Speaking the same musical language can often be a simple idea that can be incredibly complex forging musicality into something truly spectacular. Releasing their brand new album Affinity earlier this year Haken began a new chapter in their progressive story. Focusing more on the hey day of the eighties the album has an overall nostalgic feeling to it echoing the likes of some of our favourites of the times. Enlisting new bassist who had more than proven himself on the EP Restoration Connor Green was a symbolism for the band’s musica affinity. A relative term that can span from our close relations to grander concepts the likes of humanity. Prior to their London appearance at The Garage we were invited on the band’s temporary space shuttle to speak with guitarist and resident guru Charlie Griffiths about the album, Transformers and the band’s faultless dialogue with their instruments.
I’m here with Charlie Griffifths from Haken today. How are you?
I’m good! How are you?
I’m very good, I’m feeling very excited for tonight’s show.
Good, me too! This is the second one of the tour. Last night in Bristol was great but for us its always a difficult transition coming back into the live setting after being off for a few months. You have to kind of change your head to get into the kind of vibe. Because of this kind of music and we’re playing a lot of new stuff, from the new album, its a lot of concentration. So a lot of it is just trying to remember…
Everything that you’ve written haha!
Not only that but you’re listening to the other guys, its one thing to practice at home just playing through the parts yourself but then in a live setting, what you’re hearing can really affect your coordination. It can really throw you, the smallest thing like if the ride cymbal sounds kind of weird to you, your attention might go to that momentarily. Whereas if you’re at home you can’t recreate that kind of curveball. Just little things, its always the little things that can throw you. That’s what we had last night it was just full on.
It was full on focus trying to make sure that everything is nailed.
Especially with the kind of music that you guys play as well, its pretty intricate.
I don’t know why we do it really, we make life so difficult for ourselves haha!
I think thats what all the Prog greats say haha!
Hahaha I say that I don’t know why we do it but we only write the music that we know how to write. I could write like really simple riffs then I would I just write what I write.
Affinity has been out for about just under a month now?
Your memory is much better than mine. My head is just full of notes.
Notes, scales and modes…
Exactly, trying to make some kind of structure of it. I’ll take your word for it.
What have fans reactions been like so far?
From what I have seen, I haven’t really met any fans face to face. One or two actually came up and wanted me to sign a record and that it was actually the first time I had actually physically had a copy in my hands. I don’t even have it myself! Its been really good! Sort of had a little look on Facebook comments and whatnot everyone seems to be making the right kind of noises! I think that all it is that we just need enough people to like it, not everyone is going to be into everything. I’m the same! I’m not into everything that every band does but you just need enough people to be into it to make it worth going on.
I think its not quite a radical departure but there is a big change from The Mountain and I think Affinity. Was that something that you wanted to actively do or was it just a by product?
Yeah I mean I think yeah. I think we definitely wanted to do it, each album is like its own kind of world. I kind of think of it like Steven Spielberg will make Jaws and then later on he made E.T. so he’s not trying to make E.T. better than Jaws. Why make a remake of something that you have already done. Thats the way I think of it! Kind of a strange analogy I guess.
I think its a good analogy!
I’ll go with it, I’ll carry on with it!
Well you remain the director but you change the kind of style of it..
Thats it! You try to make each album its own experience kind of thing.
Was the Restoration EP kind of bridging the gap between The Moutain?
It was yeah. We went through a big change of having Tom leave the band and Connor come into the band. We didn’t really know how it was going to go, so we made that a little kind of experiment to see just how everyone would gel together with a new member. It wasn’t really a high pressure thing, the songs were already written we just had to rearrange them a bit and just have fun with it, be creative. It was a good experiment and it worked out well, I like how the songs turned out. Connor was excellent all throughout, just his personality, his playing and his creative input and music knowledge just really worked well. So then we decided we’ll keep doing it.
Was he a lot more involved in the writing process for Affinity?
He was yeah, everyone really kind of had an equal measure. Which is the reason why its so eclectic. You’ve got certain songs which are from a Metal direction and other songs which are from like an Indie vibe and you’ve got a more Electro dancey kind of vibe.
Like “The Endless Knot”.
Yeah, maybe or maybe you can’t guess who was the kind of originator of each idea. Thats kind of how it works, everyone threw in an idea and we had many more ideas than ended up for the album. We probably could have done a two hour thing but we just kept what we thought was the best stuff.
My personal favourite track is “1985” I think that is absolutely wicked. It does completely encapsulate the album though. You’ve also got an eighties theme on the cover, was that something that you decided early on?
I think “1985” was the first song that kind of came together. It just sort of set the tone for it, we had dabbled in the past with having just really sort of playing around for fun. Ray would have his sample pads and just in soundcheck’s and in rehearsals would just be playing classic eighties sounds. It was that sort of thing just for a bit of fun but then we just thought why not use that. See how that would sound against modern sounding guitars. Just another experiment, its just what we’re into! I like listening to Metallica and Meshuggah but also like…
Hahaha yep I do like Aha and Roxette, guilty pleasures. They’re just really good stuff and I like sounds haha!
What about “The Architect”, how did that happen. Its another fifteen minute one.
I remember that started with one little guitar, it was the first verse that you hear before the vocals start theres a little kind of guitar melody / riff kind of clean thing. That was the first idea, I remember, I was just sort of mucking about on the guitar and my fingers just sort of fell into it kind of thing. I liked the sort of mood it created, it had a kind of spooky, its really nothing like it but it reminds me of John Carpenter. It wasn’t until Diego put his keyboards sounds on that we were going for that John Carpenter sound and it just grew and grew and grew. It just never really felt finished until it ended up with what it is.
You’ve got the Leprous man, Einar Solberg in there as well. How did that happen?
It happened exactly as you would expect haha! It was just an email to him… Well what it was, I’ll expand on it a bit! We had this two guitar part that you hear on it that was kind of our tip of the hat to King Crimson of course Beliew and Fripp. Those intertwining parts that are kind of almost the same but not quite the same they create this kind really cool stereo experience. One ear is kind of hearing one thing, the other ear is kind of offset a bit. It creates this kind of hypnotic…
Slight dissonance kind of thing.
Yeah, so we had that and we were jamming together and it just kind of one of those things than rather than stay the same for the whole section we were kind of building and building it. Then it just sort of felt natural to just play the same riff. King Crimson style is sort of like clean then we tried it down an octave with distortion then it was like a cool more Metal version of King Crimson. Then it just sort of grew and grew and I kind of refer to it as the Emperor section where it went into these ninth chords, these chord changes reminded me of something that Emperor did. Went with it and thought lets follow that, if you’re going to do that sort of thing it has to be completely done right. Its the kind of law that you have to have a Norwegian somewhere on there haha!
Especially if you’ve mentioned Emperor!
Haha exactly! Of course he’s worked with Ihsahn, Einar I’m talking about, for those poeple who have forgotten the question.
Hahaha! Obviously we became friends from touring and I’m a big fan of Leprous anyway so it was like a fun thing. Sent him an email and I had sent him a demo of the track and he sort of gave it his stamp of approval. Because I don’t think that he would just do it if he thought it was shit. He is a man of high standards and he did it and about a week later he sent me the WAV’s of his thing. I remember playing it back and obviously its just his voice that you are hearing…
It just blew me away, I was so happy with it.
When it comes to writing, do you guys write in a more jam aspect or is it quite individual?
We have in the past done that, our previous albums have been coming from a jam room kind of thing. Now that we’ve got both Diego and Connor, who both live in the States so its become much more of a kind of email relationship between members. Its just not easy or viable to regularly meet and jam kind of thing. For this album the initial phase of it was kind of via email. Dropbox or whatever, I think that most bands do it to share ideas. So it would kind of be like that, in a way I kind of prefer that way personally. I like to sit and have a week to develop my ideas. I think I’m just not really good enough really to develop and have an idea immediately. I like to sit with it, some guys can do that I’m just not one of them haha!
Its quite intricate the stuff that you play so I can imagine.
Exactly, that just the way I like to do it. Have it quite mapped out, quite detailed then I send a demo. The two kind of tracks that I demo’d like that, myself were “1985” and “The Architect”. If you heard my original demos they are not really much like the finished product. Its everyone’s input, I’ll play a kind of guitar riff and I will say to Diego, I’m hearing a Vince DiCola part here, the guy that wrote the Transformers the movie soundtrack in the eighties. He’s this amazing synth player that we’ve nicked half of his catalogue haha! Go and listen to Vince DiCola! So it would be that kind of thing, I can’t come up with what Diego comes up with so I would say the kind of vibe I’m looking for and then he’ll just sort of do it! Everyone will kind of do it like that and you end up with what you end up with. Thats the finished album!
What about the actual name of the album Affinity, what does that represent?
Well it kind of started off like an idea that we had that everyone is an equal member. There’s no kind of band leader so to speak, everyone is kind of working towards a common goal equally kind of thing. It sort of I guess was extrapolated out into the lyrics that was kind of our mindset at the time. That sort of idea, lyrically it became a lot of the themes that we were talking about were connected. It started off as how we are connected as a band and then it could be our personal lives or from a global perspective of how we communicate. Thats the kind of lyrical themes behind it.
I remember there was one track that reminded me of Interstellar, I think it was “Earthrise”?
Uh hum! I remember discussing coming up for lyrics with that and that kind of, that song was actually called “Shoreline” originally. Did you ever see Cosmos with Carl Sagan, I think it was an eighties, could be in the seventies, it was a documentary series talking about physics and our place in the universe. Awesome stuff! There was a quote, its a very famous quote that I can’t remember.
Verbatim but he’s talking about how we are exploring the planet through science and the universe. I think in the quote he’s talking about space travel and how we had kind of left. He’s talking about the Earth as the shoreline and we’ve kind of waded out into deeper waters. That was the original name “Shoreline”. We saw a bit of a different meaning, a different perspective so it became “Earthrise”.
What about later on in the year, what have you got planned touring wise?
Later on in the year, we do this, I can’t remember how long this is, its quite a long tour. This finishes up in London. We’re in London now but we go off for a while and the come back to London, we’re playing at the Stone Free festival at the O2. Which I believe Rick Wakeman is headlining so that’ll be fun. Then later on we have a couple of one off festivals, one in Finland, Israel… September is Prog Power USA, we did it 2011 I think it was and it was awesome. That was our first time playing in the States so we’ve got good memories. We’re going back there and we’re planning a more extensive US tour, which we’re still waiting for the confirmation on but we will announce it as soon as we know its going to happen.
To finish up what has been an album that you have been listening to over the last six months to a year?
I think as far as new stuff, what I had on quite a lot was the new Killswitch album, thought that was really good! I love those guys, Joel because I don’t know how to say his surname haha but he’s one of my favourite guitar players and Adam too, don’t want to leave him out but there is something about the way that Joel plays. I just love his whole feel, he’s playing Metal riffs how Metal riffs should be played. Really relaxed and it just feels really good, in the pocket with the drums. I could listen to him all day, he’s awesome. Its just good songs!
Excellent! Well thank you very much!