Exclusive: We talk to The Heavy on their new album, ‘Hurt & the Merciless’

What Happened To The Love? from The Heavy on Vimeo.

The Heavy are back! After recently returning from SXSW we sat down with guitarist Dan Taylor to discuss the new album, his influences and the impact Internet has had on music.

Thanks a million for interviewing with The Playground. The new album is out Hurt and the Merciless. Do you have certain expectations with this album?

No, not really.

Two tracks were released last month, what has the response been to Turn Up and Since You Been Gone?

From what I’ve heard the response has been very positive

Where was the album recorded?

It was recorded in Bath.

Where did you draw your influences for this album?

Everywhere! ESG, The Clash, Chic, Quincy Jones, punk, hip hop….Early 80s New York was a big inspiration. Jean-Michel Basquiat and his film ‘Downtown 81’ are a good representation of that whole scene. That time was a melting pot of punk and hip-hop and everything in between.

Thematically, what can we expect from the lyrics and the music?

More heartache and misery, longing, yearning. More yearn, more burn!

How experimental were you with this album compared to your previous ones?

Actually less experimental than before in one sense as we recorded in a very ‘old school’ traditional way – all the band in one room. But the mixing process was more modern and experimental. We worked with the engineer Andrew Scheps – and we hadn’t worked with someone like that before.

Have you used any mixing equipment or is it quite raw?

We went to tape; we recorded to tape and then recorded it digitally simultaneously, so you have the sound of tape with the convenience of digital. We then had it mixed by Andrew Scheps – his done some pretty good records in his time. It’s been mixed the hell out of.

The band’s music has featured in big movies recently like the Hateful 8 and The Big Short. How did that come about?

I have no idea. We had an email saying we might be able to get a trailer for the new Quentin Tarantino film they were shooting. We were thinking that would be good and it kind of happened. Those are the things you get excited about.

What’s the group dynamic like when it comes to writing new material?

It’s changed over the years, we’ve been doing it for quite a while now, but this album we didn’t really work together on writing the songs. We just all brought songs into the studio and then worked out how to play them. The songs I’ve written I’ve just written on my own so I just brought them in and said this could be good. That’s just changed over the years. I guess we spend more time doing it and get better at it. When we are recording together we sit down and play and establish the arrangements but the writing is more I’ll do it or Kelvin will do it.

How influential is where you’ve grown up in Bath to your music?

Probably quite a lot, because there is nothing else to do here so you end up staying in and making music. Also it’s quite laid back so you can use the space to breath and think about making music. I always imagine if you live in London you would spend all your time working. I could never figure it out; you’d just be working all the time to survive to pay to live there all the time. You just don’t get anything done creatively.

As the guitarist how studied is your guitar approach? How have you developed your guitar technique over the years?

I’ve got worse! I’ve got more basic as I’ve gone on. I’ve gone right off the guitar, I love it, but it’s kind of a steam train as part of history which has had its peak and had its heyday and now I just want to get worse at it, more primal with it rather than getting better or more of a technique. I hate solos, I hate playing guitar solos and all of that technical stuff, I’m as basic as it gets. I’m meat and potato.

Are you drawn to certain chord progressions?

Minor keys. I particularly like C-sharp minor at the moment and I’ve used an awful lot of A minor. A minor is my best friend.

Who were your musical influences growing up?

You’re exposed to everything. I’m old enough to sort of remember having to struggle to find things and growing up in a small town Woolworths was the only place you could buy the record you wanted. You’d have to wait and that’s the only way you’d find out about bands and you wouldn’t have access or have the complete exposure you do now. It was all just a mystery and that was what made it so exciting.

There’s been too many, I’m big into Bruce Springsteen at the moment – I remember being in America as a kid and hearing Born in the USA and not having any kind of approach on what that must feel like to be born in the USA but it sent shivers up my spine. It’s just those sorts of moments of: I don’t know why I like this but I really like it. It’s the classics, the stuff my parents fed me, Dylan and Van Morrison and classic stuff. Then you just go off on your own thing and you find your own little nuance of stuff you’re into.

As a guitar player I always loved people like Johnny Marr and Bigmouth Strikes Again was the first riff I ever attempted to play and I still can’t now. People like The Smiths definitely, I love that sort of melancholic nature of songs and I love the fact that songs can make you want to cry as well as want to beat your chest.

Where are you most at home, recording or playing live?

Recording, hands down. That’s the best. The gigs are fun but there is just so little of your day that is the fun part with all the rest of it that’s so grueling, the travel. I just love the studio, we love that making noise and recording and hearing it back and still get that real buzz out of doing that. That’s where I’m happiest. When the shows are great they’re amazing but it’s a hard slog sometimes.

As a band do you guys ever suffer from creative block or find it hard to come up with new material?

We haven’t done yet. I’ll be intrigued to see what happens now but it’s yet to happen. I think things have probably got a little less coherent as things have gone on but that’s just the nature of life I suppose.

Are there any current musicians that you’re inspired by?

I’ve just bought Son Little’s record. He’s ridiculous, we went to see him in Bristol a few months ago and there was hardly anybody there but I was like my God this is insane. His voice is just unbelievable, and because we were in Austin, I bought the record in a record shop there and I’ve just started listening to it in the car and it’s really good. I really like his voice. His voice is amazing.

You said before, growing up you had the excitement of going to get a record, do you miss that or do you see Spotify as a positive thing for bands like yourself?

It’s both; it’s a double-edged sword. It’s worse obviously because the artefact, that sense of holding something, in your hand is lost. You know having a record was an artefact. It was something that really existed and then you’re kind of poring over. And that’s kind of lost, that feel of you’re really getting something but then it’s easier for people to make music and get it out there and you’re able to do it yourself. You can record it at home, record it in GarageBand, get it up online and get it out there. It still just comes down to having a good idea obviously. I think it’s a double-edged sword. I think it’s so new to us as mankind – this whole Internet thing. We haven’t worked out how to use it yet, but I think we’ll get there. It’s just early days.

Drawing to an end, how is the rest of 2016 looking for you guys?

Looks pretty busy from where I can see it and from what I gather with the shows we are doing. We go to America first in April and then back and then May is Europe and the UK and then back to America in June. I’m just taking each day as it comes; it’s all I can do.

Hurt & the Merciless is available now to download.

Written by Hanna Duggal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *