HEAVY META “The More, The Meta”
By Dr. Abner Mality
Sometimes you just gotta get weird! Most heavy metal bands, even the more extreme varieties, seem locked into very rigid musical boxes that they very rarely leave. That can really wear you out if you listen to a lot of this stuff like I do. But how weird is too weird?
The rather drolly named HEAVY META are a new band that might be trying to find out. They are testing boundaries and pushing them hard. As a result, they sound like a head-on collision between MR. BUNGLE, FAITH NO MORE, VOI VOD, MESHUGGAH, whacked out funk and abstract jazz fusion. Sometimes. Because even that description doesn’t cover all the bases. Yet despite the unpredictability, HEAVY META still write actual songs with actual hooks you can relate to. And that might be the one thing that will bring them the biggest success.
Their new album “Mana Regmata” gave my ass an electric enema. So I had to find out more. The man to ask about the insanity of HEAVY META was Kishor Haulenbeek, who was happy enough to help me out. Prepare to dive into the world of HEAVY META…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings, Kishor! A pleasure to speak to you. I know 3 members of HEAVY META are involved with the band IN HUMAN FORM. Is it fair to say that HEAVY META is a repository of musical ideas that wouldn’t have worked in IN HUMAN FORM?
KISHOR HAULENBEEK: Hey, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. In terms of songwriting, I wouldn’t say that, no. HEAVY META is a separate project from the ground up. Maybe think of it as the same carpenters working on a different building with a different architect. Rich (drums) and Patrick (vocals) have been part of IHF since its inception, and I joined them a couple years ago on guitar, but in HEAVY META we’re mostly acting as a sounding board and rhythm section for our guitarist Phill’s songwriting ideas.
WC: Would you say that one of the goals of HEAVY META is to get as close as humanly possible to going off the rails musically but without plunging into total insanity?
KH: As abstract as our music gets, I think there’s a lot of rhyme and reason under the hood. But we remain hopeful that opportunities for total insanity will present themselves in the future.
WC: What is the songwriting process like for a band such as this? Does everybody get to throw in an idea or is there one guiding hand that directs things?
KH: A bit of both. Phill is the mad scientist. Most of our songs start off as demos with his guitars and song structure ideas. From there it becomes more democratic; we all have a lot of freedom to write our own parts, give input about the final song structure, come up with other riff ideas, etc. Patrick writes the lyrics and vocal parts, which always reframe the songs and give them a sense of focus. After the vocals are in place, we can go back again and refine it all further. Whatever it takes to feel like we’ve made everything live up to its potential.
By the end of the process the songs have become true collaborations, and they almost always wind up being more complicated and harder to play, because otherwise what are we even doing with our lives, you know? We like a challenge. Some of the song ideas on this album have been floating around for years, but we kept on tweaking the tunes right up until the day they went out for mastering.
WC: The bass guitar is super prominent on “Mana Regmata” and gives things a real funky sound. I can hear a lot of Les Claypool and Bill Gould influence, but who are some of the other bassists you get inspiration from?
KH: Nice, good call on Billy Gould, I love old FAITH NO MORE. “Angel Dust” in particular is a lifetime favorite. For tone and attitude I always look up to UNSANE - both Shore and Curran had that huge, fat, angry sound that worked so well in the mix. For writing and playing: Geddy Lee, Roger Patterson of ATHEIST, Ray Shulman of GENTLE GIANT, the untouchable mastery of Stanley Clarke, and I gotta say Colin Marston’s playing with GORGUTS in particular is a constant inspiration.
WC:There are tons of bands that HEAVY META is compared to, but what influence would you say would be the most surprising to fans of the band?
KH: Hmm. Maybe SOUNDGARDEN? QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE? Dick Dale, THE TOADIES, THE VANDALS, PRINCE…
WC: Is there any type of music or subgenre that would be considered “off limits” for the band or is everything fair game?
KH: There’s a lot of stuff that’s far enough outside our taste that I don’t see it working its way into the mix. But we haven’t thought about writing this music in terms of genres, except as a shorthand for how we want certain parts to feel. We don’t go into it with a finished product in mind, or even in search of maximum zaniness. It’s about whatever ideas come up during the process, and finding ways to make them fit. So in that sense, everything is on the table, even if it doesn’t end up making the cut.
WC: Have you ever created something that you later said “no, we can’t use that...it’s too crazy”?
KH: There were some song structure ideas and a couple of wacky moments in various takes that didn’t make it onto the album. I don’t know about “too crazy” but it needs to be the right kind of crazy. Like I said earlier, we edit stuff pretty extensively. Sometimes we feel like something needs to go a little more nuts; sometimes we’re trying not to lose the plot; most often, though, one of us hears how some section could be even cooler with just a little bit more of something, and we try to make it happen.
On a related note, there was an ongoing discussion about whether to record more stripped-down versions of these tunes to reflect a “live sound”, or to have fun with it and make a more layered recording as a studio project. I will cop to being a ruthless editor and starting off in favor of the stripped-down approach. But that’s an argument I’m glad I lost. In the end we wound up going pretty maximal for some sections, and I think we’re all happy with the outcome.
WC: The cover art for “Mana Regmata” is cool as hell! I understand you created it...what’s the story behind the cover? The character looks like Cthulhu in a gas mask striking a pose for a Bolshevik propaganda poster…
KH: Thank you. Good eye, early 20th century propaganda graphics immediately leaped to mind when I started thinking about visuals to fit with this band. They’re bold and eye-catching, they create a narrative, they can warp people’s sense of reality. I do some illustration work for other bands too, and when I’m coming up with images, I usually start with an intuitive idea for how to evoke what the music “feels” like. In this case I knew we needed something impactful and gritty and aggressive, but also strange, and fun, and a bit open-ended. Gasmask Tentacle Sledgehammer Guy was the logical choice.
WC:What in fact is the meaning behind the album title “Mana Regmata”?
KH: That may become more apparent with further album releases.
WC: What are some of the lyrical inspirations for HEAVY META? Some seem to deal with death and religion?
KH: lI’ll turn that one over to Patrick.
PATRICK: I am usually not a fan of revealing the meanings of the lyrics, I prefer to leave them to the interpretation of the individual listener. However, I can say there are consistent themes that run throughout the album. Some even expanding on themes from the previous EP. I have always seen HM's music/lyrics as a cohesive, never ending song, so I tend to mix familiar themes while adding different layers to further create a lore to surround HEAVY META. Themes can range from: vengeance, sorrow, envy, greed, insects, forensics, kidnapping, heartbreak, desperation, insanity and Satan. You know, relatable kitchen table issues facing ordinary families every day.
WC: You use a lot of interesting samples in your work. One I recognized was the Fly yelling “help me!” in the song “Two Fly”. That scene freaks me out to this day!
KH:Yeah, that’s a harrowing scene. I was surprised by how well it fit into the intro section. The samples are an element Patrick brought in. He sees them as extensions of the lyrics. He picked most of them out and had pretty specific ideas of where they should go, to help set the mood for the songs and reflect what they’re about. Thematically the most important pieces are the Tony Kiritsis clips; that story encapsulates what the whole album is about. I was a bit skeptical of using samples at first, but I have to say the way they work in these songs has won me over.
WC: Does the band have much live experience? I would imagine your music would be incredibly challenging to play in a live environment.
KH: Individually, we’ve all spent a good amount of time onstage in other bands. As a group, we got to play live around eastern MA for about a year before everything shut down. That was a bummer for me – I felt like we were really starting to hit our stride in a live setting. But it was also fun and productive to shift our focus to writing and recording. This stuff takes a lot of practice and focus to play well no matter the environment. In the studio, it’s about really putting the screws down on every detail. In some ways playing live is simpler – you’ve already put in the work, you know? Now you’ve got 25 or 30 minutes to give it your best shot.
WC: In a perfect world, what band would you most like to play with?
KH: How about each of us picks one for a dream five-band package bill? Everybody loves those, right?
I’ll start: VED BUENS ENDE.
Patrick : THE MARS VOLTA.
Rich: SECRET CHIEFS 3.
WC: If you could invite any 3 people in history to dinner, who would they be?
KH:At this point, simply having some friends over for dinner sounds like the best thing ever. Historical figures can wait.
WC: Has the band ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went crazy that you could share with us? This could also include anything in connection with IN HUMAN FORM.
KH: Nope, everything’s pretty much gone according to plan. (Something tells me there’s a dose of irony here...Dr. M)
WC: Any last words or ideas you’d like to get out to the fans?
KH: Thanks again to you for taking the time to speak with us about the album, and thanks to everyone who’s supported the music. You fight alongside Gasmask Tentacle Sledgehammer Guy for a brighter future. We love you all.