound. We were lucky as we didn't have to search for a vocalist as Ross was one of the founding members of Haken. Ross and I grew up together and we had a similar taste in music, and so we naturally formed the band.
SoT: The new CD features plenty of jaw dropping musical moments, but the band seems to not want to 'shred for shreds sake' and really concentrates on the melodies. How important was it to show that 'hey, we can play!', but still put together memorable songs that will want the listener to come back time and time again?
Richard: It's very important to us as a band to not come across elitist in any way. Progressive metal in particular often has that vibe about it – a group of instrumentalists at the top of their game playing one solo after the next. For us the music comes first. 'Shredding', trade-offs and extensive solos should just be viewed as embellishments on the overall form of a piece of music.
SoT: Has the band played out live much, and are you planning on many live dates this coming Summer? How about here in the US?
Richard: In 2008 we were billed in support of Riverside (Insideout) at Camdens prestigious Underworld. In 2009 we played UK tours in support of cult prog metal bands Kings X (Insideout), Big Elf (Custard Records) and To-Mera. It was an honor to share the stage with such great bands and we received a lot of positive feedback from the audience. We'll be arranging some tours throughout the UK, Europe and perhaps the US during the summer, and maybe a few festival dates.
SoT: There are flavors of jazz, classical, ambient, and even some fun 'carnival' type passages on the CD-did the band really work hard to mix in different elements to add to the variety factor of "Aquarius"?
Richard: We love to celebrate the many different styles of music because there is so much great music to be heard across the world. It was indeed difficult at times to blend the eclectic musical styles and although I had sleepless nights trying to join them together, it was certainly worthwhile as it is immensely rewarding to hear the final product.
SoT: What are some of the bands on the current prog & metal scenes that Haken admires?
Richard: Well, I should really start with Dream Theater, they are a huge influence on us as a band. They have achieved so much without sacrificing their musical integrity. Another amazing band on the current scene is Pain of Salvation, these guys have written some of the best music out there at the moment. Opeth are another great band, they have such a distinct sound and the perfect balance of light and dark within their music.
SoT: Overall, how happy are you with the new CD, and what are some of your favorite tracks on the album?
Richard: We are all very happy with how the cd has turned out. Christian 'Moschus' Moos at 'Spacelab Studios' has done a great job mixing the album, and has managed to craft the thick warm texture we desired. Dennis Sibeijn at Damn Engine has done an amazing job with the artwork, it ties in very nicely with the Aquarius story. My favorite track has got to be "Celestial Elixir", the epic finale!
SoT: Thanks for taking the time for this interview-any last words you'd like to say to our readers?
Richard: Buy this album! It'll blow your mind!
(Click here to read our reviews of Aquarius)