Full Of Hell + An Interview with Vincent Hausman of Howl
After tearing the roof off of Sneaky Dee’s, Howl frontman Vincent Hausman ravaged a nearby falafel stand. During this time, he blessed us with his insights on many things: Contemporary literature. The greater wrong of the religious right. Not to mention tales of penile mutilation. Read on, if you dare…
TBR: …so your Dad was practicing tropical medicine, married a Dutch woman and you were born in Indonesia?
TBR: Very interesting. Being from Providence (Rhode Island, Howl’s hometown) with that literary connection to Lovecraft and Cthulhu and all that, I’ve got to ask… Do you have time to read much?
Vincent: I just read “The Road” by Cormack McCarthy and I’m two pages into Blood Meridian. I’m a big politics geek. I try to keep up on reading the New York Times, try to keep up on current events. …and then reviews of our records.
There’s an H.P. Lovecraft tour in Providence — you visit his grave and various points of interest.
TBR: So how long have you guys been out supporting the album?
Vincent: We did something with Skeletonwitch and then we just did our first US tour was about five weeks with Black Cobra that took us to the west coast. We were home for maybe two weeks then we started this tour – I think we just hit week three, we have about another week left. Then we’re home for three weeks, then we go out for a month with Every Time I Die and Trap Them.
TBR: Ah! I fucking love Trap Them!
Vincent: Me too, me too. It’s a full US tour. Then we’re back for about two or three months and we’re gonna start writing for the next record. Then, – and I’m not supposed to talk about it yet – but there’s plans of going to Europe in February and then something else is happening in March that could be really big. The next couple of months is tour, tour tour.
I actually moved out my apartment in Providence before this tour so officially, I have no place to live. My parents were like “what the fuck are you doing” but it’s one of this things where I always wanted to be in a position where I could do that — put my stuff in storage and tour.
TBR: So do your find yourself saying “Holy shit this is happening very quickly” or would you say that there was a plan and it was expected to be at this point?
Vincent: In one view, I can say we’re a relatively young band and we have only one proper release out so the fact that we’re on tour with Vailant Thorr, we’re gonna go out with Every Time I Die and then with what’s lined up for us in February and March, which is pretty big and awesome — I’m definitely kind of surprised and I can say like “That’s pretty unusual for a ban that has just one release out”. On the other hand, we’ve been around for awhile, we’ve been playing for awhile, we work our asses off. So if that yields results I’m not going to question it too much either.
TBR: Beyond the fact you’ve been around awhile for awhile and you’ve worked your asses off… What about the band makes you say that you’re NOT surprised with your success?
Vincent: We’re not the most analytical band when it comes to what we do and what we expect. We work hard so we expect to see results. In terms of what sets us apart? Maybe I could say that there are some bands that go for a certain sound. We just get together, write and jam mainly on riffs.
Everything starts with riffs — we’re a riff oriented band. We just kind of build from there. so maybe that has something to do with our sound whereas we’re not trying to do a particular genre or something like that. That’s hard for me to do anyways because I like so many different styles of music — Metal and non-Metal and I don’t care too much if something sounds a bit too “X” or “Y”.
Ironically, maybe it’s that lack of… I mean some people say we’re Sludge band or a Doom band. Some people have even said “Oh, how’s Post-Doom?” I mean sure, if you wanna stick a label on it, you know… Maybe that’s the irony of it is because we just get together, jam on some riffs, write the song, say “This is what we love”. Boom. Maybe that in itself is what sets us apart from other bands that fit a certain genre a little bit more specifically.
TBR: In terms of the songwriting process, how’s the musical direction of the band guided? In terms of the dynamic in the band, how does that come together?
Vincent: It’s definitely a group effort in the sense that nobody in the band is going to play something that they don’t want to play. I’ll write the basis for the songs, the riffs and I’ll bring it to the table. Timmy and I will lay out the skeleton of the song, but always in conjunction with Rob and Andrea who finish things off. So who decides the musical direction of the band? Maybe I play a greater role in writing the material along with Timmy, but again, it’s a group effort. Everyone is very vocal so it’s definitely a collective effort.
I think we call come from different musical backgrounds, Andrea was in a punk band for awhile. Timmy’s really into Black Metal among various other things. I was a singer in a hardcore band but I love Pantera, Carcass and Sepultura, you know — old school stuff. Rob? He has a big love for faster punk rock, even pop-punk bands. But we all love Metal and I think we all have a love for a little bit of that swampy, sludgey Southern kind of music.
TBR: The production of “Full of Hell” is really fucking good.
Vincent: Keith Souza. What can I say? I can say that I’m very happy with how it turned out. What it did in my opinion is that it highlighted the percussive element of our music. You could say that our songs or riffs are in some ways more simple or straightforward or raw — we’re not a super technical band. We’re not a noodly band or whatever but I think that what’s nice about our sound, personally, I think is what the drums do and how the drums give depth to parts that maybe wouldn’t have that depth if the drums were more straightforward.
Recording with Keith I think was good because it did two things: Again, it kind of highlighted the kind of percussive element of our sound which is really important. and B, it’s not a loud, it’s not as “hot”.
I mean it’s loud but a of Metal bands I listen to now, it’s so compressed and it’s so abrasive and that’s fine but, somebody asked me once if we recorded analog or if we were going for that “vinyl sound”. That some of how “Full Of Hell was produced almost brought them back, not in terms of the songs, but the production sound almost reminded them of some heavy 70′s rock bands — which was interesting, because we’re very much Metal.
It was a Japanese magazine or something and they said, “You’re going in your production for a kind of a 70′s Zeppelin feel, aren’t you.” I kind of took exception to that and I said, “No, that’s not exactly what we’re doing.” But they just felt like a lot of bands nowadays especially on labels like Relapse and Metal Blade are very produced. Very produced, very loud, very compressed. We’re a little bit more “roomy”. Were a little bit more roomy, a little bit more maybe live sounding, a little bit darker — and I’m happy with that. We might take a little bit of a different approach with the next record.
TBR: So with the next record, do have you seen anything in the reaction of the audience to certain songs that might have an influence on your songwriting or help define the direction you might take?
Vincent: Not so much because it’s difficult to base your songwriting on people’s reactions. Why? Because a lot of times people are seeing a band they’re in a bar and they’re drinking beer, you’re probably doing to do really well by playing very straightforward, catchy tunes – people just want to bang their fist and rock out. If we dumbed down what we’re doing and got rid of a lot of the weird transitions, there might be one or two music lovers that might say “I liked it better when it was how it was” but I’ll bet you’d have a lot of people that would say “I can really rock out on that”.
We change things up and while we’re not the most technical band, but we do have some elements where we do more progressive sounding stuff. So you really can’t base your songwriting on how you think the crowd will react. That being said, people that have seen us for awhile and noticed how the songwriting has developed from the EP to “Full Of Hell”, they’ve been happy and impressed with newer material.
So going back to the drawing board for us with the next record… One thing to be very specific, is maybe the older stuff, the EP material, had so many things going on or so many parts to the song that, in my opinion, sometimes I thought that the songs were a little bit too long and drawn out. Whereas you could be a little bit more effective with what you are trying to achieve into a song by keeping certain parts and building a song around it and saving the other parts that you would otherwise cram into that song and using that for a next song.
That doesn’t mean that the new songs are going to be more simple, but that’s one thing that I’m thinking about—just doing a little bit more with less. That also then opens up space to layer things or to get extra creative with harmonies and leads and so forth.
TBR: So you have any good war stories from the road? What’s been the best part of being on the road?
Vincent: Well, on this tour on thing that I’ve really appreciated is connecting with the guys in other bands – like the guys in Junius. I don’t know if it’s a regional thing – they’re from Boston — but they understand sarcasm really well. The Valiant Thorr dudes are amazing. They love to party and we party very hard.
I have nothing but praise for Skeletonwitch – they’re a very hardworking band and awesome guys. They took us on tour and that’s one thing, but they’ve come out to our shows on their own free time, some of the guys drove a couple of hours just to see us. That’s great because you have a lot of admiration and respect and some ways, you’re in awe of a band like that taking you on tour let alone coming to see you when you’re passing through their neck of the woods.
In terms of a good story? There’s many. One that comes to mind is our bass player… I don’t know if I should tell this…
TBR: Oh, fuck you have to tell it now!
Vincent: …he was taking a shit and he… I don’t know, what happened — the toilet seat wasn’t bolted down so I guess he leaned over to grab some toilet paper and he ended up falling off the toilet. Some way — and we still don’t understand the physics of it – but he sliced his dick open!
TBR: <howls of laughter!>
Vincent: So I’m asleep and the next thing you know, and the first thing I see is my bass player running down the stairs clutching his dick and yelling “I cut my dick open! I cut my dick open!” He had to bandage it up. Luckily, he didn’t have to get stitches.
TBR: …‘cause a stitched dicks is a hurtin’ dick, no question!
Vincent: So for two weeks, it was the daily question “How’s your dick? Is it OK?” At that point, it was kind of beyond a joke cause we were really concerned as to how his penis is doing. But it healed up fine and it’s back in working order.
TBR: So that kind of covers it as far as Rob goes… So if Andrea (guitars) was here, I’d have to ask if she has a favourite thing to hit dudes over the head with if they get out of line? Obviously, the Dean (Andrea’s guitar) is out of the question… Is that ever an issue or a problem?
Vincent: Not really. Generally it’s never really a problem. The only thing that happened one time was this guy was a little drunk — and I don’t know what the fuck he was thinking — but he grabbed a chair and was kind of dancing with the chair close to her and I don’t know if he was insinuating if she was to be the chair and he wanted to dance with her in that way or something. He got a little bit too close to her and at one point, she couldn’t take it so she kicked the chair and it hit him in the head and he fell backwards in front of everybody and that was that! It was squashed. Other than that, she’s a feisty one – she can take care of herself.
TBR: So the lyrics for “Full Of Hell”… them’s fightin’ songs! So we talked a little bit about politics before, but when you wrote those tunes, obviously, there’s a thorn stuck deep. What was on your mind?
Vincent: What I guess I’m really angry about is the religious right in the United States – and all over the world for that matter – but in same ways, the religious right represents the institutions that made us feel alienated and guilty about who were and what we were feeling and that’s what drove us — at least from my experience — to something like Heavy Metal where there’s a community of people who are the freaks and there’s a rawness and a power to the music. So “Full Of Hell” in one way is a continuing critique and defiance of institutions and of people that would have you feel guilty about who you are.
Right now, the religious right is mobilizing to prevent same sex marriages from being legalized, for example. There’s a lot of fear-mongering going on by the religious right. I mean, hell, there were two unnecessary wars were started with thousands and thousands of casualties – not just the religious right, but this is eight years of the Bush administration. That’s still current. This is still relevant and it affects all of us so that’s something for me that I have a problem with and I’m angry about.
At the same time, “Full Of Hell” is also celebrating Heavy Metal as a place of solace and connection and shared love for music. I think a lot of bands lose sight of that and they get really ethereal and that’s fine – I mean, maybe we’ll be writing lyrics that are completely off the wall at some point so I’m not necessarily dissing that or anything. But I just really wanted to write a record — I could be dead tomorrow — but I wanted to have a full-length under my belt that I wrote A) in defiance of the things that I have a problem with and B) in celebration of Heavy Metal and what it’s done for me in my life.
TBR: Well said, bother. Well said.
Vincent: It’s also that I’ve always been a metalhead and my fist foray into hard music was Metal. I was handed a cassette tape by a guy at school – middle school — I had done him a favor and to say “thank you” he handed me a cassette tape and it was “Far Beyond Driven” by Pantera. I remember I had been listening to Ozzy but Pantrea just blew my mind.
Later on, in my late teens, early twenties I got into a lot of Punk and more politically oriented things so the idea of singing about things that are relevant politically. There’s always kind of been important to me. I was the singer for a Hardocre band – and we were a pretty political band — I can’t just close the door on that just because I started a Metal band.
I used to talk a lot in between songs about what the songs are about but you know, over time I started to see that it can kind of take away from what we’re trying to do and achieve. That’s why it’s kind of nice when someone asks or wants to talk about this stuff.
TBR: So in a short while, you guys are gonna be out of here and on the road. What are you guys going to be listening to in the van? Blow people’s minds!
Vince: The Beatles, an old Deftones album (“Saturday Night Wrist”), Tom Petty is a favourite…
TBR: Tom Petty?! Fuck yeah! “I Won’t Back Down” is a Punk Rock classic!
Interesting thing about Tom Petty and where we were talking earlier about the Southern impact on Metal these days… I was proud of him back in the day where he was proud of his southern roots and at the same time, people were showing up with the confederate flag at his shows and he had the balls to call them on it and consider the meaning of it.
Vincent: Yeah… We’re listening to the Allman Brothers… I’m listening to and revisiting this Country duo who are relatively unknown called The Handsome Family. They’re from somewhere in the Midwest. They’re a married couple and they record everything in their basement and I believe that she writes the lyrics and he writes the music. It’s amazing, wacky kind of stuff – I love it.
I’m a big fan of Ali Farka Touré. He’s a guitar player from Mali who kind of reinterpreted classic Delta Blues but gave it an African feel. It’s amazing because this guy had a couple of Robert Johnson records, built his own guitar and played this stuff and sang in African that was relevant to him like the witch doctor trying to sleep with his wife.
What’s crazy is he put out a record at some point, self released it or something and there was a British producer who pulled this record out a record from some record store in London from the cheap bin. And he went home and listened to it and was so impressed that he flew to Mali and tracked this guy down who at that point was literally herding goats! He was a goat herder! SO when he finally found him and he was like “Hey, I really love what you’re doing. Will you come back to England with me and I record you?” and the guy was like “I don’t know…” but he convinced him, went back and recorded him. Ten tear later, he’s one of Africa’s most prominent stars.
TBR: Wow… that’s amazing! I’ve got to check that out. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure!