Now on Sludgelord I am interviewing Hammerhands – the brilliant hard-hitting Sludge/Noise/Post-Metal collective who recently impressed me with their excellent debut album – Glaciers.
I recently described this album as - “Glaciers is not only a truly wonderful album – it’s an incredible audio experience you cannot do without. Hammerhands are brilliant musicians. Some of the best I have heard this year. Glaciers is an album they should be incredibly proud of. I loved every minute of it.”
The guys have kindly agreed an interview with me. So lets get down to business with HAMMERHANDS.
Q1 – Hi Guys, Thanks for doing this. How are things with you guys Today.
HH (NJ for HH) – We’ve been busy as of late. We’ve got a few shows coming up, so we’ve been rehearsing and taking care of “administrative duties”, like prepping merch and networking. We were also in the studio working on a ‘secret’ project – we’re looking forward to releasing it very soon.
Q2 – For people not in the know can you give them a brief history of the band and how it came about. And how did you come up with the name HAMMERHANDS.
HH – The band formed two years ago after our previous bands dismantled. Jon and Collin were in ‘The Love and Terror Cult’ and they were a mathy-hardcore band; Justin sang in punk band called ‘Pijenhol’; and I played guitar in a hardcore band called ‘Dance Electric’. We had all been friends for some time, and had played several shows together with our bands. When those bands dissolved, we recognized that we had all desired to radically divert from our punk/hardcore roots; we all collectively desired something heavier and slower. Thus, we formed the band with that vision in mind.
‘HAMMERHANDS’ was a name that I had been playing around with for a few years and had intended to use for a heavier band (if I were to ever start/join one). Conceptually, I felt that the name conjured something that was lumbering and destructive: like a mythical goliath that would pummel mountains to rubble with iron fists. This band came together, and it couldn’t have been a better fit.
Q3 – How would you describe your sound. As it's very hard to describe at times.
HH – I would describe it as the auditory equivalent to quicksand. It’s thick, unapologetic, and encompassing…an inevitable demise that surrounds and overwhelms you.
Q4 – Which bands and artists influence you directly as musicians.
HH – Neurosis, the Melvins, Russian Circles, Swans, Boris, Isis, Sleep, Godflesh, Envy, Converge, Sunn 0)))
Q5 – Are you all full time musicians or do you have regular jobs to pay the bills.
HH – We all have regular day jobs to pay the bills/buy gear (haha), Although Collin and Jon’s music teaching jobs pretty much require them to be musicians ALL the time. On top of teaching, Jon is a small business owner and Justin runs his shop. I have a boring corporate desk job.
Q6 – Are your family and friends supportive of your music.
HH – Our families are generally tolerant of what we do, but I doubt they’d have a good time at our shows. We get the majority of our support through our friends and fellow local musicians. We’re really lucky to have a well-connected music/artist community where we live.
Q7 – What is the song-writing process in the band. Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.
HH - The effort is more or less collective between the four of us. However, Collin and Jon are usually the ones to initiate ideas and concepts.
Q8 – Congrats on Glaciers. A stunning album on every level. Are you pleased with the final result or would you change certain aspects.
HH – We are very pleased with how it turned out. We have a great sense of pride in having done the majority of the production work ourselves: from recording and mastering, right down to the art and layout. We’re quite OCD, so I’m sure that if we had a chance to tweak things here and there we would. But overall, we’re really glad with how the record came out.
Q9 – Was it an easy album to write and record for.
HH - Our writing and preparation approach was long and meticulous for ‘Glaciers’. We had to rethink any previous inclinations and philosophies we had about writing music: gone were the days of our punk rock approaches and ‘good enough’ mentalities. This was probably the biggest challenge for us. But once we applied that approach, that’s when we started to see more and more of our vision coming to life. We were thorough and investigated themes, layers, and technical aspects of musicianship to chisel away at rough concepts and ideas.
We went through many drafts and revisions, and only settled on what was collectively sound amongst the four of us. It took us 2 years to write and record ‘Glaciers’. So, to answer the question: no, it was not an easy album to write and record, but the lengths and efforts we went through were worth it.
Q10 – What is the overall theme of the album. I felt it was a battle for survival at times. Especially the quiet ambient based riffs mixed with the loud and angry side of your band.
HH – The album concept is based on the exploration of despair through tragedy. Lyrically, I wanted to invoke the grief and turmoil that is experienced in times of calamity; the pushing of man to his outermost limits that force him to question his own morality and values. This source of grief is something that is monolithic and enormous, grinding and eroding away at the spirit of man; much like a glacier per se.
Q11 – My fave track is the 30 minute epic – Equus – Damn. I bet that was definitely a hard track to record. Was it always the plan to include an epic track like that for your debut album.
HH – Thanks, we’re glad that you like it. We had the intention of trying to conceive something that was longer and had recurring themes when we were writing Equus. It was one of the few songs on the record that took a life of its own. The progression from a lonely quiet riff that builds and expands to the multi-dimensional soundscape of decay came about naturally. Thematically, it was archetypal of the rise and fall of man: a quiet beginning - a short existence - and then the eternal and lasting decay of death.
Q12 – Are you pleased with the reponses so far you have received for the album.
HH – The responses have been good, so far. Mind you, those who have responded have been those who are into the kind of music that we’re playing. We do recognize that this is a niche kind of genre, so we don’t expect everybody to like it.
Q13 – Do you guys tour in your home town or do you have to travel further afield to perform live.
HH – The band and the album are relatively new, so the majority of the shows we’ve played have been in town. We hope to be able to play more shows in other cities/places soon.
Q14 – What is the live GLACIERS experience like. Can you tell people what to expect in 10 words or less.
HH – Bring earplugs.
Q15 – What are your favourite bands around at the moment. Do you listen to modern day rock/metal.
HH – Aside from the bands listed in question 4, we are also supportive of the talent in our locale. We’re really digging a young band called ‘WOLFS’ (http://wolfsca.bandcamp.com/) these days, as well as a ‘studio-only’ band called ‘VENNS’ (http://venns.bandcamp.com/). They’re in no way similar to what we play, but they’re good dudes making good music.
Q16 – What are your views of blogs such as Sludgelord featuring and reviewing your records as opposed to mainstream magazines.
HH – Blogs like Sludgelord have a far greater reach for bands that play the kind of music that we play. Mainstream magazines feature mainstream bands. We’ve come to terms with the fact that our music will never become mainstream, hence we rely on blogs that know the kind of music that we play the best and share common ideas and opinions.
Q17 – Has BandCamp been a big help in getting your music across.
HH – Bandcamp is currently serving as a great vessel for sharing our music. What appeals most to us are the artist features that track our plays and outreach. It provides great insight as to how people are finding our music. The new merchandise management feature is something that we are looking forward to using; Bandcamp is pretty much our main source hub for online distribution.
Q18 – What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band. Obviously the reality of how expensive it is being in a band could be considered as a negative aspect.
HH – The most rewarding thing, for me, is sharing the stage with 3 friends and playing the music that we wrote together. The least rewarding: nothing. There may be hardships, be it financial or differences in opinions, but any difficulties that we encounter are part of the pursuits of our passion.
Q19 – What words of wisdom would you give to a band starting out or some friends wanting to start a band of their own.
HH – Get a tuner. Seriously.
Q20 - Finally, Do you have anything to say your fans
HH – Bring earplugs.
Well guys thanks for the great interview. All the best from ourselves at Sludgeord.
Check This Great Band Below.