INTERVIEW: Chris Mills – Harm’s Way

Coming off the back of a signing to one of the biggest metal labels on the planet (Metal Blade for those of you wondering), hardcore bruisers HARM’S WAY are shortly about to release their most recent offering Posthuman to the baying masses. Focusing on far more philosophical and hyper analytical views of the current state of the human race, the album’s themes are a far cry from where the band originally started. We caught up with drummer Chris Mills to get the low down on not only this strange musical progression, but also the real meaning of their new record as well as how outside influences have effected the band from day one.

What is Posthuman?

Chris: It pulls from a number of different places for us, from a philosophical, cultural, kind of techno-scientific levels. A lot of these themes are present both lyrically and aesthetically on the record. There’s an innate questioning of human nature, the human condition and our current state, that we’re in, the nature of reality and the absurdity that surrounds it.

What stance does HARM’S WAY take on the record? Is it that of a narrator to these themes or does the inspiration come from personal experience?

Chris: I think it’s both. There’s an observation and a critique of the reality we find ourselves in, but there’s this inner analysis that’s happening, looking at ourselves as individuals and how we interact with our environment, how we interact with our environment and how we transcend our environment. There a lot of themes of adaptation and transcendence.

How do ideas like this come about within the band?

Chris: Y’know, just through being proactive and, just doing a lot of self-analysis. I can speak from James [Pligge, Vocals] point of view, lyrically there are the themes of looking at yourself in the mirror and wondering how things came to be this way for you as an individual, but also questioning the world around you and question the nature of reality.

Do you find it difficult to strike a dichotomy between writing the most egregiously heavy music whilst balancing with these poetic lyrics?

Chris: It’s not hard for us anymore, basically, it’s come down to this: We’re gonna do what we want, how we wanna do it! People can choose to love it or hate it, at the end of the day this is for us, and if we can’t be proud of the end product, if we can’t create what we want to create then this becomes soulless and defeating for us.

Can you put a point on the moment HARM’S WAY changed from a jokey side project to a full time investment?

Chris: I would say it was probably when No Gods, No Masters came out, which was an EP between Reality Approaches and Isolation. That was the turning point for us, just because at that point we lost two members, it was just Bo, James and I and we were in this transitional period just like “What do we wanna do?” At that point, another band we were doing called CONVICTED broke up, and at that point HARM’S WAY became our own. We wrote this EP, just us three, and we were really excited at the result. Closed Casket Records put out that seven inch and we went on tour off the back of it, and it was really successful. We were then just like “hey, this is real” and it was a really cool, eye opener for us and at that point HARM’S WAY became our sole focus.

So after that, what was the next big goal for the band?

Chris: At that point, it was just a case of how we can keep making music, how we can keep travelling and seeing as many places as we can on this earth, and to share this music with people. We always just set short term goals for ourselves, there is never this bigger picture. Even when No Gods, No Masters came out, it was never about being the biggest band in the world, it was always just about trying to do a US tour, or going to Europe for the first time. It was always small steps for us, because even though HARM’S WAY was a focus for us musically, we’re always in school, we’re always working jobs and we’re always balancing the band with other things. James is a teacher, I’m a social worker, Bo has a very serious job at H&M, we’re always balancing the band with other aspects of our life so the goal is always short term. I will say that at this point, HARM’S WAY is our sole focus, and with the release of Post-Human, with the signing to Metal Blade Records, the goal has stayed the same, we want to share our music and travel, but now we want to be able to keep creating for as long as we can.

How challenging is it to invest time and craft HARM’S WAY to sound how you want whilst juggling a career as well?

Chris: HARM’S WAY is very much self-sustaining and we’re fortunate to be able to balance these other commitments we have in addition to the band. We’re just lucky to be in a position where we can hit the pause button on those aspects of our lives to go on a two-month tour, or take a month in the studio, or to take time and focus on writing. With that said, in the past, it was always really stressful. I look back to when we recorded Blinded, I was in the middle of my graduate degree, I was in college, and was literally recording over night because I was in class or an internship all day. There were times when it felt really unhealthy, but it was just what we had to do to get done what we wanted to get done. It came from a place of truly valuing this music and what we’re creating, but balancing the other passions. There were certainly times when it was harder than it needed to be, but we can now take the time to fully commit to creating and then to our other passions as well

Can you draw from your other passions for influences when writing music?

Chris: Yeah, like I said, I’m a social worker and I work primarily in addictions and mental health. I see a lot through my work, and in many ways it really influences music and how I create music. Seeing turmoil, seeing pain, seeing people make big changes and reach big goals. It’s very much inspiring to me, as a social worker, as someone very much invested in people so that plays a huge part. Along with this, music plays a huge self-care role for me. The work I do can become very heavy for me, so it both influences my music and what we create, but also as a way of self-care and coping for me.

Heavy music in general does have a tendency to focus on the themes that other people don’t want to speak about. What is it about this genre of music that makes it such a good vessel for these ideas?

Chris: I think a lot of it has to be with how accepting the community is. It absorbs all people, it doesn’t ostracise people. It’s a sub culture that very much absorbs those that don’t fit In with the main stream, and because of that a lot of ideas can be welcomed, a lot of vulnerable people can be welcomed. Those are very much things that appeal to me about punk and hardcore.

How has the writing process developed with the band?

Chris: I guess at time, the process has felt easier, but most of the time recording is a gruelling process, and that’s down to us being our own harshest critics. We’re very hyper critical of what we’re producing and creating. Sometimes it feels easier because we have come in to our own over the past few releases, but off the back of that we’re way more hyper critical now, also we’re more attune to trusting the creative process and let things evolve as they do.

How gruelling was the recording process for Posthuman then?

Chris: It wasn’t that bad, mostly down to us spending the longest time we’ve ever spent recording the album, what with pre-production and such. It was gruelling in the sense that we had time to make sure every take was how it supposed to be, every performance was how we wanted it to be, so we were pushing ourselves to physical and mental limits to the performances. The pre-production process was really awesome though, it gave us time and space to refine the songs, make them razor sharp and make sure there was a flow across the record. Those were all things that we were hyper critical regarding the shaping of the record.

Posthuman is set for release on February 9th via Metal Blade Records.

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