What’s in a name?

What does a Nottingham based rock band do when they have established a name and identity for themselves only to have it taken from them on the cusp of national and international success? Pennyblack caught up with HECK frontman Matt Reynolds to find out this and more.


PB: I have only ever seen you perform under the HECK moniker. This was at Hevy 2015. There were ladders involved! It was hectic and exciting. When you first took the stage with the new name did you change your approach in anyway?

MR: I’d say our approach was the same, but our energy was reinvigorated and our determination doubled. Our show and sound has always been about performing without boundaries or compromise, but, however, the name change meant we had been forced to do exactly the opposite. It only felt right to keep pushing with our show and remain just as stubborn as ever to remain unified and stop falling apart altogether.

PB: Did it feel any different playing as HECK than it did under the Baby Godzilla?

MR: It took us a couple of shows to get back into the swing of it for sure. Quite a few slips of the tongue peppered our sets, “Hi, we're in a band called Ba... HECK” etc. But the name itself instantly felt like ours, more so than Baby Godzilla ever did. I think that’s mainly because we each felt like an integral part of the transition. If any one of us wasn’t 100% behind it, it wasn’t going to work. Whereas originally we just kind of landed with Baby Godzilla by fluke, we were all 19/20 and it really didn’t mean anything to us. HECK meant strength and unity; Baby Godzilla began to represent naivete.

PB: The press release at the time read as incredibly positive. It felt as if the Baby Godzilla name was almost a burden and now you had been set free. Any truth to that?

MR: Definitely! Truth be told, by the time the news hit us that we were going to have to make some changes we already hated the original name anyway. It felt like we had outgrown Baby Godzilla a long time ago and the imagery the name itself conjured up just wasn’t representative of what we were trying to achieve.

PB: The response to recent single ‘The Breakers’ was rather positive indeed as was the tour that supported it. The few steps back that many thought you would have to take due to the name change never really kicked in in the eyes of the fan. That must be a relief to you?

MR: It came as an intense relief to us. Yes. However strong or a united front we were putting up, there was always going to be an underlying amount of uncertainty. We were worried that we might have just undone a lot of work from the last four years but it didn’t take people too long to catch on. We did however get the odd die hard claiming indignantly, “You’ll always be Baby Godzilla to me,” but it soon passed. It’s absolutely amazing how supportive our fans and friends have been.

PB: The new album – tell us about the recording of it. The energy and vigorous playing seems in place but there is also a slicker, more professional feel.

MR: We recorded again with Matt Peel (he recorded the last few singles with us too) and his style just works with us. He really understood us and what we wanted to achieve. I think we annoyed him quite a bit with our stubbornness sometimes, but that’s why it sounds the way it does. We were forever playing as loud and hard as we could in a small room, and Matt was holding onto the reigns for dear life and trying to get it all to fit on one record; two parts fighting to pull apart at any given minute but always regrouping just before it descends entirely. We searched for ages to find the right person for the job; too raw a sound and our music wouldn’t progress, too slick and we wouldn’t sound like us. We really didn’t want to go overboard with ridiculous production and end up sounding like a metal band and Peel played it off perfectly.

PB: Why the title ‘Instructions’? And can you talk a bit about the artwork?

MR: ‘Instructions’ was in reference to the rules and regulations dictated to us as human beings in order to achieve anything at all really. Living by instructions is very prohibitive to creativity and even more generally to just being free and enjoying your human experience. Playing exactly by the rules all the times means no mistakes; no deviance; no ideas.

The artwork was created by Jamie McDonald from a collection of photos taken by our very talented friend Derek Bremner. Jamie wanted to create something that fitted the theme of our record, but also hinted towards the energy of our live presence. He created the final images by photocopying the photos and distorting them by hand. He didn’t use computers for the majority of the process so it has a very organic feel to it.

PB: A couple of tracks really stood out for me. Can you tell us a bit about opener ‘Good as Dead’?

MR: 'Good as Dead' was one of the last tracks written but ended up feeling like the perfect introduction to the album; a hint of what is to come with a pinch of retrospect. The song itself is about living around depression, the apathy and flat feeling it breeds and trying to stay angry and confrontational towards the condition. It’s a topic very close to home and very cathartic to scream into people’s faces live.

PB: Also the album closer is the cryptically titled ‘See the Old Lady Decently Buried Although Amongst Those Left Are You’. It’s a track I love but it’s sixteen minutes long, right? There are technical parts to give ‘Calculating infinity’ a run for its money and then soothing parts that deliver some of the most tranquil sounds I’ve heard from any band so far this year. What the hell is going on there?

MR: What began as an experiment and a harking to my love of prog rock and the realms of the ten+ minute rock opus turned into a three part track that spiralled out of control and took a whole year to perfect (let alone learn as a full fluid piece). It was a huge gamble because at its core it’s very indulgent and we had no idea if people were going to get onboard with it for what it was. Because it took so long to perfect the track it was impossible to detach ourselves and look at it critically, so we had no idea by the end if it was actually good or not. We just had to go with our gut, break a few rules and hope for the best.

The title itself references an unwritten three part experimental series by my favourite author B. S. Johnson; he only managed to write the first part of the series titled 'See the Old Lady Decently' before he tragically passed away taking the final two parts to the grave with him.

PB: A couple of years back. I remember watching a news piece once on how you guys are all managing to juggle the band around hard working jobs. Is that still the case?

MR: That is still very much the case as I imagine it is for most bands like us. The unfortunate truth is there are very few touring bands that manage to earn enough money to do just that. We are all driven by obsession rather than money. Money, however, is an unfortunate necessity to stay alive so, for the time being at least, the jobs remain (and we will continue to piss off our bosses by disappearing on tour as often as we humanly can).

PB: On this upcoming tour. how do you choose set lists? Usually bands begin sets energetic and go to a mellower place before ending again on a high. HECK shows are often relentless beginning to end. Can we expect more of the same this tour?

MR: By this point our live show has taken on a life of its own and is completely out of control. We have absolutely no say in what happens to our bodies in that hour we spend onstage. The setlist (as ever) will stay as relentless as ever until we drop.

PB: What are the upcoming plans for you after the release of the album? Is America on the cards for instance?

MR: The world is a blank canvas to us right now, and we will play absolutely anywhere that gives us the opportunity to do so, because through the release of an album, the sixteen minute long song, the videos, the singles, the mission has always been the same; to do this shit live and to more and more people.

PB: Finally, Your top three albums from the last 10 years and why? Everyone loves a list...

MR: The Raconteurs – 'Consolers of the Lonely'

This one will probably stay in my list for the next ten years as well. It’s a classic. All tracks are played off against each other perfectly. At times it’s classic balls-to-the-wall Jack White blues at its best and others it strays off into bluegrass and country; and the album closer? I’m pretty certain 'Carolina Drama' is a strong contender for one of the best songs ever written.

Baroness – 'Purple'

Very recent and subject to change but this album has barely left my player for the last three months which is above average to say the least. It’s an absolute journey of an album (which is what an album should be). Lows, highs and duelling guitars that make me dribble.

Queens of the Stone Age – '...Like Clockwork'

Exactly the album QOTSA needed to make. Everything I ever wanted it to be and as close to bettering ‘Songs for the Deaf’ as they’ve ever come (but that was released in 2003 so I can’t include it) so yeah, ‘...Like Clockwork’.

PB: Thank you.











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