HAVOK have been torchbearers for the new wave of thrash metal for quite some time now and they have just recently released their latest album Conformicide to critical acclaim. We caught up with bassist Nick Schendzielos and lead guitarist Reece Scruggs to get an insight into the development of the album and any plans they have for the future.
How does it feel to be a part of Heavy Scotland?
Nick: We’re pretty stoked! Caitlin is an old friend of ours so its cool to come out and be a part of the event.
What can fans expect from HAVOK’s set? Any new material?
Reece: We’re playing about four new songs, the rest is some good old standby’s
Nick: Some jazz classics! We have four new songs and they’re probably the best 4 that would translate live and its a great, diverse lineup of the album. We’ll be playing Ingsoc which I think is the coolest HAVOK song there is but it’s a pace changer from the other songs so it gives a different dynamic to the rest of the set.
Reece: I think if the crowd gets bangers the whole time…that can be awesome but if you play brutal songs all the time you kind of give that impression that you can’t do anything else and there isn’t a lot of depth so to add a complex, turning, twisting song in the set is pretty cool I like playing it a lot!
How do you think the albums been received so far?
Nick: I think most people have received it! We’ve got a lot of high praise from people
Reece: But I don’t trust ’em!
Nick: We’ve had a lot of high praise and some people who fucking hate it which I think is good, I think when you get that kind of extreme polarisation you’re doing something right. What you don’t want is people saying “Ehhh… It’s ok”
…as long as they’re showing some kind of emotion?
Reece: Yeah, exactly. If people don’t pay much attention to it or don’t give any kind of response then it’s not going to get remembered which is the worst!
Nick: That’s when you know you have something good, when it goes viral on Youtube it’s got to either be really really bad or really really good. Anything that’s moderately funny or moderately shitty doesn’t really get anywhere!
…and to get something to go viral on YouTube is a considered to be a big accolade in this current age as there is SO much music available especially with streaming sites etc.
Nick: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The album’s only been released for a few weeks now and Intention To Deceive is already at 200,00 views which is really cool! It’s also a good indicator on where the industry is going and that’s what we should be taking notice of, the first week our numbers were pretty good and I’m happy with the charting and that’s what everyone used to focus on but now its its almost more important to check “how did your video do?”.
Quite a few bands I have spoken to have said the places they go to measure their success is either the iTunes chart or their Youtube views.
Reece: Yeah, we we’re number 1 on iTunes and Amazon when it first came out!
Is there anything you approach different recording Conformicide?
Nick: Yeah, I think there was a more classical approach taken by David because he really wanted to incorporate 3 part harmonies with the stringed instruments and take advantage of you have as opposed to an orchestra which can harness about 50 different harmonic options at once, we wanted to utilise that. The bass lines were written with the intention to provide extra harmonies as opposed to just adding a bottom end to the notes and I think that we were able to get a lot of Reece’s ideas on the record too which was some rad shit he was playing when we were on tour with MEGADETH and I thought “We have to get this on the fucking record!”.
Reece: The working title was actually Reece’s In Pieces! Because I was like fucking headstrong for the day!
I had the pleasure of reviewing your album and when I first heard the bass riffs I was like ‘Wow, this is something else!”
Nick: Ah fucking A! Thanks man! I think it was cool to get a lot of those different bass techniques into the album, Reece‘s pieces, Pete‘s drumming and David‘s got some pissed off vocals on this album too. When he hits the high notes on Hang ‘Em High you can hear he is angry!
When I first heard the album I thought it really had that shrill, snarly Chuck Schuldiner style feel to it.
Nick: Yeah totally man, it definitely has that DEATH vibe going on.
How do you think thrash metal has evolved since the 80’s?
Nick: There is a lot of ways to look at it, whether its American thrash or German thrash but I think thrash evolving is kind of counterproductive as it takes the genre away from its roots and there is not a lot of room for thrash to evolve…but that’s where we come in!
Reece: Through the years it hasn’t really progressed outside of thrash metal..if you start adding blast beats here and there people are going to start labelling you a band that aren’t definitively ‘thrash’ and a lot of people wan’t to kinda keep thrash metal in their back pocket and not let it stray too far away!
How do you feel HAVOK has progressed as a band since Unnatural Selection?
Reece: In leaps and bounds! As far as the record goes…from record to record it’s something we didn’t have a whole lot of time with and people who didn’t have a lot of time for us and we have now gone to all the care in the world and exactly what we wanted to release. Unnatural’s fine but Conformicide is everything we wanted to do.
..it definitely feels like the next step up for you.
Reece: Yeah, for sure!
Nick: I feel like I didn’t get much say on Unnatural Selection but I definitely put my stamp on Conformicide?
How did you approach the recording process? Did you have a preconstructed notion of what you wanted to achieve or did you just start jamming out ideas?
Reece: We had a whole lot of material…some of those riffs are YEARS old, that we just didn’t really work into anything so when I spoke about Reece‘s in Pieces, I combined a lot of that with David‘s verse riffs. I played a lot of my riffs for Nick and Pete would just start playing stuff!
Nick: Where was that place you showed them to me? Was like a cool ass house upstairs and they had a little practice amp set up for you?
Reece: It was called Orbit! In St. Louis.
Nick: You should go sometime it was awesome! But yeah.. We thought the progression was real, it was natural selection but unnatural!
Apart from the killer tour HAVOK have scheduled with WARBRINGER, GOROD and EXMORTUS is there any other plans for 2017?
Nick: Yeah! Stuff’s lining up but we can’t really talk about it right now or they’ll kill us! We definitely have some festivals set up like Brutal Assault and Summer Breeze. We have a lot of friends who are playing the same festivals so we will probably link up like fucking Voltron and try to create some type of…
What are your aspirations for the future of HAVOK?
Nick: Perspiration! Basically when the Big 4…are no more..we will see what the score…and what we have in store…SHORTEST STRAW! We will come knocking at your back door!
Reece: Moving forward, never backward!
Nick: Moving diagonally is cool, like chess!
Just to wrap this up, thanks very much for your time. Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Nick: Thank you guys for checking us out and listening to the record. Check out our video for Intention to Deceive, if you haven’t picked the album up we would really appreciate it or just check it out on Spotify. Also…if you have time, go return those video tapes!
Reece: Make sure you rewind them too, jeez!
Conformicide is out now via Century Media Records.
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