Hessian‘s 2014 debut Bachelor of Black Arts is a fist-pumpin’ ode to late 70s and early 80′ heavy metal classics that paid close attention to guitar driven theatrics as much as it did colorful lyrical content. On their upcoming second full length, Mercenary Retrograde, the spirits of Priest and Diamond Head are alive in the guitar harmonies and old school vocals. True, the band did well on their debut but now they’ve stripped away any of the chaff in their sound and focus solely on nailing a raw, straight forward attack. This equates to an album that rocks harder out of the gate and sets its hooks deeper. We recently had the chance to ask mastermind and guitarist / vocalist Angus McFarland our set of Profile questions to get some inside info on the band and what makes them tick. Head directly below for that and don’t forget to grab your own copy from the links contained at the bottom.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
When I was little my mom would put me down by the stereo and put on the local classic rock radio station (which at the time was, I guess, just the rock station) and it had a big effect on me. I was one of those 80s kids that always had a walkman on. Then when I was a little older I started playing guitar on a generic telecaster I found in the trash. I guess I was about 12. By the time I was 15 or 16 I was in my first band playing bass, and I have always had some band since. I never really had a lot of expectations for how successful I would be as a musician, I dreamed, of course, but everything abut music seems so unrealistic, so you never really know what is doable. I have always focused on doing the work, and getting the next album or tour done. As long as I can keep doing it and doing it well I call that a win.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
The local weekly paper here in Portland does a best-of music thing every year, and when Hessian was in maybe our second year as a band we decided it would be good to win it, so we voted for ourselves a bunch of times, as there was no limit as to how often one person could vote. We used to text each other every morning to remind everyone to vote. So we won! They changed the rules after that.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
There’s such great stuff happening right now. In the past ten years or so, there has been a change of focus from making the most extreme music, and this whole competition to be the most brutal and ugly music, to making music that is more on a human scale, and incorporates more different types of sounds. Take Idle Hands, for instance, which is definitely a metal band, but has a lot of 80s bummer pop vibes, and those big gated reverb drums that sound fantastic. I don’t hate on black and death metal, nor do I think all music has to be pretty or radio friendly, but I am glad that a lot of people branched out from there and revitalized metal, because I think it was in an artistic dead end.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
So obviously we are not an overtly cause-driven band; we mostly exist in a realm of sex, drugs, rock and roll and death. We do have some basic beliefs that inform what we do. We are solidly in favor of LGBT rights, racial and economic justice, feminism, etc., and it is inevitable that those ideas are going to express themselves in the music we make. I think the assumption at the core of our music is that everyone’s weird and that’s alright because life is short and if you’re not doing your thing you’re wasting your time.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
I was about 13 or so, I started listening to a lot of punk and metal music, and gradually it became more and more metal. I always wanted to play metal, but I thought it was too hard until I heard Venom, and I thought, “Oh, I could do THAT…” My parents were always pretty supportive of my interests. I would have aesthetic arguments with my father, but he never was against what I was into, he just didn’t really like it himself. He was an artist as well, so he couldn’t help having something to say.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
It’s so important for critics to have a point of view, and to be proactive about discovering things to cover. A lot of music press either just seems like advertising or filling space with “content”, and comes off pretty passionless. Maybe write less and care more.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
Just trying to ride the rocket while the view is good. We have three more albums planned, so I’d like to at least get those out. After that who knows?
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
Idle Hands from Oregon are an excellent new band, I got a little obsessed with that Eternal Champion record this year. There are a lot of great Maine bands that people should give a listen: Shabti, Holy Filth, Manic Abraxas, Feral, Apollyon, Eldemur Krimm, Ogre… Seax from Mass has a new album coming, I heard a little and it’s gonna set a new standard for greasy speed metal. We also all have pretty diverse tastes in all kinds of music, I have been listening to a lot of Black Oak Arkansas recently, country stuff like Dick Curless and Buck Owens, Hector Villa Lobos for classical guitar, etc.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
We have our new album “Mercenary Retrograde” coming out Sept 13 via Urtod Void Records in Germany and Blasphlegmy Records in the US, so we’re going to play a bunch of shows around that, then it’s time to hunker down and write the next album.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to Angus and Hessian for their time!
Mercenary Retrograde will be available September 14 on Urtod Void and Blasphlegmy Records. For more information on Hessian, visit their Facebook page.