Jarrad James, Chase Arocha and Dan Fenton of US based noise merchants Voltagehawk take turns passing the talking stick around for our Band of the Day questions…
Jarrad: We are from everywhere and nowhere…time and space are an illusion! Just kidding. We really are from everywhere. Mississippi, Florida, Ohio, New York, Portland, LA…but we all call Nashville home for quite some time now.
How did you meet?
Jarrad: I met Dan in the rock scene here in Nashville. We were currently is some more bluesy rock bands paying around town, and we got booked on a few shows together. Really liked what the other was doing musically, but ended up partying one night and having an absolute blast, became fast best buds. I had met Tyler at a metal show thru a mutual friend, he smoked me out and told me he’d love to jam sometime. I met Chase thru Tyler, they were in like 2 other bands together.
How long have you been playing as a band?
Jarrad: We have been really at if for just over 2 years now.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
Jarrad: This is actually a fun one to answer because it is so ridiculous. I actually started the band, more as a friends jam, a place my musician buddies could blow off steam and play weird shit. I didn’t have a band at the time, and didn’t want one, and I constantly saw frustration with my homies never getting to really play the styles that they wanted, so I started a little oasis for us all. In the beginning it was meant to be pretty silly, like very arena rock. So I wanted a name that would be next to Van Halen at the record store, something that was a cool animal, like Def Leppard or Scorpions, Wolfmother. Something to pay homage to the best musical soundtrack to all of our lives, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtracks, something to nod to Elvis’ TCB band, So it really only was ever one version, especially after I designed the logo. I was like, perfect. Just ridiculous enough. Shit man, this might just work, lol.
What are your influences?
Jarrad: Our influences are all over the place. Mine lie heavily in classic rock, 80s sci fi and fantasy soundtracks, early 00s post hardcore, show tunes, and Golden Oldies…
Chase: We take influence from everything that life has to offer when it comes to music! My big favorites are definitely Charles Mingus, Ray Lynch, John 5, Thelonious Monk, Mr. Bungle, or anything mike Patton, I truly enjoy his approach to written and him having no worry about what genre something is, music is music.
Dan: A lot of films, film scores. I am a huge Hans Zimmer fan, his work has kind of been a part of my entire cinematic life. I listen to many genres of music from metal, to jazz, rock, blues, classical, hip hop etc. Everything has its own place for me. Tom Waits has influenced both my writing and my philosophy. I read a lot of poetry and enjoy studying different religions and philosophies. Life in general is the biggest influence. Social issues, politics, fighting the man, that sort of thing.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Jarrad: I think what makes us unique is a ground rule we set as an ethos from day one. I banned the word “no” in the creative space. Again, this was meant to be a free jam where dudes could get away with shit they couldn’t in their other bands. Too much genre worship and cosplay happening in the rock world these days, so it was that idea that encouraged bending genres, even within one song. Dan also tells a story of this practice space he had back in the day, with his mantra, painted on the master beam of this barn: “Do What’s Right For The Song”. So we stick to that, and out comes a lot of unique vibes, all blended together, with a lot of tone and texture exploration. We all have some thru lines with heavy rock and metal, and love jazz and movie and video game scores, so a certain cinematic approach happens. We basically try everything and anything that feels good to the song, and if it makes us smile, we go with it. It’s pretty all over the place, but it has this cohesive vibe that we call running things thru the Hawk Filter.
Chase: That it is genuine. It’s music I’ve always wanted to hear and wasn’t on the radio. We take our love of hard rock, jazz, classical, hardcore and blend it with our love of sci-fi in a mix of chaos that is organized by the message we send of, belief in ones self, Love, and to end all fascist ideology.
Dan: We are all equals in this band. No one valued more above the rest. No job is more important. Equality leads to better writing and a more unique, yet unified sound. We are also open with each other, no topic is off limits. Authenticity makes us unique and honest.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Jarrad: We are very political. Very socio-economic. Very pissed off at times about some religious abuse we grew up with. Dan is a storyteller, like a gypsy around some weird cosmic fire pit, so he listens to the universe a lot and tries to tell uniquely human stories that are pretty relatable. We are also always writing soundtracks to movies that don’t exist yet… our next album Electric Thunder is based on this pretty insane Hero’s Journey storyline… maybe a movie, maybe a video game. maybe both.
Chase: Seeing behind the curtain to the ones controlling the masses with tribalism in whatever form suits them best. To stop that type of thinking and realizing the beauty in every person and thing on this planet. To evoke empathy and to help those in need.
Dan: We cover a lot of topics. The end of the world, gun violence, political and social unrest, philosophy, tearing down the constructs of a society built to control and keep you poor and stupid. We have a healthy obsession with space, cosmic connections and understanding that we are just conduits for a cosmic transmission
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
Jarrad: We, like most Nashville bands, have played tons and tons of shows together, and hundreds in our other projects. Our live show is a high energy hand with our friends. We are constantly trying to add crazy production value to our shows, at the club level. Giant prop wings, color schemes. We are currently having a giant pair of metal wings made that light up and shoot fog, and move around stage. We are huge Iron Maiden fanboys, it was our first show we all went together as a band to see. So, anything theatrical we can get away with, we will try.
Chase: We’ve played a lot of shows and before the pandemic I was a hired player on Broadway every night in Nashville. I absolutely live to play and feel it’s our job to always give people the best show you can. Throwing guitars and head banging, starting pits, all while singing and playing to the best of your ability. A good show means I should wake up hurting all over the next day!
Dan: Our live show tends to be wild and theatrical. Engaging and often intense and barbaric but always with some comic chit chat to cleanse the pallet. It’s communion between us and the like minded people who come to listen to us. In my life I played more shows than I can count all over the world. With Voltagehawk you would have to check with Jarrad, he keeps the charts and graphs and historical library of the constitution and bylaws of the hawk.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
Dan: I have seen fully naked men and women at shows. I’ve seen some shit in club bathrooms that you could write to penthouse about. There’s always backstage this and that and the other thing. Shows for the most part we try to keep it pretty tight for the audience listening pleasure. However back in the day I was known to pull some wild shit, start fights with the audience, ditch guitars mid set. Honestly I have seen a lot of crazy shows, but I don’t remember all of them.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Jarrad: Man, this question always makes me sound lame. I play a custom kit that I built out myself. I currently have two, one studio/rehearsal kit, and one for live shows. Got my hands on 6 ply maple shells, and custom painted the kit, the hardware, cause fluorescent pink drum kits aren’t just chillin at Guitar Center. My set up is pretty standard other than that, but I will always rock concert toms solely based on the influence of Phil Collins. Don’t @ me.
Chase: I play a Gibson Les Paul Standard, a Fender Telecaster 52 reissue with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails put in it to handle all the Gain we use. Then I play through my board which is, a JHS Andy Timmons overdrive, Neunaber Immerse, Rude Tech Chorus, Greer Amps Black Tiger Delay then the end of the chain is my Strymon Iridium amp sim. That way I can play direct in to the house and not bring an amp, and then if I do need one, I have a Seymour Duncan powerstage 170 that I use to power a Egnater 2×12 cab as just a clean platform for my pedals.
Dan: I play through an Egnater Tweaker 15 head into a little Carvin 1×12 tweed cab. It sounds punchy and massive as fuck especially for the size. I mostly play Gibson and Fender guitars. All but one of my electrics sport Gibson 57 Classic humbuckers. They have been my favorite pickups for years. I use lots of pedals and also a Korg Micro Synth and a Mellotron in the studio.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
Dan: We currently have an 8 song self titled record available on all streaming platforms. Our lyric video for the single Modern Gasoline is live on youtube. We just finished a 13 song space odyssey called Electric Thunder that will be out later this year or early next year. You can find out what we’re up to on our instagram, facebook, twitter and web site.
What are your plans for 2020?
Jarrad: We will be shopping our 13 song space epic Electric Thunder very soon, it is currently in mastering with Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering. He has worked on everything from The Black Keys, Ghost, Arctic Monkeys, Dr. John, Royal Blood, Marilyn Manson. He’s done all of our stuff, he has the ear for GREAT modern rock. Excited to release this beast on the world and tour the hell out of it!
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Jarrad: So our dream tour would be our best homies Denman, and incredible thrash band here in Nashville, with us opening for Mastodon. A nice diverse bill full of thrash, shred, doom and BOOM!
Dan: IDLES, Voltagehawk, Run THE Jewels. That bill is a fucking statement. A massive finger to the toxic classists of society. Make that bill happen.