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One year after having met the English, we spoke again with the guitarist Charlie Griffiths on the occasion of the release of Haken's new album, "Virus".
DARIALYS - 22.05.2020 -
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If the first interview of Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths took place in the best of settings last year, the meeting with Charlie, the band's guitarist, will be remembered. For the first time, I discovered Conference Call, a telephone platform through which we had to meet. My joy of meeting Charlie again quickly turned to annoyance after having waited long minutes to establish the connection with the area and then with Charlie. But I was not at the end of my troubles. In addition to the poor audio quality and the very low volume, which made it impossible for me to hear his answers correctly, the conversation was even interrupted for ten minutes at the beginning  before a journalist barged in in the middle of our conversation, without us being able to understand what he was saying.

At the end of the day, we finally managed to get back in touch with Charlie and finish the few remaining questions by Skype. Phew! What an epic! I apologize for this tedious preamble, but I felt it was necessary to explain to you, the readers, the background of this interview in all honesty. As I couldn't decipher some of Charlie's words, some of his answers are partial, or even untranscribed. Also, the answers appear longer at the end of the interview, because on Skype, I could much better understand my interlocutor, allowing me to flesh out the questions and answers further, at the same time. On that note, have a good read!

Hello Charlie! It's a pleasure to meet you again after our interview last year before your concert at La Maroquinerie! It's funny because we're doing this interview via Conference Call because we're confined due to the coronavirus. You decided to call your album "Virus" before we even heard about the coronavirus and it spread around the world. Are you visionaries? Come on honestly, did you see it coming? (Laughs)

Charlie: (Laughs) No, we didn't see that coming! Actually, the idea of calling the album that way dates back two years ago. The idea was to make a sort of double album with a longer story.

Why didn't you decide to release a double-album straight away?

Charlie: Because we wanted each album to exist as such, to have its own identity. They're also quite different. "Vector" is heavier. We wanted to offer more varied songs on "Virus". We also wanted to be able to go on tour between albums.

So "Virus" is a sequel to your previous album, "Vector". You scattered clues from left to right in the booklet of "Vector" to imply that the album would have a sequel, but you didn't announce it clearly until you revealed the title of the album and the set-list. Why did you keep this information secret until the end?

Charlie: For fun, I guess! (Laughs). It's a little bit like in series and in movies that follow each other, you find elements in the previous episodes that overlap with the following episodes. I like it when the fans expect it in a certain way. They start to make assumptions and try to guess what will happen next. We wanted to let them make assumptions and see if they would spot some details!

Can you explain to us the meaning of the cover where we see a spider that is threatening to say the least?

Charlie: The spider symbolizes the evil side, whether it be personal, political, environmental or other. Each piece has one of these aspects. Blacklake made it.

This new album is generally calmer than "Vector", with songs like 'Canary Yellow'. But at the same time, there are some sections that have never been as brutal or complex as on this album, like on the track 'Prosthetic' for example. Can we say that this album is a synthesis of what you've done so far since 'Aquarius'?

Charlie: Yes, maybe! It's not something voluntary in any case. We've had a number of ideas, some of which didn't come to fruition, but others have given birth to whole songs.

Even though your music is very complex, you've always managed to make your albums effective and relatively accessible, with catchy choruses and catchy melodies. But after listening to your album a good number of times, "Virus" seems less accessible than its predecessors, which isn't a bad thing at all! But I have the feeling that this album needs to be listened to a certain number of times to reveal its full potential. Was it something you were conscious of when you wrote it?

Charlie: No, not really, again! (Laughs). But we're always thinking about trying to write catchy songs. We really like it when people sing the chorus with us on stage. We try to create that.

Looking at the setlist of the new album, many of your fans who like progressive metal must have jumped to the ceiling when they discovered the 16-minute track 'Messiah Complex', and I was one of them! (Laughs). Maybe it's a silly question, but why did you choose to cut the song in 5 different tracks, when usually your long songs are not subdivided in several tracks?

Charlie: Because we've never done that before, I think, quite simply. Also, there are a lot of sections that follow each other in the song, so it made sense to cut the song into several tracks.

This song, 'Messiah Complex' is a song that covers a lot of different sections from different songs in your repertoire. It's a very good idea that's not very common on top of that. How did you come up with this idea?

Charlie: Actually, the idea to make a double album came from the song 'Cockroach King', which is the starting point for "Vector" and "Virus". We like all our albums to have a connection with each other. So we wanted to recall some sections of this song and some other songs from 'Messiah Complex'.


I read that some of the songs on the album were written in the tourbus, during your tour where you were opening for Devin Townsend. How did this new context impact your way of composing?

Charlie: It's a much more fun process. Usually we do it by email, box, it's much longer. When you send an idea, you have to wait for others to respond and so on. We've been used to it for a long time, but it was still frustrating. Before the tour, we already had demos of every song. On tour, we had a lot of free time because we were opening for a 45-minute show. The soundchecks took less time, and everything took less time in general. When we were all together, we figured we should use that time. We turned the bus into a small studio. We had our laptops, guitars, microphones... Every day we got up, went in there and worked on the album. We'd try out ideas, we'd pass the microphone around if someone had a vocal idea for certain sections. That was our daily routine. After playing our set, we were excited to get back on the bus! It's a much more coherent album than usual because all the songs have their own trademark. It was the most fun writing process we've ever gone through!

And today you're living the totally opposite situation. You're no longer all together on a bus, you're each at home without being able to see each other. How do you live it? I imagine it's complicated for you to apprehend the release of the album in this context?

Charlie: Luckily, we'd done most of the work before the lockdown. The master was done, the artwork too, we shot the video for 'Prosthetic' a week before the cancellation of our tour. The other two videos were animation videos in all cases, so that's not a problem. Everything was already in place. We're sticking to the schedule that was planned, but we don't know how things are going to go in terms of touring. We had shows planned for touring and festivals.

Are you already working on a new tour in the autumn or in 2021 I imagine?

Charlie: We have to be realistic, I think it's wiser to plan something early next year. We have to have a secure situation for us to get back on track. You'd have to have a vaccine to be able to plan a tour.

So maybe after "Vector" and "Virus", you will now release the album "Vaccine" to make the 3 V's? ( Laughs )

Charlie: (Laughs) Yeah, but I think people will get tired of it!

In the last few years, you've been touring extensively, and you've toured with Mike Portnoy's Shattered Fortress. What could be the next step for you?

Charlie: When we start touring again, we'd like to visit countries we've never been to before. Japan, for example. We've never been to Asia or Russia either. There's a lot of places we'd like to play. We'd like to do bigger and better shows. More people are coming to see us, so it's going to allow us to raise the level of production, add visuals, that kind of thing.

A screen with videos for example?

Charlie: Yeah, that's something we haven't been able to do yet. That's what we're aiming for.

It seems like the logical next step for you. Recently, some members of the band have been busy outside of Haken. That's the case of Richard (Henshall, the guitarist, editor's note) who released his first solo album, "The Cocoon", and Ross (Jennings, the singer, editor's note) who released an album, "Eleventh Hour", with his band Novena. Would you be interested in releasing a solo album or getting involved in a side project like them?

Charlie: Yeah, I've been thinking about it, especially these days when we have a lot more time than usual. I was thinking about releasing an instrumental metal EP. I've jotted down a few ideas here and there, but it's still too early to seriously think about it. It's still an idea. I'll probably do it, I'll see!

Thanks a lot Charlie! See you at one of your next gigs maybe!

Charlie: Thanks a lot!

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