“Together we are collectively creating the unique sound that is Haken, but Haken doesn’t belong to anyone because it’s the personality of all of us put together. So, I really like that concept, of having a higher entity that in this case is the band, that becomes something new, that’s superior to any of us.”
Diego Tejeida, mighty keyboardist of Progressive Metal band Haken, is in Mexico when he receives my call for an interview the discuss the band’s upcoming Australian tour. We begin by discussing what he was up to before the call and he explains how he was sitting in his home studio, practicing for the tours about to get underway, both with his band and with Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, which it is clear from his voice he is very keen for. But before we discuss that further Diego talks about how he feels about bringing Haken to Australia for the first time,
“Obviously [I’m] very excited. I’ve never been to Australia before so personally I’m looking forward to that, it’s very exciting times. Also, you know, the fact that we’re travelling all the way and the music has been heard there is very exciting. Hopefully this will be the time to make it a regular thing for us. The only part I’m not too excited about is the length of the flight. But apart from that I’m really looking forward to it.”
He goes on to say that out of all the members of the band only guitarist Richard Henshall (guitarist) has been to Australia for any reason in the past. When asked if they had tried to organize show’s down here prior he responded, “I don’t think it ever crossed our minds to be honest, we didn’t even know we had some fans there!” He continues to recall that the catalyst was meeting a couple of Australian fans in Switzerland who subsequently informed the band of their Aussie fanbase and suggested they should get on the bill of the (now defunct) Soundwave Festival. “So, when the opportunity came, we were like ‘okay this has actually happened, this is amazing.’” He finishes.
On the topic of the band’s 10th anniversary, Diego goes into detail about what Australian fans can expect from the upcoming shows.
“Well it’s the first time we’re playing in Australia, so I think it’s only fair we play a representation of all the albums. But I think I have a hunch most people will be excited about hearing affinity, so we’ll definitely put an emphasis on the Affinity tunes.”
By this point the conversation feels much more like that of one between two fellow musicians simply discussing what they love then that of Artist and Interviewer. As such, it flows naturally onto the details of how the latest album was conceived, written and recorded, as well as how the process is different this time around compared to back in the days of their first album Aquarius.
“This one was a bit of an odd one, coz now we have international members. Obviously with me and now with Conner [Greene, bassist]. So, the first time we worked like this was with Restoration, that was the first work we did with Connor involved. But that was just an EP and you know we just took some old stuff and made it better. But with this one we basically did 3 or 4 stages of the whole writing process. We got together whenever we had a tour or the whole band was in the same country. We would just write stuff on the go. We did a European tour the year before Affinity came out, and we were basically writing out the sketches for tunes on the tour bus. Writing everything on the laptops, and just listening and giving feedback. And then getting together and trying to get the energy of tunes, which is very important. Once we got the idea of where this was going, most of the work happened in isolation. Most of the stuff I did for instance was in my studio and I was just sending stuff over to the guys. We got together for recording vocals. So, everyone was taking turns taking the producers seat, recording Ross [Jennings, vocalist]. Also, this was the first album we wrote all the songs from scratch together. Which I think was very beneficial for the music itself because we all have very different tastes and influences. I think it all came together nicely, I’m very happy about it. If I might say so myself.
When I joined the band, Charlie [Griffiths, guitarist] and I were newcomers. I was in the band for like 4 or 5 months before we started recording Aquarius, so by the time I joined the band, most of the stuff had already been written. Also, since Haken lost a couple of members, Richard took the writing duties. It’s extremely different nowadays. We’ve realized everyone has a different kind of superpower so to speak. Someone could be really good at writing solos, someone could be really good at writing proggy stuff, or they could come to me for more atmospheric sounds.”
Diego then begins to start talking almost metaphysically as says,
“I really like the fact that together we are collectively creating the unique sound that is Haken, but Haken doesn’t belong to anyone because it’s the personality of all of us put together. So, I really like that concept, of having a higher entity that in this case is the band, that becomes something new, that’s superior to any of us.”
Agreeing that this is an outlook that works very well for the band the conversation turns to the seemingly metaphysical concept of the Affinity album itself. When asked to explain the concept in detail Diego responds with,
“We made a decision to have a concept for us. So, for us Affinity has a perfectly underlying concept and even a story. But that’s something we wanted to keep for us and not give it to the audience. So that the audience can make up their own meaning and their own interpretation of the album. So that was a conscious idea for us and I kind of like that. Just giving room for imagination for people to listen to it. Some people will get it and some people will get something completely different. And that’s when music comes alive, you know? You might be writing about something very personal for you as an artist, as a musician. But you put it out there and maybe the audience will listen to it and make up their own meaning of it. So that’s what we wanted to achieve with Affinity and that’s why we left it like that.
After sharing a laugh together about my futile attempt to extract the concept from Diego he amusedly says to me, “good try man’
As per usual, the chat reaches the point where a description of the rig that will be used for the upcoming Australian tour.
“I’m probably gonna be using the same rig I’ve been using for the European tour. Which is my master controller, I have no idea which one I’ll use though. I have the Roli Seaboard, which I love, I’ve got the Xkey by CME and my main sound sources is my laptop, my MacBook which I’m running Mainstage on. Obviously, I’ve got my iPad as well which I’ve got some stuff on. I’ve got Geoshred, I’ve got Morphwiz, all sorts of stuff I’m playing on stage. And of course, I have the keytar.
I’ve made my rig portable. We’re not a rich band, we’re not in a position where we can just shift a million keyboards to wherever we go. I’m guilty of having more and more keyboards every tour. So it’s something I said I’m not gonna do.”
Upon being asked about why he has become fond of using the iPad live, Diego explains, “First of all, I was a bit reluctant to actually to take it seriously, to be honest. And I think most people are. They think ‘okay what’s he doing? Is he tweaking? Is he going on Netflix while he’s on stage’ some people get that kind of vibe. But in reality, it’s a very powerful device. I don’t see it as an iPad anymore I see it is an instrument, and there are things I can do on an iPad I can’t do anywhere else. I wouldn’t change my entire rig for an iPad of course but it’s a great addition to have.”
Bringing the conversation full circle now we discuss how after Haken finishes up touring their own material in Australia, they will be back not long after to play with Mike Portnoy. How that came about is already well documented but Diego sheds some new light on it,
“Initially he just got in touch to play for his 50th birthday party on Cruise To The Edge, but when the word got out he got loads and loads of requests. So, it was like ‘okay, we’ve learned this, might as well go out and do a tour’ and I’m extremely happy about it, I’m very excited. So yeah, happy times. It’s a lot of work but very happy.”
To wrap up the conversation Diego was more than happy to impart some important advice to any musicians wanting to make it in the progressive metal world,
“Be extremely patient and determined, it sounds simple but that’s really the key for getting anywhere with it. You have to be very persistent and very determined. A lot of hard work.”
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HAKEN Australian “Affinitour” 2017
THU SEP 28 – The Zoo, Brisbane
FRI SEP 29 – 170 Russell, Melbourne
SAT SEP 30 – The Factory Theatre, Sydney
SUN OCT 1 – Capitol, Perth