UK punk sludgers HAG – Ian Baigent (vox/guitars), Robin Freeman (bass), and Tamas Kiss (drums) – emerged with 2016’s awesome Fear Of Man after nearly six years of radio silence. The doom battlefield may be a bit different these days, but this trio’s cut from a raunchier, headier cloth – they took some time to talk riffs, life, and the writing process…
Let me start by saying thanks for taking a few moments to speak with The Shaman crew. How does it feel to finally have the debut full length out for public consumption?
Robin Freeman: Thank you for speaking to us! It feels great, it was a long time coming. Hopefully the next one won’t take quite as long, although we’re not in a hurry…
Ian Baigent: It’s all about the money, especially when you have lack of, so the fact we got it together financially is a miracle, but hey at least we own our music and don’t have to suck up to the man so it’s worth the waiting.
While 2010’s HAG EP was solid on pretty much every front, Fear Of Man ups the ante and is just one hell of a record. Tell us a little about the writing process.
RF: We all contribute to the writing process. Someone brings in a melody or rhythm to our rehearsal studio and we jam it, adding and taking away bits until we’re all happy, then it gets roughly recorded and if it still sounds good listening back to it a few days later we keep going with it.
Tamas Kiss: Then again from scratch… Passion of love y’know.
IB: If the idea gives me a hard on then it’s a keeper.
I hear some Melvins, some High On Fire (especially in the rhythm section) – obvious influences for the sludge-blues side of your sound. But there’s this unique, wild, and erratic crossover-punk tinged umbrella that shadows everything. From the artwork to the rebellious tongue in cheek sense of humor (lyrics) – was that movement big in shaping your sound/aesthetic or am I just imagining things?
IB: There’s certainly a big dose of Alternative music in HAG and I’ve never considered myself a musician that limits himself to one genre, that would bore me to death. Don’t get me wrong I definitely lean towards the heavier side of music but I’m open to other influences.
RF: Yes definitely, I think there is quite a lot of musical genres that influenced our sound so it makes it hard to pigeon hole and some people seems quite confused by it, which is a good thing in my opinion…
TK: I can`t forget Punk, I was in a HC band in Hungary and my first genuine borrowed bootleg cassettes were punk and hardcore.
Tim Cedar handled production duties for the debut. The record is tight and you guys are in top form. Was the recording process relatively seamless?
RF: It was great to work with Tim again as he knows our sound and he’s always up for trying out new ideas in the studio. We went into the studio well with a clearer idea of what we wanted this time and we had played most tracks live a bit beforehand.
TK: On the first recording session we recorded the drums and some bass, then a year later we done the guitars and vocals and all additional stuff a month after the second session.
To keep it balanced, what aspects of the album do you think could have been better? (Shit, my ears have a hard time coming up with an answer for that one!)
RF: I always find little details that we (I) could have done better, but if you get too bogged down in details you risk losing the overall energy. I am really happy the way it sounds and it’s a great document of were the band is at now, so we’ll see where it goes next.
TK: Yes I’m always thinking critical for our albums, luckily I have less problems with Fear Of Man, but our debut 2010 EP has quite a few bits I should have played different. Perhaps I should have been more patient, and focused… To make something different for sure – I was thinking to release our album on 16” vinyl – maybe we start a tradition.
One thing I admire about you guys is that you obviously take your work/music very seriously but you maintain some levity and don’t take yourselves too seriously. Do you feel that’s come with age/experience or have you always taken that (enlightened) approach?
TK: Yes. Getting older means less to fear and worry about. I’m less polite nowadays.
IB: It’s hard work getting good, it’s even harder becoming successful without compromising. It’s really important for me to be in control of our music. We all have day jobs so I’ll be fucked if someone’s going to tell me how I should play my music. Take what you do seriously but don’t be a dick.
Looking back on the EP (lyrically/musically), how do you feel you’ve evolved over the past 5+ years?
RF: As a band we have become a lot tighter and we know each other a lot better so we know what is going to work for the band.
TK: I stared using the hi-hat properly.
IB: Not everything we write is a keeper and being able to put your hand up and say ‘Dude that song sucks’ and no one gets offended is important and only comes with time.
How do you see your sound progressing in the future?
RF: Tamas is a keen stylophone player and we are pushing for it a lot, so far it has been vetoed but you never know.
TK: The school I work at has a proper big stylophone and I love glockenspiels and all sort of percussion things. We have a plan to distract Ian and we’ll record a full length 7”.
What inspires you the most (as a band) artistically?
TK: I don`t know.
IB: I watch too many films for my own good.
RF: The moment when it all comes together and it Rocks!
What records are currently in your rotation?
RF: Lightning – Bolt Fantasy Empire and The old Appalachian drones of Henry Flynt’s – You Are My Everlovin/Celestial Power.
TK: High On Fire – Luminoferus, Henge – S/T , Luminous Bodies – S/T . Also I am revisiting Carnivore and Type O Negative. Great stuff.
Any plans to tour stateside (US)?
RF: Would love too but money and time etc… also it seems really hard for Independent UK bands to go and tour the US at the moment with Visa fees rocketing.
TK: Yes it would be great but little bands like us have little chance to afford all visa fees and tickets.
Thanks again for chatting with us. Any final words or parting shots?
RF: The first beginnings of wisdom…is to ask questions but never to answer any…
TK: I think we have failed on this one Rob…
Interviewed by: Jeremy Moore