INTERVIEW WITH HEKZ
Welcome to Real Rock and Roll! Introduce us to the band members and tell us a bit about your musical backgrounds.
MY – HeKz are Alastair Beveridge on Guitar, Kirk Brandham on Drums, James Messenger on Keys, Tom Smith on Guitar and myself, Matt Young, on Bass & Vocals. We have quite different backgrounds – I’m a classically trained singer and used to work as a musical director for a youth theatre company.
TS – I studied at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance for a diploma, then a degree in guitar. This is where I met Al, and the way I joined the band! My first instrument was the recorder, haha!
AB – I learned piano as a kid before starting to learn guitar as a teenager when I got interested in rock music. I maintained my interest in classical though, and the more music I’ve studied the more appreciation I have gained for all genres.
MY – Also, Kirk cut his teeth playing in punk bands, and James is from Southampton.
How and when did the band get together?
MY – The band in its current form has been together for about 4 years now. Al, Kirk and myself have been playing in the band together since 2008. Tom joined us in 2011 just before we recorded our first album ‘Tabula Rasa’, originally to dep for a few shows but he was so good that we asked him to stay! After it became apparent that we required a keyboard player to fully achieve the sound we’re after. We initially asked James if he’d be interested, as I knew he’d played keys in a band with one of our mutual friends and was rather good at it. He was reluctant at first, but we wore him down eventually and I’m happy to say that he’s stuck with us ever since.
Is there a story behind how the band was named ‘Hekz’?
MY – There is, but a foul curse will befall all who know the true and nefarious nature of the word ‘HeKz’!
Who are your musical heroes?
MY – Iron Maiden was the band who originally captured my imagination and made me want to get up on the stage and rock out. Seeing ‘Live After Death’ for the first time was like a religious experience! I also love Deep Purple, Rush, Queen and anything with Ronnie James Dio involved.
TS – Adrian Smith, Doug Aldrich, Ritchie Faulkner, Zakk Wylde, Slash, Justin Derrico – the Les Paul blues shredders basically!
AB – Mikael Akerfeldt, Jem Godfrey, Damon Fox, Frank Zappa.
Who usually writes the songs or is it always a collaboration between all band members?
AB – Matt is the main contributor, but we all have our own input to varying degrees and in varying songs. The best ideas are often sparked collaboratively, even if they are then developed by one or two people.
MY – The collaborative side of the process is probably my favourite part, as it’s where the songs come to life and go from being a bedroom demo to a fully fledged HeKz tune! Indeed, there has been a lot more collaboration on the material for ‘HeKz III’ and it’s shaping up to be a very strong set of songs. We jam quite a lot as well, just when we’re setting up for rehearsals, and we’ve had some great ideas come out of those impromptu moments. One day, I’d love to try what Marillion do these days and write a whole album based on ideas that come out of the band jamming and improvising together. It’d be a lot of work, but I think that’s how you get the ‘true’ sound of a band.
Do you have a favourite Hekz song to play live?
MY – If I had to pick one, it’d be ‘Don’t Turn Back.’ It’s a very special song and, without getting too pretentious, I still find it very moving to play every time we perform it – even though it’s 8 years old! We also have a new song in the set called ‘For Our Lives’ which opens with a 3 part vocal harmony a cappella, Al & Tom absolutely nail the harmonies and it’s a joy to play.
TS – The Black Hand for the RIFFAGE!!
AB – Don’t Turn Back, Homo Ex Machina, The Black Hand. All the long ones in the key of D minor …
What inspires the lyrics for your songs?
MY – The lyrical themes seem to shift with every album, albeit entirely by accident. The first album ’TABULA RASA’ was written over a longer period of time so had a few different things going, but ‘CAERUS’ was a bit more focussed – the songs hold a mirror up to the world and talk about things like misuse of religion, our increased reliance on technology, imperialism and the importance of achieving and maintaining balance in the world. For the third album, the lyrics seem to be a lot more about human experience and emotions, things that hopefully everybody can relate to.
You have a new album coming soon; what can fans can expect from the album?
TS – A journey of massive riffs, awesome solos, glorious melodies, and the unexpected…
AB – Great songs, some very catchy choruses. Lots of light and shade.
MY – It’s definitely our most cohesive album to date. I feel that we have a lot of different elements to our sound – we like doing fiddly proggy bits and weird time signatures, but we also love big choruses and melody and rocking out. The different sides of HeKz seem to be living together quite well on the new songs.
Do you have any gigs/tours planned?
MY – We’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline, but we do have a few things lined up. Currently, our next UK show is DanFest 6 at The Musician in Leicester, which is a great weekend event and this year features the talents of our chums Winter In Eden, Credo, Jump and a few other excellent bands. Before that though, we’re heading over to the mainland for some acoustic shows – a couple with Maiden UniteD in Netherlands & Germany and an acoustic mini-festival with Marcelo Bovio, of Stream of Passion and Ayreon fame. We have a blast playing these sorts of shows, as we completely rearrange the songs to fit the acoustic format and it is a wonderful challenge to pull them off in a far more dynamic setting.
Which are your favourite social media sites, and why?
MY – That’s a tough one! They’re all great when you know how to use them properly. Facebook is great for pretty much everything, and indeed connecting with your website and other social pages. I also think that YouTube is an amazing site, and something I’d like to make better of use with HeKz. Maybe one day I’ll get my act together and sort that out!
What have been some of the band’s highlights so far?
MY – Cambridge Rock Festival is definitely up there! The crew were so accommodating, the sound and lights were spot on and the audience rocked! We also recently got to play the Boerderij in the Netherlands, which has been on my bucket list for years, and it did not disappoint.
TS – Our gigs in Holland. Finding out we are pretty good at playing acoustic shows too! Touring the UK with Maiden United. Damian Wilson making us all a cup of tea.
AB – Playing somewhere like the Boerderij in the Netherlands and seeing so many people singing along with the songs, even though we’d never been there before. Obviously it’s a venue outside of our home country which makes it exciting, but it has such a presence within the progressive rock community. It’s been on so many of the tour posters of so many of our favourite bands, it’s great to be able to say ‘yeah, I’ve played there too’.
If you could tour with any other band, who would you choose and why?
AB – Orphaned Land. Musically they’re not a million miles away from us, we’d get to play in exotic places and although it’s only rock and roll, it looks like their shows bring people together in a really meaningful way
MY – I think we would compliment someone like Opeth or Steven Wilson rather well. There’s enough of an overlap in our styles for it to make sense, but a fair few differences that’d mean it wouldn’t be boring or too similar for the audience. Plus, they’re both great bands!
TS – Iron Maiden, because they’re our heroes, and it would be awesome to hang out with them. – and I could jam with Adrian Smith!
Any other news for your fans?
MY – We’ve just launched a new website where you can sign up to our mailing list and keep up to date with progress on the new album, gig announcements and all other things HeKz-related! Check it out at www.hekztheband.com. Also, thank you for your support and being super cool people! Thank you too Maria for the great questions and for featuring us on your magnificent blog.
It’s been a pleasure! Thanks for joining me here and answering my questions. I look forward to the new music! 🙂
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