Interview mit Rich Henshall von Haken

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Interviews are usually done during the promotional stage of an album or a tour – and then they centre around these topics. However, albums and shows wouldn’t exist if the interview partners weren’t such enthusiastic instrumentalists. In our series „Saitengespräche“ (pun: „string talks“/“side conversations“) we want to take this into account – with interviews that focus entirely on instruments, amplifiers, effects, and other tech stuff. From gear nerds for gear nerds – and for those who aspire to be.

When did you start playing guitar?
There was always an acoustic guitar lying around my house when I was growing up, which I used to strum from time to time. I eventually decided to pick it up, brush off the dust, and teach myself how to play properly when I was around ten. I think I was around 13 when I got my first electric.

Haken Gitarrist Rich Henshall
© Max Taylor Grant

What made you want to learn guitar back then?
Growing up, my Dad would listen to the likes of Pink Floyd and Dire Straights, so I imagine this must’ve been the catalyst that got things going. In high school, I played in a covers band with the HAKEN singer, Ross. We covered likes of Radiohead and The Beatles, which definitely proved to be a fun way to build a deeper understanding of songwriting. I was playing bass in this band and probably wasn’t getting enough from it so I decided to get my first electric guitar and haven’t looked back since. I got to grips with it by playing tracks like “High And Dry”, “Creep” and “Blackbird”.

Have you already learned (had to learn) another instrument before?
My Mum is a piano teacher so I started on that when I was around seven. I vividly remember being woken up early at the weekends to the chiming sounds of Bach being taught downstairs. It definitely got the musical cogs turning in my head! I feel that playing the piano from an early age has definitely given me strong foundation in harmony and theory, which has undoubtedly helped me on my journey as a guitarist. When it comes to writing, I’m most effective at fully articulating the ideas in my head when I’m sitting at the keyboard. I also tried my hand and clarinet and drums for a while when I was younger, but never really developed my skill to any great level. I think my neighbours must’ve hated me!

Haken Bandfoto
© Max Taylor Grant

Do you remember which model was your first guitar?
I’m pretty sure it was a Fender Squire Tele. By the time I’d finished with it, it was coated in Rage Against The Machine, Limp Bizkit and Hatebreed stickers. I was clearly going through a teenage angst stage! I still absolutely love the crunchy tele sound and currently own a US Tele Deluxe, which sometimes makes an appearance on HAKEN albums. I also own a Strandberg Salen, which is modelled on the Tele. It has to be my favourite guitar to play at the moment!

How many guitars do you own?
Too many! I think I currently have around 25. It’s mainly made up of my beloved Strandberg collection, but I have range of other guitars that I’ve accumulated over the years.

Do the instruments have different uses for you, so do you have different ones for different bands or occasions, like studio, live gigs and holidays?
I use my Strandberg guitars for around 90% of my recordings. My Boden 8-strings cover the bulk of it but I usually use my Salen for the clean and crunchy parts. I have a Martin acoustic which I often use to double clean electric parts on recordings and for those strummy campfire moments. I’ve also got an Epiphone hollow body jazz guitar that made an appearance on my solo record “The Cocoon”. The section had a 50s jazz feel to it so it felt like the perfect guitar for the job. I’ve also got a bazouki that I bought in Anthens years ago, which seemed like a perfect fit for HAKEN’s song “Pareidolia”. When I was writing the main themes for that track I always had it in mind to use it.

Haken Band 2020
© Max Taylor Grant

What do you attach particular importance to from a technical point of view, what criteria must an instrument meet for you to be satisfied with it?
When it comes to guitars, I have to admit I’m not too technically minded. My main concern is that it feels comfortable and has a good tone. I guess this is why I’m drawn to Strandberg guitars. They’re designed ergonomically to allow for extended practice. They’re incredibly lightweight, which is great for the the large amount of touring we do. Also, the woods they use top notch which really make them sing!

You often hear about musicians who seem to have a special connection to their instrument. Do you feel the same way? Do you have a favourite instrument?
I wouldn’t say there’s been one guitar that I’ve stuck with exclusively over the years. Maybe I’m just not loyal enough! However, over the last year or so I feel like I’ve found my soul mate in the form of a Strandberg Salen. It’s modelled on the legendary Telecaster, and I’d be bold enough to say that it sounds and feels better than Fender USA Deluxe. Maybe that’s a little sacrilegious! It certainly suits the the stuff I’ve been writing recently so I haven’t been able to put it down!

Did you make special modifications to it, or is it a custom model anyway? Can you tell us the technical details here?
I’ve left the Salen with the same specs it came with. It feels great to me out of the box so I’ve had no need to change anything. Ola Strandberg and I have spoken about the possibility of doing a signature guitar at some point. If that comes to fruition, I’m sure that will be my dream guitar!

Is there a model, such as the instrument of a great role model, that you would like to play one day?
I’d love to have a go on Jonny Greenwood’s beaten up Tele. He is the master of tone in my eyes!

Which type of guitar picks do you use – and why this type?
I use Dunlop Jazz III picks, chopping and changing between the 1.14 and .88 gauges depending on what I’m playing. They’re particularly small, which I found has helped give me a touch more accuracy in my playing. My HAKEN bandmate Charlie and I got a bunch of signature picks made last year to coincide with the release of our album “Vector”. They went down a storm on tour!

Haken Vector
© Max Taylor Grant

Amps are often leased for tours – is that okay with you or do you have your own amp with you? Which model do you play?
I’ve been using Fractal Axe FX units for many years now. Working with amp simulations allows me to have a consistent sound from show to show and it completely eradicates bleeding issues on stage. It’s also probably saved me a bunch of physio bills! I certainly don’t miss lugging a 12×12 stack around with me night after night. I’m able to fit the the AX8 unit into a laptop case, which fits snuggly above my head on a plane. Ultimately, we’re always always trying to streamline our setup and are striving for as clean a stage a possible, so going down the digital route is a no-brainer for me.

Besides the instrument and the amplifier, sound effects play an important role in the sound. Do you rely on single pedal mines, a multi-effect board or a combination?
I’ve been using the AX8 floor pedal for around 4 years. It’s hands down the best piece of musical gear I’ve ever bought. It’s built like a tank and has worked flawlessly the whole time I’ve owned it. I’ve probably cursed it now! There’s a huge amount of pedals built in alongside the overwhelming amount of amp simulations. Given enough time and curiosity, you can pretty much create any sound you’re looking for. I’ve also recently got a Maxon od808 after seeing Nolly use it when mixing our upcoming album “Virus”. He placed it before a Friedman HBE head during the reamping process to give a little more crunch and definition in the lower register. It worked a treat!

Let’s go into detail: Please explain the elements of your effect loop. Which devices do you use, in which order and why?
For my bare bones heavy patches I use a Friedman HBE amp running into a Mesa cab and sometimes add a touch of reverb to soften the edges a bit. I often include a noise gate at the beginning of the signal chain depending on the amount of interference at a venue. For leads I typically use the same setup but add a tube screamer before the amp and boost the gain and mids a little. I also add effects like delay, flanger and/or chorus depending on the song. For my crunch sound I pretty much use the same configuration as my heavy patch, but use the Friedman HB amp instead. I like to use Marshall amp sims for my cleans, tweaking the gain a little to get the desired result. I particularly love the warmth of the JTM45 head. I use a bunch of other specific sounds but they are usually derived from these core patches.

Mind game: You are only allowed to take one single (!) effect on stage – which one do you choose? Which effect pedal makes up your sound?
I had great fun playing around with the DL4 delay pedal by Line 6 whilst recording  ‘The Further Side’ with my other band Nova Collective. Dan Briggs brought it along to the recording sessions and we went a bit crazy with it. We played around with a bunch of ideas like cranking the feedback which really gave us some otherworldly sounds. The pedal seems to have unlimited potential! It doesn’t necessarily make up my sound per say, but I could definitely have more fun with it than any other pedal I’ve tried.

© Max Taylor Grant

Do you have an effect that you use in a completely different way than originally intended, or that you have perhaps even (re)built yourself?
I’m sure this isn’t too uncommon, but I’ve recently been doing some experimenting with putting long-tailed reverbs before the amp in the signal chain. You can get some gnarly post-rock infused ambient guitar tones that sit nicely on top of a mix. At the the very least, it’s allowing me to live out my dream of trying to become Jonny Greenwood.

Do you use a noise gate – why (not)?
Yep, I use one on my heavy rhythm and lead patches at the beginning of the signal chain. Some of the venues we play at have electric interference and grounding issues, which creates a monstrous buzzing sound, especially when it’s being blasted out of the front of house PA. Due to the dynamic nature of our music the interference can be a real hindrance and is a perfect way to kill the mood during the more intimate moments of our set. The noise gate compromises the sound quality a little, but it’s definitely the lesser of two evils. If the venue doesn’t have any issue I usually turn the gate off.

Is your effect board “ready” or in constant change?
Thankfully, it’s all contained inside the AX8 unit. I typically have around five or six banks with different combinations of effects and amps. This will cover me for all my patches during a set. Another good feature of the floor unit is that you can treat it like a stomp box and add effects to each patch on the fly.

Finally, do you have a tip for beginning musicians?
I would say it’s a good idea to decide what you want out of playing guitar. If you want to play riffs and learn songs, go and listen to your favourite bands and try to play along to their records. If you want to be a composer, it’s probably best to study music that inspires you and try to apply some of the techniques you’ve learnt in your own compositions. I feel that if you have a clear idea in what you want to achieve and remain focussed, you’ll be the most productive and minimize the meandering the that sometimes happens on your journey as a musician. But most importantly, you need enjoy the ride! Playing guitar should ultimately be fun.

Publiziert am von und Uta A. (Gastredakteurin)

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