Part One: An Interview with Andrew Haug of Contrive
Re-energised, re-invigorated, re-born; Contrive has been honed into a razor sharp two-piece metal machine. The twin brothers are two parts of the one whole, finishing each others musical thoughts like no one else can. The result is a potent collection of intuitive, progressive, heavy metal; Modern production and a liberal dose of electronic effects meet some old school metal crunch via surging riffs and punishing drums. Contrive have had a very prolific career, sharing stages with the likes of Opeth, Stone Sour, Sepultura, Soilwork, Machine Head, Testament, Cavalera Conspiracy, Coroner and more. Known and well respected throughout the global metal community, Paul and Andrew have always done it their way. On their own, independently and for each other as well as themselves. With Slow Dissolve, the brothers Haug truly are taking on the world together. Literally side by side. We caught up with Andrew to talk about the new album, getting back on stage, the current state of metal in Australia and much more.
First things first, congratulations on the new album Slow Dissolve, it's a fantastic album full of progression, creativity and outstanding metal. What's your favourite thing about it now that it's finished?
I'd have to say that my favourite thing is that we got it finished and it's finally out. I mean the last few years have been pretty intense and tough, it's one of those things where we weren't even sure if it was going to be finished and put out and whatnot. So I think that in itself is enough for us, it's been a huge milestone and I think that's the biggest reward that it got done and we finally got it out.
Terrific. How was the album launch in Melbourne? Did it mean a lot to get back up on stage and showcase your new material?
Yeah absolutely, I mean like I said we went into this launch more as a celebration night and we just put on a bar tab with a bunch of friends and whoever wanted to turn up. It's always hard to get used to playing live when you haven't done it for a while and the fact that we're now a two piece band with new gear and new songs. I mean you can rehearse until the cows come home but sometimes it's not always going to prepare you for the problems that may occur on the live front. We felt pretty prepared, and you know, there were a lot of nerves but again it was just a milestone to get back out there and do this and that's we went into the approach of just celebrating the night of doing that. By getting out the garage so to speak and it was great. We played the album from start to finish and that's what we'll probably do when we start doing more normal gigs as well to sort of showcase all of the new stuff. I think it's our best stuff so far to be honest, that's my little two cents. So yeah, the launch was good and it just was us feel like it's good to put on old shoes and still felt a bit awkward because we weren't used to them after not playing for a few years. But the next day we felt like, man we wish we were playing again tonight.
Having two brothers in a band isn't super rare in heavy music, you've got the Cavalera's (Sepultura), the Duplantier's (Gojira) and the Tardy's (Obituary) just to name a few. Is there a stronger connection now that it's just the two of you?
Yeah, the majority of the album was written as a 3 piece, it's just that our bass player Tim over time his commitment was winding down and we could see it happening, he was becoming a family man and building the dream home, the usual stuff that happens. We sort of held on for a while and tried to make it easier for him by coming up with different time for rehearsal and after a while we thought that it was definitely not going to work out in the long run. We were thinking about our future plans as a band, and Tim is like a brother to us so we decided to have a meeting where we said that we felt like that Paul and I were getting in the way of his life and he sort of responded with how he thought that he was getting in the way of ours and us doing the band. So it was I guess, a win-win lose-lose, we bought agreed that it wasn't working for each others lifestyles so to speak. He came down to the gig last week and again we still run his bass backing tracks live anyway, so I said how does it feel to hear your tracks live without lugging any gear there will never be a bung note at all (laughs) and we said it was quite surreal to be honest. We had the idea after Tim had departed, Paul and I just sort of went... What do we do? Who are we going to get? We've been fortunate for a long time that we never had a lineup change and you hear stories of bands saying they'll get this guy on for six months or a few weeks and then you've got to go and find somebody else. It's hard being in a band and working around peoples different commitments and lifestyles. In the end, I just said to Paul, let's become a two-piece, because it sort of made sense, I'd been running trigger samples anyway live. and some keys, it's just another file technically. I mean, we don't use laptops of course, but I think with music these days there's no taboo, people just want to see the performance, whether it's a one person band or a 10-piece. There's no real formula anymore and days of the traditional 4 or 5 piece band is out the window. I said that it would be a good thing visually, there aren't many other twin brothers that are a two-piece metal band, for what we're doing, plus we're playing side by side, I'm not up the back on a riser and we discussed different ideas of visuals and thought we could really do something creative here. I think we've always been a pretty creative band anyway so why not just go the full hog, and it took him a while to come around to it, but I said just leave the tech stuff up to me and I'll figure it all out. We didn't look back and we got stuck into it and it felt great. We rehearse all the time and being brothers of course we're super close, but there's always going to be disagreements. I think the hardest thing was that Tim was kind of like the Kirk Hammett between Lars and Hetfield for us. There was always that butting of heads and Tim would always be the buffer, and there were still plenty of moments like that when Tim was gone. Then we said, there's nobody to get in the middle anymore and break it up, so we found different ways to improve our communication and make sure that we're on the same page and get what we had to do done. I just went with instinct and so far so good, now we just have to get out there to the real people and start playing some shows and see what happens.
The new album was recorded in Melbourne but it was mixed over in Canada with the Young Brothers. How did that go?
Yeah, with the magic of technology we were able to send the files over to Dave and Mike who are based in Vancouver. Dave plays guitar for The Devin Townsend band and has been for years. They did a great job, I was really stoked with the result and the good thing was that Dave was touring here at the time whilst we were wrapping up the mastering. We had a few little glitches in that department, so we went back for a second session and we figured that he was arriving that week for those shows with Devin Townsend. So we figured that we'd get Dave down to sit in and watch the fades and just be a part of the final process and that was really cool for him to be there because he really enjoyed working on the album and we're really happy with how it sounds sonically. We wanted to make sure it wasn't pushed to the brink in the compression sense because so many bands are ruining their music today with over-compression. There's this sort of loudness wall that I've been looking into the last few years of why bands albums sound so shit when you crank it. It's all to do with getting peoples attention and everyone thinks that loud is better, but it's not because it can ruin the dynamic range. We're kind of audio nerds in that sense, and I think Dave and Mike did an amazing job, we couldn't be more happy with the end result and I highly suggest people check out the Young Bros Productions, I think they've got some really good stuff in the bag already and I guess this adds to their repertoire.
For sure. There's a really nice balance of futuristic metal as well as traditional, old school metal on the new album. How important was it for you to blend those elements together?
We don't plan what we write and I know that may sound contrived. But, you know, these songs took a while to write and we're always changing and analysing, we try not to steal obvious riffs from other bands, everyone steals from each other these days and we all know that. But we try and make it loosely borrowed. I think that it's in the ear of the beholder in terms of what people are going to get out of the album, we always have a small laugh when most people do some reviews and they generally rattle off a few bands that were certainly of no inspiration to us on the album or we're fans of. They go yeah, I can hear hints of this and that I'm thinking really? That's cool, because that's what they can hear, and I'm happy with that rather than someone saying, yeah you sound cool, you sounds like Killswitch Engage, good stuff. Or, you sound like Periphery, good djent riffs, bang. In the box. Stick it over there in the corner amongst all of the other bands of that sound and probably be forgotten in a year. There's nothing wrong with the style of music that you want to play or what your heroes have done in the past. But for us we've never taken that approach and I've always been inspired by a tonne of bands, but we've just always tried to do our own thing. Slow and steady wins the race and we've always taken the long road and taken our time and also honed our craft of finding our own sound. I love when people go, yeah you guys are kind of, I don't know how to sort of put you in a category. Great! Awesome! Don't try. If that's what you're hearing then cool. Of course with reviews they'll say you're a mix of this and that, you're going to get categorised. But when people struggle and little bit, it's really cool because at least I know they're thinking about it rather than sticking us in a box with everybody else that has the same sort of sound. So, the problem with that is that people can dismiss it pretty quickly because peoples attention spans can be pretty short and not everyone wants to be challenged by something that's a little bit left of centre or a little bit different. I always tell people, stick with albums like that because they'll end up being one of your favourite records, it might not gel with you at first, but don't dismiss it. Never judge an album from one song, give those albums time because I guarantee you'll go back and listen to them more rather than the ones that sound more like a carbon copy of a bigger band that you adapted to really quickly and then you'll probably forget and find another band that has the same sort of sound. It's like food, some people will choose the same sort of menu, but when they see a special or something a bit different they kind of um and ah about it. I remember one review we got way back on the previous album they were saying, Contrive are doing something a bit different, it's a bit cool, but proceed with caution. I just thought that was hilarious, what's so cautious about doing something different? But people are scared of change and scared of something that's going to rock the boat a little and that's why I like that we challenge some people. I'm not saying we're the most off centered band out there like Frank Zappa or whatever, we're definitely not, I think we're pretty adaptable. But in the world of heavy music with a million sub genres, people want to figure out what sub genre box you fit in. I love that people find 3 or 4 boxes, whatever one you think that we fit in that's going to make you happy, then that's fine, stick us in that box. But we'll just keep doing what we do and keep finding what makes us feel good and what works for us and I think that's the most selfish thing you can do when you're in a band.
I think that's great, because not only that, but in a live environment people can be like, well you guys could open up for Fear Factory and then on the other end of the spectrum you could open up for Opeth. There's a lot or variance for you guys to work with.
Yeah exactly, I don't think we've subconsciously planned that at all. It's like the best of both worlds, again with Opeth as an example, they can play with a prog band and they can play with death metal bands. We've just written what has come out, and I had a friend today that said, you guys can go right across the spectrum, and we're sussing out shows that are coming up and trying to figure out what sort of bands to play with. Because part of us wonders, where do we fit? I love that we don't fit but it's tough, if you want to get on a bill and you're going to play with four death metal bands then I'm thinking that might not be a good bill for us because maybe the audience aren't willing to accept us and stick around for us. Maybe they might, I don't know, we're trying to figure that out. If you go to a certain night for a specific genre of metal that have the same sound then you're certainly going to attract the same type of fans who like that sound only and probably wouldn't be into anything else. So that's when we think, let's look at what sort of like-minded sound that we might have which may suit an audience that's similar and I think that for us this album is more proggy than we've ever gone. I'm leaning towards doing more shows with proggy bands that we're starting to hear and see and know about. I think that fans will dig it. I've had the "you guys are too metal for rock, and you guys aren't metal enough" and I like to think that we can bounce across different sub genres of metal, but we're not purposely writing so we can have the best of both worlds. Hopefully the audiences that do hear us will dig the sound and embrace us, we won't know until we start playing more of course. You're competing with the attention spans of people these days and there's plenty of bands out there that are already world class material, but it's just a matter of grabbing peoples attention. Whether it's to do with people staying home and binge watching a series on Netflix or watching YouTube, instead of heading out to see a live show, that's where it's at. Australian bands are world class now, but now we just have to compete with peoples attention to try and get them out to see a show. Hopefully we add to someones night if we're on a decent bill with a bunch of other really good bands.
Slow Dissolve is out now and you can get your copy HERE.
Watch the official video for the track 'Connect-Dead' below.
Written by Steve Jenkins