Talanas Album Launch
The London Stone, London
Sat 30th April
Interview by Danny Draper
It had been a blistering hot Saturday, amazing weather for a bank holiday weekend, but before the night was through, as I went on my way to the Talanas album launch party at the London Stone tonight!
We’d been invited to come along and share in the triumph that is Talanas’ debut album, “The Waspkeeper”. It is a stunning record that I continue to rave about to all and sundry!
When I arrived at the event, the party was just picking up. The bar was open and the DJ was playing some quality sounds. There were a few family and friends dotted about, sharing the joy for what Hal, Joe, Ewan and Duff have achieved. It has been a long time in the making, coming from the ashes of Interlock; it has been a three year journey that has boiled down to this day.
The London Stone is a lovely venue to hold this event, very traditional with new feel, the hidden toilet doors in the bookcases left me needing the loo and having to wait for some brave soul to make my mistake and find the door for me!
There was a merchandise stand being operated by Beth Ryan, Hal Sinden’s fiancée featuring t-shirts, copies of the album and the brilliant ‘Reason and Abstract’ EP as well as other Talanas’ related paraphernalia. Hal, between keeping the guests company and mingling was also operating the stand in shifts.
After saying hello to Hal, and receiving a big hug from the man, I was able to have a quick chat and grab the guys for an interview in a booth in one of the darkened corners of the Stone for a chat about the event, the album and the bands future.
Hello guys, how have you been?
HAL: I’ve been around the world and I, I, I, I can’t find my baby! Lisa Stansfield man, what a genius. AND she wrote that before this whole Madeline McCann business blew up, she’s like a soulful Nostradamus, that Stansfield.
DUFF: Hmm…but yeah, really good thanks!
JOE: VERY relieved that the album is out and that we’ve got a great turnout tonight. You look like you’ve caught the sun a bit! Or are you still having trouble with that grill?
LOL…How did the recording process go?
EWAN: The recording process was in many ways a lot easier this time, we were working with Gomez from the very beginning so we knew what to expect and how he works, rather than us switching between producers, which we had to do last time just because of circumstances but was not without its problems.
DUFF: Personally it was pretty smooth as I wasn’t under the same time constraints that for instance Joe was with all his drumming having to be done in one swoop. I could do mine more sporadically and in the comfort of Hal’s gaff.
HAL: And my gaff was particularly comfortable at that point, I do believe. I’ve lost a little weight since then though.
EWAN: It was a lot more tightly regimented and we had quite a finely tuned schedule, because we had the release date in mind from the off, so the pressure was on at times.
JOE: I think that really helped with the overall sound of things though. We also made sure that we weren’t wasting any time with anything so it was an incredibly streamlined process.
Did you encounter any problems while making the record?
EWAN: Well like I say it was a lot smoother than the nightmares we had with the EP. No self-destructing hard drives or satanic curses this time around. We had a bit of a scare when Hal was carrying the hard drive containing all the recording sessions in only a plastic carrier bag,
HAL: Yep, a moment of being totally at the mercy of the elements, I’m afraid.
EWAN: It was in December when we’d had all the snow, and there was like an inch of ice on the ground at this point, and Hal somewhat inevitably slipped on it and dropped the hard drive.
HAL: I was carrying my guitar case in one hand and the hard drive in the other. We’d made it all the way in the ice safely to Barbican from my place in Chelsea and then like a few minutes away from the Studio’s front door I stacked it. A moment of excellence on my part, especially given it was our main storage device that even has the EP masters on it.
EWAN: You could hear bits of plastic rattling around inside it but we plugged it in and it was ok, we just got all the data onto another drive as quickly as possible to be safe.
HAL: My guitar case wasn’t so happy though. Thankfully I have a guitar that likes to think it’s a bit Spartan, so it smashed its way through the lower part of the flight case itself and yet the instrument was unharmed. I wish I could say the same for my arse and my dignity. And my arse’s dignity. Anal dignity is hugely important in this day and age.
JOE: I think in future, Hal will be transported about the place in a flight case and not be allowed to carry anything.
DUFF: But I think we managed pretty well given that this was done in a pretty slick manoeuvre.
You had some guests on the record, who were they and what were they like to work with?
EWAN: They were all really great people to work with.
HAL: Yeah, definitely.
JOE: Unfortunately I was never in the same room as any of them when they were doing their thing!
HAL: Well you can’t win ‘em all, man. Basically I’m a huge fan of guest appearances on albums; I think it really brings something to the piece to have an occasional outside angle. We wrote the songs for the album and realised that a few of them would really warrant having certain people on them, so we decided just to go for it, and in each case it’s people that I’ve known for a while. Jason Mendonça is from Akercocke, I played on the same bill as them when they were first starting out in the late 90s UKDM scene so I’ve known him for bloody years, plus I was once in a band that was signed to his label but we never actually got round to working together musically. He sings on ‘penetralium’ and it really brings this proper mania & extremity to the tune. He’s a great guy to work with; he’s really professional and is a gentleman both in & out of the suit. That’s not to say we got him naked though. Ok, that sounded weird. He was clothed, let’s leave it at that.
Then we had an old friend of mine JD Quintus from The Meads of Asphodel. He & I have known each other since we were 16 or so, we’ve always guested on each other’s records and I appeared on that last Meads release they did as well as a few other things, it’s become a bit of a tradition now however he really brings something to ‘a fortune worth its disguise’. He’s only small though, so we had to adjust the mic stand quite a bit, that was quite strenuous, plus he drinks a lot of tea so it was a fairly demanding session in that respect.
And lastly we had Adam Ever from From Great Height who are an up and coming prog band from London. They’re absolutely amazing and we appeared with them on the recent Readers Poll results for Prog Magazine in January. There’s something about Adam’s vocals that I find really hits the right chords for me, we’re quite similar singers, so it made a lot of sense to have him sing on various parts in ‘messaline’. He’s a great guy, but he’s a different height to me so again we had to adjust the mic stand…
EWAN: It was kind of a strange experience to sit at the desk and record these vocalists, the sound of whom I was so familiar with, and hear their vocals coming out the speakers over the tracks we’d written. Kind of surreal! And then to have them say to you like ‘was that ok’ and you’re just like ‘er…. yes it was brilliant!’
JOE: I’m really glad to hear what they bought to the tracks they appeared on and I’m sure I speak for us all when I say how grateful we are for their time and efforts. It’s really bought another edge to the record. It’s certainly made me think about guests to use in the future, and yes that’s coming from a drummer!
How is the album being received by press/internet?
JOE: From what I’ve seen online, it’s been going down really well with people and ‘zines alike.
DUFF: And long may that continue.
EWAN: I really didn’t know how this would be received as we’ve done some stuff on here that’s a bit different to the EP, but people have really responded to it.
HAL: Yeah. If I’m honest, we’re yet to have received a bad crit on it, and we’ve distributed it to a LOT of publications & zines so far. I’d even go so far as to say that this is frankly the best response I’ve had to a release in my career as yet. With all the interlock stuff, there were always some fairly diffident factors or people who didn’t quite get it, but with this it seems to have more appeal.
EWAN: It’s been really interesting to see how different people interpret it in various ways, and perhaps picks up on influences or sounds that maybe others don’t. I’m pleased that we’ve made something that people seem to be able to come at from all different angles and that they seem to be really enjoying.
JOE: It’s really encouraging to hear that people from all walks of life and musical backgrounds are finding their own favourite parts within the new album. Even my sister in Australia who’s never been one to listen to metal, has found bits she’s listening to again and again. This is my sister who’s featured in Bollywood films, so her musical taste is somewhat a polar opposite to mine!
HAL: Yep, she looks a lot like you but otherwise she’s pretty different. Much better dancer, too. Overall though it’s been a fantastic continuation of press attention from the debut EP, it’s just carried on in the same sort of ascending scale.
JOE: Actually I’m really glad that people are making the link in material from ‘reason & abstract’ to ‘the waspkeeper’, beyond it being the same bunch of chaps of course. A lot of people have said that they flow really well together and I suppose we kind of went at it like that, and plus that’s just what we sound like.
How do you feel about the record? Are there any highlights for you in particular/proud moments?
DUFF: I love it. I’ve been listening to the tunes pretty much every day for the last 9 month with demos and seeing them grow into the tracks that you are faced with on the album. I’d say that standing that test of time and still having them as some of my favourite tunes is a good thing.
HAL: For me it was using my clean vocals more than I ever have before. I mean I started off as a clean vocalist and never really had much of a chance to expand on it before moving straight onto really extreme stuff. In past bands I certainly did a fair amount of clean singing but sometimes it felt like it was just a tool for the quiet moments really, this time round it’s felt like I’ve had a chance to explore the character of my voice and it’s something I plan on doing a lot more of.
EWAN: It’s funny being on this side of things because I’m not yet at the point where I can listen to it without thinking about how we made it, like I can’t exactly step back and hear it the way other people hear it just yet. I am really pleased with it though and it is a pretty strong statement, I think, of what we want to achieve musically. There’s things I would have liked to have tried that we weren’t able to, or things that I might have done slightly differently here and there, but that’s all just stuff we can do next time around hopefully, so I kind of see that as a good thing, there’s still plenty of fuel there for future material.
JOE: I feel so satisfied now that it’s out. Been saying for a long time that I just want to unleash it on you all and now we have, it’s such a massive relief. We’ve all put so much into this new album and I like to think it shows, and yeah, it’s still a bit tricky listening to it without thinking "Oh, I was wearing my new pants that day" and stuff, but then I suppose that’s the nature of the beast really, what with being this side of the creative wall as it were.
HAL: Absolutely, it’s sometimes pretty tricky to be totally objective about it. I know that quite a lot of other artists have a tough time listening to their own material because of that. At the moment I’m finding I’m mostly just listening to the songs I need to learn for the live set, so I suppose they’re mostly my favourite moments.
EWAN: My favourite songs or parts of the album kind of depend and change from time to time, but I’m definitely really pleased with ‘elsewhere, but for the giving’, it’s one that I really don’t know how it comes across to others, but it shows some of our more experimental elements, and I hope people will think that it’s something they won’t necessarily have expected or have heard much in the way of before.
JOE: I think the highlights of the whole process was just getting it done, I was hugely ill whilst I was doing my tracking and every take was hammering my body so hard that it was just getting harder and harder to play. As for favourite tracks though, hmmmm… I’d probably go with ‘the unhealing I & II’ at the moment, but I’ll probably have changed my mind twice by the time people read this interview, totally depends what mood I’m in.
Now that the album is out there, what are you plans for touring/concerts in support of this record?
DUFF: Tour, tour, tour. We’re hoping to gig the backside off this album and the EP which I’m looking forward to.
EWAN: Definitely really eager to get out there and gig! I think for one thing the filming for the Antiphon video really gave us a taste for performing the song live which just made us all the more keen to see our music in action and bring it to the live crowds.
JOE: Yeah, just want to get out there, live out of a car’s glove box, lift things that are too heavy for me and beat Hal to the showers in the morning.
HAL: I hate it when that happens. Well, more that I know I take quite a while in the shower sometimes so I kind of prefer to wake up before everyone else so that I don’t leave people waiting, but yeah, the whole touring thing is definitely overdue now since we consciously decided to hold back so we could get the album done straight after the EP. We’re possibly playing in Norway in October, but we may also soon confirm some UK dates with some excellent bands.
Are you eager to get out there and tour this beast of a record?
DUFF: Hell yeah!
HAL: We’re enormously eager but at the same time it’s a case of wanting to make sure it’s good, there’s just really no way we’re going to cheat our audiences out of a tight performance and it’s a real thing of mine to make sure that you give a crowd their money’s worth if they’ve been good enough to take the time to come and see you.
EWAN: Yeah can’t wait to see how people respond to this stuff. It’s like when we played some of the EP tracks to a live crowd before, it was really surprising the response. I mean it was positive, but in ways which were kind of unexpected and cool. I think we’ve got some idea which songs will really make an impact live, but it’ll be interesting to see.
JOE: I’m beyond itching to play this live. I just want to see how it goes down in a live environment and to see people’s reactions to our stuff for the first time. I love playing live, it what I’ve been trained to do for years now and I just want us all to get back out there and do what we do best. Plus I’m sure you al would like to see the live show and see us all parade up and down with our "instruments". We’re working incredibly hard on the live show at the moment so I think when the time comes for us to tread the boards, then it will be something special and I urge you all to come and check it out and show your support. Half the battle of the live shows is to have a crowd that’s up for a good time, so come and have a good time and we’ll take care of the rest!
Are you looking forward to tonight’s event?
HAL: It’s a mixture of excitement for the big night that we’ve been working towards for sodding ages now… and then a healthy dose of abject fear & trepidation. It’s not like a gig where you can change the dynamic of the evening with a nuclear performance, this is totally what it is from beginning to end, plus we have a minimum spend at the bar…
JOE: I’m also incredibly nervous. I got like this when we did the EP launch party in Winchester, but it was more to do with we literally stood there and played it and all in the same room sort of thing. My father was also there and that just adds to the pressure. I always want to do my family proud and I’m sure you’ll see where the massive rush of nerves came from there. But needless to say he liked it and they are both here today, along with Duff’s folks and I think I saw Hal’s dad a moment ago. I’ve heard we’ve a fair few rather lovely people coming down especially for this too so it’ll be great to meet and greet them too. And, of course, to have a nice bit of drink with our nearest and dearest!
EWAN: It will be really great to bring back the people who’ve helped to make this record and all celebrate, and to meet some fans of course. It has been hard work getting this made and it’s kind of strange for us to think that it’s finally out there, so it’s great to have this event to mark the occasion and make it official.
DUFF: Ever since this was booked it’s been a bright light on my calendar and I must say that it hasn’t disappointed. It’s nights like these that you get to meet some fans and see who your friends are … Not to mention the abundance of drink!
What are your hopes for the future of the band?
DUFF: I would love to become bigger than Jennifer Lopez… by that I mean keep drinking so that our beer guts really develop nicely and become bigger than her backside! … Hopefully all of this will happen whilst touring and generally having fun with the guys and of course getting an army of fans.
EWAN: Thinking musically though, I hope that we’ll continue to develop a style that’s different and that’s ever more identifiably ‘us’, there’s still a lot that I think we want to do with our music.
JOE: Yeah, we’re definitely going to develop and grow in to an ultimate sound but that’s yet to be seen, onwards and upwards!
HAL: Definitely. Onwards, but upwards in a slightly diagonal fashion. There’s a lot more expansion on the current sound that I think is due. We’re not even past the honeymoon period yet in respect of working & writing with each other, it sometimes feels like there’s entire albums worth of potential angles that we can take things as a band. As far as personal goals go, I’d really like to be able cross as many borders as possible with our music & styles, in that I’d love to reach a point where we appeal to wider audience groups than just exclusively metal not actually lose sight of our origins. With my management hat on though, I’d like to push for more profile overseas, that’s something that’s pretty important to me.
The band were in very high spirits and it’s no wonder why, they have achieved their goal of releasing this album.
After this we did some shots of the band out side the Stone…with plenty of pedestrians walking through some entertaining shots of the band!
Then we returned to the bar, for some well earned drinks with the guys.
After a while, Hal lead a speech which was listened to with tentative ears. It was a great speech, detailing the gratitude that the guys have for each and every person in the room, as well as the family and loved ones who have helped them along this journey.
The rest of the band were beaming and echoing Hal’s words with nods and applause as well as their own interjections and thoughts. We were going to be treated to a viewing of the video for “Antiphon”, but sadly due to unforeseen circumstances, Hal had not foreseen that you needed a DVD player to play a DVD…!One part of the speech that gained one of the biggest laughs and applause! Instead we had an equally good treat, a playback of “The Waspkeeper” in its entirety.
The guys celebrated, with handshakes and hugs and a traditional chink of bottles and pints. I was lucky enough to congratulate them each and share some beer time with them. The event continued on but I had to make an exit and said goodbyes to the guys and some friends; old and new who were in attendance.
I asked a few people about their feelings for the event and the band and they all had the same view that they were full of praise and happiness for them.
Keep a watch out for Talanas. Its great music and they are lovely people to have the pleasure to know. Check them out; the Waspkeeper is available for purchase online, along with their other merchandise!