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Jakethehawk - Interview

Interview with: Jakethehawk
Conducted by: Will Ring

Formed in 2016, Pittsburgh's (USA) Jakethehawk is a doom, stoner, psychedelic titan of epic sounding proportions. In January, they released their debut Year Of The Hawk EP, and more recently dropped their first full length album To Build A Fire in November this year. Jakethehawk takes a cue from bands of years past, focusing on emotive, colossal riffs that appeal to both the heavy metal fan and casual listener equally. Here, the band and I discuss their early musical influences, the process of creating the massive new album and much more. Jakethehawk is: John Huxley (guitar/vocals), Jordon Lober (drums), Justin Lober (bass) and new vocalist/guitarist, Josh Emery.

Will: Jakethehawk's sound is sort of a doom/sludge style with some prog elements mixed in. What made you want to play this style of music?
: As a kid I was raised on early 70s hard rock so that shit is in my blood. Growing up I listened to a lot of King's X and stuff like that... the prog probably comes from not wanting to be "progressive" so much as wanting to focus on textures and themes rather than just writing a ton of party riffs. Mostly I just wanted the record to be more than eight songs about smoking weed or something like that.
Jordan: Personally, I came from a hardcore and punk background so grooves were very few and far between. I grew up listening to a lot jazz and classic rock, because that's what dad was listening to so deal with it. So grooves were always going through my ears but I never tried making a band that relied on grooves until about two years ago. I've always had an appreciation for the stoner and doom style of things and wanted to play this style of music with people that had wanted to do the same.
Josh: I'm really attracted to dense, lush sounds on a general level. Doom is one avenue where I'm fortunate enough to pursue those sounds with these guys.

Will: What was the first song you ever learned to play?
John: "Rooster" by Alice In Chains. On drums it was "I Ain't The One" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Justin: Iron Fucking Man
Josh: "About A Girl" by Nirvana, then probably "Blister In The Sun" by the Violent Femmes.

Will: The new album, To Build A Fire, has a big Mastodon vibe to me. Are they an influential band for you?
Josh: Mastodon rules.
John: They were years ago but I've moved away from that I think. I try to be less notey. But I definitely feel that comparison with the acoustic guitar overlays and arpeggios and such. Honestly it is just flattering to have that comparison.
Jordan: I wouldn't say they are much of an influence for my drumming. However, Bran is a machine.
Justin: I was late to the Mastadon party and have only recently became a fan and have only seen them live once, so they were never a huge influence on my playing but they definitely do when it comes time to record.

Will: The thing that impresses me most about the new album is the sound quality. It's this perfect amount of fuzz and distortion without ever becoming disorganized noise. Everything is balanced so well. How did such a young and relatively unknown band get such an excellent mix?
John: I'll let Justin take this one, but as far as the recording I just feel that having the time to do it in our own space left us the freedom to get tones we really loved without having to fight against the clock.
Justin: I did all the engineering and mixing at home and this was the biggest project I have ever taken on before. I still feel like I bit off more than I could chew on this album, so your compliment is beyond flattering. Thank you. I have primarily only recorded metal and hardcore acts which have a 'wall of sound' style. I used the same engineering style for To Build A Fire but made a conscious effort to dial back a bit of the more abrasive tones. I tried my best to make it tastefully raw and punchy without overdoing it. I can't really take all the credit though; James Plotkin mastered it (who also mastered our EP/demo) which had a massive impact on how everything sits in the final mix. He is a highly sought after engineer for a lot of doom and stoner acts, so his style just really coalesced well with what we were able to make on our own. John is being humble but he also had a huge amount of influence on the overall production of the album; the delays and reverbs, fine tuning levels, vocal processing, and overall sonic polishing were his duties.

Will: Finish this thought. "For me, the ultimate Christmas present would be...."
Jordan: new drum heads and gear.
John: For Josh to build me a new pedal board so my setups and teardowns would be smoother... hahah. Or, to be honest, a good pair of boots. Footwear is key.
Josh: I'll get on that! For me... to have all of my amps working. Also, you can never have too many guitars.
Justin: A sick matching David Eden 1x15 cabinet so I can finally have a stack.

Will: You just recently changed frontmen. Is there any information you can disclose about why the split happened?
John: It was a mutual decision between all of us and I believe that we are all better for it. Jake has been less and less involved in the band and the writing has always been primarily my domain, so really, we are now more focused than ever. It is sad and I think we are all hurting in our own way from saying goodbye, but in the end, the band has never been stronger. Our musical chemistry has never been stronger.

Will: Is it frustrating to put out this new album - what is essentially a calling card to the world of who and what the band is - and immediately have the band chemistry change?
Jordan: I wouldn't say it's frustrating but more of an eye opener in a sense. Although Jake's voice was recorded for the new album, he was somewhat hands-off during the writing process. Thing's change and so do people and you just have to learn to roll with the punches. The meat of the band is still intact which is what really matters to me and if anything this line-up change has made us all stronger as a band than ever before.
John: The important thing to remember is that the band was never named after Jake; that was coincidental. And yes, the chemistry has changed a bit. It is less chaotic, less "rock'n'roll" I suppose. It is more focused. In general I'd say we are more focused on creating something larger rather than just rocking. We still rock though. I promise.
Justin: It is a bit different but in a good way. We have been jamming as Jakethehawk for a few years and suddenly having Josh here bringing a completely different perspective is putting us, as a group, on a whole different level. I'm not frustrated with the change by any means... this is the best option for everyone involved.

Will: What sort of different dynamics does Josh Emery bring to the band?
John: Josh is a really focused player, he is very intentional and very diligent with not only the notes he plays, but with the sounds he uses. He is a great asset in the band because, to be honest, he is great at a lot of things I am not good at. As an experienced musician, he brings a sense of calm and a sense that no matter how frazzeled we are, the song is going to sound the way it needs to.
Justin: Josh brings a much needed perspective to the band given he is an experienced musician with plenty of touring experience under his belt. His style works well with the group and his gear and music theory knowledge is beyond valuable. Josh rules, we are really happy to have him here for the next chapter of the band.
Jordan: In my opinion, he brings a whole new vibe to the group, one we haven't had before. Jake is an excellent musician but he didn't focus that much it seemed. With Josh, he has a style of playing that fits in very well for our sound. Also, with him not really knowing much about Jakethehawk prior to coming into the fold, I think it adds to the dynamic. He wasn't so involved in the writing of the album so his input is pretty honest and constructive.
Josh: I chip in for beer too. That helps.

Will: If you could go back in time and stop one band/musician from ever making music, who would it be and why?
John: Huey Lewis and the fucking News.
Jordan: Future
Josh: Ooh. Brutal. I don't know that I'd feel right stopping anyone but I'd like to introduce some critiques into the zeitgeist, like: John Cage is pretentious Spike Jones or that Korn is a simple person's Swans.
Justin: Lars. Because it should have been Lars.

Will: What can we expect in 2019?
John: Some touring. Maybe some other cool stuff? Who knows! We have the next album in our heads conceptually. Actually, Justin and I have been spitballing about that for quite a while at this point, but as far as anything further, I'd say expect an announcement sometime late in the year.
Justin: Definitely some touring and maybe other small releases here and there, but mostly just trying to hit the road as often as we can.

Jakethehawk links: Facebook, Bandcamp