Interview With Hammy Havoc of Hordasken

Starting in early 2008, Hordasken began as a hardcore band on the outskirts of Liverpool after the breakup of Hammy’s previous band. Several incidents and genres later, and the whole thing is now written, played, recorded, mastered and distributed by Hammy Havoc. As the only official member of Hordasken, Hammy Havoc is completely in charge of the musical direction of the band and assembles a touring group of musicians for live material. With Hammy Havoc about to release his single, ‘2002, A Great Year For Calendars’ as well as his full length album entitled ‘The Withdrawal‘, I had the chance to ask him a few questions about both his music and himself.

“It’s been a tough few years for me, I’ve assembled my own private studio and converted the upstairs of my home for the sake of my music. I’ve slept in a blanket with a few pillows on the floor of the studio for the past few years; Brings new meaning to ‘suffering for your art’. I’m just kidding though; Sleeping on the floor is a choice I made to save space and to make my back feel better. There was a time when I really did think that it was time pack in the whole ‘music’ thing and call it a day rather than pour more money into something that probably wouldn’t amount to a great deal other than frustration and upset. I’ve been involved in recording music since the late 1990s and made a demo at the age of ten years old with a group of friends; These CDs are still out there somewhere, good luck trying to find one. I’ll consider uploading everything I’ve ever been a part of at some point just for the simple element of nostalgia, hopefully you’ve enjoyed the small fraction I’ve uploaded thus far.”

What guitar and microphone do you use for the single?
“There’s a 1989 Fender Stratocaster in there; I’ve done a lot of modifications to it over the years to get it sounding pretty unique and feeling nice. Usually I don’t believe in electric guitars as they’re pretty tuneless, but this is the exception to the rule. There’s also an Italian acoustic guitar in there which is completely custom built for me; It’s not the greatest of instruments, but I’m very fond of the sound because it is somewhat ‘gigged’. I’ve been thinking about live stuff recently and I’ll most likely end up using my electro-acoustic Martin as it is very diverse and I’m fond of the fretboard on it. In terms of microphones, there’s a custom ribbon microphone and custom preamp made by a local musician, but of course there’s also the good old Shure SM7 in there too.”

Will or does Hordasken have an official Facebook page?
“There is indeed an official Facebook page for Hordasken. Only started it on August 17th, so we don’t have many fans of it yet, but you can find it here: I’m not much of a fan of Facebook; I view it as a trend which just like MySpace, will eventually die when people jump onto the next trendy social network which lets them import all of their old data via the API system. Facebook seems like a very temporary and very crude social network to me and I think the idea of using it for all of your communications and networking is a very poor decision, although it does give some very rough analytics for your fanbase. Though I think I could tell you more about my fanbase with a quick look at my Twitter timeline than a look at the Facebook statistics.”

Is there anyone in your life right now that inspires the majority of your music?
“I would have to say Brendan B. Brown; He has been a huge influence on my life in both music and lifestyle choice.”

As a young independent artist, what, other than funding, is the greatest problem that you face whilst trying to get your music heard?
“The biggest problem is probably people not taking me seriously and believing that they can exploit me just because I’m younger than most other people in this field. Fact of the matter is, I’ve probably had more experience in the past five years in terms of the music industry than most people will have in their entire lives; Everything from radio to production to recording, I’ve seen it all and heard it all. I’ve had several major label opportunities over the last few months and rejected them all as I like doing things my way.”

What are you most looking forward to after the single has been released?
“I’m looking forward to getting out on the road and gigging with close friends again as well as people that inspire me. It’s been several years since the last concert that I was the one performing at. It’ll be nice to see faces from Twitter! I owe a lot of hugs and high fives to my followers. Once I’m done touring? Um, probably the fact that I’ll have plenty of fellow music artists to collaborate with. I daresay being out on the road will give me some more inspiration for material too.”

Who was your greatest influence growing up?
“Definitely my father, Stuart Routledge, several people reading this might know him as ‘Timehammer’. He’s a great man and if I’m anything like him when I’m that old then I’ll be more than happy. He encourages me to acquire knowledge, learn new skills and monetize it. My mother, Judith Desrosiers (née Malaney) encouraged me to embrace my creativity. The divorce of these two big forces in my life when we moved from Eastham to Hoylake was what caused me to make the most of time alone as I had to entertain myself.”

Where do you see yourself ten years from now as far as music is concerned?
“Still rocking of course! I’m probably going to be making even more music than I have been for the past few years as well as doing a lot more production for other people too. Hopefully getting out on the road a lot more too!”

Why did you choose to go the independent route?
“It isn’t so much an ‘ego’ thing as some people keep pointing out to those that follow me, but more from the perspective of creative reasoning; I need to have complete creative control of my music as I know exactly where I want to go with a piece of music before I’ve even begun recording it or playing it; Other people can prove to be a real pain in the backside later down the line when it comes to the ownership of songs and just generally relying upon others. I find that it’s a lot easier to just sit down with a cup of coffee and a guitar than to organise a big gathering of any description. Besides, I’m temperamental and I will do things again and again until they’re perfect; Other people simply don’t have the patience that I do.”

Is music something you’ve always wanted to do with your life, or did you have other dreams as a child?
I’ve always wanted to make music a part of of my occupation and I’ve successfully done that for almost a decade now alongside software development, that’s where Split An Atom’s web development comes in. As a kid, I wanted to solely write software, but that didn’t always satisfy my creative urges which made me turn to music after being seriously inspired by bands like Wheatus, Sublime and Marillion.”

What advice would you give to anyone out there who wants to get into music?
“Stay away from labels; They just want to exploit you, get their money’s worth and throw you over the side when the initial influx of sales for your album has been and gone; They don’t want to nurture artists and see an artist gradually perfect their signature style, they just want more of what originally sold and what will supposedly continue to sell.

Which song best describes your lifestyle?
“A song that describes my lifestyle? That’s a pretty difficult question, but I am going to need to say Apple Trees, y’know? That one song by Eels?” Love that song, I’m a big fan of Eels.”

What’s your favourite song off of your upcoming album?
“It would certainly be ‘Beast‘ or ‘2002, A Great Year For Calendars‘. Although having said that, I have a soft spot for all of the songs on my album. I think it’s one of my favourite albums of all time because it’s done entirely the way I want it to be.”

Do you record and produce everything yourself as well as write it all?
“I do indeed, I play all of the instruments in the studio and do everything; That even includes the CD duplication and packaging. If you want a job doing properly then do it yourself, right? I’ll be pressing the vinyl soon with a friend for the single which I will be checking by hand and signing each one to show my approval for the quality of it as well as individually numbering it. I am very much a perfectionist when it comes to music and I can’t stand to crush the work of others so I record everything myself, but I take a group of musicians with me for live material or do acoustic sets on my own.”

Why do you give away your music for free?
“I wouldn’t say that I gave it away for free; I’d say that I let people sample it completely free of charge and then ‘pay what they like’. Music is a very subjective thing and music is worth different amounts to different people. It is very much a case of ‘give it away or nobody will ever hear it’. How do people know what to download illegally if they don’t even know that you exist? The world is a big place, I don’t mind if I need to give away what I spend my life creating, it’s better than it never being heard after all of the effort that I put into it. My friends in Wheatus have been a real inspiration for adopting an alternative business model; I adopted their ‘pay what you like’ business model a long while ago with my web development services; Just make it worth my while and if you enjoy it, support it, otherwise I can’t carry on creating all that I do.”

Why did you never release your demos and the like from the early 00s onwards?
“Oh, I released them within my own social circle, however I specifically requested for the music to never be copied or uploaded to the internet. Why? Mainly because I lack confidence after bullying throughout my school years at Calday Grange Grammar School and because I am a complete perfectionist. Although as you know, I’ve been releasing them through Twitter lately. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying them; I’ve been loving some of the feedback I’ve been getting.”

The demos you’ve released thus far have been wonderful! You’ve been getting donations from those alone, hopefully that’s an indicator of how well the single will do! -I hear that you have quite the vinyl collection; Are you still making additions to this?
“Of course! Vinyl is superior to the majority of digital audio formats; I am a real audiophile and I enjoy having the best quality possible. Besides, vinyl is nostalgic and extremely impressive considering how crude it is. I run the output from a magnetic cart to a pre-amp; Sounds fantastic through my Yamaha studio monitors or mahogany Denon headphones; They’ve got quite the frequency response. I’ve been an avid vinyl listener for many years, you get a piece of culture, technology and art with a vinyl record; The analog sine wave is the closest thing to actually being in the studio at the time that it was recorded, that alone is pretty special. It’s like an artist trapped in time. Amazing.”

Talk to me about concerts.
“Well, I’m planning on doing a small UK tour early next year, but I’m also planning on doing regular live HD video streams from my personal studio and accepting donations from people whilst playing what is most likely going to be an acoustic set. I figured that a lot of people want to hear my music and a lot of people want to meet me, but they won’t have the opportunity until next Summer, so I wanted to give them something personal, intimate and almost as good as the real thing. Hopefully they’ll appreciate the interactions after the show. I love my fans; They’re all my friends.”

How would you describe your fans?
“I don’t think that I could give a general description of them except ‘a family’. There are so many people from so many different backgrounds and not all of them speak English; I speak several different languages and I manage to communicate with my followers on Twitter. They all have something that connects them and it is ‘love’ and ‘music’. They might be completely different from each other, but a message of peace and happiness connects them all.”

If you chopped off all your hair and weighed it, how much do you think it would weigh?
“Good question, probably one of the most interesting things I’ve been asked, but I honestly have zero idea; I’ve never really thought about it. I relayer my hair every single day, I usually take a few grammes off every few days, but my hair grows rather quickly, thus I trim it so frequently to keep it looking healthy. I’m guessing all my hair would be pretty hefty.”

Sexual preferences?
“I have none, I don’t consider myself to be ‘straight’, ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’. If you love a human being then you love a human being for their mind as opposed to their body. I believe that anybody can fall in love with any other human being. As opposed to ‘gay pride’ or any other type of pride march, I don’t agree with it, you should be proud to be a human being, not proud to have a sexual preference of any description as that shouldn’t matter. Love marches? That is something I would support; Self-segregation is one of the most negative concepts in the world. To be shunned from society is one thing, to remove yourself from society for these bozos is another.”

Where do you think society is going in terms of social media?
“I think we are all definitely moving towards a ‘do it yourself’ world in which people are a lot more educated in terms of software and hardware; I personally don’t see the traditional style of record labels existing in another thirty years and they’ll seem like a really outdated concept. I can see people moving away from popular social video websites like YouTube and Vimeo though. I personally think that society is going to start keeping corporations at a certain size and not allowing them to grow past a certain point. Besides, there’s no excuse for not hosting your own video in all honesty. The only benefits of hosting it on a site such as YouTube is that you get independent third party statistics, which although they’re fairly meaningless and not of much use to the average individual, they’re still an interesting thing to see. I think the future of YouTube is providing statistical proof that something was viewed x number of times, perhaps even a distributed blockchain of proof. Why? People want to retain control of their content and not allow corporations to profit from it.”

You really don’t seem to like big corporate entities, why is that?
“I dislike talentless individuals exploiting those with a lot of intelligence and skill; It happens in the record industry and it happens in every other field too. At the end of the day, your boss will almost always take a bigger salary than you although he doesn’t have the abilities that you do. That’s the way the cookie crumbles and it isn’t right. I believe in supporting people who do things in small teams and do everything by themselves without a big titan such as Google being involved, especially when it comes to promotion; If you want to impress me, get your own domain, design a kick ass site and host the video on your own server; Show that you are willing to pay for bandwidth even though YouTube is unlimited. If your content is that good then you’ll put money into it, if you’re not willing to do that then you’re not worth my time. I’ve zero respect for people with just a MySpace.”

I’ve seen photographs of you with and without glasses online; Are they a fashion statement or do you genuinely need them?
“I do indeed wear glasses for the majority of the time, but you can also catch me wearing disposable contacts from time to time, especially at concerts; There’s nothing more distracting than metal on your face when you’re moving around… Or getting your glasses embedded in your nose by a stray elbow. Messy.”

I’ll see you at a concert later this year!
“Great, I’m looking forward to it; Bring your friends along and I’ll see you on the road. Make sure to check up on on a regular basis so you can download the single when it’s released as well as the album. I’ll also be updating this on a regular basis with fresh new content and I’ll also be relaunching my clothing store next year, so be sure to keep an eye out for that so you can find some nice merch. Much love and many thanks for having me. Tata for now.”

My pleasure. I shall be sure to post up a review of the single and the album once they’re released. Adios!

Special thanks to Jeff Erickson (@Erickson222), Angela Wilson (@AngelaPangela00), Jess Nario (@whoaitsjess), Timehammer (@Timehammer), without whom, this interview would not have been possible.

Update 05/30/13: Hammy Havoc now makes music as The Orion Correlation, so be sure to check it out!