I ran across Hessian about a year ago when I first heard about a split they did with Natur, my interest was sparked to track down and listen to everything and anything I could get my hands on, the first song I heard was Cloven Lady, and it was a mind blower, the guitar intro took me right back to the instant I was first turned onto heavy metal, classic riffage, vocals all set to an undeniably kick ass tempo! That was it, I was hooked, a verifiable Hessian fanatic!
And, I'm not the only one, they caught the ear of Gylve Fenriz Nagell (yes, that's right, Fenriz of Darkthrone) and made his band of the week! If you know anything about Fenriz, it takes quite a bit to impress him, and Hessian did just that...can you even get a better seal of metal approval!?!
ThrashHead: Alright, when you guys were kids, what got you into heavy metal? When did you both decide to pick up instruments?
Salli: I found my way into metal via hard rock, and later glam rock. Around age ten, I fell in love with Guns n' Roses and Aerosmith. I loved how sleazy and powerful that stuff was. There was some whimsy in some of that early Aerosmith- "Kings and Queens" and desperation "Nobody's Fault" that I latched
on to. I found myself always looking for more of what was being expressed in those songs. I didn't know where to look. I soon discovered Led Zeppelin and Metallica, and started trying to play this crappy electric that was handed around the neighborhood kids, and picking out melodies on my mom's
classical. Then I started hanging out with this dude who introduced me to S.O.D. and M.O.D., and I was off and running headlong into thrash and crossover.
Angus: I was a punk kid, but I had some older friends who were into metal and would trade records. Two big ones were when a skinhead dude gave me Judas Priest'sBritish Steel on tape, and when I got Sodom's Sodomy and Lust 12" single--that one still blows my mind. Around that time I also started playing guitar, I had a HiLo, which is the world's worst guitar, and a karaoke machine for an amp. Cutting edge necro sound!
ThrashHead: What do you think is the toughest thing about being a musician?
Angus: Not enough money/not enough time.
ThrashHead: Alright, you guys state the following about the origins of the band; "One day in the car, Angus turned to Salli and said, fatefully, "Someday, when the time is right, Slatchka- we shall show them what metal is REALLY about!" could you give me the back story on that? Where you guys coming back from a concert,listening to something on the radio, just fed up with the direction of where metal has been going?
Angus: We had been listening to a lot of old metal, and newer stuff with the old sound, like Wolf (Swe) for instance, on rides to and from our practice spacethat we had at the time for an earlier band. It was clear that we both wanted to move in that direction, and we were both really fed up that people were misunderstanding metal, and completely unaware of these great sounds.
ThrashHead: How did you two meet? Are you both Portland natives; what's the scene like there? Also, how did you find the others to round out the lineup; what are their stories as well?
Salli: Angus is a native of Portland, though his family and mine both have crazy farms that are currently separated by a mere 13 miles of swamp and hillbillies, up north aways. Even though our compounds are so close together (Imagine Mad Max in the snow--Angus), we never met until about ten or twelve years ago, when I moved to Portland and started going to rock shows.
At the time, Angus was in this amazing local legend of a band called Swamp Witch Revival. I was quite floored when I saw them! Insane, bearded mountain men playing the most smokin', sleazy, thunderous rock! There were crazy backup singer ladies with live snakes! They had garbage bags of wildflowers and they were kicking them everywhere! It was an amazing spectacle.
We didn't really start hanging out until my old band, Hatchetface & The Vipers, needed a bass player. Angus's name came up, and he agreed to play.
We soon discovered that we had way more in common than we ever knew, and quickly became known as The Horrible Twins, listening to tons of Darkthrone and Mercyful Fate annoying our bandmates and having way too good a time. We had a good run with Hatchetface, but we were already daydreaming about Hessian when Hatchetface broke up. The time was right, and we got to work immediately!
As far as the other guys go, Mike played with Angus in a one-off band called Knocked Up By Wolves(who were awesome, by the way!). We thought of him right away, but we had to work on him a bit to get him in.
We have had a ridiculous, revolving cast of drummers! It's quite Spinal Tap-like. Tim is the seventh drummer we've had, and is by far the best! He and I met playing in a one-off Cure cover band, and since Hessian's drummer at the time was starting to be unavailable for important gigs (and Tim was a huge Maiden fan), I asked if he was interested in subbing. He said he was, and after a few months of serious rocking, he decided he wanted to stay on.
He's a very good musician, and really pushes us to live up to our potential. We're glad to have him! Lucky #7!
The music scene here in Portland ebbs and flows, like anywhere- but there is not a big metal contingent. It does seem to be growing a bit, however!
ThrashHead: Angus and Salli, I know the both of you are very creative away from music, could you tell me a little bit about your background, what you enjoy doing and in what medium?
Salli:Well, I mostly enjoy cooking, it's my profession. I'd like to get into acting and I also do a little bit of painting.. I come from a long line of painters and actors, so I know it's in my blood! When I do paint, which is relatively rare, I use acrylics, and I do best in large format. It's my dream job to paint carnival rides... especially dark rides. I really think I could shine in that arena.
Angus: I learned to paint from my father as well as a few classes in college and a lot of self teaching. I have worked in a lot of styles and mediums over the years, I think my favorite is acrylic on velvet. I have worked out some ways of handling that medium that are pretty unique, I think. I like to do portraits of people who are rad for one reason or another. I have done Chris Gamble from Goreaphobia, Jacques Brel, Judith and Holofernes, etc.
I also do paintings on denim and leather jackets, and can be commissioned to do pieces.
Editor's Note: If you'd like to get a hold of Angus to paint your jackets or inquire about his pieces you may do so HERE.
ThrashHead:Tim, Salli mentions you two worked on a previous project together, tell me a bit about how you got into being the man behind the kit and who were your biggest influences as well.
Tim: My introduction to the world of Hessian was through Salli. A mutual friend of ours was putting together a Cure cover band for a one-off show here in Portland. I got a call asking if I wanted to play and since I love The Cure, i accepted. I met Salli and we got along great almost instantly. At that one-off show, Salli mentioned that Hessian was having trouble with their drummer being available to play some shows. They had a specific gig that their drummer at the time could not play so I volunteered to check out the band and play that show and maybe play for them on a temporary basis. The day before our first rehearsal, Salli was giving me directions to the practice space or something and mentioned Angus. The name and his description sounded familiar to me and once I walked into rehearsal I realized I did in fact know him. Angus and I both attended the same college and our time there overlapped. We never knew each other real well, but it was one of those small-world kinda things. Anyway, it wasn't long before the drummer before me left the fold and I was playing every show. At some point a few months in, everyone sort of realized that things were working well and maybe we should think about making it permanent. So, I joined that band officially and I've been playing with them for just under two years.
Me being part of the band was a big shift for the others. My musical approach is often drastically different compared to anyone these guys are used to playing with and that has definitely caused a bit of friction from time to time. But I know I bring a lot to the fold and playing in Hessian is great fun. Ultimately we've been able to get a lot done and really improve as a unit...and we're not done yet. Our album is in the works and we have some great new material.
My musical influences are pretty varied. I grew up on a lot of alternative rock, I was a punker for awhile and then got into jazz & classical. At University, I majored in Music Performance with a concentration in Jazz. I was exposed to and got into all kinds of great music at school - Miles, Gene Harris, Keith Jarrett, Steven Reich, Bela Fleck. Other artists I love to listen to include The Cure, R.E.M, Blind Guardian, Elton John, Sting, Thin Lizzy, Toto, Rush, & Styx to name a few and there are many more.
My biggest drumming influence is definitely Steve Smith. You'd most likely know him from his playing in Journey. An incredible, wonderful musician, he is one of the most respected players in the world today and his playing just has such a huge impact on me. I got a chance to study with him for a few days last year and it was an amazing experience. Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden is an obvious huge influence. Anyone who knows me knows how huge of a Maiden fan I am and Nicko is a big part of my love. His playing has so much feeling, so much swing, while still being so powerful and rocking. He and Iron Maiden are just a never-ending source of joy; best live band in the world today, hands down. Another huge influence for me is Bruce Hornsby. He is a consummate musician and artist and his band is just amazing. Songwriting and musicianship is off the charts and seeing him live is always humbling and joyous and inspiring.
ThrashHead: Hessian is all about the roots of Heavy Metal, what's your take on the resurgence of the sound, getting back to guitar/rhythm driven anthems rather than just being as "brootal" as possible?
Angus: Of course I am pleased that that sound is coming back, I think it is breathing a lot of life into metal, which periodically gets a little stiff and stale.
Our inspiration comes from a lot of what is called "proto metal" now, stuff like Dust, Budgie, Sir Lord Baltimore, etc., partially because we want to go to the source, but also because we were raised by classic rock radio, and it is what is in our hearts.
ThrashHead: Why do think the Heavy Metal scene has changed so much in America, in the 80's this was the place to be, but Europe is now the mecca, big festivals, shows, tons of support from the general public...but it does seem it's back on the rise again, but at a much slower pace than overseas.
Angus: That I don't really know, probably a lot of cultural factors at work, but I think there is an attitude towards artists that is very different in Europethan in the States, there is a willingness to listen to underground music that is more widespread, whereas here nothing is good until it has become mainstream, if that makes any sense. You should probably ask Europeans about this, I'm sure their ideas would be different.
ThrashHead: you have released the EP "Old, Wild and Free" which has become legendary among many, with all four tracks being instant classics, "Cloven Lady" being the most well known, you did a split with Rhode Island's (now NYC) Natur, which had their "Vermin Rift" on one side and your "Witch Road" on the other, and you were gracious enough to debut the outstanding track "Entranced or Entranced" on our ThrashHead's latest comp.
First, how did you get hooked up with Natur? And, Second, when are we going to get a taste of a new Hessian LP, you're working on it now right? And third, what went through your mind when Fenriz (Darkthrone) picked "Cloven Lady" and Hessian as one of his band's of the week?
Angus: We traded demos with Natur when we had both first begun, I remember driving around listening to their demo for like three weeks! I was zorched! They are such lovely dudes, and so right on about so many things, it seems inevitable that we should do some work together.
We are hoping to be finished with the record in April, then pressing will take a little while, but springtime! Just in time for everyone to get their summer anthems picked out.
The Fenriz thing was of course super exciting for us, as we have always had tons of respect for Fenriz and love for Darkthrone.
Salli: The bestowal of Band Of The Week occurred on my 33rd birthday, so you could definitely say it was pretty Magic for me.
ThrashHead: I've noticed a lot of metal connoisseurs already think of Hessian as one of the great bands in the underground, is their enthusiasm to hear more helping you with your inspiration?
Angus: Of course! We are very glad and grateful that there are people who are into what we do, and it would be very discouraging to do this without them. We probably still would, but it would be depressing.
ThrashHead: Do you feel any sort of pressure to meet expectations or do you think that's one of the main reasons people love Hessian so much, because they have faith in your ability to just f**king rock and roll?
Angus: I don't really feel a lot of pressure, if people want us to rock 'n' roll that's good, because that is exactly what we intend to do.
ThrashHead: Now, it may be too soon to ask, but what about touring? I know you guys have rigorous schedules apart from playing and recording, but is there any possibility that we could see a tour from hell van with Hessian stickers and Maine plates on it rolling through Canada and down the west coast in 2013?
Angus: We have been steadily pushing down the East Coast for a while now, and we are definitely interested in touring as much as possible as soon as we have the time and resources. There are some plans to head down the coast as far as Brooklyn in the works for this spring, and perhaps further this summer.
We'll plant the Dirigo flag soon enough!
ThrashHead: If you could do such a tour, and just hypothetically choose who you'd hit the road with, who would you like that band to be and why? I would personally love to see you and England's Arkham Witch together! I suspect Emily and Salli would get their own van, while the guys crammed like sardines in the other! haha
Angus: Arkham Witch would be great! We would also love to do more shows with Natur, Pilgrim, Borrowed Time, Seax, if we ever get to the West Coast a Hessian/Fellwoods show is for sure in order.
ThrashHead: If either of you were limited to just hearing just one song today, what song would that be and why?
Angus: Something from Thin Lizzy, I'm sure. Maybe "Do Anything You Want To." That song makes me want to kick ass all day long. Although that Arkham Witch stuff has me pretty stoked right now.
Salli: Yeah, Thin Lizzy sounds good to me, too! Which song? Umm... maybe Opium Trail? There are ten thousand awesome riffs in that song! Your band's plane could crash in the alps, and that song would you keep you riff-fed for years! No, no- Killer Without A Cause! That's the one for today.
Tim: One song? Likely going to be Iron Maiden. Song would be "The Talisman". That song just kills on the album and live it is unreal good. Classic, engaging, beautiful, epic Maiden. That or "Far Cry" by Rush. That song rips and has been stuck in my head basically since the first time I heard the Snakes & Arrows album.
ThrashHead: Do you have any words for your supporters?
Angus: Thank you! And keep real heavy metal in your hearts! And keep listening, we'll have an LP soon, we promise, haha!
Salli: Yeah, thanks! Hope we get to see you soon!