Ross Jennings of Haken
Interview by Andrew Daly
We all need a fresh start now and again, and in many ways, Haken’s latest record, Fauna, certainly is.
Sure, it’s loaded with all the unique touches that make the band great. But it’s also brimming with stylistic accents that show massive growth, as well as an obvious need to push the musical envelope. And so, if you’re looking for some new music to knock your proverbial socks off, look no further than Haken. But don’t stop with Fauna–be sure to dial back through the group’s entire catalog to dial in the full experience.
Busy promoting Haken’s latest stunning affair, Ross Jennings beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to give the rundown on the group’s approach to songwriting, his belief that rock isn’t dead, and a whole lot more.
What can you tell me about your latest music?
As our 7th full-length album, Fauna feels like a fresh start for the band in many ways. Stylistically it’s a natural progression from our previous works, but the listener will find it to be our most eclectic presentation yet, where we are also not shy to try new ideas. It very much feels like we’ve made a record that sums up everything we’ve done so far but with our sights still firmly set on the future. Fauna is a dense concoction of heavy riffs and memorable vocal lines on deep and layered song craft.
How have you progressed from your last record?
The return of Peter Jones on Keyboards is a huge factor in the evolution of our sound. His approach to piano and synthetic sound design adds a freshness to what we have come to expect from a Haken record. I feel like the band was in great spirits after a rough few years, and the collaboration yielded some inspiring results.
What does the current approach look like from a compositional standpoint?
Compositions can start as mere rhythm patterns, a riff, a vocal melody, or a piano sequence and are built from the ground up. Ideas won’t necessarily form as a full band initially, but if one member or a few of us together have brought the structure to a point that can be built upon, it will be shared among the rest of us to develop the ideas and form the song fully. This will include vocal ideas, restructuring, and adding more elements to the piece. It really is like a puzzle that is constantly morphing until, at some point, we are all unanimously satisfied.
Are you more comfortable in the studio or live? Why?
Speaking for myself, whilst writing and creating in the studio is possibly my favorite part of the process, with all the control, creativity, and experimentation that comes with it, it is the live setting where I feel most at home. There is a certain feeling of danger on the stage that things beyond your control can affect the performance at any given point, sometimes in the form of error and sometimes in the form of something more magical than you could ever capture on record. It is the most rewarding experience when the band and audience are all connected, and the music you’ve written is being shared and enjoyed by many; perhaps even your lyrics are being sung back to you. That emotional connection is the whole reason we do this in the first place.
Some have said rock is dead. Where do you stand on that notion?
Was it Gene Simmons who said it? He’s still doing ok by it, no? Rock is by no means dead… there are hundreds of bands doing amazing work and getting recognized for it… in fact, that very expression only encourages bands to push harder and become the ones to keep it alive!
What are a few things that you know now that would have been helpful during your earliest days?
I would say that having the knowledge and understanding of all the financial inner workings of the music industry is a must for anyone entering this business. Certain things, such as how publishing works, is still a mystery to many musicians I talk to these days. Being realistic about the state of the industry is another one. It’s not the 90s anymore when it was enough just to produce records and tour and make a significant living from it. It’s OK to be in a band and have a day job or a side hustle. Most musicians do… even when it looks like rock n’ roll is paying the bills on the surface, it probably isn’t, but that shouldn’t stop any up-and-coming musicians from persevering with their art.
What are some of the hardest things about making new music for a low attention span world?
I think, on one hand, it is a reality to be mindful of; the way people consume music has changed, and whilst the skip and the fast-forward function has been there for years, I’ve found myself in countless scenarios where songs on a playlist barely make it to the halfway point before the next track is queued up and skipped to… fortunately Haken play to and write music for a demographic who still respect the long play format. Whenever fantasy Haken setlists are proposed by our fans, the songs selected are predominantly epics.
How has your overall approach evolved from your younger years? Do you have any cringe factor when listening to older work?
It’s an easy thing to do… like looking at an old photo and cringing at your hairstyle. It’s the funny thing about time and hindsight. You have to have respect and gratitude for the journey and the lessons you learned along the way that helped you to grow and hone your craft. Yes, I listen back and acknowledge that these days we would do things differently, but at the same time, I’m very proud to listen back to our earlier work. It made us who we are today, and it holds some great memories like a time capsule. Why would you rewrite that?
Ross Jennings of Haken: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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