Intervista Haken (Charlie Griffiths)
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Hi Charlie, how are you doing?
I’m very good, thank you, having a good tour so far.
Right, you’ve been on tour for about a week now, how is that going?
Yeah, just over a week, it’s going really quick which is probably a good sign.
Let’s talk “Vector”: you released the album in October and went on tour soon after, first in North America, then in South America and now you’re touring Europe. Are you satisfied with the way the new songs have been received by the audiences?
Yeah, really, these kind of, I guess, more guitar-centric, riff-heavy songs they feel like they come alive in a live setting and we are really seeing the crowds react to it.
A lot of time it’s like being at an old-school Metal show, circle pits and crowdsurfing and everything like that, when I see that it makes me very happy.
I guess that happened a lot in South America, I know crowds there are really wild.
Yeah, they are the most insane audiences in the world, when you finish a song you feel like you just scored a goal, they react like it’s a football game, they’re amazing [laughs].
The album is definitely the heaviest you ever released and, looking at who worked on it my first question was, is this a consequence of you working with Adam “Nolly” Getgood, or did you work with him because of the sound you were going for?
The second one, for sure, I remember when we were writing initial ideas, it was back in November 2017, we were in Australia on tour with Mike Portnoy and we had some days off in some hotel room there.
We were coming up with some riffs and ideas, and even at that stage in my head I could hear Nolly’s production really lending itself to the songs.
Thankfully he was available when we needed him and it worked out.
Being only 45 minutes long the album stands out in your discography, but also generally in the scene today, as a quite short album. I can’t help but think of the latest Dream Theater album released a couple of days ago that was welcomed as an “unusually short album” being “only” a few minutes under the hour. How did you decide to stop at 7 songs?
All my favourite albums…[Megadeth’s] ”Rust in Peace” is one of my all-time favourites, Cynic’s “Focus”, Death’s “Human”, these are my kind of go-to Metal albums and they’re all really short, “Rust in Peace” must be like…
I think around 40 minutes.
Yeah, and that feels like a complete thing.
That’s kind of why…there’s one reason why we called the first track ‘Clear’, it was in a way a kind of saying, “Just approach this with an open mind, forget everything that you might be expecting and just enjoy this album for what it is”.
Talking about the artwork, it represent a Rorschach test ink-blot. Was it an idea of the artist or did you give him any input?
I kind of had the idea of having that.
I like album arts that are really simple, like the King Crimson’s covers they had in the 80s, like the “Discipline” cover, that was an inspiration, just a red cover with a simple design on it.
It all ties in with the kind of psychological concept we had behind it: the album was kind of all inspired by these early 20th century psychological experiments, and the Rorschach test fits into that.
Did you think of the lyrics long before the music, or did they come at a later stage?
Let me think about that [pauses].
I think the music came first, I seem to remember that being the case.
I think we kind of always do it like that, we write the music first and then we see what it inspires, that’s how we had this idea of this kind of mental institution…it’s kind of inspired a little bit by, you know, you can imagine it being like a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” type psychiatric ward where the patients aren’t treated very well by the staff, that was the idea.
Going back a bit in your history, you already mentioned it, a couple of years ago you toured as Mike Portnoy’s band for his Shattered Fortress tour. How was that experience?
Oh man, it was like a dream!
I always say it was a dream come true, but it was like the dream you never even consider could happen.
To me, Dream Theater was such a big part of…I’m doing this because of, not only did they make Progressive Metal a viable genre that you could make a living from, but also just them as people were inspiring, if I think back of interviews with John Petrucci on guitar magazines where he would talk of his approach to practicing and basically what takes to get that good.
I was inspired as a young guitar player by that, and I’m here in part because of that, so it was a real honour to pay tribute to their music, for sure.
John Petrucci’s “Rock Discipline” video is absolutely amazing.
Yeah man, I’ve watched that a thousand times [laughs].
Do you think that touring with Portnoy influenced the direction of “Vector”?
I would say, probably.
From my point of view it was…I mean, definitely hanging out with someone like that, such a professional, with all the experiences he had and so on, just generally we learned a lot from him, how the business work, just being with someone like that who’s experienced so much it rubs off on you.
Probably musically as well, I’m sure there are riffs that are…you know, we were playing ‘The Glass Prison’ every night, surely some similarities might be there, you know, what you do in your daily life is going to come out in your music.
Yeah, at least subconsciously something stays there.
Yeah, it’s not like ever sit down and say, “Oh, we’re going to write a song in the style of Dream Theater”, it would be ridiculous to do that, you could never match what they do.
Going back a little more, with “Affinity” you had that whole 80s thing with the artwork, some of the lyrical themes and so on. Were you influenced by the “retro movement”, so to call it, Synthwave, Vaporwave and all those things that have been developing recently that draw from the 80s?
At the time we did “Affinity” there seemed to be a fashion for bands to draw from the 70s, the 70s Prog sound.
I’ve grown up in the 80s, most of the other guys are born in the 80s, so that’s more akin to what we are as people, you know, we are more ‘80s kids, so we sort of decided, “Ok, at the moment nobody is really drawing from the 80s Genesis’, Yes’ or King Crimson’s albums”…and the “Transformer”’s soundtrack by Vince DiCola was a big influence too, there’s a lot of amazing synth work there.
So we came from that angle, at the time we just thought it was a cool idea to draw from the 80s instead of the 70s.
You achieved quite a lot in the about ten years since your debut: you released 5 albums (and a live), toured a lot, often with other big band, and generally found your place and following in the scene. Do you have any specific goal for the future? Like, playing in that place, doing that kind of album, touring with that band…
I guess the goal is getting to a stage where it’s more kind of…I don’t know, at the moment we have the band and other stuff we have to do to…live [laughs].
So, we are kind of working towards that, making the band the kind of main breadwinner, if you like, just building everything around that more and more.
It’s been a kind of gradual process, we’ve been patient with it, we’ve always kept working on writing music and touring, we never really had any time off.
We’re really happy with where it’s going and it’s gradually building overtime, and we just want to keep growing in that direction.
Cool, thank you for your time, I’ll leave to you the final word.
Thanks for reading this far [laughs] it was a pleasure!