Hanker Vocalist Pascal Cliche
Interview by EvilG
All right power metal freaks, if you haven?t heard of them, Hanker are perhaps the best power metal band you have yet to hear! Hailing from Quebec, Canada, the band has been around since the mid-80?s and has been getting consistently better with each release. Their latest, WEB OF FAITH, is discussed here along with line-up changes, touring, future plans etc.
Tell us about your newest album title WEB OF FAITH. What is it’s meaning, there seems to be a common theme to many song ideas!?
This is my favorite one! About the meaning, it talks about religions and all the beliefs mankind has. We all believe in something, but every nation has its own god(s). In every religion, it is supposed to be about love, but we have been fighting and killing for our beliefs… In a way, this is ironic. We are lost in a web of faith! Furthermore, we have been praying to a new god – the Internet! You can find all the answers just by clicking! This is like the new Jesus!
About the common theme, it is not a concept album, but as you noticed all the songs are linked together.
Could you take a few of what are your favorite songs on the album and tell us a bit about what inspired them?
Here are two of my favorite songs on the album. I really love ?Empower? because it talks about what the world has become after September 11. We have realized that it can happen here! It is the beginning of a never-ending war! Nevertheless, we would not be supposed to have to pay for love and peace, but wars have always been there in our world and this is the tragic flaw of mankind. Let’s talk about ?Stigmata?, I have been inspired by the movie. The song talks about the eventual return of Jesus Christ. If ever he comes back, he would be screaming at mankind. I am sure that we haven’t understood his message. The kingdom is in everyone’s heart, and you don’t have to build gold churches and kill for God. Many people have been interpreting his sayings in the wrong way. If you think about it, it is quite simple, but money and kings have been ruling the Earth…
How long did the writing and then recording process take for WEB OF FAITH?
We wrote the songs in about four months. For the recording process, it took two weeks to record and mix the album.
How did the writing for the new album take place? Separately or together when jamming?
Patrick and I work on our songs every day on our side. We present the songs to the other members when jamming. Then, we work on the songs together and finally, they become Hanker songs! This is the way it has always been.
I know you write the lyrics, but tell me about who is usually responsible for what when it comes to writing.
When we started writing songs, we were all writing lyrics. But, I discovered that it was simpler for me, because I’m the singer, to write the lyrics. Since THE DEAD RINGER, I have been the only one who has been writing lyrics. Often, Patrick talks to me about subjects that would be great for the songs he writes, and I do the same for mine. Anyway, this is team work!
Your previous album SNAKES AND LADDERS came out in 2000…so why the long wait between albums?
We were waiting for the right company to work for Hanker. Most of the time, good things happen to those who wait!
Will there be as long of a wait until the next one?
Probably not because we will be working with the same record company (Skyscraper Music) and we are planning to start recording next fall 2006. So it would be out next spring 2007! Meanwhile, Hanker will be playing and promoting WEB OF FAITH and writing new songs for the upcoming album!
How did you hook up with Skyscraper Music for this one? Did you also shop the new album to any of the other labels? I can’t imagine why any of them would turn down Hanker!!
Stephane Mellul (the head of the company – Skyscraper Music) came to see us in Montreal when we were playing with Anvil. He had heard about us looking for a record company. After the show, he went backstage to talk to us. He was really truthful and seemed to be an honest guy. He did not promise anything but told us that we could do a great job together! Then, the story started and is still going on these days.
Did you, or will you, get to do any touring for WEB OF FAITH?
We had started touring for WEB OF FAITH, but Denis (former bass player) decided to leave the band. Therefore, we had to stop playing to do auditions. When we finally found a great one (Laurent Imbeault) we wanted to start playing again but the drummer (Luc Guay) decided to leave the band too. So, once again, we had auditions for a new drummer. We have found one (Sylvain Tremblay) and have started touring in September 2005 with Angra for two shows (September 13 in Quebec and the 14th of September in Montreal). We also played in Sherbrooke on September 22 with Liva. We will play all winter and we will write new songs too.
What provinces have you played in Canada and have you been down the USA to play yet?
Only in the province of Qu?bec…But we are planning to play in Toronto, etc. (it would be very cool to play in St John’s!!!). We would really like to go play in the USA!! We are working on it!! We are also planning to go play in Europe next year!!
What would it take to get Hanker on a cross-Canadian tour? I’d love to see Hanker playing right here! Or how about an all Canadian metal tour across Canada with Hanker, Anvil, Annihilator, Into Eternity, etc etc…one can dream. haha
It would be very cool to play everywhere else in Canada!!!! This is only a question of time!! Maybe we will drink a beer together in a near future!!! Nevertheless, we are working on it and with the fresh new Hanker team, nothing seems to be impossible!!!
Do you find most of your support, in terms of album sales is from Quebec? Or are you selling more in Europe? How about outside of Quebec in the rest of Canada and into the US?
We have been selling CDs throughout the world and especially in Germany!! Nowadays, we have distributors all around the world because of our record company (Skyscraper Music). We are distributed in Canada by Fusion 3, in the States, in Europe by Twilight, etc. I think that we have been supported by all the fans around the world!!
Hanker made it’s European debut in July 2004 at Germany’s ‘Headbangers Open Air’ festival. How did that go? Did many people there know who you were?
OH YEAH!!! They had been waiting for us for a long time!!! We were treated like kings!!! We had a blast playing in Germany! Everyone was really cool and we had a great time. They had been asking us to go play there for a while and it was about time for Hanker to go play in Germany!
Any plays to return to Europe to perform?.
YES!! We would like to go there next summer 2006.
Do you film any of your gigs, and if so, is there a chance of any kind of a DVD release featuring live performances and a history of the band?
Yes, I’ve been filming for a while and this is a future project. I’m waiting to have enough film with the new guys and we will probably release something in DVD. Nevertheless, nothing is sure yet.
What band would you like to go on tour with, or what band, if they asked, would you drop everything to go on the road with as their support act?
We would like to tour with Helloween. We played with them in Montr?al and I can say that the guys are really down to earth and really nice. It would be cool to tour with Gamma Ray too. I would drop everything to tour with Iron Maiden!! I saw them once again in Qu?bec last July 16 (it was my 9th time) and once again they were just great!!!! They know how to play before an audience and people in Qu?bec LOVE them.
In September 2005, Hanker opened for Angra at 2 of their Quebec dates. How cool was that?
It was very cool to play with Angra (even if I didn’t know them very much…)We are aware that they are very big in their genre and we were very happy to play with them.
Speaking of Quebec, tell us a bit about the scene there, do you feel a part of it or off in your own bubble? What does the scene there have going for it and what does it need to grow further?
There are many good bands in Qu?bec. Nevertheless, the industry is not on our side. We would have to sing in French to get money. If you are on the team, you will be on TV but if you are not, you won’t. This is sad because many good bands stop playing because of that. They are not strong enough to fight against the beast! That is why we all have a career besides Hanker. This way, we will be playing music for a long time without ever being stopped!!!
In looking at your online bio, I see that you list some great bands as influences (Kiss, Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Metal Church, Anthrax, The Beatles). The only oddball choice there is The Beatles… I don’t hear them in your style?!
Yes, I know… But when I started playing with Patrick (when we were 11) we started playing Beatles’ songs! At that time, we wanted to become the next Beatles. But, when the metal invasion exploded in the 1980’s, we went crazy about it and the story really started for Hanker. I still love the Beatles and I do think they have changed the way we think about musical structures, etc. I know that doesn’t show very much in our music but if you listen carefully you will notice it for some melodies, etc.
What bands do you LIKE being compared too?
All the good metal bands!!! We are aware that we haven’t invented anything so we are just trying to do our best!!
In late 2004 bassist Denis Cossette left the band, and recently long time drummer Luc Guay left the band. Losing two members in less than a year must be a bit depressing?!
Yes, it was a bit stressful at the beginning. But It was a blessing in disguise! Denis and Luc had not been in the mood for a while…their leaving was logical and finally very positive for Hanker. We have found people who really believe in the project and love Hanker. Therefore, we can do many exciting new projects.
Why did Luc leave anyway?
As I told you, he had not been in the mood for a while and he had just got his second child and he did not have anymore time for Hanker…
Did you know your new drummer, Sylvain Tremblay, before Luc left, or did he audition for the band?
Not at all!! We had auditions and he was just great.
Often band members leave because they lose interest and their life outside of the band takes over. What do you think it is about yourself that has kept you pushing ahead with Hanker since the mid-80’s?
Patrick and I have been having this dream…one we just can’t quit!!! We would go crazy. This is our passion and we will do what ever it takes to keep on playing.
Do you find it harder as time goes on to keep doing Hanker, or has the time you put into the band remained consistent for the past few years?
We are very sensitive about everything. Someday, we think about the things we should have done and some other days, we thing about things we should do. But each time we play live or each time someone tells me that he couldn’t live without Hanker, all of this is worth it!
Back to the new album, WEB OF FAITH is awesome, but if I had to make a criticism it would be the 2 ballads “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and “The Hunstsman”. First, thanks for keeping it to only 2 songs. Second, do you like ballads, do you think these songs are as strong as the others on the album? Is there a group of your fans that love your ballads? Just wondering what the reasoning is in including them. Ha!
When we write songs, we do not think about anything. So, if ever a ballad is created and it is good we just put it on the album. We do not write ballads for girls. The two ballads we put on the CD were linked with the theme and I don’t care if people don’t like them. In the context, the two songs are as strong as the others.
I love Hanker, so what’s the reason why the band hasn’t gotten big? Hanker should be huge. What do you think are some of the reasons why the band hasn’t broken out of the underground? Is it the band name that stops people from taking you seriously? Maybe it brings to mind the old commercial with the cartoon dude “hankering for a hunka, a slice or slab or chunka cheese”? Maybe it’s because the band is from Quebec Canada? Maybe it’s that the euro-power metal sound doesn’t go down as well in North America? Thoughts?
First of all, if ever someone doesn’t think we are serious because he thinks about an old cheese commercial or because he is not really able to look up in a dictionary, this is only just too sad for him or her!!! To be honest, I do not know! Maybe we were not at the right place at the right moment. Maybe there were things we should have done, maybe we have done the best we could…. Only God knows and the devil may care…
Outside of Hanker, I understand you teach English in school. Do students come up to you all the time with Hanker albums to sign, or talk to you about metal? I can only imagine how cool it would have been to of had a METALHEAD teacher back when I was in school….
Oh Yeah!! This is very positive for me as a teacher. Kids are very proud to have me as their teacher and I can be a good figure for their future life.
That’s all the questions I have, but if there is any other news or things going on with the band please let me know!
Thank you very much for the interview!! All the questions were good and cool to answer! For further information about Hanker, you should check our great web site (Pierre B?gin is the web master, Hail to Pierre!!!) at www.hankermetal.com.