Agoraphobic News: Tell me something about your musical beginnings. I’ve seen some videos of you playing a classical guitar and a ukulele so I assume that you are an educated musician. You really got my attention when i’ve saw your "ukulele #11" video on youtube.
KH: I started playing when I was 12. I got an electric guitar for Christmas, and immediately signed up for lessons at a local shop. I studied guitar with various teachers all the way through the end of college. After that I had a creative crisis, where I felt overly schooled. So I began creating my own alternate guitar tunings to get away from falling into familiar patterns, and to no longer know what notes I was playing anymore. It also opened up a whole new world of chord voicings and harmonic possibilities previous impossible to play or to even imagine playing. I realized years later that perhaps the most valuable aspect of all that schooling I went through was that it helped develop my ear in such a way that I could still play in weird tunings and find the notes I wanted to hear next without stumbling around too much on the fretboard to find them. The baritone ukulele stuff you mention I started doing in 2011. It's a fun instrument to play and write music for, but it's largely seen as kitchy and cutesy, which I hate. I wanted to make dark instrumental music with it. I hadn't really heard anyone do that before with that instrument.
Agoraphobic News: Ashland is a great record. How did the writing process go? Songs The Gift and The Otherness blew me away!!!
KH: Thanks! The writing process was fairly effortless. Ideas came fast and naturally. I believe because of the limitations of the instrument it birthed very simple ideas and enabled me to not be afraid to keep them simple in structure. This made me focus more on creating variations to these themes I had, so that when they returned there was something a little different each time to keep it moving forward. I have a wealth of material that was left off of 'Ashland'. They'll be more albums of that stuff coming in the future.
Agoraphobic News: Is it harder for you to express through solo or Dysrhythmia records? Having such a vast musical knowledge can lead you to overthinking in a writing process . Do you sometimes struggle with that?
KH: I think I've gotten better at not over-thinking my music when writing. In the past I was always struggling to find the next riff. Eventually I realized I didn't need 100 riffs to make a good or engaging song, and if I had a few really strong ideas I could do a lot with just that. Also, I learned the importance of arrangement and keeping my other band mates, and what they are going to add to the mix, in mind while I wrote.
Agoraphobic News: You write instrumental music. Are you sometimes indecisive when you have to give song a name? Are there any regrets?
KH: Good question! Yes, I am usually very indecisive when naming an instrumental piece. I'm changing titles up until the moment the artwork is going to press. Many times there is a feeling or a visual element the music is feeding me and I want to convey that in a provocative title, without being too obvious. I enjoy this challenge. I have no regrets regarding any of my past song titles. I think they're alright!
Agoraphobic News: Do you listen to the records you’ve made or you just set the music aside when you finish writing it?
KH: I often see people respond to this question saying they never listen to their own albums after they're done, but for me it varies depending on the band. For example, Dysrhythmia is definitely the most challenging band to write for, thus it takes that band more time than any of the others to develop our songs to the point were we are happy with them. Once that happens we usually then set up a tour and play all those songs before we track them in the studio. At this point we've been living with these songs for a couple of years now before recording them, and then we play them more after the album is out. So by this point, I'm usually pretty fried on hearing them, though I may still enjoy playing them live. Whereas, a band like Vaura, we tend to write very quickly, with one song on our last album being entirely written in the studio during a lunch break and then immediately tracked. In that case, I'm less tired of the material when an album is done and I'll listen to it every once in awhile to see if I'm still happy with it or because I like the songs. I haven't been living with it as long, so I can still listen to things almost as if I wasn't involved in them creatively. With my solo albums, I tend to obsess over that stuff way too much while I'm recording and mixing it, to the point where I never want to hear it again when I'm done.
Agoraphobic News: Dysrhythmia albums can be divided in 2 periods - the former , when the band had a math rock approach to the music, and the latter which marks Colin Marston’s arrival in the band, when Dysrhythmia gets more involved in metal music (and I think that was the turning point to the band) Are you satisfied with both halves of Dysrhythmia’s discography and what was the main reason that made you play more metal oriented music in the band? I really love the flow of the Dysrhythmia, cause it has a lot of twists and turns.
KH: You're correct, it definitely was a turning point when Colin joined. I'm still proud of what we did in the first period of the band with Clayton, but I felt more musically compatible with Colin when he joined and I think the material became more focused because of that. The fact that it got a bit more metal-ish and aggressive-sounding was a result of that musical compatibility.
Agoraphobic News: I guess you are the main song writer in the band. Is that right? Are you open for other band members’ ideas in the process of making a record or you are the one who leads the whole band in a chosen direction?
KH: Dysrhythmia has always been very collaborative. The writing process has changed over the years. In the early days it was a combination of either Clayton or myself bringing in a few song ideas to rehearsal to jam on and see where they led. In that sense some of songs came out of improvisations. After Colin joined, the approach became more compositional, in that usually myself or Colin would bring in a complete song first, instead of just a few ideas. Then we would all write our own individual parts to them. On our newest material, I am experimenting with programming drum parts to my song ideas, for Jeff to interpret. This is something we've never tried before and it's leading to some very interesting results.
Agoraphobic News: I’ve seen an article about your musical influences via Decibel magazine, and frankly, I couldn’t believe that you were a big fan of like Marty Friedman’s solo works. It is kinda funny cause you don’t seem like guitarist who likes shredding solos. Did you like Marty’s work in Megadeth? And by the way, I’ve expected to see some Rush or King Crimson on that list.
KH: Being that I grew up in the 80's, I was into all the shred guitar stuff of that time while I was learning to play, and a lot of it made a big impression on me, some of which stays with me today. Marty's always been one of my favorites because I love his expressive bending and strange choice of notes. I suppose his influence is only traceable in my solos on the last Gorguts record. Regarding his work in Megadeth, I only liked 'Rust in Peace'. Rush is one of my favorite bands. I should've included Alex Lifeson on that Decibel list. King Crimson has never clicked with me. I know people will find that impossible to believe, but it's true. It's never reached me on an emotional level, even though I have an enormous amount of respect for what Fripp did for guitar and music in general. Maybe someday it will click.
Agoraphobic News: Now tell me something about albums that changed your approach and the way of thinking in music.
KH: There's been a lot of those, I'll try to stick to what comes immediately to mind! If I think back to the very beginnings of my childhood, then I would mention these albums in order: Michael Jackson 'Thriller' (Mainly the song "Beat It". It was my first time hearing electric guitar shredding like that. Funny that I heard this before I ever heard any Van Halen) Dokken 'Under Lock and Key' (Two words - George Lynch) Voivod 'Nothingface' (The crazy dissonance made me rethink my approach to guitar playing), Michael Hedges 'Aerial Boundaries' (I decided to explore alternate tunings after discovering this is how Hedges achieved his unique chord voicings and harmonics) Cocteau Twins 'Treasure' (My introduction to truly textual and atmospheric guitar playing) This Mortal Coil 'Blood' (Their approach to production and mixing was/is a big influence on my solo ambient works) My Bloody Valentine 'Loveless' (Again, the weird production and warped guitar playing was an influence) Gorguts 'Obscura' (See Voivod, but taken to the next extreme)
Agoraphobic News: I am familiar with the story about you getting into Gorguts. Is there any song off Colored Sands written by yourself?
KH: Yes, I wrote the song 'Absconders'. For the rest of the album, I wrote my own guitar parts based off of Luc's parts. Sometimes they follow his parts, sometime there are completely independent.
Agoraphobic News: How do you manage to not only play in 2 bands at once, but also have a project of your own with Vaura’s record in between?
KH: I just like to always stay active and there's a lot of different things I want to express musically. It does get tough though with trying to organize rehearsals or schedule tours/recordings, etc.
Agoraphobic News: Touring with Gorguts enabled you to meet and play with a lot of bands like Portal, Ulcerate, Misery Index, Nero di Marte, Sepultura, Crowbar, Suffocation, Malignancy, etc. (correct me if I’m wrong). Tell me something about this experience. Which bands are the most fun to play with?
KH: All the bands we've toured with have been a pleasure to be around and see each day. We've also done a lot of large festival gigs in Europe, playing with lots of old 80's band I grew up listening to in middle and high school, which has been sort of surreal. Our 2 short tours with Portal, the one in the US in 2010 and one in Australia last year have been some of my favorites.
Agoraphobic News: Do you prefer playing in small clubs or at large festivals?
KH: Large festivals can be fun, obviously, but I prefer being close to the crowd. I usually feel more comfortable in the small clubs. The sound is usually better and in general we have more time to set up, soundcheck, play, and load off. There isn't as much insane rushing around.
Agoraphobic News: Obscura is such a great record that broadens the musical horizons to all who dare to give it a listen. Did you find it attractive on the first listen? That album really turned the metal scene upside down.
KH: I remember vividly the day I first heard it. I read some negatives reviews of it, but those only made me want to hear it more. I was working at a record store at the time and ordered a few copies for the store, and one for myself. I saw seriously blown back when I first pressed play.
Agoraphobic News: I want to write a big article on Steeve Hurdle. Tell me something about him. He was one of the uncrowned kings of death metal underground that shaped the style of many bands in the scene (with Luc Lemay, for sure) I couldn’t find a lot of information on this topic on the internet.
KH: Sadly, I never got to meet him personally. We talked a lot online and he was really supportive of a lot of a lot of the experimental music my friends and I were making in the NYC-area. He is also the reason Luc became aware of me, so I owe him a lot. His playing, influence, and music will live on.
Agoraphobic News: Do record deals affect your writing big time? What are your thoughts on music industry today in general? Do you approve downloading music and piracy to a some extent?
KH: Record deals have never influenced the way I've written music. Lucky for me, I've never been in a situation (or a band popular enough) for labels to interfere with the creative and musical process. As for the music industry today, I'm happy there are more outlets for musicians to record and release music independently then ever before. Of course there is a downside to this, mainly that it means there's a lot more crap to sift through to find the good stuff, and also people's attention spans are shorter now than ever. There's just too much out there. Every day you go online there are a hundred new records streaming, or you go on YouTube and just fall down a pit of "related videos" only listening to the first minute of each. Hell, I'm guilty of this too, and I hate it (ha!). But I'm more DIY than ever these days, especially with my solo work, which I prefer to release myself or do limited runs with small labels that let me retain the rights to my music. I've downloaded albums myself so I'm not going to condemn it, but if I really like something I buy it off bandcamp these days, directly from the artist if possible.
Agoraphobic News: I’ve heard that you are giving guitar lessons lately.Can music make you enough money to live solely on income it creates? (the music you sell, touring and guitar lessons)
KH: I've been fortunate enough in the past few years through a combination of lessons, shows, studio/session work, sales of my solo albums, etc. to "survive" off doing music or music-related things. I'm not against picking up the odd non-music job either, which I've done here and there. Before that I was working various temp jobs in between tours. However, I am always looking for more work and students! Currently I'm looking to teach from a music school, in addition to doing the private and long distance lessons via Skype. I discovered that I really enjoying teaching, it took a few years for me to get used to it.
Agoraphobic News: What are your plans for the future? When are you going to release a brand new Dysrhythmia album or a solo record? There are some rumors on the internet that Luc is recording 20 minutes long song for Gorguts! I can’t wait to hear that!
KH: Next up will be my new solo album 'Kleines Biest'. Which will be coming out this Spring as a limited edition cassette through the Handmade Birds label. I will be handling the digital distribution. I really pushed myself on this recording to create the most abstract yet musical compositions I could using only guitar, and the manipulation of guitar via digital processing and editing. Dysrhythmia has close to a full album written. We are moving faster now than we were last year, due to all the bands breaking from touring activities this year. I'm really excited for our next album, it's gonna be very intense and another step forward in our evolution. Gorguts also has a strong start on our next album, which will be an EP and one long song, over 30 minutes probably (the first 20 already written). They'll also be an album coming out in the Fall by the band Sabbath Assembly, which I played all the guitar on and helped compose some of the material. It allowed me to let loose and rip some solos and harmonize a lot in a more classic metal format, which was a real blast to do.
Agoraphobic News: And the last question must be goofy – dogs or cats?
KH: I'd always been a dog person, until 2 years ago when my girlfriend and I decided to visit an animal shelter and I locked eyes with this cat named Gulliver, who was just begging to be rescued. He's with us night and day and is the sweetest creature ever, so I guess I've been converted. Still love dogs though, it's just a lot harder to have them in the city where I live.