Interview: Hedra (Part 1)

After a bit of correspondence from vocalist Jim of Norwich-based metallers Hedra, it felt the right time to ask these East Anglian bruisers for an interview here at Moshville Times. There is a lot going on with the band toying with a new sound, new album and new bandmates. What could have destroyed other bands has only made this one even stronger. Now would be an appropriate time for the band to tell us where they are at with the recording the new album (being released through The Snakes on Fire Records next year) as well as the struggles today for a live band. This is an interesting one and I wish the Jim and the band good luck for the album.

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

Jim – Hedra are based in Norwich. Originally it started in Ketzryn by Kamil though, which is a small town in Poland. I think I got that right, although the name came about once I’d joined but I live in Thetford!

Kamil – I was born in Poland but the last 12 years I spent in England.

Chris – So Norwich and Lowestoft and everywhere.

How long have you been playing together as a band?

Jim – We’re still waiting for a whole band. It’s been dominated by myself and Kamil for 4 1/2 years now, several people come, eat everything in the house and then quit. Seriously though we are looking for a bassist still!

Kamil – With Jim over four years and with Chris over two.

Chris – Yes I have been playing for two years but everyone else has been playing for five years.

Jim – 5 years in April, Chris!

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

Jim – The music you’re hearing from the E.P. is a mix of influences from bands like Slipknot, Pantera, Korn and newer bands too but although we always slip those tributes in we’ve never been able to compare it to another band as such. That’s not what we want to do though, we understand that no one is going to listen to it if we don’t. It’s just heavy and raw and honest metal really, and done in a way that sounds about the same live, too, if we’re on form.

I think the thing that makes us unique is that we all see the pointlessness in deliberate replication of our idols and we’re just going out there on our own with no frills or expectations to be the better band on the scene.

We just want to make music that can find its own tribe of friends along the way, not to dominate the music scenes but to feel that wherever we go we know we’ve got friends with the same musical acceptance for something a little out of the ordinary. What attracted me to this band was Kamil (guitarist) has a very different style of writing and playing that no one else has that I’ve met in all my time of playing in any band, so naturally I jumped right on board and gave it my best shot from the start. The riffs are heavy so I felt it needed really pushed vocals.

Kamil – In short, it’s good components and unexpected arrangement that make the music unique in general, but after a while I realised that it is more about people you are making the music with!

Chris – We do have our own influences but Kamil makes a good point to keep his listening to a minimum. I think this is how he writes some unique and confusing riffs.

Hedra have released an EP, Mind Dimension, in 2016. How did it feel to put all your blood, sweat and tears and get an EP out there?

Jim – I loved the high energy of making this & it was always our intention to put our music out there, we ask everyone from the start when they join us how they want to play it & they’re all up for doing it with the mindset of it being a national band which suits me very well.

I’ve come from several bands that all had CDs that sold quite well. I learned along the way that you’ve got to put out the best quality you can afford, so we worked really hard at home to make sure all the demos were good enough to take to the studio and re-record through proper amps etc. That whole process took us about 2 years before we even hit the studio. I’ve still no idea why it took us so long but during that time I think we went through four bassists, two drummers and two guitarists in the frustrations of putting it together.

We recorded it in November 2016 at HVR Studios in Ipswich in 4 days. Danny B is great to work with too. We knew from the very beginning that we wanted it to be distributed in HMV and all the digital stores too. It went out in February 2017 and to other stores across the world.

We set out to get everything glass mastered (properly pressed in a manufacturing plant) so that’s what we did. While we were at it we thought it’d be great to help a few bands to do the same too, so we set up a label to help people along the same path that we are taking. I don’t think any other of the band members had done this before so it was mostly a difficult process of conversing about it, partly because of language barriers.

Our guitarist at the time was Zoran Gyenis from Hungary, Bo Khaki from Poland on bass and Tomas Mrazek from the Czech Republic on the drums. I think they just thought it was the done thing here in the UK. It was quite funny because I’d get asked often by various members if we were playing Download Festival once the CD comes out. The UK isn’t quite the same as other places I’d explain over and over!

That’s mostly where my personal frustrations. sweat and tears came from. The first drummer got really aggressive with me about it and ended up refusing to play unless we paid him £150 a show. It’s OK, he’s back home in Poland now getting a reality check. Don’t worry though we have had some English players that are equally as difficult to understand when putting things together, so I don’t blame the foreign tongue 100%. The scene is generally better in the east, I’m told!

But all that aside putting the music together is really fun and they were really talented people that helped us to get a little further down the track – so thank you to those guys!

Kamil – That was an amazing feeling for me. Best ever, to be honest, and I want more!

Chris – I cannot comment on the other stuff as I was not originally in the band, but I can hear the blood, sweat and tears in it!

You have currently been recording for your debut album? What can you tell us about it and how would you say the sound is compared to that of your debut EP?

Jim – For me, this is very much where we want to be sound-wise, because this time it involves all band members in the writing process. We’ve got eight songs drafted so far out of 12. We can’t do much more than that for now though because we lost a drummer and only just found a new one to help with the writing process, but four songs are ‘almost down’. We’ll be releasing those as four singles in the meantime. These will be the home studio versions before we hit the main studio to do them again, so they’ll be a nice collection piece maybe limited to 100 CDs of each. We haven’t decided yet, but we’ve been recording bonus tracks or ye oldie ‘b-sides’ on my own for those too.

We had a band meeting late last year and we all decided that we needed to just write whatever came out so if it does accidentally rip someone off it’s not intentional! But if it is a good riff etc. then we’re using it.

I think it was Chris that mentioned ‘we should just work with what comes out and stop worrying about being particularly different’. To some degree, I totally agreed with that, but all that happened as a result is I’ve been learning to sing in more varied styles rather than just belting my throat out. It’s sonically more pleasing for me to listen to so I hope everyone likes it that hears it.

From the vocals point of view, I’m putting in vocal elements from the singers I like from all rock and grunge to metal eras, so I might use a style of phrasing from Bruce Dickinson on one part and then Eddie Vedder on the next or just layering in the Alice in Chains way to a Strapping Young Lad or Pantera growl at the heavier side of things. We put the samples out to friends every now and then and bands like Opeth, Paradise Lost and Linkin Park have even been mentioned in the styles put forward so far, so it’s broad enough. There are even some funky bass lines I never thought I’d choose to use.

Chris – We have many ideas for riffs and melodies but I think we are primarily working on chorus sections now and to start making them more epic. The thing with Mind Dimension is that it can be less distinctive in regards to the chorus. We are also attempting to record this ourselves. We will see how that develops, really.

Kamil – The new album is going to be completely different from the EP. We focus on new ideas not necessarily connected with music in the first place. Instead of just chaos we also choose images of peace and the connections between everything. I know how it sounds in my head!

Where will the album be recorded and where will it be mastered? Are you using the same team or trying something different with this album?

Jim – We don’t know yet. I think there’s a high chance we could go back to HVR Studios because I remember Danny saying he loves to take on different projects with different sounds, so he’d most certainly get that this time around from us. But it’s not really up to me to say that will happen, we need to sit and decide on that one together!

This time though I would really love a nicely cleaned up sound. We did the raw and energy thing, now it’s time for the ‘finest’ version of Hedra really, but you can have the raw singles first of course. Nothing is set in stone with us until the songs are ready though!

Kamil – We could go back to Danny from HVR studio. Last time we had a lot of fun and he helped us to achieve what we were looking for. But like Jim said we haven’t made any decision yet.

Chris – Again, we have been attempting to record the main ideas at home and with meeting everyone at each other’s houses. In terms of mixing we have been trying to develop it but we may reach the point of heading to a studio but we shall see.

You are very active on the live front, from local pubs and clubs to having played an emerging festival in the UK called Badgerfest. What should we expect from a live show and how was the experience playing in front of a full house at Badgerfest?

Jim – We’ve done a few smaller festivals such as Sempiternal Fest, Lostock Festival, Pentrefest, Badass Bash as well as Badgerfest and several pubs and clubs as you say… but, yeah, Badgerfest was the one for us in 2018 it was a great crowd, great bands and was run very smoothly.

For me it was very reminiscent of the good ol’ days, so I’m very used to playing in front of 600 people or more at times. No big nerves for me but all I can say it was lovely to play to those friends we meet along the road and the new ones that came along to check us out too. The way they all looked after us and hung out and chatted to us…

We sold a bit of merch too which always helps to keep us in fuel, so we can get back up and watch it next year!

When you come to our shows you’ll just get a bunch of guys playing the best they can and some weird bloke waffling on a load of crap in between songs. I’m never sure what to say and never have done, whatever comes to mind comes out without thinking to be honest. I know that’s dangerous for some singers (*cough Phil Anselmo*) but usually people end up having a right laugh with me or at me. It’s great to just be who you are but magnified on stage!

We try to look good, we used to have a mish-mash of members in cords and tweed jackets, to drummers in dirty lounge pants – and there was me trying to look a bit metal. So, in the end, we needed to get some identity and went with ‘standard’ black shirts but with our logos that glow in the dark.

As things progress I’d like to design more stage stuff to bring a real show to people but it’s just waiting for that input to come from all of us really. We’ve got a banner big enough for Download festival though (measurement issues or someone thought they were playing Download after the CD release) that we never use. One day you’ll all get to see it, I’m hoping! But for now it stays rolled up in a cardboard tube you could sleep in!

Chris – Badgerfest for the size was incredible. John and the team have made a smaller venue into something incredibly huge and we were honoured to play (even with our van out of action and having to convoy up) and to meet the metal family was awesome. We like to make our performances as best we can but we like to also show we have a sense of humour. A lot of bands I think can get so wrapped up on trying to ‘make it’ that they lose this approach. At the end of the day we are all human.

Kamil – I agree, amazing!

What are the lyrical themes of the songs from the new album? Is there a main lyricist?

Jim – Usually someone will suggest something and if it resonates with me I get to choose the song title but I’m not stuck on that. In fact we’re running a competition to name one of the tracks but there is a lyrical theme.

Kamil suggested that he would like to use shapes of the elements and started sending me all these weird symbols to use as art ideas.

We are going down a different path musically using all the elements of bands we like. We are all seeing more about the elements of life in general and then there’s the ‘Elements’ of science, so yeah there will be songs about life and death, love and hate in all of this.

I wrote one about coincidence when my Dad was dying at the time called “Rose 7”. It’s my favourite so far. It was the last thing he wrote on a piece of paper and spent his last days in a ward called ‘Rose’ ward, but he wrote that way before he knew. It took me ages to work out what the 7 meant until I repeated it over and over!

We finished one called “Karma in Blood”, about the truth of beliefs and how there is no such thing as ‘Karma’ (unless you murder, of course), but that’s more an ode to those that feel their life is to take. Be the lion instead of the giraffe and all that stuff!

Chris has contributed lyrics to that and some vocals too. There will be more of that too so I don’t expect my lyrics to be set in stone, and all are welcome to write too – but it’s mainly myself that writes the lyrics.

How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio?  Where do you get together and record?

Jim – We did rehearsal weekly in Norwich without fail up until this year when band members just kept leaving. We’ve just taken stock of it and laid back to home recording, and Kamil and Chris spend more time at home writing now. We’ve just got a new drummer though, so will be back in the studio again weekly to write together starting from now. We’ve been programming the drums before now. We want to get the album done by April latest, with a video to go with that.

Kamil – We do still rehearse once a week though. Together with Chris we are working on the structure. Jim’s making suggestion and some correction and then a song is ready for rehearsal process. Home recording is giving us a wider context of seeing and feeling how a song should be constructed than just jamming in a room.

Chris – Currently due to writing we hold off on the rehearsing at the moment, but usually do a 3-4-hour session once a week at our HQ Earth Studios or my house!

How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Hedra a band where all members contribute to the songs?

Jim – In the first stages we all have folders in a Dropbox account to put ideas into. I play a bit of guitar too so that has some use at times.

We’ll get something drafted and then take it to the rehearsal rooms and chop it about, usually to suit my ideas because I like the arrangement side of writing not so much the riff writing. All that being said, we’re going to have a rethink on what our best methods really are because we’re evolving. We don’t even know if this way is the best way now so we might just all get in a room and crack out some corkers/bummers.

I wouldn’t want to be in a band where one person takes care of everything. That would be very disheartening for me and somewhat failing on the point of being a ‘group’. I could be a solo artist no problem but my enjoyment comes from other people’s inputs too, so I am glad that we all agree on that side of things. It’s where the best band creations/legends come from.

I do like to distribute my knowledge between us all and, boy, do they know it. Occasionally someone will write something and I’ll throw it back like a grumpy English teacher and say “you can do better”. I know they can and they do afterwards too and I would expect the same back too – always.

Kamil – We create a shape of the song from the beginning and then we polish all sections.

Jim – deep!

Chris – Kamil comes up with the main ideas, I think, but Jim also has some unique ideas that we develop and now I try to add my side as well.

Hedra: facebook | youtube

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