Haken release their new album Fauna on 3 March 2022, something which finds Charlie Griffiths and the band exploring new ideas conceptually. If Virus was a companion piece to Vector, Fauna follows on, but there is a lot more going on in what is designed to be a glorious piece of vinyl.
“You’re always kind of influenced by what you’ve done before in a way,” guitarist Charlie Griffiths told MetalTalk’s Robert Adams in Episode 65 of MTTV. “Vector and Virus were always intended as a two-act narrative kind of thing. It seemed appropriate to have a sort of sonic identity running through both albums. So we stuck to that sort of Vector/Virus mood that we were trying to create on those albums, and I guess after a few years of doing that, you get bored of doing that. This [Fauna] goes somewhere else, and we went just anything goes. We’ve got a blank slate, and we can put on anything we want.”
With no ‘plan’ for the album, whatever you bring in, we will listen to it, and if it works? “Yeah. Our only kind of goal was to be as imaginative and creative, and experimental as we could,” Charlie says.
The album defiantly ticks those boxes, and it is jaw-dropping in many places. The single Nightingale is the most ‘Haken’ sounding if you look back at previous albums. But there are a lot of left turns throughout the whole album.
This must keep Raymond [Hearne, drums] on his toes. “He’s really the culprit,” Charlie says. “He keeps us on our toes. He’s the one that adds most of those rhythmic twists and turns, and you don’t know where you are.”
The Alphabet Of Me was the second single, and if you had lulled yourself into a sense of security with Nightingale, then you hear EDM and trumpets at the end. The trumpet “was Ray’s idea because he’s a brass man. He plays Tuba. He’s got lots of mates that are brass players. Somebody had the idea and could hear it and we thought that would work.” It does work incredibly well.
For the songwriting, Charlie says that was a collaboration. “That’s really our focus. When we’re writing a song the lyrics and vocals have to make sense, right, rhythmically and melodically and everything. For the demos and structures of all the tracks, we work quite independently, sending emails and files back and forth, and we meet up now and again during the music-writing process. But when it came to actually turn those structures into songs, then we convened for a week. Did an Airbnb thing for a week where we’re all staying in the same house. We would wake up and just work all day, you know? The main focus of that week was coming up with vocal melodies and hooks. We’re all sitting around in a room, and we’ve got a microphone, and we just kind of pass it around, and if someone can hear a melody, we’ll just sing it vaguely.”
To get the skeleton of the song? “Yeah, just to get the sort of syllabic structure and melodic structure,” Charlie says. “We’re were really happy with what we came up with that week.”
On the whole album, Ross [Jennings, vocals] has his work cut out. The playing on it is insane from the band, and Ross has really fast vocal lines to get his tongue around. For the upcoming tour, will Alphabet be played live? “Yeah, that’s the plan,” Charlie says.
The process for this new album started after Peter Jones rejoined the band. “He just got straight into it,” Charlie says. “I think Nightingale was one of the first demos. He pretty much had that song mapped out, keyboards and all. Everything was there. We just kind of fleshed it out collaboratively.”
It must be nice to have someone back in the band who already knows the personal dynamics within the band rather than bedding in a new boy. “We’d never previously crossed over,” Charlie says. “He left before I joined. But I was a fan of the band when he was in it. It was almost like I was fanboying. I’m working with the guy that I saw in the pub years ago. It was really fun.”
Diego Tejeida had moved on to do his own thing, and from the outside, Peter seemed the obvious candidate. “I don’t remember anyone kind of approaching anyone, really,” Charlie says. “Ray and Pete were in primary school together, so they’ve been friends ever since. They obviously stayed in touch, and Pete has been working in physics away from music for a number of years. But then he came back into music via Nova Collective, which is a band with Rich. He’s always been around as a friend and a mutual musician. So when it came to the time of needing a keyboard player, he was just like a natural choice. We didn’t know if he was able to commit to it because he had a job and stuff like that.”
Charlie says his inspiration for the seven-string guitar came in the mid-’90s. “The album that did it for me was a Fear Factory album, Demanufacture,” he says. “All these songs on a low B string. It was super tight. That kind of super tight picking, and I just loved that. I thought, oh man, I need to play these songs. I brought a seven-string just to play along to the album, basically.”
Dino Cazares “is still one of my biggest influences as a musician,” Charlie says. “A great player, amazing songwriter as well. You know those Fear Factory songs are catchy as hell.”
Charlie is a Kiesel artist. “After the seven-string, the eight-string became the new heavy. I got one of them,” he says. “Most of what we play is in the middle range of the guitar. But then obviously, you can extend what you’re playing higher or lower, and it’s just more effective when you’re kind of in that middle area when you go down super low.”
As the albums have progressed, there has been a more collaborative approach to songwriting. “When I came into the band, we did, Aquarius and Visions. They already had a good thing going. So my mentality was I don’t want to mess with anything. They are coming up with good stuff, so I’ll just kind of add to it. But then, you know, Rich kind of took the decision after that… I guess it’s just too much pressure. It takes so much time. Then we kind of did it as everyone can just throw in a song, and we’ll work on it.”
Which makes it more of a band identity than just five fantastic musicians playing another musician’s music? “We’ve always credited our albums are by Haken, kind of thing. We don’t really want to have that somebody’s in charge kind of thing, and they call the shots. It’s very much a democracy.”
With nine tracks on Fauna, it runs over one hour, but at no point in that complete running time do you get bored.” That’s good to know because we are always trying not to write long songs,” Charlie says. “We’re always trying to edit them down, actually and remove stuff that doesn’t really need to be there. We want it to be interesting every second.”
Taurus opens the album, with a proper gnarly guitar tone. It’s almost like a wake-up call saying you better pay attention now. Charlie says they wanted something that would catch your attention.
There is a reason Tarus starts the album, Beneath The White Rainbow is in the middle and Eyes Of Ebony closes the album, and that is because the album tells a story.
“You could put them in many different orders, and it would work,” Charlie says. “But we actually thought of it as vinyl sides. So side one is going to have this kind of mood, this kind of journey to it and so forth. So we had four sides to spread the songs across. That was our thinking of the sequence. This is designed to be on vinyl.”
The attention to detail is superb, with spectacular art by Dan Goldsworthy, who “worked with us really closely. He was one of the first guys to hear the demos and get the lyrics. He worked his arse off on not only the cover. There’s the wallpaper behind. There are easter eggs in there relating to the songs and in the booklet. It’s just full of nuggets and easter eggs. He’s really put a lot of thought into it. We did it to reward people that buy vinyl, right? You’ve got to get your value for money, right?”
The CD is available, and it will be on streaming services, but it’s great to see that bands are embracing vinyl, and hopefully, fans will get on that and merch sales. “People that are fans of this genre obviously know that money from streaming doesn’t get to people in our genre,” Charlie says. “It’s all vacuumed up by the Taylor Swifts, who is great, but she might have enough money already. I don’t know. I like to think people would use streaming as a try-before-you-buy kind of thing, and then, if they really do love it, they would go out and buy the Vinyl or the CD.”