Monday, September 22, 2014

An Interview with (Hed) p.e.

>> If you haven't heard of (Hed) p.e., you've been missing out for about two decades now. The band have taken their punk / metal / rasta combo to the next level with their latest album, Evolution, which was released in July through Pavement Entertainment.  After listening myself, it's clear that this is an album meant for people who want some aggression as well as soul in their music. I recently spoke with Jackson about the band's latest album, the writing process, the perks of vinyl, and more.

Please state your name and role in the band.
This is Jackson; guitar player/songwriter for (hed) p.e.

You’ve been around for almost 20 years now as (hed) p.e. - that’s an incredible accomplishment.. What’s the trick for keeping the passion going for you?
Thank you! The passion either exists on its own or not at all. For me, it's important to stay present. There are too many opportunities to lose sight of my purpose, so staying aware allows me to channel that passion and bring it into what I contribute to this band. Otherwise, the superficial things quickly begin to take over and cloud it all up. Those things can threaten longevity.

What is the songwriting process like? Generally does your music or your lyrics come first? 
It depends. I don't write lyrics, so when I come up with a song and make a demo out of it, there are obviously no lyrics yet, so the music comes first in that instance. Jared, who writes the lyrics, he may already have words or melodies in mind when writing music. Or he may not. Typically, I submit a group of demo songs to Jared and the rest of the guys, with arrangements, and they take on their respective form later on in the process. Jared sometimes hears a different arrangement or part than what is on my demos, so he'll arrange them accordingly. When it comes time to record, we play our parts using the demo as a template.

Do you feel like you are more open to just letting the music sort of come to you? Or do you have an exact image or sound in your head that you’re focused on and try not to stray from when writing?
With this album, we had a pretty good idea of what style we wanted to approach before I sat down to write. But, some of the songs on the album come from demos I wrote back in 2010 as well. I was really just going for a mood. I wasn't so focused on technique. I wanted to create a moment. I was listening to a lot of Black Sabbath and really wanted to approach the guitar from that perspective, which really helped me do what I wanted to do. But, the music usually just comes to me.

Please tell us about the writing and recording process for the new album. What felt different about Evolution?
The writing process starts with a collection of demo songs, written at home. After discussing the sound we wanted to capture on this record, we found ourselves at sound check jamming on a riff I had and it became clear that this was the sound we wanted. After that, I went home and wrote a collection of demo songs and submitted them to Jared and the rest of the guys.

For the past few albums, we typically go into the studio as a band and record all at once. The priority in this scenario is getting a great drum sound. If there is any need for guitar or bass to be re recorded, we do so after the drums have been laid out completely. With this album, we actually recorded each instrument in different studios at different times. The drums were recorded in Ohio, the guitars were recorded in Michigan, the vocals were recorded in Idaho, the bass was recorded while on the road, and the album was mixed in California. Production-wise, it was put together like a jigsaw puzzle.

When in the studio, what is your favorite part of the process? Do you enjoy the tracking and playing around with different ideas? Do you like the mastering and perfection of sound?
I enjoy all parts of the process. I wish I could be more a part of it actually. But, there's something about sitting at home and noodling around with my own ideas, uninterrupted, that presents a certain freedom and openness that I don't have other wise. In contrast, there is something amazing that happens when I get together with the guys and start jamming. Each scenario presents certain elements that the other cannot. If I had to choose my favorite part, I would say it's the initial writing phase because that is when I have a sense of "anything goes."

You recently released Evolution on vinyl. Did you guys always want to release that album on vinyl? How did you decide to keep it at such a limited run?
I wasn't a part of that decision, so I can't comment too much on it. But, I can say that it is a great idea and I have always been a proponent of vinyl as a medium. The sound quality of vinyl is unmatched and I know there are many fans who have asked about getting this album on vinyl, so I'm happy we could oblige.

What was the major inspiration behind Evolution, and what do you want listeners to get out of it?
The inspiration came from many different places. Musically, I just wanted to make the best music I possibly could within the parameters presented. I only hope listeners are inspired as well.

You'll be touring overseas next month. What are you most looking forward to in that run?
I'm looking forward to once again stepping outside of my comfort zone and gaining a new perspective on my own culture by immersing myself in another.

Do you have a favorite venue to play? Do you have a favorite state or country to play in?
The Machine Shop, in Flint, Michigan… That place has always been great for us!

For those who might not have heard your music yet, what's one thing you would say to get them to listen to (hed) p.e.?
I might say, "If you're ready to hear music that requires a seat belt, check out my band!"

Is there anything else you want to add?
Thanks to the fans! Without you, we are nothing! And thanks to you for inviting me here! This was fun!

Questions from Kate Russell & JP Catalanotto

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