Click the link below to read in German
Link to the Interview on Metal News (In German)
Complete Q&A below (in English):
Hey there! You’re hailing from Virginia, the state “for lovers”. Judging from your music however, it must be also the state of the balls-out rocking folk. How much does FREEDOM HAWK like to be referred to as a “band from Virginia” or a “group of four people from the United States”? To what extent do you fit in the scene in your local area and/or state, how much do you actually want to fit in? And what other acts from your area do you want to recommend at this point?
Thanks…there are a lot of balls out rock in this state for sure. We don’t mind being referred to a band from VA or the States.... We are a product of our coastal environment in the south and it comes out in the music. Well from our local South Eastern VA area in the rock/metal vein of music would have to be Beaten Back to Pure, Crimson Electric, Constrictor, Kill Circuit, Waiting Mortuary, Shinerunner and The Influence. Southeastern VA (Tidewater) is made up of 7 separate cities all next to each other around the tidal water, bay water, ocean water and dismal swamp. We live So with that there is no one style of music. Anywhere from grind core, pantera metal, death metal, sludge to punk rock, hardcore, thrash, to jam band, reggae, to rock a billy. We fall in the middle somewhere and a few others do too. A lot of the bills in our area are much diversified musically it seems. There are a lot of great musicians playing a lot of different types of music in this area. There are a lot of good bands and a lot of not so good bands competing for those entertainment spots as well. But it’s awesome to have variety that makes a good show for people so there not getting their ears blown out for 4 hours straight. At the same time there’s not very many one like minded style of music pouring out of our area or scene developing within our area like back in the real punk (Candy Snatchers) and thrash days (At War) of the 80s and sludge in the 90s. We live in a resort suburban area (largest suburb in the US, by the way) so there are a lot of entertainment spots which means there are A LOT of cover bands making lots of money off other peoples tunes which we don’t agree with. We would rather see a not so good metal band giving there all then a shitty top 40 cover band. VA as a whole is killer - the middle of the state/capital, bands like our label mates Throttlerod and the Might Could are completely radical and non-label mates Cough which have really taken off. Then from the western part of the state/blue ridge mountain area would be one of our favorites that we think are most similar to us in musical style but more on the doom side - Valkyrie. Sure we’re missing some others…there’s a lot of great bands in VA.
Since your biography can be read at your homepage, we’ll leave it at that. However, since you’ve constantly put out albums - with “Holding On” being your third LP effort - it would be interesting to know what playing music means to you personally and in what ways you enjoy it the most. How do you define a phrase like “band chemistry”, what is it generally like to be a member of FREEDOM HAWK on a day-to-day-basis? Personally playing music in general is a great outlet for life’s struggles and a way to release built up pressure in a creative way…believe we enjoy it the most when we are kickin back a few brews and jamming/writing music in our rehearsal space on Friday..what we call Freedom Friday. Actually, it’s TRs garage that we built a small sound proof rehearsal space within. As far as being a member of Freedom Hawk, well we are a family and some of us by blood. So with that comes brotherly petty squabbles and some family drama but we’re also a tight unit with a lot of energy and feeling when playing. We can almost read each other’s musical minds sometimes…strange but a good feeling. All that energy and togetherness pours out during a live show.
When do you as a band feel most at ease? What is it like for you when you’re experiencing things together, like playing a club packed with dedicated fans? We feel most at ease when we are jamming in our rehearsal space or live when we’re in the pocket and not even thinking just flowing. It’s great….our energy rises and we have a good time on stage and that translates back to us from the fans fist pumping singing all the lyrics. But it can be ugly sometimes cause some of our hardcore fans try and drown us in liquor …we have to turn down a lot of shots of whisky and jager… it’s no fun when you don’t even remember the next day playing the gig or freaking out wonder where all your gears located, especially an irreplaceable vintage Gibson guitar.
In terms of quality, you have consistently upped the standard of your records, with “Holding On” your personal best in my opinion. But on the other hand, change is kind of frowned upon in the Hard Rock world which you are a part of to a certain degree. How do you keep the balance between progressing steadily and still keep your stylistic roots in mind? Are there any paths you wouldn’t want to tread on in this band? When you work on new material, what elements absolutely have to be there in order to pass it on to your listeners? Thank you Micah…we appreciate it. Is it your personal best? Interesting…Grim_Reiper ranked the self titled 6 out of 7 on your site and you ranked the new one 5 out 7. Ultimate consensus from all band members…. We don’t think about where we are headed musically per say. But, for this album we were more influenced by late 70s metal but we never talked about it or decided that is where we were headed it just happened. We don’t listen to people or trends on where we should go or not go. As far as new material, the absolute elements are rock.
“Holding On” has been released with the help of Small Stone Records, a fairly known Stoner Rock expert coming from Detroit. How did you get in touch with them and how confident are you with their promotional work so far? We bugged the shit of em when we finally got some of the recording completed. But, in the end Erik Larson (Might Could, Alabama Thunderpussy) and Matt Whitehead (Throttlerod) put in a good word for us. We were told in the end that Erik relayed to Scott Hamilton from SS – “Good band, good guys, and they surf”. That sealed the deal…word of mouth by highly respected musicians. They are doing great promotional work both on the music side and putting together showcases and other events. They have a great roster of bands as well and are one of, if not the best stoner/heavy/hard rock labels in the industry right now. They are great people.
To what extent does the artwork prepare and/or sums up the essence of the actual content of songs like “Standing In Line” or the unbelievably catchy song “Edge Of Destiny” and who was in charge of it? Alex Von Weiding did the painting but the primary theme came from TR…it has symbols in the art that relate to each song (storm, surf, lady, lighthouse, sea monster, dragon, etc.)…and a surprise on the inside cover to Alex’s credit. The lyrics are on the inside cover too so that will give you some hints to the theme of the album and corresponding symbolism in the artwork. Alex did an amazing job on the artwork…we’re looking forward to a Vinyl album of it.
What I instantly fell in love with is the roomier sound you’ve allowed in the mix. Was this step clear from the get-go? Are you confident with the overall sound yourselves and if so, which details do you rejoice in once they pop up in your stereo? Don’t necessarily think that step was clear when we started until Benny Groto from Mad Oak Studios got his hands on it and did the mix…he brought that out which is awesome…. We rejoiced when the product finally came together and was complete with the finishing mastering touches.
You’ve also put the most songs on any FREEDOM HAWK album here, wrapping it up after a whopping 13 tracks! Is it even possible to determine why exactly you’ve had such a creative high for this record? Was it more of a team effort that you came up with such a high number of new stuff with ideas coming in almost by the minute? It was about two years since we had wrote new material worthy of putting on an album… it was more of a natural musical progression from our writing. To set the record straight, as far as song writing and actually tracking goes, the order of our writing and music is Self Titled (2006), Sunlight (2008), Holding On (2011). Sunlight was self released before Meteor City put out our self titled. You can get a hint of the “new” direction from the last song on Sunlight – King of Order. The creativity just came from free flowing jams and riffs crammed in a 6x10 room until they felt right…we’d arrange them… work out a singing pattern…then we’d record with a room mic and a 16 track. We’d play it back and laugh sometimes or cringe or be stoked on others. We have A LOT of jams on that thing. There is a lot of spaced out, drawn out songs that go on for a long time, some of them 15minutes or more. We have A LOT of jams on that the 16 track…we’re just too lazy or don’t have the patience to listen to them all unless we’re letting loose and letting it play in the background. Then one of us will stop and say “did ya hear that play it back”. And if sounded cool at the time we would complete the jam into a song. It was and is a natural process…
A magazine called you “the East Coast answer to FU MANCHU”. Do you think that this description gives an accurate idea of what you are about, especially in the context of your latest album? Furthermore, why does it leave out the BLATANTLY obvious individuality in your music in your opinion? It’s a great compliment! We REALLY dig Fu Manchu and have mass respect for them…they’re an awesome band and have awesome albums…one of our favorites..classic..they’re legends. Don’t take us wrong but we don’t think it is an accurate statement of our tunes if that phrase is taken in the context of that we sound like them…we may have some elements but overall we don’t think we really sound like them. We believe the context of that statement was more like we had the coastal surfer/skater/stoner groove rocker vibe that isn’t that popular on the East Coast more than it is in Southern California…it’s like the East Coast (Right Coast) vs. West Coast (Left Coast) kind a thing. That specific statement came from a review in Performer (indie magazine) that wrote about a live show that we played on the east coast in Wilmington, North Carolina in fall of 2007. And, at that show we were playing old material like North Swell and Hollow Caverns (tunes about the ocean and surfing). At the time that review was written was when we were in the middle of recording Sunlight with Vince Burke and Matt had actually quit the band for about two months. We put too much unneeded pressure on ourselves and a self imposed deadline which drove us to the breaking point…that was kinda of a stressful album to put down and it shows in the song writing. A couple of songs were written in two weeks..we think they’re somewhat filler. If we put more time in and taken our time we believe it would have come out better. We played that show as a 3 piece cause we already had several gigs booked and didn’t want to cancel. It was a raw stripped down set. So, it wasn’t really a review of Freedom Hawk as the band we really were then or are now… Matt brings a major ingredient in our sound/music/writing. He adds extra guitar which brings out the dual guitar harmonzing, extra thickness, dynamics and blazing leads to the sound. We think we as a band have moved past any Fu Manchu comparison and probably time to delete it out of our bio…hahahaha…some critics or people have called us a Fu Manchu rip off which to us means either there lazy and didn’t listen to the music or they don’t like our music or there righting us off. We’re surprised the critics didn’t call us a (Corrosion of Conformity) CoC rip off…the self titled album is more similar to CoC style then Fu in our opinion.
Strictly speaking, “Holding On” doesn’t offer anything which wasn’t there in one way or another. But despite that, the album sounds fresh and exciting and - give all the other releases that pop up all year long - quite outstanding. What can this circumstance be attributed to? Are your songwrting skills just that amazing or is this style itself simply timeless? Growing into our sound and growing as a band which makes the writing better. Heavy blues with the classic rock hooks is somewhat of a timeless sound. We have incorporated more late 70s/early metal riffs/licks feel in this new record (Lizzy, Deep Purple, Tull, Scorpions, Judas Priest, UFO)…and bit of a punk/hardcore (old COC flavored) edge.
What do FREEDOM HAWK stand for lyrically nowadays? Has there been some sort of progression towards the previous efforts in terms of writing style or subject matter? Is there a golden thread throughout “Holding On”? And what exactly do you “hold on” to in the first place? The topic Holding On is throughout all the songs one way or the other…. All derivative tenses of the word “Hold” are mentioned throughout the album. Either holding on for your life or holding on to your sanity or the next wave or holding on to whatever means most to you.
At the moment, I like “Edge Of Destiny” the best. Can you tell us about this song’s creation and what it has in common with all the other tracks on “Holding On” in terms of its topic? It was the first song written write after TR had his son, and other than Magic Lady and North Swell that are from a 2005 demo, Edge of Destiny was the first song written for the new album. That song inspired elements of the album cover too. The topic Holding On is throughout all the songs one way or the other….
Are there any favourite moments of yours where both the music and the particular lyric give you shivers down your spine? We are happy about the final product and that we feel like we took our time and just didn’t fill the album with filler. Where the lyrical hook and riff comes together best probably is the opener Thunderfoot…. “He said son what ya doing…falling down on your knees….better run…thunderfoot’s a brewin...coming in after me..”…then boom. Something like that…
Have there been any songs that didn’t make the final cut for “Holding On”? No not songs that we felt/thought were complete or could’ve made the final cut. But, we weren’t going to put North Swell or Magic Lady as they were songs from our first 2004 demo…but we decided to since we had already put out My Road and Hollow Caverns on our self titled album. It was an opportunity to put that demo and those old songs past us. And, we wanted to put out more songs than previous releases as some of the feedback from fans we were getting was that the previous albums were too short.
Is being in a studio considered “fun” in your ranks? Because I know some bands who think it’s a necessary evil in order to give the live crowds something to enjoy when they get back home. What aspects of recording an album do you love and which ones can you do without in general? Well we’ve done a few recording sessions now so we feel more comfortable in the studio. The studio is fun when ideas and the vibe flows…but when it doesn’t it can be very frustrating. That’s when you got to let loose and let go…
Have you already played some of the new songs and if so, what were the reactions like compared to the already known tunes? We think the reactions are good for the record especially since it has just been released. It always helps after the song is released on record so people can relate to the song, groove out, fist pump and sing along or whatever…
When do you think will there be a chance for us Europeans to get a glimpse of your excellence? We think when we can team up with some bands similar in style to our music either that are from Europe or on Small Stone label and of course some sponsors always help. Our label mates Dixie Witch, Roadsaw, and Sasquatch just did a tour….that would be killer! If we don’t win the lottery, a good booking agent or sponsors would be needed and of course it helps if the new record does well. Europe has amazing festivals – Roadburn, Desertfest, Duna Jam, Hellfest, and I’m sure other festivals that we are not aware of or can’t think of. That would be rad to do…and if we had a chance to play a festival or tour it would definitely bring us across the pond. We would love to come to Europe if we get the chance. We all have families, rock doesn’t put food on the table, and we are broke like everyone else so we would need an opportunity. There’s no money in rock..it’s all about the love for music and support from the people which we are grateful for.
Thank you for coming this far! In conclusion, tell our readers where they can pick up a copy of your albums! Folks can pick up the new album on CD at the Small Stone store or your local record store (if it still open/in business) or digitally at iTunes or Amazon. We recommend the CD if you want the lyrics and extra artwork on the inset. There should be a Vinyl 180 LP coming out too in 2012 so look for that also. Thanks to you Micah and Metal News for the opportunity…we appreciate it. Germany rocks hands down! Peace, ~FH~