Here’s my interview with Haken frontman Ross Jennings!
Congrats on “Affinity,” it’s an amazing album. I love the whole 80s software concept. How did that come about?
The 80s was the decade where computers started to enter our homes and consume our lives in a big way. It was a revolutionary time where anything could be possible and was responsible for the massive shift in how humans could be creative and how we interacted. The scope of the revolution and how it would evolve was unprecedented. We are somewhat celebrating that cutting edge, exciting yet blindly innocent time when we didn’t know where this all would lead…
How does that 80s vibe translate to album as a whole?
Our love for the 80s is very deeply routed in the band. We incorporated a bit of this vibe albeit more subdued on ‘Eternal Rain’ from Aquarius and a hint of it is evident on ‘Atlas Stone’ from the Mountain. On the whole that record was more of a homage to 70s progressive Rock movement and so in the spirit of not repeating ourselves, we decided to go all guns blazing with our 80s influences this time. It’s as simple as that! We also wanted our lyrical themes to have that 80s sci-fi back drop so you could say much of the sound design was a necessary tool for putting things into some sort of chronological context. You will hear, as the record evolves the overall sound moves away from that decade and becomes more modern and futuristic.
Musically, did you guys have a specific direction in mind or did it just follow a direction organically?
There are certainly sections of songs whereby we consciously drew from our list of influences, however it was important that we didn’t overcook that fact and kept some originality in the compositions. It really did end up being this gigantic cocktail of all the music we love to listen to, mixed in with all of our own musical personalities.
I have to ask about the song “1985.” How did you guys manage to make electronic drums and 80s synths sound so damn cool?
This song really should have been called ‘Ode to Vince DiCola’. He was the go-to guy for 80s movie soundtracks… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the Rocky IV soundtrack! Ray drew inspiration from his work for this track’ s percussion, although it has to be said, for many it will undoubtedly and ignorantly serve as a Polaroid for what ALL 80s music sounded like.
How does “Affinity” compare to previous Haken albums?
With each album we’re evolving as musicians both on an individual level and as a team, our studio and recording knowledge is improving and as we gain more experience our grasp of what makes a great composition has become more focused. I always think you’re only as good as your last record, so each time we thrive to have made something more powerful and polished. The passion to write great songs hasn’t faltered and the quest to include a few unexpected left turns is still one that both challenges and amuses us. Ultimately this is a very different album in what we are trying to do with our sound design, but as a whole but there is still undeniable Haken DNA at its core.
This is the first all new material with Conner Green on bass. How did he impact the writing?
Conner brings the youthfulness which is slowly evading the rest of us and is a major asset to the Haken formula. He is such a force on the bass with an immense talent beyond his years. Simply listen to the record and focus on the bass parts… the music really does all the talking! Ray & Conner play off each other really well and lay a solid foundation for everything on top.
“The Mountain” was the first album to feature lyrics by multiple members of the band. This was a first. Did “Affinity” mark a return to you being the lyricist? How do you guys even decide that?
Not exactly. Charlie, Ray and I all had an equally big part to play in the writing of lyrics this time. Diego actually saved the day on a couple of tracks too, and we would tend to seek counsel from Conner and Rich and be open to their suggestions. It was accurate to credit lyrics to the whole band. We didn’t assign tracks to individuals this time, it was more a situation of “here’s what I’ve got for this verse, what do you think?” and then I would usually go off and develop it and present a draft. This process would repeat and continue until we were all happy it worked, Phonetically, Rhythmically, melodically and conceptually. Everybody has different things to say and different ways of expressing them. We’re all creative writers in our own right. Involving everyone in the process was a good decision.
What are your touring plans? How much of “Affinity” are you planning to play live?
We hit UK and Europe in May/June quite soon after the release, and in the fall we plan to embark on an extensive North American Tour. At this point we are feeling pumped to play all these new tracks live, however the finer details of the setlist have yet to be decided, but whatever happens we won’t abandon tracks from our previous records. There are plenty of cities that have yet to see us play so we’re always keen to blow the dust off some of the older tracks too.
To read my review of the new album “Affinity,” click here.
“Affinity” is released via Inside Out Music on April 30th worldwide!