One of the most hotly anticipated metal releases of this year is due on April 29th of this year by British progressive titans Haken with “Affinity”. With their popularity increasing ten-fold since the release of their last full-length album “The Mountain” in 2013 and their “Restoration” EP the following year, the band has been hard at work to create their newest recorded masterpiece.
Taking time out of his busy schedule, singer Ross Jennings answered questions regarding “Affinity”, songwriting, future plans, and much more.
What was the initial idea for “Affinity” going into the writing process both musically and lyrically?
Going into the project we wanted to create an album that highlighted the notion of cogs working together to operate the machine, meaning that we could all place our individual stamp on the music, yet we would need to work more closely as a team than ever before on a Haken record. Initial writing duties were shared equally in an “anything goes” situation and we would give each other the space and freedom for that as well as meeting up and writing original pieces as a band in a studio environment. On previous records Richard was always writing the initial drafts but this process has evolved in due course. ‘Affinity’ was the best word to describe the process as we all worked from the same page, aided by having some lyrical themes to base our songs around.
Was the noticeable eighties theme that is spread throughtout the new album an idea that the band had been wanting to do for a while now?
We’d previously hinted at our 80s influences on works such as ‘Eternal Rain’ and ‘Atlas Stone’ however we felt it was due time to go all-out and explore some of the more synthesised sounds of that era. The lyrical concepts warranted these sounds and it just turned out to be the perfect project to finally unleash them.
With the rapid success of your whole catalogue, specifically “The Mountain”, was there any pressure on yourselves to top that album and to build off it or did you just want to create an album with no expectations?
It was certainly a tough one to follow and it would be a lie to say that its popularity wasn’t on our minds. We didn’t want to let down the fans by producing “The Mountain’s” ugly sister, so we decided to try and make a completely different record and keep things fresh.
You’re a band that wears your influences on your sleeves in many instances but you have your own signature sound. How important is it to keep your musical heroes close to you when writing new material while at the same time staying true to the musical vision of the band?
We’ve always said that we write music that WE would enjoy listening to and sometimes that can lead to paying homage to a certain sound or essence of an artist we love. For example, when we were writing ‘The Architect’ we’d just gone to see Meshuggah live and came away saying “oh man, those riffs are so hypnotic, we’ve got to get something like that on the next record”. We always try and make it our own but if we are being compared to an artist we love, usually that’s a positive thing for me. It’s near impossible to be completely original these days.
Although he’s recorded with you initially for the “Restoration” EP, this is Conner Green’s first recordings with the band of new material. After a solid lineup since around 2008 until Thomas MacLean’s departure, how has Conner fit into the Haken dynamic?
Affinity was Conner’s platform to write original parts and finally show off his true talent. Anyone listening carefully will soon realise what an incredible musician he is when they hear this new record!
A lot has been said in many circles as to what “progressive” as a musical term means. What does the style mean to you?
I always tell people that we’re not “Prog” but we are “Progressive”. To me it’s about breaking the rules, pushing the boundaries, challenging the expectations and trying new ingredients in the cocktail to create something new.
The hype around the band seems to growing with every release, and I was wondering if you had a specific band goal for this album, maybe as far as placing well on the charts or on year-end lists, or maybe with a larger tour?
In the words of Bon Scott “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll”, and that’s something that’s always humbled us. We realise the patience and perseverence required to reach our ultimate goal to comfortably make a living in music, so all we can do to get there is to improve our craft with every release and every live performance and hope that audience numbers grow. Haken fans have become family to us so it’s already a gratifying thing to have so many people willing to support us and spread the word as long as we’ve got something to give back.
In 2015 you embarked on your first headlining tour of North America. How was the response of the crowds and was there a noticeable difference from playing in other areas of the world?
Our audience is always all-embracing and up-for-it, and that North American tour was no exception. We were incredibly well received on that tour and can’t wait to return. We hope to visit a lot more cities next time as the first time is usually for ‘testing the waters’. As it turned out, we didn’t capsize and drown.
With a release of late April for “Affinity”, what are the plans for the rest of the year concerning touring?
We’re heading out for a European tour at the end of May through June which will end up in Israel. We are planning to do a special one-off acoustic show there. Throughout July and August we have a couple of festivals to play and then there are plans to play some shows around our slot at ProgPower USA in September, but beyond that there are no concrete plans other than to get started on album five ideas.
With numerous releases under your belt now, with the upcoming tour, what albums will be your focus for the setlist? Will it be heavy on the new album or will it be spread out to include something from every release?
Without giving anything away, we like to ensure that all our albums will get represented in some way, especially as we will be playing some cities for the first time.
Ross Jennings – vocals
Richard Henshall – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Raymond Hearne – drums, backing vocals
Charles Griffiths – guitars, backing vocals
Diego Tejeida – keyboards, backing vocals
Conner Green – bass guitar, backing vocals
Aquarius – 2010
Visions – 2011
The Mountain – 2013
Restoration – 2014
Affinity – 2016
To read the review of “Affinity”, click here.
For further information of Haken, go to:
Haken Official Website