DPRP’s Gert Hulshof interviews
Birmingham’s Hookah The Fuzz
Gert Hulshof chats with the guys from Hookah The Fuzz, a relatively unknown band prior to their well received debut. Hookah The Fuzz band members consist of Si Jefferies, Alex Louis, Roger Ash, Ross Hawkins and new member Adam Dodd. It is high time the world got to know a little more about this band who caused a bit of a storm when they arrived on the progressive rock scene – a band that brought a refreshing sound to ProgMetal.
GERT: So who are Hookah The Fuzz?
We have Si Jefferies on vocals and guitar, Alex Louis on lead guitars, Roger Ash on bass, Ross Hawkins on drums and we have also welcomed a new member, Adam Dodd on keyboards.
GERT: Where do Hookah The Fuzz originate from?
We are all from various parts of Birmingham in England. People will probably know it better as the home of Ozzy and Black Sabbath and Judas Priest amongst others.
GERT: The band name, how did this come about?
I guess we wanted to come up with something a little less genre specific but still eclectic enough that there weren’t any boundaries with what could be achieved musically. Something that stood out, for better or worse. Anything not to fit in with that generic crap that people seem so proud to be a part of nowadays. Some band love being part of the latest scene, but that will only last a few years with a name like ‘megaton’… or something. Other bands want to stand on their own as a creative force, and that’s what we want, whether it works or not is another thing altogether, time will tell I guess.
GERT: What is the background of the band?
Pretty much originated from Thrash Metal into more progressive stylings as the line-up changed – until you get what you hear now. Then it’s like we have started to add this mellow, triply vibe to things, lot more space and ambience, maybe we are just getting a bit older? We all want this as a career and each of our backgrounds from a young age has worked towards this what we are trying to do now. We got together very naturally and progressed naturally to what is happening now, nothing has been forced, we have definitely grown together as writers/musicians, now feels like the time to make it happen.
GERT: Has life changed since you are more known?
Not really, we aren’t exactly famous. We still have our day jobs but our phones and emails are quite active with various things which is nice. Hopefully we can become more well known over time and have more opportunities come our way as a result. It would be great to have more recognition as long as its for being good at something! Preferably music!
GERT: Tell us a bit more about the process of making the album, how did it start, funding etc,etc…
Well the whole album was entirely financed by us, included pressing of the CD’s and artwork which we did ourselves. We recorded the CD in December/January 2009/2010 in three and a half weeks at Foel Studio in Wales. It was a very time conscious experience due to our budget, each of us having 2 to 3 days to record ALL our parts. Thankfully, the CD was produced by the talented Chris Fielding who also mixed and mastered the CD for us (within the three and a half weeks!) It was a pleasure working with him, he did a fantastic job, knew what we were about and worked his ass off to help us get the CD finished in the time we had. We would definitely like to record with him again but maybe one summer when we aren’t going to get snowed in!
GERT: Using social media – how does this help your career?
I’m not sure. It’s an easy way to get your music out there, yes, but its so accessible that so many bands, regardless of quality, can set up accounts. How do you stand out?? If you add enough people on MySpace its feasible that you could have 40,000 ‘friends’ but does it mean anything? Are you gonna sell 40,000 tickets to Wembley Stadium?? Unless your Muse, probably not. We still believe it’s through the old fashioned way of good promotion, a good record, reviews/adverts/label support etc etc that a career can begin. If you have that then social media is great at supporting this, communicating with your fans, keeping things more personal and building your fan base further still, but you still need that traditional support in the first place.
GERT: Bandcamp/Reverbnation i.e. helpful or..?
We have a Reverbnation account which we used to put our music out via Itunes/Amazon mp3/Napster etc etc. It also offers a place to connect with other bands/industry people. We have had a few opportunities come through it regarding radio play and reviews which has been successful. Definitely a help not a hindrance, but it’s not going to change the world.
GERT: In what way, or how, do you write songs?
Well someone usually brings an idea into the practice room, we jam on it and develop it until we have something that feels good. Lyrics are usually added after and solo’s are usually fine tuned or re-written during the recording. When we were recording the CD, lyrics were still being written and most of the solo’s were jammed out when it came to actually recording them. Everyone in the band is very picky about what sounds good and the general vibe. Trying to be ‘as one’ so to speak is the hardest thing, but when it happens together it’s an awesome feeling, that’s when you end up writing a song in half an hour, when other days it just doesn’t happen, writing the day after a heavy night for example is totally pointless, because everything sounds horrible, for us anyways.
GERT: Will you be touring in the near future? Not just UK but also further a field.
The short answer is yes. Where?? We are not sure yet. We would love to cover as much territory as possible. It would be great to play over in the US and also Europe. We have some pretty firm plans to gig over in America late this year (West Coast). We are working very hard to make this happen. Biggest obstacle is funding, but it would be fantastic to play over there. Equally it would be fantastic to get on the Festival Circuit across Europe in 2011. We are still unsigned at present so it is difficult to travel across the world without some backing.
GERT: When will there be any new music? CD or downloads?
We have a bunch of new material which we are playing live but nothing recorded as yet. We are very excited about this new stuff, we hope it will go down well but we don’t want to do the exact samething as we have already done. Growth is important. We are considering recording a ‘single’ to take with us when we go to America. Once we come back from America we have tentative plans to record a full album in early 2011 but again, we will have to see what happens. If we can get some good support im sure it can be done.
GERT: Further to these questions I have some questions I would like each of you to give an answer to.
GERT: What or who was your biggest influences?
Alex: Guitar player wise I’d say early John Petrucci and Al Di Meola. Those guys really influenced my playing style when I started out. Nowadays I would say Joe Bonamassa and some of the old school players like SRV and David Gilmour.
Ross: Metallica as far as getting into playing and Mike Portnoy for just being ‘the shit’.
Roger: Tool, they write great songs and you never know what to expect. Ryan Martinie, (Mudvayne) he has been a major influence and was one of the main reasons I decided to pick up a bass guitar
Si: Mike Patton, Devin Townsend and System Of A Down. Great vocalists and bands who all write well crafted songs.
Alex: I think we all like most of the band/players mentioned. I forgot to mention Daron and System Of A Down. A great guitar songwriter. I think System are one of the most progressive bands out there yet they capture a huge audience. What more could you want!
Si: Absolutely, bands that have no right to be ‘commercial’ because they write such crazy shit, yet they are completely accepted by the masses because of how extraordinary their song-writing is… Mars Volta, thats another one!
Adam: My biggest inspiration keyboard wise would be Jordan Rudess and George Duke. Frank Zappa also because his music is hilarious, stupidly hard and awesome.
Alex: Yeh, Zappa is cool. His catalogue is too big to digest, but I like a lot of what I’ve heard. Apostrophe in particular, the first album I bought of his and still my favourite.
GERT: At what age did you first think of becoming a musician?
Alex: Well my parents bought me a guitar when I was 14/15. It was pretty unexpected. My dad had an acoustic for years in the house that I never touched. Probably because it was pretty much the hardest guitar I’ve ever tried to play. The strings were like barbed wire!
Ross: About 12 when I first heard Ride The Lightning.
Si: Probably about 14 when I just got into rock music and picked up my first guitar which was a friends. Same as Alex my dad always had an acoustic but I was never really interested as it sounded pants. Also until then I was learning piano and thought that was going to be ‘my’ instrument. It sounds terrible but I went to see The Offspring which pretty much cemented the fact that I wanted to be in a band, playing guitar and singing onstage. I listen to better music now though!
Roger: About 15, all my friends were playing instruments and I just wanted to join in. Originally I started out on guitar but all my mates were better than me so I started playing the bass!
Adam: Around 14 I started playing keyboards due to the inspiration of my step brother at the time.
GERT: If you could swap places with a well known person, who would this be and why?
Alex: Whoever is dating Mila Kunis at any given time!
Adam: Probably whoever’s dating Scarlet Johanson.
Si: Will Ferrell so that I could play Mugatu in Zoolander, ‘he’s so hot right now!’
Roger: Mark King because he is the best British bass player.
Ross: Just anyone who is making a living from being in a band.
Si: YE! change mine to that! Money would be nice.
Alex: …but Will Ferrell is a good one! Maybe Adam Sandler in ‘Don’t Mess With The Zohan’ Press ups without hands is pretty impressive and his Mariah Carey t-shirt is on my wish list… haha…
GERT: Do you work in a regular job next to playing music? What’s your occupations?
Alex: Yeah I just work in a shop selling clothes. Its not particularly exciting. I teach a little but nothing serious. I probably should do a lot more or at least something else involving the guitar.
Si: I just quit my job delivering drugs for a pharmacy, as it was soul destroying and now I can focus more on the band.
Ross: I drive forklifts. Its awesome…
Roger: I’m a laboratory technician. It’s cool but I’d rather be playing in a band full time.
Alex: I’d quite like to drive a forklift, maybe for a day at most but I’d rather rock out instead.
Si: I can’t think of a better way to rock out than rock out forklift style!
Adam: I eat curry mostly in my spare time, other than that I occasionally serve people drinks!
GERT: Where will you be in 5 years time?
Alex: In Hookah The Fuzz, playing big gigs and festivals. Having a good library of music behind us, at least three albums, and a growing fanbase who we can interact with as much as possible. Be nice to have some personal recognition obviously, maybe in the form of some gear endorsements HINT HINT haha. Also, there is no way I want to be living in Birmingham, or even England for that matter. Need to find somewhere sunnier, where the people are smiling and cool stuff happens. I’ve got some idea’s 🙂
Si: What he said!
Adam: I second that! Deffo somewhere sunnier!
Ross: Making enough money off our music to buy brand foods! haha…
Si: Although ALDI brand is tasty, or NO FRILLS!
Roger: Hopefully still involved in the music industry. Touring relentlessly and generally having a good time.
GERT: Do you have a personal Quote?
Alex: I do, but some things you have to keep to yourself! Sorry!!
Si: ‘Live slow, die old’ ? Relax and chill, everyone is in such a rush nowadays!
Roger: No really, its true!
Alex: I like the phrase ‘Success breeds enemies’. There is a cool Zappa quote I read too but I forget what it is.
Adam: Is it “you can’t always get that ugly chord you want, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream?”
Si: Was it Socrates who said… no it wasn’t
GERT: The final question – is there a message or news or anything you want our readers to know about.
Just thanks for reading and listening to our stuff. Our CD is available for download on Itunes, Napster, Amazon etc etc… If you like what we do please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation and even MySpace, it really helps us. We run all of them ourselves so you will find all the latest news from there. Don’t forget to talk to us either, we like to receive comments/emails from fans and will get back intouch as soon as we can.
Other than that just a big thanks for taking the time to interview us, we hope we were good company.
After the interview I learned that Hookah The Fuzz would play the Fused Festival and decided after the show to come back to them and ask a few questions about their experience.
It’s not everyday that an up and coming band gets to play the same stage as Vandenplas and Threshold.
GERT: You are programmed to play Fused festival, next to VandenPlas and Threshold among others. How does that make you feel? Excited?
Well its great to be taking part in a festival with established, professional acts. Just being in the company of pro bands reflects well on ourselves. Strangely enough, none of us in the band particularly listen to much ‘prog’ music so although we are aware of the bigger bands like Vanden Plas and Threshold we have not heard much of their music – but we knew they were established acts and its always exciting to share the stage with bands like that.
GERT: (After the gig) Playing the festival on April 2nd will have had an impact. Playing to a bigger audience! What was this like?
Its fantastic. We dont want to write music for our own ego’s, we want people to listen to it and have it affect them in some way, preferably positively. The beauty of festivals is the ability to interact with a whole new audience and hopefully gain a bunch of new fans in the process. Obviously, Fused was geared towards a prog/metal minded audience so it was a great chance to introduce ourselves to new fans and show people what we are capable of. It was a very cool gig, we had a great time and enjoyed playing and chatting to people afterward. All we can say is that we want to do more. Imagine walking out onstage at Download or Sonisphere… the thrill would be phenomenal. We wouldn’t come back to earth for days! But its what we want to do.
GERT: How did the audience respond to Hookah The Fuzz.
Very positive. We sold a box full of CD’s made some new friends. It was very successful. We could get used to it! We plan to hit as many festivals next year as is physically possible, bring it on! haha…
GERT: Tell me something in general about playing this festival and playing gigs…
I think one of the main pluses is the quality of sound. Especially for a band like ourselves it’s really important we can hear ourselves onstage as well as the front of house sound being clear. The professional edge you have at festivals is something we could get accustomed to, its much more hit and miss at individual gigs, especially the smaller ones. It would be great to take to the stage with all our own equipment and a full soundcheck whereby we can hear everyone when it come to actually playing. It benefits the audience too and the most important thing for us is that the audience enjoys themselves and wants to hear us again.
GERT: Many thanks for your time…