It’s funny how your music tastes change as you grow older. In many ways, I like music which is angrier, heavier, dirtier and more violent than when I was younger. My brief flirtation with metalcore as Killswitch Engage rose to prominence in 2002 with Alive or Just Breathing, led to heavier things like Darkest Hour and The Dillinger Escape Plan, but it was only after Anti-Flag pointed me in the direction of politics and Rise Against steered me towards hardcore that I realised the things I enjoyed most about those bands (among others) was actually the fervent catharsis of hardcore. That's what I was really attracted to.
But it had to have melody too. There had to be some kind of vocal hook. I put this down to being a singer, and is perhaps part of the reason why Funeral for a Friend, Alexisonfire and Thrice had such a significant role in my growth as a songwriter.
What I’m trying to say is that over the years I’ve grown to appreciate heavier stuff whilst apparently (and subconsciously) expanding my taste in various different directions. Yet electronic music always remained a mystery to me, and for the most part it still does. There’s something sterile and clinical about it; I often get the feeling that there’s no ghost in the machine, that those binary sounds bring about a coldness which somehow traps any emotion inside an icy, digital prison.
However, I’m human, and I’m a hypocrite. I love Nine Inch Nails and recently I stumbled upon, and have found myself falling in love with ,HEALTH.
Those two bands are probably bad examples. Both are still fundamentally rock bands. Both are still heavy despite (certainly in the case HEALTH’s recent album, Death Magic) anchoring their songs with pop melodies.
I guess no matter how hard I try to branch out, I’m still listening to and discovering music with the same patterns regardless of genre.
Make no mistake about it though, HEALTH are an now an electronic band and much to the chagrin of “guitar music” lovers, in Death Magic they have released one of the heaviest albums of 2015. It’s just so goddamn loud. Yeah it’s electronic in places, and yes there’s hooks flying at you from all angles, but there’s blastbeats, riffs and walls of noisy guitars.
And it’s all swaddled in the kind of production that no mainstream rock producer can even touch.
Plus that fervent catharsis I mentioned earlier on? It positively seeps from the very pores of this record.
You can see why I wanted to interview them.
I sat down with singer/guitarist/noise-maker Jake to have a chat about the band, his punk rock origins (we share that in common) and why the album took six years among other things.
Enjoying Rihanna and the perfect pop song
The Rihanna industrial songwriting process
Streamlining the music process and perfecting the craft
Neuroticism about their music and why it took six years to write Death Magic
How being on the road for two and a half years, and working on Max Payne 3, delayed Death Magic
Refusing to abandon something for the sake of putting out an album – they had to be happy with exactly how it sounded
Making a heavy record that has different production from metal records
How heavy music isn’t tasteful
Rihanna songs hit harder than most rock albums because of the production
The Haxan Cloak, The Body and the production of their records
Health are not background music, and they wanted to make a visceral record
Taking modern hip hop production and applying it to a noise rock record
Musical progression, incorporating melody and moving away from noise rock
And much more
I feel this conversation had a really natural flow, and I’m so grateful that Jake took the time to chat with me, particularly given that there were some time constraints.