Hærken Interview 27/05/2017
Interview by Beth Jones with Introduction and summing up from Rick Tilley
I first saw Hærken in the SOPHIE tent at Bloodstock 2014 and they blew me away. Their Medieval Death Metal, banter and stage attire really captured my imagination as did the massive inflatable sword and axe battle that ensued in the crowd during their set. It was almost as funny as watching Evil Scarecrow. I was therefore really pleased when they got in touch with me a few days before Uprising to see if we could meet them on the day for an interview and here is what happened! Well…I wasn’t going to say no was I?
Beth had written the questions in a pseudo sort of Old English but we soon found out that Hærken take these things pretty seriously…sort of!!
Hærken: When we first started we did interviews in Elizabethan English…it’s incredibly difficult! All of the stage banter is scripted because there is no way of doing it off the cuff really. There are a couple of standard phrases that you can drop in, but it takes a lot of research!
Beth: Ok then, we will just do it normally. Obviously, you have your stage names… The Laird, The Baron, The Scribe, The Druid, but which one of you is the Jester and which one of you is The Sage?
Hærken: We sacked the jester! (Laughing)
Beth: Don’t ever sack the jester!
Hærken: No, the jester chose a different path to ours… yeah, we reached a fork in the road to the forest and the Jester’s path diverged. One road went ‘hard work’ and the other road went ‘not hard work’, and he chose that one! So…!
Beth: Is there one of you that would naturally fall into The Jester’s role?
Jonathan – Production Manager: All of them! There is no Jester really!
Hærken – The Druid: Me maybe…I’m constantly dicking about!
Jonathan – Production Manager: Yeah, you can’t have a serious conversation with The Druid / The Jester.
Beth: Is there anyone who is the wise one? Like the dad of the group?!
Hærken: The manager, Jonathan!! Yeah…get in your costumes, come on get out of your costumes, get in the van, get out of the van! Constantly bossing us about! You’ve got to be there at 8.30 in the morning…we arrive at 9.30! Although he bosses people around his isn’t in charge!! (Much laughter as they rib him)
Beth: So, for people who haven’t heard about you just explain a bit about the band, and why the Anglo Saxon / Medieval Folklore influence?
Hærken: This is the rise of Viking metal to an extent.
Hærken – The Druid: Well to cut a long story short, I’d just finished in a band, got itchy fingers, met Ben at work, decided to do a band, said let’s be a British Amon Amarth, I know…we’ll sing about King Arthur and Robin Hood, where they sing about Odin and Viking Mythology so it was kind of a direct…
(There was an interjection of ‘repost’ from the background)
Hærken – The Druid: Rip Off??! (And another shout of ‘REPOST’)! Oh repost…I thought you said rip off!! A direct repost yes. (Laughter)
Jonathan – Production Manager: The thing that is cool about Hærken is, because Viking metal is very popular and the song themes are all kind of samey, so you have a song about dying in battle, a song about Odin, a song about drinking, so it’s all kind of fairly standard, whereas this is a very different kind of storytelling!
Hærken: Ours are all, bar one at the moment, actual events…we are an educational death metal band!
Hærken – The Scribe: Yeah, they are retelling of events and popular stories from the middle ages, so they are all from, say, ‘The Mabinogion’.
Hærken – The Druid: They are all actual myths that you can read about, so you can go and google the subtitle and you’ll find loads of different stuff on each one, so it’s genuine British mythology!
Hærken – The Scribe: And that’s why you won’t find any lyrics in our CDs, you’ll find an introduction to the story so you can just go and enjoy history, because it is a rich Mythology we have and a rich cultural heritage that we’ve got in this country, and we’ve spent a long time exploring that!
Beth: So, it’s less of a band and more an education really?
Hærken: It’s kind of a way of life! It’s a lot of reading! In terms of the band though, it’s been more of, the whole stage show and the idea of it has been bards, so those storytellers that you would have in mead halls and that kind of thing, you know what I mean, where you’d all gather round and there’d be a minstrel playing along and telling stories of victory – it’s exactly that…but louder! Powered by the invention of electricity!!
Beth: So, your debut album was released in 2014…have we got a new album on the cards and, if so, when’s it coming out?
Hærken: There is one on the cards… er… yeah…we started writing a song in 2007…it’s nearly finished. It’s taken ten years! It’s a long song. That’s all we’re going to say on the subject!
Beth: So…by that reckoning, maybe about 2050 or something??
Hærken: Maybe!! Yeah! (Laughing)
(Rick here. The next couple of questions were about upcoming gigs that have since passed. That’s totally my fault for not managing to get the interview online more quickly, but in my defence I have been incredibly busy. I’m leaving this part of the interview in because it is interesting and I’ve since spoken to Reverend Benjamin, The Scribe who has assured me that the gigs were all awesome! Hærken’s next gig is on the 8th July at The Firebug in Leicester and they will be supported by Rannoch and Kill For Company. The poster is at the bottom of the interview)
Beth: Next month you are coming to ‘Pentre Fest’ in Deeside, which isn’t far from us! Are you looking forward to coming to the land of the Druids?
Hærken: Yes, we certainly are. It’s going to be like a spiritual homecoming really. Before that we are going to London for the ‘Isarnos Metal Alliance’ at The Boston Music Rooms, supporting these guys (pointing at Olli, The harsh vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of Isarnos who was playing bagpipes for Hærken at Uprising), the man on the pipes there…we borrowed him for today!
Olli: Yeah Isarnos are my band…we’re a kind of a folk metal sort of…just Bathory with bagpipes is how I would describe it! (Lots of laughing)
Beth: Haha Baggery! Sounds a bit wrong that!! (Lots of laughing)
Olli: Yeah…so it’s basically us putting on our own show and the idea was, cos obviously we do gigs supporting bands, but if we could do our own gig, rather than getting support bands we thought who do we really like and who would we want to play with, so we’ve got these guys who are opening the show and doing something hopefully almost as spectacular as this evening, and we’ve got some other phenomenal bands as well…Countless Skies from just outside London, King Leviathan from Brighton, Cybernetic Witch Cult, from Cornwall, who are just like space dinosaurs, and Valafar from Yorkshire. So, some great bands. It was really difficult deciding on the running order cos any of the six bands playing could have easily headlined a show in London, but these guys have kindly offered to open proceedings and do some kind of induction / inauguration ceremony!
Hærken: We like inaugurating events! (Laughing)
We like opening because it is less waiting around!! Yeah, we can get straight on the pop! (More laughing)
Beth: So, you have already played here today. Obviously, this is a very iconic location to play. How did you find playing in this place?
Hærken: Oh, it was incredible. Beautiful. It’s an amazing venue!
Beth: It’s a stunning building isn’t it, and so much history behind it?
Hærken: And it’s a great team behind the event, both the promoters and the venue. Everyone has been really lovely and really professional to work with and made the day really easy. Everything all day has been great. They are a really great team and great guys. We have worked really hard building up to this one too, to put a set together that was worthy of it. Everything that was on stage we’ve actually been building – we’ve put all the set pieces together and the theatrics that go with it, and we’ve got Jonathan, our production manager, bringing all that stuff to life for us and we’ve got Mike with us for the first time on sound and without those guys bringing it all together, we really can’t put on a show. They are a priceless addition to any band!
Jonathan – Production Manager: A Haerken set is as much a piece of theatre as it is band performance and there’s a lot of extra work that goes in behind it and the venue team today have been really good about supporting us in that and helping us get an awful lot of stuff on to stage very very quickly and getting it all plugged up and working.
Hærken – The Druid: I’m not sure how much of that was in the initial conception of the band, but it has come to be a critical part of what we do. How it looks and how it all comes across.
Johnathan – Production Manager: Yeah, Hærken’s a show as much as music…its theatre!
Hærken: We’re not just a bunch of people who just turn up and play a bunch of songs in t-shirts, there’s enough of that!
Jonathan – Production Manager: From the audience side of things, seeing these guys on a stage that big, actually having the freedom to move around, it’s a much bigger show than four or five guys, just playing songs!
Hærken: What you can always take away from it though, is the community aspect, even from coming to such an iconic venue. You can’t help but walk around and see tons and tons of people that you know…you are constantly walking round shaking hands with people, you know. If we go to the bar or the toilet we are constantly stopping four or five times on the way talking to mates. It’s a proper family vibe here today…it’s brilliant. There are so many people that we haven’t seen since last festival season. We’ve had some good chats. It is as much a catch up as it is a show. And there’s been a lot of Hærken t-shirts today!
Beth: Yeah…I’ve got your patch, in my bag, which is going on my jacket as soon as we get home. So, what’s been the highlight of your career so far as Hærken?
Hærken: This is certainly one of them. It’s right up there!
Rick: Well I last saw you at Bloodstock in 2014…I came into the Sophie tent to see you!
Hærken: Yeah in the Sophie tent…that was an incredible gig. Three thousand people rammed into a tent and several hundred of them going at each other with inflatable weapons! (Lots of laughter)
Rick: Yeah that was fabulous and so funny!
Beth: We watched the video of that on Youtube last night.
Rick: Yeah, I said to Beth, you’ve got to watch this, it’s brilliant!
Hærken: Yeah that idea existed before there was a note of music written. We remember discussing it. In fact it came from when we were talking about wouldn’t it be cool to do a proper old style battle of the bands thing where one band played one song then we played a song and then they played a song, but wouldn’t it be cool if the audience could join in too!
Hærken – The Scribe: I thought we were keeping that idea under wraps! (Laughing)
Hærken: That’s where the inflatables swords came from! Yeah it could be against Amon Amarth and they could have axes and we could have swords! Yeah, yeah! And then… we started to write music! (lots of laughing)
Beth: So I’ve got a couple of funnyish questions to finish up with!
A quick show of hands on this one, or I’ll just go around the group…Ale or Mead?
Hærken: (In turn) Mead! Mead! Mead! Mead! Mead! Both!! Ale first then mead as the dessert!
Beth: You could make some kind of Jaeger bomb with ale and mead!
Hærken: We tried once…and it went downhill from there!! (Lots of laughing)
Beth: Ok and the last one, which we’ve pretty much asked everyone today!
If you were a Monty Python film, what would the title be?
Hærken: Well we are almost the Holy Grail aren’t we! (Plenty of Laughter)
Rick: Yeah that’s why we had to ask you…it doesn’t have to been one that already exists!
Hærken: Errrr…The deleted scenes from Camelot, cos they didn’t go there, cos they thought it was a bit silly!
(Lots of laughing and approval!)
Beth: Fantastic! Is there anything else you guys want to add before we finish?
Hærken: Well it’s all on the Website and Facebook. Can we also just say a massive thanks to Simon Yarwood for putting on a phenomenal day…you’ve got three stages with amazing bands on all three! So much work has gone into it and it has run like clockwork!
After this Hærken, and friends, decided that drinks were in order and there was a mass exodus and assault on the bar, which reminded me of several scenes from the movie ‘Robin Hood: Men In Tights’! Now that I’ve seen them live twice and have had a chance to meet, talk and listen to them it has given me a great insight into what they are all about. They obviously have a lot of fun but it’s done in an educational way, in fact its Metal’s equivalent of ‘Horrible Histories’! If you’ve not checked out their album “…Of Warriors & Kings” or seen them live then you are definitely missing out. Friendly, great personalities, costumes, fabulous music with a story behind it…and mead!! What more could you ask for? I’d like to thank them for taking the time to talk to Ever Metal!
Check out Hærken at the following links!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities