"Not all '80s music is to be cringed at. Part of this album is making that statement"
Having their upcoming, fourth album ready for release, the British Prog band Haken after the preceding "The Mountain", are in the spotlight, as a representative band of modern Progressive Metal. As for "Affinity", they have many more references regarding their awesome compositions than those referring to the mentioned "Prog Metal", nowdays more consolidated and continuing to offer new soundscapes on their discography. Singer Ross Jennings, guides the interested fans around the frame of the new Affinity¸ and around things that lead the band steadily towards the top.
First of all, congratulations on your new album "Affinity". It sounds great and fresh, a classic Haken album.
Thank you so much, We're very proud of what we've created and can't wait to share it with the world!
Did you have a different approach during the recordings?
We had a different approach to the writing to which all 6 members contributed initial ideas and wrote songs together from scratch. This marked a change from Richard writing all the initial compositions as he did on previous records. I think it's evident in the final result that this has been a huge benefit in the spirit of keeping things fresh and progressive.
Because it clearly has some '80s soundscapes. In "The Architect" for example, there are some '80s King Crimson coherence.
We are huge fans of what some of those bands from the golden era of prog went on to do in that decade. Not all '80s music is to be cringed at. Part of this album is making that statement.
After "The Mountain" which is a highlight in Haken’s career, it seems that "Affinity" is a new step for the band reinventing itself. Do you feel you have accomplished the task of making Prog (metal especially) a little more popular?
One thing is for certain that we didn't want to make another album like the Mountain. We have so much more to offer that we wouldn't feel honest repeating the same formula over and over just to please and meet public expectation. We feel more comfortable defying those expectations - that's just who we are and I think deep down, that sense of uncertainty contributes to our appeal. I like to think we are a breathe of fresh air to some but I don't think we have much to do with the growing popularity of prog metal. Maybe I'm wrong?
Is there any concept behind "Affinity"? Something about the '80s particularly, like computers etc? Because there is a "Tron"-like atmosphere at some points it seems.
The 80s sets the scene and provides this set of songs with a chronological reference. If you were to take from it any hint of a narrative, you may or may not be correct, but there are some clear themes that recurr throughout, and many references to technology, a journey that begins with basic computers consoles entering our homes in the 80s and has evolved into something much more intelligent. At the very least, we have provided a soundtrack to that evolution and the relevant themes that stems from that.. and it all begins in 1985.
As for "1985" track Haken combines some '80s pop elements with virtuosity and classical prog direction. It seems that you had fun making this record.
It's an era and that we've wanted to pay homage to for a long time and we finally have found the aprropriate opportunity to do so. The demo stages were certainly fun and exciting. Charlie's initial song structure and lyrics were solid and one of the first to be written for this record, so in the end the hard work was in the sound design. I believe it took Ray and Diego days many long hours and sleepless nights to create the optimum sounds required but the hard work certainly paid off when we heard it back.
How would you compare "Affinity" to the other Haken albums?
Parallels can be drawn from previous works but these seem more polished now and what people should expect from us is a desire to try new things and add new flavours into the cocktail. That's always been apparent in our work although at the core of it all we are still six members playing the same instruments. This time however a few of us have some new toys to play with.
Any more information on the cover? It fits perfectly with the album’s vibe I guess.
With our guidance, the album art has once again been designed by blacklake design who were responsible for 'The Mountain' & 'Restoration'. They have taken inspiration from '80s packaging, business and commercial brand logos and all things computing from that decade to come up with a logo of sorts for the 'Affinity' project. Each bird represents a member of the band, and these can also be seen on The Mountain's cover art.
How was it playing in some events like those "Prog Love Boats" etc? Was it a remarkable experience in Haken’s career?
We all regard The Mountain as somewhat of a landmark record as it opened a lot of door for us and connected us to major players in the industry. Being asked to join the bill for Prognation at sea 2014 by Mike Portnoy was a dream come true. When we first assembled the band in 2007 it was always an ambition of ours to play on one of those prognation tours. The fact that we achieved that AND it turned out to be a rock cruise in the end was a major cherry on top of that cake.
What’s your opinion on the contemporary Prog scene as general? Do you feel Haken is nowdays a major representative?
I'd be lying if I said we didn't want to become major players on the scene. We have always looked up at bands like DreamTheater and Opeth and still do. They are the ones currently flying the flag in my opinion. In the beginning we had the realist attitude that only 1 in five thousand bands ever gets to play this kind of music and make a living from it. We're still fighting for that position but there is a sense that we seem to be pushing the right buttons at the moment. Hopefully, if we stick it out a bit longer we can make something of it after all. Time will tell I guess. The scene in general is thriving and I feel the future for prog is promising. The beauty of this genre is it's longevity. Generally speaking, most other genres have short shelf life.
What’s on your playlist lately?
A lot of modern tech metal like Killswitch Engage & TesseracT. The new Bjork, Aphex Twin & Animal Collective records have gotten a lot of spins lately. I am however mostly known for my love of country and southern or classic rock but for the sake of keeping the few fans we have I wont go there right now.
Any favourites on the Barclays Premier League? Do you, as a band find time watching football?
I once had ambitions of being a premiership Goalkeeper but knee and back injuries prevented that from going anywhere. Apart from that I haven't watched a football match in about 15 years...
Is a new European tour on your plans? And what about Athens?
We venture across europe In May and June but unfortunately for whatever reason we have not been able to add Athens to that list. We hope to someday cover the territories we have yet to play and as the band's popularity increases, as will the number of different cities we visit. Usually these things are down to the financial risks for a promoter or a venue. If the new album is a success then we hope to add Greece to the list for our future tours.
Thank you, would you like something to add?
It's a real pleasure to know that there is interest and support for Haken in Greece. We hope you enjoy the new tunes and let it be a soundtrack to your lives. If you can make it to any of our shows in Europe, we'd love to see you there!