Interview: Mat McNerney of Hexvessel

Hexvessel are currently gearing up to release their brand new album Kindred via Svart Records. Prior to the release, our senior editor got the opportunity to chat with frontman and founding member Mat about the upcoming release, one of the charities the band supports and what he enjoys doing outside of music.

Hexvessel are gearing up to release the brand new album entitled Kindred. How has the response been to the songs you’ve released so far?

It’s been really good. We’ve had some reviews out already and they’ve been really good. We’ve also had some from a site who had written us off in the past which has been nice to see and means that we’re doing something right. I’ve been quite stoked about it as we’ve always been quite a niche thing, so it’s been nice to be reaching out of that. There was one site that reviewed us back in 2013 that was worded similar to “avoid this band at all costs” and then now, with this album, it’s been a very positive review.

Was the process behind this album any different to previous ones?

The previous album was written entirely by me and the preproduction was mostly done by me as well. It was kind of a solo work where people came into it quite late in the process. With this album, there was a lot of arrangement and decisions on the material done in advance and there was a song written by the guitarist who came in on the last album but didn’t join in time to write anything. I’d say this is more of a band record than the last one with regards to the writing and the collaboration that occured.

You released All Tree last year as well. How was the response to that album?

I think it was good amongst the die-hard fans who had been around since the first album and who had perhaps been waiting for something similar to that. It was kind of a statement record and was very folk heavy so we knew that it would be difficult for the heavier crowd. We were on Century Media records, whose reach is very metal, which resulted in the record potentially confusing some people. The record before this one was kind of a psychedelic rock record so the people that got into the band with that were a little confused by All Tree. Hopefully with this new record, it’ll appeal to both the casual rock heavy listener and the people that follow the band.

What equipment do you typically use in terms of guitars, amplifiers and other things?

On this record it was quite diverse and we used a lot of our own equipment which quite a collection now. We’ve got some hand-wired valve amps and I used a Selmer which is so old now it has it’s own unique sound. We recorded in the studio where we recorded our second album which is in Tampere and run by our sound guy. He built it himself and it’s got a really unique sound which sounds awesome. It’s a very homemade kind of sound that’s on this album due to using our own gear and is more personal as a result of that I think.

What would you say was your main inspiration when it came to writing this album?

We always go back to nature and nature mysticism which is our main inspiration. It’s very similar to the inspirations of original folk music. The theme of the album was around a community and family which is what the band has kind of become. We have a very die-hard small fanbase which we share a lot with. We’ve kind of made friends with our fans which makes it more like a community and family. I don’t like calling our fans ‘fans’ as it seems a very egotistical thing and kind of takes away from people. We are one and the same with our fans which as a result makes it feel more like a community.

You made the decision to donate your Bandcamp proceeds for the new album to Age Uk. Are there any other charities/NGO’s which you think people should support?

We’ve traditionally supported a charity here in Finland called Luonnonperintösäätiö which roughly translate to The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation. They buy up old forest to preserve it and ensure that it isn’t destroyed or cultivated for product. We’ve only really supported them as they’re non political and a cause that we feel everyone can stand behind as it’s very important for combatting climate change. We decided to support Age UK as I’m originally from the UK and the older generations which are particularly affected by this virus might not have as much support. Age UK are doing really great work and we wanted to support them with whatever we can.

What’s your thoughts on the current global situation?

I guess I think the same as everyone else. It’s a pretty dire situation but also shows a bad side of globalisation and how we’re not prepared for something like this at all. Hopefully, this will result in a better world afterwards as people have been really shocked by it all. Hopefully things will reset and the world will become a kinder and fairer place. We can only hope.

What would you like to see less of in the music scene?

It’s difficult as I think there’s a tendency when you’re an emerging band to think that the bigger bands are eating up all the money and attention in the scene. I think there is a bit of that and it’s become a dog eat dog world because there’s not enough to go around. It’s so difficult to be an underground band as there’s not as much opportunities to play live as before. Also, I think bands have to become more social media managers and business managers which can spoil the quality of the art. I don’t think chasing the social media stuff should be part of the art but it sadly is these days. I like services like bandcamp as it’s a fair an open way of communicating and just about the music. There’s a lot of good things about music being a more open source thing as well, but it’s a double edged sword for sure.

What do you enjoy doing outside of playing/writing music?

I’m very keen on hiking and being in the great outdoors. Living in Finland means that we’ve got a lot of lovely places to explore and I love camping as well. I haven’t been doing enough of that over the past 5 years as music has been taking up a lot of my time. I like to read and paint as well as writing. I’m not much of a sports person.

You’ve been involved in a lot of different musical projects over the years. Has there ever been one which surprised you with how well received it was?

I think Beastmilk was the most surprising for us because it started out really as a project which we took seriously when we did it. We didn’t anticipate how much it would take off and it was over as fast as it started. It was a bit bewildering when we ended up being the buzz band of the year and we weren’t really geared up for that. I guess it would taken a lot of hard work and perseverance to maintain that. It really taught me a lesson in how bands which have risen up have a good vision and put in so much graft to get there. It was a fun ride while it lasted.

Once this pandemic has passed, what are the band’s plans?

We did have a US tour booked which we’ve had to postpone and we have some dates planned later this year in Europe. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do the Europe tour but it’s a bit unclear. I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks how long this thing will last. We’ll maybe start writing another record at some point but there’ll be so much music coming out once this thing has passed. I can’t see things going back to normal in the music scene until 2022 now due to all the postponing. It’s going to be difficult for bands to tour that have released this year as there’ll be tours and festivals with lineups that have been held from this year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens and maybe metal will become more prominent in that people want to hear some loud and aggressive music.

What is one job you think people undervalue in the music scene?

I think the artist is very undervalued and people think they have it easy. There’s a Henry Rollins thing that’s been stuck in backstages around which say things like “treat the venue with respect” and “it’s everyone’s hard work that go you here”. Whilst in some ways that’s true, I’ve seen more bands being treated poorly by the venues than bands treating venues poorly. Sitting in a van for 8 hours and having the person behind the bar not giving you a glass of water is really not good. I’ve seen venues tell bands off because there’s not been enough people attending. The priorities of this industry are sometimes in the totally wrong place. If the artist doesn’t come and play then you’ve got nothing. Music is not really valued as much anymore which is really sad. For me music is the highest art form there is and it’s safety for a lot of people.

Going forward, which bands do you think will be headlining the main stage of the big festivals in the next 5 to 10 years?

There’s a band called Oranssi Pazuzu from Finland who have just signed with Nuclear Blast. They’re absolutely phenomenal and are slowly reaching out into the overground and I can see them getting to a Gojira level where they play big venues but stick to their guns on the music. They’re very original and it reminds me of when Sepultura released Beneath The Remains.

If you had to put together an ice cream sundae, what flavours of ice cream and toppings would you use?

[laughs] Ice cream is huge in Finland so I’d probably use one of their favourites which is salmiakki and then I’d add some blueberry sauce to it. I don’t really eat ice cream as I’m vegan but there is very good vegan ice cream these days. The only thing which they’ve yet to do right is Vegan cheese. It’s almost there, but it’s not quite there yet.

Tea or coffee?

I prefer tea but I drink a lot of coffee because of the climate here. We get very dark winters so sometimes you need coffee, but I do like tea as it’s a very relaxing drink. I really like dandelion coffee which is great but as an English person you can’t not like tea. Making a pot of tea is one of the best things you can do in my opinion. I use oat milk with it and sometimes make my own of that as well.

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