Interview: Ross Jennings Of HAKEN
HAKEN are arguably the most exciting sound to emerge from the modern progressive movement. Formed in 2007 by three school friends Richard Henshall, Ross Jennings and Matthew Marshall (ex-guitarist), HAKEN is a virtuosic and eclectic progressive rock/metal band from London, England, comprising the country's finest young musicians. HAKEN have become established leaders in the heavier progressive scene. Riding the line between prog-rock and progressive metal with deftness and purpose, HAKEN create for modern lovers of intelligent heavy rock music a sound uniquely theirs. It goes without saying that the standard of musicianship on display is phenomenal. We caught up with founding member and vocalist, Ross Jennings, as the band prepare to bring their incredible songwriting, humor and humility to create a memorable night of the finest music this genre has to offer.
How are you, first of all. How's life treating you?
I'm good, we're having a bit of time off at the minute. We've just come off the back of the Shattered Fortress tour in Europe and now we're just re-learning our own material before we head off on tour next month, well, this month now.
We can't wait to have Haken here in September, are you guys excited to be touring Australia for the very first time if I'm not mistaken?
Yeah, we're really stoked to be doing this. Finally, it's been a bucket list country to visit, let alone perform in. No idea what to expect either because I'm looking at the venues and I've no idea what the capacities are or what the fans are like there. I don't really know much about Australia, believe it or not, other than watching Neighbours and Home And Away as a kid growing up. I'm really naively going into this with no expectations but I can't wait to do it.
We're pretty welcoming and I think you'll get a good reception when you do play. Will you be playing the entirety of Affinity?
I don't think the setlist is confirmed yet, we'll definitely be doing a lot of Affinity but since it is the first time coming, we aim to be performing stuff from our whole catalogue, I think it needs to be done.
It's been over a year now, but how has the new album been received by fans live on stage?
I think this material has probably been received the best out of everything so far. I think people have been digging the '80s approach, we have a lot of fun with that onstage, the riffs are heavier, the production has improved over the years, so people are really into the shows these days. It's been snowballing since day one but we're really happy where we are at the moment.
Yeah, and you guys are happy with the positive reviews and feedback in regards to Affinity? Is it something you're very proud of?
For sure, yeah. We're very proud of this piece of work. The last two albums have particularly been well received, and we couldn't be happier. Like I said earlier, we've been trying to get to these new countries for many years, and I think the proof is in the pudding, and if the material is good enough, it will turn the heads of people in our way and I feel like we're been recognised globally now, not just in our European corner.
Metal fans in general, and especially progressive metal fans, can often be hard to please at times. Is it hard to keep evolving and growing as a progressive band without changing just for the sake of change?
Yeah, I don't think we've ever changed for the sake of change, we always do what feels natural to us, and whatever we like to listen to is usually what we put out there. We never try to please anyone necessarily, so it's all part and parcel of the game really. There's always going to be naysayers and there's always going to be people that just discovered their favourite record. We try to provide something for everyone - we all have eclectic music tastes, we love our classic prog, we love our indie music, our mellow music, we love our heavy death doom metal as well, you know. So, somehow, it all manages to seep in there, into the melting point. But yeah, I don't think you can please everyone all the time.
What do you guys have planned for 2018? Will you be writing new material or has that already begun?
I think the focus is to really crack on to that as soon as possible. Obviously there's a lot of touring going on, so it's hard, but there's a few ideas we've all got personally, but nothing's been put together yet. Realistically, December into 2018 is the plan.
Because the whole space and '80s theme worked well with Affinity, are you going to do a concept for this one as well, do you think?
At this point, I have no idea. [laughs] Who knows, we didn't plan to do a concept album in the beginning, these things kind of happen, as it progress'. It's all a big jigsaw as you start out, all the pieces everywhere, and it only starts to make sense once you put it all together. At the moment, there's no kind of expectations or any kind of plan in place for that, it's just 'let's get some riffs going and let's see what we can come up with from there' really. It's all pretty loose at the beginning.
What are you most looking forward to, playing Australia? I know you said you don't know a whole lot about it earlier, but is there anything that you're looking forward to seeing or doing while you're here?
On this particular visit, I don't think we're going to have much tourism time, which is really sad for me because I'd love to really see some stuff. But with the shows being booked back to back, it's really show, flight, show, flight. Just to be there and meet the people and how the crowds are going to respond and just expericing that for the first time is good enough for me. We're going to be back, actually, with the Shattered Fortress in November, I think with Mike Portnoy, and I think we'll have more time then to do the whole tourism thing. We're just stoked to finally play for you guys.
Yeah, it's really exciting. I'm going to keep it short and sweet, thanks so much for taking the time out to chat, did you have any final words for your Aussie fans that are looking forward to seeing Haken down under?
Yeah, thanks for your patience, sticking with us, and patience always pays off, you know. So we hope you'll turn up and you'll have a good time, and we're looking forward to meeting you all.
Written by Steve Jenkins
You can catch Haken at the following dates:
Haken: Australia September 2017
Thursday 28th - Brisbane, The Zoo
Friday 29th - Melbourne, 170
Saturday 30th - Sydney, Factory
Sunday 1st - Perth, Capitol
Tickets including VIP Meet & Greet packages are available here: http://davidroywilliams.com/tours/haken/